One of the major questions asked was whether or not we can trust the amount buyers supposedly pay for guaranteed lots, since third-party guarantees may entail a bonus for the bidder if the price goes over the agreed upon sum—say, a 50-50 split of the amount over the initial guaranteed bid. And trusting the numbers is important, because collectors and dealers alike use auction results, posted on databases like Artnet.com’s, to gauge artists’ markets. To use an example from the Economist piece, if former Christie’s Impressionist and Modern co-head Guy Bennett bought this fall’s Roy Lichtenstein at Christie’s for a client who was also its guarantor, he may have received a significant, secret discount for bidding up the price.
To add to the confusion, auction houses this year embraced their other, even less public aspects, the private sales division. Christie’s promoted one of its star honchos, Amy Cappellazzo, to chairman of post-war and contemporary development, a role that focuses her attention on private transactions and an appointment that Mr. Maneker announced with a headline saying that she’d “take on Gagosian” in her new role.
No small part of this strategy is the expansion of operations that resemble, or simply are, galleries. Christie’s has owned Haunch of Venison since 2007, but this year made its earnest bid at breaking into the New York gallery world by breaking away the business from the Christie’s headquarters in Rockefeller Center and moving it into a proper Chelsea gallery space. Private sales exhibitions even emulated the glamour of the blue-chip galleries with which they now compete. S2, Sotheby’s new gallery dedicated exclusively to private sale works, opened this fall with a modest Sam Francis exhibit and then transported all of hip downtown to the auction house for a star-studded show curated by Vito Schnabel that recreated the Schnabels’ Palazzo Chupi, and featured among others the Bruce High Quality Foundation, Dan Colen and a room of Terence Koh. And who could forget Vladimir Restoin Roitfeld and Andy Valmorbida’s Richard Hambleton show at Phillips de Pury, with its glitzy after-party at Indochine?
The auction houses did well for themselves this year, so whatever strategies they’ve embraced seem to be working. Their future value as the bellwether of the art market may be in flux, though, if the trends seen in 2011 continue. —Dan Duray
… And On The Horizon
Some things are safe bets: the money is going to keep flowing in 2012, at least at the upper tier, and barring calamity in Europe, it is going to make 2011 look low key. The Art Newspaper recently pointed out that, according to Forbes, 200 more billionaires were minted in 2010—there are 1,210 now—during which time their net worth increased some 25 percent.
Larry Gagosian, we suspect, will open a 12th gallery, probably in Tel Aviv, São Paulo or Istanbul in order of likelihood. Covering the opening of Gagosian’s Paris gallery last year, Bloomberg quoted a fellow dealer noting that Louis Vuitton opens stores in countries with three or more billionaires. France has 12 and Hong Kong, where Gogo opened earlier this year, has 36. Israel, Brazil and Turkey have, respectively, 16, 30 and 38.
In January and February, all 11 of Gagosian’s branches will feature Damien Hirst’s “spot” paintings in a show of force that will provoke all of the expected discussions and grumbling about power and influence while changing nothing about the way the industry actually operates.
What may change things is the ongoing work of the W.A.G.E. group, which aims to have artists paid fees for exhibiting at nonprofits. Next month, the group will collaborate with Artists Space, which looks like an early favorite to win the alternative-space trophy this year. It’s opening a bookstore and lecture venue in Tribeca, and director Stefan Kalmár is riding high after parlaying the fascinatingly awkward Occupy Artists Space debacle into a PR victory.
With Luhring Augustine set to open a new Bushwick gallery with a Charles Atlas show in February, a few of the neighborhood’s more ambitious dealers will win some spillover business. Given the area’s bounty of relatively affordable space, we predict that at least one more Chelsea gallery will follow suit. Dia or another expansion-ready institution would have to be crazy not to be considering a location out there.
On the actual art front: as a friend pointed out to us recently, everyone basically agrees that Ryan Trecartin and the Dis magazine gang are just about the most interesting game in town. Mr. Trecartin is a free agent at the moment, having left Elizabeth Dee, and while everyone is waiting, breathlessly, to see where he goes, a theory we’re toying with is that he’ll grow to like operating independently and stay that way, lining up financing and negotiating international gallery shows as he goes.
And finally, Julian Schnabel is going to enjoy a strong comeback. Jeffrey Deitch has a retrospective set at the Los Angeles Museum of Contemporary Art, and young artists are actually discussing Mr. Schnabel’s work with admiration. His energetic children—dealer Vito and painter Lola Montes—are keeping his brand young, and after having his latest movie flop and breaking with his girlfriend (setting aside that weird outburst at NBC where he supposedly berated her about her hair), even we almost feel badly for him. If he could just engineer a few good auction results, he’d be a made man.
So there you have it: money will flow even more dramatically, Gagosian will expand, a new art neighborhood will continue to rise as some young dealers go under (the closure of Taxter & Spengemann is a reminder of how tricky life is for emerging-artist gallerists) and Julian Schnabel will dominate. Basically 2012 will be 1985. —Andrew Russeth