Market Monday: Stocking Stuffer Edition
Delivering a compact collection of holiday happenings around the industry...
After canceling the final two days of this year's Paris Photo in the wake of the city's tragic November terror attacks, the fair's organizers have agreed to reimburse all exhibitors for 20 percent of their booth costs and related expenses. It's a noble gesture, but the cold truth is that even full reimbursement wouldn't suffice for some participating dealers. The real problem is that exhibitors have no way to replace the sales that might have happened on that lost Saturday and Sunday––transactions that might have made or broken their entire fiscal year. Remember, 40 percent of all sales in the dealer sector in 2014 took place at art fairs, per the most recent TEFAF report. Considering Paris Photo's status as arguably the industry's top photography fair, it's entirely plausible that this tragedy will put more than one exhibitor out of business. So reimbursement or not, the whole ordeal is most meaningful as a symbol of just how high-stakes and fragile the business has become. [ArtForum]
In related news, French Finance Minister Michael Sapin called for greater regulation of the art market in light of its alleged status as a major revenue stream for ISIS. As Jess McHugh clarifies in a separate piece (and as many, if not most, readers likely know anyway), the specific market sector in question here is actually the antiquities trade, where ISIS has become a major player thanks to works looted from conquered sites around the Arab world. To me, the most important aspect of this story is that it proves how "the art market" is as reductive and unhelpful a phrase as "the Middle East" or the "the terrorist threat." Experts on each subject would tell you that these terms are not monoliths. Instead, they are complex ecosystems comprised of many interlocking yet independent pieces. If we really want to understand any of them, we have to transcend the generalities and engage the details. [Bloomberg]
Nancy Spector has agreed to exchange her long-tenured post as chief curator at the Guggenheim for the same position at the Brooklyn Museum. Art industry observers have widely hailed the move as a coup for recently appointed Brooklyn Museum director Anne Pasternak. At the same time, what better symbol is there of the museum sector's (and possibly the entire industry's) painfully old-school default settings than the fact that an encyclopedic museum's hiring of a clearly capable, highly respected curator can be described as "unusual" strictly because she comes from... a non-encyclopedic museum? I applaud Pasternak, but if this is really our standard for revolution, it's no wonder that so many of the industry's practices deserve a place in the fossil record. [The New York Times]
Commercial photographer and apparent waiting-game champion Mitchel Gray filed an intellectual property lawsuit over a Jeff Koons painting that has been "widely exhibited" since 1986. The Koons piece, titled "I Could Go for Something Gordon's," is a photorealist rendering of a Gordon's Gin print ad that Gray shot at least 29 years ago. Setting aside the absurd time horizon, the difference in media, and my presumption that Gray would have had to sell his work's copyright to Gordon's Gin so the ad could run, the suit is a reminder that, although the line separating art and advertising is blurrier today than ever, the two sides have been trending toward one another for far longer than the past few years (with the mid-80s still being nowhere near the actual genesis). In the language of hip hop, act like you know. [ARTnews]
That's all for this edition. Sign up for the Gray Market newsletter to get more links and analysis slid down your inbox's chimney every Sunday night. Otherwise, catch you back here next week.