Monthly Archives: November 2016

Set more than a decade ago

The Upper East Side mansion of art heir David Wildenstein has just set a real estate record for a New York City townhouse at a cool $79.5 million, according to real estate newspaper The Real Deal. The previous record of $53 million was paid for the Harkness mansion, sold in 2006.

News of the sale follows several years of false starts including a failed deal with Qatar, and two separate lawsuits. The report describes the buyer as “an entity affiliated with Roy Liao, CEO of HNA Holdings Group, the same company behind the $2.2 billion deal to buy 245 Park Avenue.”

As reported by artnet News and others, in early January, billionaire investor Len Blavatnik sued David Wildenstein for $10 million, claiming that Wildenstein reneged on the sale of the townhouse. Wildenstein’s attorneys argued it was an informal handshake deal rather than a binding sale agreement. In early March, a judge dismissed Blavatnik’s suit according to Curbed, a move which appears to have paved the way for the latest deal to move forward.

The Wildensteins first tried to offload the property in 2014, arranging a $90 million deal with the Qatari royal family, who reportedly sought to use the building as a consulate. When that deal fell through, the Wildensteins sued the royal family.

Last August the family put the mansion pack on the market—with an additional $10 million tacked on to the price tag—clearly a price buyers deemed too lofty. Despite that the reported $79.5 million ($3,180 a foot) is a Manhattan real estate record, it is still more than $20 million below the latest re-listing price.

HNA’s press office did not immediately respond to artnet News request for comment. Carrie C. Chiang of Corcoran real estate reportedly represented the Wildenstein family. She did not immediately respond to artnet News’ request for comment.

Popular Mural in Rome

A large-scale frieze created by the South African artist William Kentridge on the bank of Rome’s River Tiber has been vandalized with graffiti.

Kentridge told AFP that he couldn’t understand why the authorities in Rome had not removed the graffiti as soon as they started to appear.

The mural—which depicts the history of Rome and is called Triumphs and Laments—was created by Kentridge by removing the dirt building up on the walls lining the Tiber, across 550 meters (1,800 feet), using a technique called “reverse stenciling.”

Located in on the right bank of the Tiber in the Trastevere district, close to St. Peter’s Basilica, the frieze was inaugurated in April 2016 and has since attracted widespread interest by tourists and locals.

Yet, since its launch, graffiti—most of them simple “tags” featuring names and initials—have been consistently appearing in the blank spaces between the images outlined by the artist.

It seems his plea has worked. According to AFP, that same day, Luca Bergamo, Rome’s deputy mayor, ordered a team from the city’s refuse department to clean the frieze and erase the graffiti, calling the vandals “stupid.”

Get Their Day in Court Over Destruction of Murals

A judge’s order will send to trial a suit by a group of graffiti artists against a real estate owner who destroyed their murals at the 5Pointz site in Queens, New York. After a four-year battle, Senior US District Judge Frederic Block’s order, filed March 31, grants the 5Pointz graffiti artists’ right to sue under the Visual Artists Rights Act of 1990.

At issue is the former site of giant graffiti murals that covered a city block’s worth of warehouses in Western Queens, across the street from MoMA PS1. They attracted tourists by the busload and featured works by artists from as far away as Australia and Japan. Graffiti artists had been plastering the walls with their works since 1993.

Curated by a graffiti artist named Meres One (Jonathan Cohen) since 2002, the colorful murals were a reminder of a grittier past in a gentrified neighborhood bustling with new high-rise construction. The owner, G&M Realty’s Gerald Wolkoff, also rented out space to artists there at low cost.

When Wolkoff resolved to destroy the buildings to make way for a new residential development, artists brought suit to stop him in order to preserve their artworks, asserting a claim under VARA as well as “intentional infliction of emotional distress,” conversion, and property damage. Their case was thrown out, and, without warning one night during November 2013, the owners whitewashed the murals, erasing, as the artists’ spokeswoman told the New York Times, the work of at least 1,500 artists. The abrupt erasure allowed the artists no time to document or preserve their work.

A group of 17 artists brought another federal suit in US District Court for the Eastern District of New York in June, 2015, claiming that their work was protected under VARA, which provides for damages if the works are of “recognized stature,” typically determined by expert witnesses. The plaintiffs’ witness put forth corporate commissions and celebrity clients of some of the street artists, as well as museum professionals’ opinions and the artists’ online presence and press coverage, among other factors.

