Thursday, 23 October 2008

Suzy Menkes ought to stick to clothes

A ghastly page by Suzy Menkes in the IHT last Tuesday, with a number of fawning, poorly written celeb-based pieces ranging from 'cool artists' to some Greek princess and her extremely expensive clothes for children in Sloane Street.

I am a huge admirer of Suzy, but when she operates out of area (to use NATO parlance) it gets very messy.

Witness this from her, a piece in its conclusion completely at odds with two pieces by the IHT's and the NYT's art writers.

Frieze power: Art shakes up London society
By Suzy Menkes
Monday, October 20, 2008
LONDON: Where would you find a congregation of celebrities from Lily Allen through Kate Bosworth to Emma Watson? And fashion folk like Roland Mouret, Raf Simons or the milliner Philip Treacy? Not to mention cool artists like Tracey Emin and Grayson Perry, wearing a necklace of his alter-ego, Claire, dressed as Bo-Peep.
The latter names are the clue: It was last week's Frieze contemporary art fair in London that drew an international crowd and spawned a host of related events.
Such is the power of Frieze to pull in the hyper-hip and former super-rich that it has become a stronger magnet for the stylish than London Fashion Week.
Whether or not they were buying (count in the glam Moscow gallery owner Daria Zhukova, partner of the billionaire Roman Abramovich), Frieze has had an extraordinary impact on London society, making it the 21st-century version of the old guard's "Ascot" week and "the season."
Art folk did not just ricochet from Frieze to the spacious new Charles Saatchi gallery. They also went cool-hunting in the stores. Matthew Slotover, co-founder of the five-year-old fair in Regent's Park, said that Martin Margiela's London store was a must-see for all his arty visitors. Dover Street Market also says that it counts on Frieze for its best selling week of the year. Recession? The "R" word was replaced by the "F" word: Frieze.

At contemporary art sales, market stumbles on
By Souren Melikian
Monday, October 20, 2008
LONDON: The two-round match played out on the London auction scene this weekend left contemporary art badly bruised. Round One, fought at Sotheby's, revealed for the first time in years that all is not well in that field.
Sotheby's session on Friday night got off to a dashing start thanks to Oliver Barker, a "senior international specialist" and one of the most brilliant upcoming young auctioneers in London. Calling out bids at top speed, he managed to convey for a while the impression that raving buyers were scrambling on top of each other to put in bids.
Lot 1, "The Pink Tree" by John Currin, an oil on paper that could be a spoof of 16th century German painting, improbably doubled its estimate at £139,250, or $241,300. Next came Antony Gormley's "Domain LXIV," a construction of small stainless steel rods conjuring up the figure of a man standing. Like so much of contemporary art, it has a whiff of Dada, the art of the absurd invented a century ago by Marcel Duchamp as a slap in the face of the then-bourgeois establishment. Today's new establishment coughed up £193,250, well above the high estimate.
But an auctioneer's brio will take you just so far. By the time the third lot, Damien Hirst's "Beautiful Jaggy Snake Charity Painting" came up, enthusiasm was dying down. The 2007 Hirst, which resembles an enlarged close-up of traditional marbled paper painted in gaudy household gloss, sold with difficulty, under the low estimate, for £115,250.
That made the public uneasy. Howard Hodgkin's "Ekow," a kind of haphazard smear, dropped dead. Next, an abstract bronze and lacquer sculpture by Anish Kapoor also crashed. The failure of two works, both executed in 2008, did not augur well.
The sale became sticky. The first big lot, Andy Warhol's "skulls" of 1976, which reproduced 10 times in acrylic and silkscreen ink the image of a skull, very nearly failed and was retrieved by one £3.85 million bid, bringing the full price to £4.35 million, still far below the lowest expectations.
The second biggest lot, Gerhard Richter's "Abstract Picture (Red)," likewise sold by the skin of its teeth, for £2.84 million - one fifth less than the lowest price forecast by Sotheby's.
By the end of the sale, 27 percent of the works remained stranded. At the press conference held in a subdued atmosphere, a Sotheby's spokesperson revealed that the auction house had worked hard to persuade consignors to bring down their reserves. The house evidently succeeded to some extent - the six highest prices paid that evening were all well below the lower end of the estimate. All told, sales added up to £22 million. This was not a debacle, but undoubtedly a severe retreat.
As Christie's took over on Sunday afternoon in a leaden atmosphere, there were empty seats in the room.
In an eerie parallel to Sotheby's, the first three lots sold. Ron Arad's "London Parpadelle," a steel contraption which looked like a rug of steel mail unfolding and was No.6 in an edition of six, managed a generous £139,250. Takashi Murakami's composition "Close Encounters of the Third Kind," done in a futuristic comic strip style, then rose to £421,250, followed by Farhad Moshiri's "Golden Love Super Deluxe," a spoofy gilt wood cabinet filled with equally spoofy gilt porcelain and wooden pieces at £145,250.
At that point, the room lost interest. Andy Warhol's "Nine Multicolored Marilyns" dropped dead, and so did Jeff Koons's "Jim Beam-Log Car," a small stainless object produced in 1986 in an edition of three plus an artist proof. It matched its description but amused no one.
But Gilbert & George's set of 29 gelatin silver prints did. Titled "Muscadet," the set was "executed in 1973." Featured in many exhibitions, ranging from the Centre George Pompidou in Paris (1981) to the Hayward gallery in London (1987), it sold for £301,250.
Christie's, like Sotheby's, had persuaded some consignors to bring down their reserves, and that allowed the auctioneer to unload several heavyweights, all below the low reserve. A Lucio Fontana pulled through, on a single £8 million bid, missing the £10 million estimate quoted by Christie's "on request." But the oval piece of canvas, pierced with holes that give it the appearance of a moth-eaten doormat, was not cheap at £9 million, the price it cost with the sale charge.
Neither was the second most expensive painting, a realistic study of Bacon's face done more than 50 years ago by Lucian Freud. That realized £5.42 million, also less than the low estimate - but, again, a huge price.
By the auction's end, Christie's had sold 26 of 47 works for £32 million. The short message is that there is life left in the contemporary art market at 25 to 30 percent below current ambitions. That is very good in the current circumstances. Auction houses and their consigners had better heed the lesson.


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