Harriet Häußler

12th Berlin Biennale for Contemporary Art opens next week

Is it a strange coincidence that on Saturday, June 11, 2022 not only the 12th Biennale for Contemporary Art will open in Berlin but also the WTA-500 tennis tournament at the Lawn Tennis Turnier Club Rot-Weiss? There are only so few really international events in the German capital that it sounds at least mysterious to me what a tennis enthusiast might have in common with an art enthusiast.

The art world just comes back from its trip to the Bienniale in Venice to stop in Berlin before continuing its way to Switzerland where the Art Basel art fair will open for invited guest on Tuesday, June 17, 2022. What can the art market expect from the Bienniale in Berlin? The team around Kader Attia has chosen several locations for the art event, among them there are the traditional sites Hamburger Bahnhof, Museum for Contemporary Art, the Academy of Fine Arts and the KW, the Institute for Contemporary Art. A close relationship to the recent past of Berlin will be drawn by including the “Stasi-Zentrale” – the headqurters of the secret police in former East Germany – to the sites of the Biennale.

Headquarter of the secret police in former East Germany
KW – Institute for Contemporary Art

Former Biennales have not shown that the official event influenced the art market in Berlin. It seems inscrutable why even after the pandemic when the whole art world was shoken by closures for long periods the instiutions and the galleries do not aim to cooperate. Kader Attia did not approach the local galleries to invite them to an official cooperation – e. g. in organising a common opening of interesting shows. For galleries from the US or UK it is incomprehensible why the public institutions do not cooperate with the private economy. And to me it is even less comprehensible why the curatorial team chose the opening date at the same time as the tennis tournament which lasts only a week in contrast to the Bienale which will last for more than three months.

Hamburger Bahnhof – Museum for Contemporary Art

Anyway, let’s stay curious when we will wander around Berlin next week. Maybe we will find the Berlin art scene more cooperative than expected and we will discover some interesting links between art seen at the public Biennale sites and at private galleries. Hopefully, a large part of Berlin will be infected by the “Biennale fever”!

Academy of Fine Arts at Hanseatenweg

Andy Warhol’s Marilyn: The New Icon of the 20th Century

The silkscreen entitled “Shot Sage Blue Marilyn” from 1964 will come to auction in May in New York. The auction house Christie’s just published the estimation which is a sensation: 200 million US-Dollar are expected for the silkscreen. Why is the estimation so high as there are several versions of Monroe’s portraits in different colours and sizes?

Andy Warhol started his portrait series of the American actress just after her death in 1962. There are four special aspects why this work got the high estimate:

1.) The work will be sold by the Swiss Foundation “Thomas-und-Doris-Ammann” in Zurich which was founded in 2021 after Dors Ammann, the legendary art dealer and Thomas Ammann’s sister, died. Thomas Ammann had founded his gallery in 1977 and quickly became one of the most known art dealers of his time. He became Andy Warhol`s friend and edited the catalogue raisonné of the artist’s paintings, silkscreens, sculptures and works on papers. It is not known to the public when the Monroe silkscreen became part of the Ammann collection. For sure is that it has not been resold since the work was bought by Thomas or Doris Amman. This “market-freshness” is one of the most important reasons for the high estimate.

2.) The silkscreen is part of the series “The Shot Marilyn” from 1964. Andy Warhol made five works for this series but only four of them were shot. How did this happen? Dorothy Prodber, a visitor at Warhol’s Factory in 1964, asked Warhol if she could shot the four Marilyns which were stacked against the wall. Warhol agreed as he thought Prodber would like to take a photo. But she took out a revolver and shot a hole in the four stacked works. The fifth (the turqouise one) was the only one remaining unshot. So the “Shot Sage Blue Marilyn” is a rarity of only four silkscreens with this remarkable hole in the canvas which has finally been restored.

3) The three other “Shot Marilyns” in red, green and orange are today all in private collections. But not in any private collections: All the other works plus the unshot light blue work belonged and still belong to some of the most impressive collectors of the 20th and 21st centurey. The owners are Peter Brant, Philippe Niarchos, Steven Cohen and Kenneth Griffin – among the previous owners of the Marilyns you find Karl Ströher, Leon Kraushar, Masao Wanibuchi, Si Newhouse and Stefan Edlis. All these men have and had great impact on the development of the art market of the last decades.