Why this prize is different from the rest

Last Friday, the City Hall of Porto, Portugal, announced the finalists of the Paulo Cunha e Silva Art Prize, featuring a shortlist of 48 artists chosen by a top-tier network of international curators, writers, and museum directors.

Elena Filipovic, of the Kunsthalle Basel; Nancy Spector and Pablo León de la Barra, of the Guggenheim; Venus Lau, of OCAT Shenzhen; and Hans Ulrich Obrist, of the Serpentine Galleries, are among 16 curators chosen by an initial jury of four.

That jury includes curator and writer João Laia; artist Julião Sarmento; choreographer and dancer Meg Stuart; and curator, and former Tate director, Vicente Todolí.

They were selected by the Culture Department of the City Council of Porto, and in turn, handpicked four curators each from around the world, who selected three artists each as grand finalists for the prize.

“The prize is different from the others because it is a kind of networked model. It functions with successive nominations in a loop. The jury nominates curators who nominate artists, and then the shortlist goes back to the jury to choose the winner,” Laia told artnet News. “It is absolutely transparent, which is great.”

The 48 nominated artists include Olga Balema; Paul Maheke; Ian Cheng; Eva Koťátková; Naufus Ramírez-Figueroa; Njideka Akunyili Crosby; and Christine Sun Kim, who was actually nominated by two curators, Nancy Spector and João Riba.

Laia told artnet News he is happy with the gender distribution of the artists and curators.

Eligible to artists under 40 who have had, at most, one solo exhibition at an institution with an “international reputation,” the PCS Prize seems to agree with the idea that “emerging” equals “young.” In contrast, the Turner Prize, previously limited to artists under 50, announced an expanded rule last week, that will now allow artists of any age to win.

The winner of the Porto-based prize, to be announced in June, will receive a cash award of €25,000 ($26,700). Their work will also be the focus of a show at the Galeria Municipal do Porto, a public contemporary art space, to take place in 2018.

“[The prize] is a tribute to Paulo Cunha e Silva. He had a crucial important role in establishing Porto as a hub for culture in Portugal and in linking the city and the country to larger international flows of thinking,” Laia told artnet News.

“It is also part of a larger dynamic taking place now in Portugal, where culture and art have been given a renewed attention, and at the same time, the international scene is also looking at Portugal as an interesting art and culture platform. This award comes at the right time in the right place in terms of the Portuguese context.”

Learning Apprentice to LA Art Star Thomas Houseago

That’s one way to cope. On the heels of his divorce from Angelina Jolie, actor Brad Pitt is honing his art skills under the tutelage of British sculptor Thomas Houseago, according to the British tabloid the Daily Mail.

The 53-year-old actor is reportedly spending marathon sessions of up to 15 hours a day in Houseago’s Los Angeles studio, staying long after the artist’s assistants have called it a day.

“Art is a way for him to concentrate on one thing, taking his mind off everything else,” an unnamed source hypothesized to the Mail, adding that Pitt is “learning at a fast pace.”

The tabloid speculates that Pitt was inspired to become a sculptor himself after attending a conversation between Houseago and Red Hot Chili Peppers bass player Flea, in which Houseago spoke of his own personal difficulties. (The event was at the Broad art museum, and is archived on Facebook Live.) Evidently, Pitt and Houseago live near each other in the same “exclusive compound” and “have been friends for some time.”

Pitt’s newfound passion for sculpting has even taken precedence over Hollywood’s annual award season. Aside from a brief appearance at the Golden Globes in January, Pitt blew off all other ceremonies and galas. He even skipped the Oscars despite being one of the producers of Best Picture winning film “Moonlight.”

But Pitt’s interest in art is long-standing.Two years ago, he was spotted visiting Berlin gallery Sprüth Magers to see Ed Ruscha’s “Metro Mattress” exhibition, which featured drawings of discarded mattresses to invoke Los Angeles’ urban landscape. Together, Pitt and Jolie amassed a collection that has been estimated to be worth $25 million. Prior to the couple’s well-publicized split, they acquired pieces from artists such as Marcel Dzama, Banksy, Ed Ruscha, Richard Serra, and Neo Rauch.