The Art Business Evolves

When last I wrote about the art market, in November, it was buoyant and looking forward. Since then, of course, the world crashed to a halt; museums, galleries, artists, and auction houses have been shuttered like the rest of us.  Some old fortunes were lost, and some new ones found. How that has affected the upper end of the world art market is about to  be revealed, as Christie’s leads the way to a possible new future.

On 10th July,

“[u]sing streaming technology, ONE will be the first auction of its kind, taking place in consecutive sessions in Hong Kong, Paris, London and New York. Alex Rotter, chairman of Post-War and Contemporary Art at Christie’s, says of ONE that, ‘with our virtual and physical worlds rapidly merging, we felt it was vital we meet this new reality with an innovative platform.’

Offering a range of exceptional 20th-century works, it will be staged by a leading auctioneer in each location (starting in Hong Kong) for a live and an online audience simultaneously. The new format aims to create a cutting-edge, adaptable, highly engaging platform for bidders around the globe, while also capturing the drama and excitement of a gala sale.

We’ll see if that is possible with the technology.  What is for certain is that they have laid on a masterpiece as their main lot: Version F of Picasso’s Les femmes d’Anger series.  Version O sold at auction for $179 million in 2017.

“Each of Picasso’s 15 canvases is a marvel of invention. What makes Version ‘F’ stand out is the way it marks a bridge between the first phase of the series (of regular-sized canvases) and the second, final phase (featuring much larger works).  Version ‘F’ is the culminating picture of the first phase, both brilliantly coloured and spatially ingenious, a composition so fully resolved that Picasso now felt ready to tackle bigger canvases. His palette is scorching, comprised principally of saturated red and gold tones. The airy white passages found in his previous versions of Les femmes d’Alger  are gone, replaced by a dense, expressive weave of Matissean pattern and colour. More than any other painting in the series, it conveys the hothouse atmosphere of a harem.”

This isn’t one of my favourite Picasso’s, but then again I was never going to be laying down $200 million to own it even if I loved it. But it is certain to attract a lot of interest and indirectly assist the rest of the Impressionist, Modern, Post-War and Contemporary, as well as Design, lots.

Most of the really rich buyers phone it in anyway, through their agents, so going online should not be too much of a novelty.  It will be an interesting experiment.

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