4.) The last reason why the “Shot Sage Blue Marilyn” got this high estimate is that the orange version of the series was publically sold at auction in 1998 for only $ 17 million, but then sold again to Kenneth Griffin for a rumored $ 250 million in 2017. Now five years later it makes sense that this price might be realised at a public auction as well – especially as the sage blue version has never been auctioned before.

Let’s see which price the sage blue Mariyn will achieve in May. Good to know is that all revenues from the sale will be donated to charitable purposes.

Franz Marc: Scramble about his “Foxes”

The painting “The Foxes” by Franz Marc from 1913 was sold in London for more than 42 million pounds on March 1, 2022. By the sale Christie’s achieved a record for Franz Marc.

Before the auction could take place, the scramble about the “Foxes” took more than three years. Only in January, 11th – two months before the auction took place in March 2022 – the city of Duesseldorf in Western German restituted the art work to the heirs of Kurt Grawi (1887-1944). Grawi who was an important entreprenuer and banker in Nazi-Germany had to suffer from the Nazi-regime as a Jewish. After being imprisoned in 1938 he could escape to Chile.

What about the painting? In 1928 Kurt Grawi bought the “Foxes” by Franz Mark. In 1940 Grawi sold the Franz Marc painting to William Dieterle, a German-American film director in Los Angeles. Dieterle sold the painting in 1962 to the department store chain “Merkur”, which belonged to the German entrepreneur Helmut Horten. It was finally Horten who gave the work to the city of Duesseldorf as a gift. The “Foxes” were on view to the German public from the 1960s on until last year in the Museum “Kunstpalast” in Duesseldorf.

The discussions were concentrating on the fact that the sale didn’t happen in Nazi-Germany but in the States and in Chile – Grawi was in Santiago de Chile and the painting in New York when it was sold in 1938. The legal discussions has now ended after years, so that Ingeburg Breit (90), Kurt Grawi’s daughter-in-law, could get the painting back in January 2022. The record price of more than 42 million pounds only shows that rare and high-quality expressionists from Germany can achieve millions on the international art market.

New Businesses in Art World

The pandemic seems to have given some people more time to think about their professional future. At the moment we see an unusual high amount of new businesses on the art market.

You find some interesting new galleries in the Western centres of the market: In Paris, a new gallery for African art is founded by French dealer Cécile Fakhoury. Her new space is located on the famous Avenue Matignon, where the British auction house Sotheby’s will open its new French headquarter in 2023.

In Berlin, Aeneas Bastian has just opened his new fine gallery in Dahlem, the distinguisehd outskirt of Germany’s capital, with a focus on German and international art of the 19th and 20th century. Pauline Seguin, a French gallerist, has opened her new space called “Heidi” in the Berlin centre of art market, on Kurfürstenstrasse, near Potsdamer Strasse with a very young programm.

In New York, the area in TriBeCa is further developping to the most vibrant spot in the American metropol with some new galleries and spaces on both sides of the market: on the one end there is mega-dealer David Zwirner, who has just opened in TriBeCa his fourth New York space, “Walker 52”, on the other hand you find “Theta”, an innovative gallery with a strong focus on contemporary art, where you enter the space via a cellar vent.

A second trend on the art market gets more and more important: new businesses outside of the traditional art dealing. The company “Artusiast” shows one of these new concepts. Its main idea is to sell art online in cooperation with known auction houses, galleries and edition houses which all offer artworks in a price range of maximum € 50.000. With this new trend comes the boom with NFTs and cryptoart. Companies such as “nft.kred” deal with NFTs since 2018. And even traditional houses accept now crypto currency: e. g. at Sotheby’s you can bid and pay in ethereum on works by contemporary artist Bansky.

Let’s see what the upcoming months of a second pandemic winter will bring to the international art market!

Berlin Art Week 15-19 September 2021

The 10th edition of the Berlin Art Week started for the second time under pandemic conditions.

As the German art market is still not back to its level from before the Corona crises this is one of the most important events in Germany for collectors, curators, galleries and art enthusiastics to talk and discuss about art as well as to deal with art works.

As it is the new standard in the art world the real part of the art week takes place in the whole area of Berlin, decentralised with lots of distance and in the majority outside. The second part of the art week takes place in the virtual world – the new platform “playlist” is ment as an addition of the presentation of the Berlin and so far of the German current art world.

The Art Week is accompanied by three further events, the Positions Berlin Art Fair, the paper positions berlin as well as the fair at Johann Koenig’s gallery in the former church St. Agnes, MISA.

