maxresdefault-1.jpg

Summing up 2017:
9 ways the art world changed forever

2017 has been an extraordinary year in art, in many ways. The market has been in an eagerly expansive mood, and while Christie’s astounding sale of the painting by Leonardo is the most conspicuous, it’s far from the only sign that there is a lot happening right now. CFHILL has selected some of the most significant impressions from the past year.

  Record breaking: Jean Michel Basquiat, Untitled, sold at Sothebys in May 2017, $110m

Record breaking: Jean Michel Basquiat, Untitled, sold at Sothebys in May 2017, $110m

  Peggy and David Rockefeller, May 1973. Photo: Arthur Lavine/Rockefeller Estate

Peggy and David Rockefeller, May 1973. Photo: Arthur Lavine/Rockefeller Estate

1. The appetite for outrageous objects and stories in the age of the one percent

We can’t help it – we’re going to have to comment further on Leonardo’s Salvator Mundi. In hindsight, it’s clear that it surpassed everybody’s wildest dreams. However, to be frank, it was a ridiculously renovated painting with a provenance that was anything but uncomplicated. How it was all going to end up was really anybody’s guess at the time. Like heavyweight art market analyst Georgina Adam said, it really was a “battle of the titans,” in which Yves Bouvier (the “king of the freeports”) and the Russian billionaire and football club owner Dmitry Rybolovlev, the seller who had originally purchased the painting from Bouvier for $120m, both played major roles. To an outside observer it may all look like great business, but when you consider how much money these two gentlemen have lost buying art from each other, there may be a lot more to this story. And now, to top it off, they’ve fallen out. Georgina Adam writes about these topics in her recently published, enormously insightful book Dark Side of the Boom - The Excesses of the Art Market in the 21st Century.

2. Christie’s raised the bar for marketing

Anybody looking for a sensational story on the hubbub surrounding the $450m sale of Salvator Mundi is truly spoilt for choice, but Christie’s campaign, which set an entirely new standard for marketing, is surely the most fascinating of all. Their activities from October 24 until the auction on November 15 deserve to be made the subject of an advanced-level marketing communications course. The campaign had it all: razor-sharp “explainers” (short videos for social media) in which they exhibited no fear at all of giving too much detail, absolute transparency regarding the damage and the extensive repairs, just the right blend of secrecy and scandal surrounding the sales process and the piece’s past owners, and, perhaps most significantly, the perfect pitch with which they carried out their market analysis. Their decision to beautify Jesus to the point of perfection and refer to him as a “male Mona Lisa” gave this precious object great appeal far beyond the world of Christianity, and transformed it into a profane status symbol perfectly adapted for any of the new arenas for garish displays of wealth that have popped up outside of the West. The question now is whether this storytelling act for the ages can be repeated? Of course it can! Christie’s have already picked up their own tossed gauntlet: This spring, they’ll be selling the art collection of billionaire David Rockefeller (1915–2017). The expectations for the coming campaign are sky-high. It’s bound to be highly instructive, and you won’t want to miss it!

  Marina Abramovic at Acute Art, Autumn 2017

Marina Abramovic at Acute Art, Autumn 2017

  Performance night, Nov 30 at CFHILL, carpenter Moa Ott sawing Banca Rotta, by Goldin+Senneby

Performance night, Nov 30 at CFHILL, carpenter Moa Ott sawing Banca Rotta, by Goldin+Senneby

3. How will virtual reality impact art?

What sensations and possibilities remain to be explored by 21st century art? Jacob Felländer introduced VR in his exhibition How to Unlock a Portal at Fotografiska Museet, and later, in the celebrated exhibition that he opened at MOCA in December. He is not by any means the only artist to take an interest in this new technology, which allows manipulation of the body’s position within a three-dimensional space. Others who took this approach were the Serpentine Gallery, in their exhibition about the superstar architect Zaha Hadid, and Marina Abramovic, Jeff Koons, and Olafur Eliasson, who each contributed a piece to the Acute Art exhibition. Koons had this to say about his experiences of VR: “One of the things I noticed with VR is a tremendous sense of centre. Knowing that I am within a space and understanding the parameters around me. I have also noticed that one’s affirmation of existence is always missing. You look down at your feet and there’s nothing there, so there’s a lot to be said about defining your own presence.”

4. Manipulate the World – the year of Goldin+Senneby

While selecting just one Swedish artist to represent this year is a daunting prospect, if pressured to do so, we’d have to go with the duo Goldin+Senneby, not merely because they closed out the year at CFHILL with their first—and successful—exhibition, but also because of the way that their subtly cunning, intricate, and enormously ambitious art has taken such a powerful hold on Sweden. Their work Eternal Employment, which was purchased by the Public Art Agency of Sweden, is the first-ever public artwork to be manifested solely as an employer-employee relationship. In their work for the Moderna Museet exhibition Manipulate the World (which they also co-curated), they have successfully recruited the Swedish state to participate in what essentially constitutes a short-selling attack on a publicly traded company. In Force Directed Predictions, they use artificial intelligence (another likely first in art) to create a piece that supposedly delivers detailed predictions of art prices, like some Delphic oracle. This is about as smart and mind-blowing as it gets.