With the Art Week the so called “Moabiter Werkhof L.57” opened its doors for the second time and gives insights in the studios from Katharina Grosse, Karin Sander, Anri Sala, Konstantin Grcic and Via Lewandowsky among others.

Berlin shows again its wide art scene. For the visitors always astonishing are the big distances between the individual locations. If you go from the “old” art centre around the museum Frieder Burda, the KW Institute for Contemporary Art, the galleries Sprüth Magers and Eigen + Art via the area in Charlottenburg with the galleries Max Hetzler and Mehdi Chouakri you could finish your trip in Dahlem in the southwest at Fluentum.

Old and new collections open their doors: you could stop at the Feuerle Collection, the Sammlung Seibert or the EAM Collection.

The events give an overview of the Berlin art scene which is still very dynamic and young. What the visitors is at the same time missing in Berlin are the big names. There are very promising new artistic positions which you can discover but there are nearly no international names. The public museums did not interact with the privately organised Art Week in an obvious way so that the exhibitions at the museums seem to stand alone, separated from the colourful program of the Art Week participants.

Joseph Beuys and the art market in the jubelee year 2021

The German Fluxus, happenings and performance artist Joseph Beuys had great influence on the German and European art scene as an artist as well as a theorist of art. He was born 100 years ago on May 12 in 1921. In occasion of this anniversary it seems to be appropriate to take a closer look at his position in the art market.

Since the beginning of this year more than 250 works by Beuys have been offered at international auctions. Furthermore, there are and were numerous exhibitions at institutions, especially in Germany. E. g. the university of Dusseldorf has organised under the leadership of Eugen Blume and Catherine Nichols and under the title “beuys 2021” several activities in the Rheinland. In Aachen, Bonn, Dortmund, Duisburg, Düsseldorf, Essen, Krefeld, Munster and further museums and exhibition spaces there will be works, films, concerts, book presentations and symposiums on this exceptional artist. In the Belvedere 21 in Vienna there is another exhibition on a large scale entitled “Think. Act. Convey”. In addition, since last Sunday the exhibition “Von der Sprache aus. (Starting from Language)” at the Berlin-based Hamburger Bahnhof is open and from the end of this month on there will be an interesting confrontation of Beuys and Lehmbruck on view at the Bundeskunsthalle in Bonn.

Does this high media presence have influence on the market development of the artist?

First of all, it is remarkable that the quantity of works which are offered at auction has sharply increased this year. In the reference period of last year 2020 there were only 129 works coming to auction in comparison to 267 works this year. Nearly 20 % of the offered lots in 2021, 24 works, were sold for more than 10.000 EUR. In the reference period in 2020 only eight lots could exceed this limit. These numbers alone indicate an upturn of Joseph Beuys in the jubilee year.

This view is supported by another sale: At Phillips in London the threedimensional edition “Sled” (an edition of 50 from 1969) was sold on Monday for even more than 150.000 EUR. The widely known object “Capri Battery” from Schellmann in an edition of 200 from 1985 was furthermore sold for the stable price of nearly 20.000 EUR at the same auction in the UK.

To sum up Joseph Beuys’ jubilee year has aroused great interest in this artist – and inspite of the limitations caused by the pandemic there is an upward trend visible in his market value, more works are offered for sale and on top, they are sold for higher prices.

Forgotten Art: The Late Gothic as a New Field for Collecting Art?

From May 21, 2021, the Picture Gallery in Berlin opens its doors for the exhibition: “The Late Gothic Era: The Birth of Modernity

From today on the Picture Gallery (Gemäldegalerie) in Berlin shows an impressive new exhibition on late Gothic art in featuring some 130 objects, including key works from the German-speaking world in the 15th-century. Well-known artists such as Stefan Lochner, Konrad Witz and Tilman Riemenschneider are represented by important paintings and sculptures.

Even if this might not be the first impression, there are indeed some parallels between the late gothic art from 1500 and contemporary art. Especially the main changes of the ways of looking at paintings and the many innovations of new media, which happened that time, tremendously changed during these so different periods in art history. For our time, the invention of digital art has deep influences on our way of observing the world – have a look at my comment on NFL art from March 2021.