  Vilhelm Hammershöi, Interior With Woman at Piano, Strandgade 30, 1901

Vilhelm Hammershöi, Interior With Woman at Piano, Strandgade 30, 1901

  Record breaking: Carmen Herrera, Untitled (Orange and Black), 1956

Record breaking: Carmen Herrera, Untitled (Orange and Black), 1956

  Kieran Long, new director at ArkDes

Kieran Long, new director at ArkDes

5. Anti-modernist Scandinavian breaks sales record

Sotheby’s may have been convincingly outperformed this fall, but they certainly have nothing to be ashamed of. They managed to score an impressive number of top pieces, including Dane Vilhelm Hammershöi’s breathtakingly beautiful Interior with Woman at Piano, Strandgade 30, from 1901, which went under the hammer for an incredible $6.2m—one of the highest prices ever paid for a work by a Scandinavian artist! The reclusive and withdrawn Dane never won much fame during his lifetime, but modern-day experts speak of a contemporary psychological sensitivity embedded in an antiexpressive tradition rooted in the early Italian Renaissance.

6. Female artists smash price records

Retrospectives at the close of last year were already predicting that the time was ripe for female artists to claim higher prices. Just as with their male counterparts, this has proven true both for established names and for the frenzied hunt for the “next big thing.” An example of the former from this year is the new record set for a sale of a work by American expressionist Lee Krasner (1908–1984). Shattered Light, from 1954, reached an amazing $5.5m, with a starting bid of $1.8m. Phillips, who have struggled to make an impression in the face of tremendous competition, presented an unbelievably beautiful painting by Cuban straight line abstract painter Carmen Herrera. In any case, another record was broken.

7. Changes to come in Stockholm

We’ll have to wait another year before we can see Bringing Home the Body of King Karl XII of Sweden and The Lady with the Veil again. When Nationalmuseum first opened in 1866, it was one of the most modern museum buildings of its day. By now, the renovation has been going on for so long that we’ve all had time to build up a genuine longing for some older Swedish art history. However, Bernt Arell won’t be there to open it, and a whole array of exciting questions are yet to be answered, including who will direct the museum, what the programming will be like, and what the reorganisation will entail. But as we said: we won’t know until 2019. After a long series of unfortunate events, Arkdes has finally caught a break: In April, they appointed a bona fide international star as director in Kieran Long, previously editor-in-chief of Architectural Review and head of the department of design, architecture and digital at the Victoria & Albert Museum in London. 2018 is set to be a great year, both for him personally and for Arkdes as a whole.

  Louvre, Abu Dhabi, architect Jean Nouvel, inaugurated Nov 2017

Louvre, Abu Dhabi, architect Jean Nouvel, inaugurated Nov 2017

  Chen Man, currently at Fotografiska, Stockholm

Chen Man, currently at Fotografiska, Stockholm

8. New sales channels are forcing galleries to adapt

Our business has not gone unaffected by the great global shift in purchasing behaviour. Tried-and-tested methods are suddenly coming under challenge. As more people discover the world of art, and grow accustomed to its inner workings, the expectations and demands are growing ever greater. Established institutions, galleries, and auction houses alike can only maintain an equal footing by keeping an open mind. There’s more than one way of doing things now. One of the most exciting and aggressive presences around today is Artsy, which is gradually taking on the role of a Google or Über of art. Their business model is familiar fare by now: become the best at everything, and make yourself indispensable in every national market, regardless of size, segmenting, or geography. Artsy is more than an indispensable platform; it is a vibrant, quickly adapting, and self-learning news and knowledge generator that already has hundreds of thousands of allies, and already lives in a practical state of symbiosis with the art world. Another significant trend is international expansion among the world’s leading galleries. Hauser & Wirth are already present in six cities, and are set to open in Hong Kong in March. And we don’t suppose the opening of the Louvre Abu Dhabi managed to somehow slip under your radar?

9. Fotografiska ventures forth and stakes a claim outside of Sweden

As we mentioned above, Bernt Arell is moving on from his role as director of Nationalmuseum, to seek new adventures. After the summer, New Yorkers and visitors to the Big Apple alike will be able to visit Fotografiska, as they will be opening a branch there, near Park Avenue South. This is a momentous event by Swedish standards. When was the last time a Swedish museum or gallery opened a new branch abroad? Furthermore, on December 13, it was announced that Arell has been appointed producer of exhibitions for Fotografiska Stockholm as well as for the new spaces.