In the 15th century there is of course one great innovation – maybe the most important innovation of the middle ages at all – which had a deep influence on art in general and on the viewing habits of the population: the invention of movable types by Johannes Gutenberg at around 1450. The previous method of book making in hand writing was quickly replaced by his method of book making in printing. Texts and images were now reproduced in large editions, new ideas could be rapidly distributed around Europe. With the founding of big printing presses, the era of mass communication has started.

Printmaking became the most important artform – until today nearly all living artists edit prints. With the reduced price more people could afford to buy art works, this helped a lot to establish art for individuals. Paintings and sculptures became autonomous works. Before Gutenberg’s innovation, art was mostly produced for an elite – the church or the aristocracy. From the 15th century on, artistic prints were hang in the houses of the new middle class. With the rise of the bourgeoisie, art works became more individual. With the help of light and shadow as well as with the invention of new perspectives, faces and bodies of the represented people became more realistic. The 15th century therefore also marks the birth of individualism in art.

The now opening exhibition at the Berlin picture gallery represents a comprehensive selection of works from this German epoch, which happened simultaneously with the Italian Renaissance. Until today, the Italian Renaissance art is much more appreciated in the art world than the German late Gothic. Prices for Italian masters are very high – let’s remember the record price for the “Young Man Holding a Roundel” by Sandro Botticelli, sold in January 2021 for more than $ 92 million.

Even if the late German gothic is not valued the same way at the art market, there is one niche field of art collection which might be a good alternative for investments in the middle price range: the prints of the 15th and 16th century.

For several years there were nearly no prints dating from the late Gothic coming to auction. But since last year, there seems to be a change in evaluating late Gothic prints. E.g. Sotheby’s London has offered seven engravings by Albrecht Dürer in March 2020, four of them sold for prices up to $ 51.000,-. Next month the Cologne based auction house Van Ham will offer the sculpture “Man of Sorrows” by the workshop of Tilman Riemenschneider for an estimate of $ 30.000 to 40.000,-.

If someone is not familiar with this exciting and innovative period in art, it might be a good start to visit the exhibition at the picture gallery to get some own impressions of the visual vocabulary of the late Gothic art. Maybe a visit will be followed by the purchase of an Albrecht Dürer engraving one day…

London opens – Berlin closes

Last Friday, April 23, 2021 the new regulations of the German state come into force which shall help to reduce the spread of the Corona virus. In all German cities and areas with an incidence of more than 100 all museums, operas, theaters and other cultural institutions have to close apart from other strict regulations for schools and shops. Therefore all state museums in Berlin had to close Friday night. Friday was the last day where the residents of Berlin could visit the Nofrete sculpture at the Neues Museum, Priamos’ treasure at the Pergamon museum and the famous “Birkenau”-painting cycle of Gerhard Richter at the Alte Nationalgalerie.

From now on the incidence controls the culture landscape in Germany: an incidence over 100 means closure – under 100 means openings under restrictions. Since Friday there are no other criteria valid apart from the incidence.

In the meantime, the British government follow its timetable of lockdown loosening. Since the majority of the British adults are vaccinated the corona incidence is stable at a very low level. The roadmap for lifting the lockdown allows now several ourdoor activities. Since April 12, 2021 many cultural attractions are open again. Have a look at www.touristengland.com to see what you can visit now. With the permission of opening all shops, the galleries have reopened as well. They can be visited without a negative corona test or a special appointment booking. Have a look at www.galleriesnow.net/exhibitions/london/ to see which exhibition might be of interest for you.

Digital Art: $ 69 Million for a JPEG

Auction Record for Digital Art: A JPEG for 69 Million US-Dollar

Last Thursday March 11, 2021, a digital art work was sold for more than 69 million US-Dollar at Christie’s New York. The lot was sold at a standalone pure online-sale which had started on February 25. The work sold after bidding opened at 100 US-Dollar two weeks before. The title of the work is “The First 5000 days” and the artist calls himself “Beeple”. It is the first time in the history of the art market that a purely digital artwork was sold at a traditional auction house – Christie`s is a traditional auction house founded in 1766 in London which is known for its high-priced “real” art works.

The living person behind Beeple is the artist Mike Winkelmann. In 2007 he started to post one digital art on his Tumblr account. The record price art work “The First 5000 days” is a combination of his first digital images which he had posted since 2007 on the social platform. The buyer of the work calls himself Metakovan and is known as the founder of the virtual museum or NFT fund called “Metapurse”.

What does Metakovan, the Singapore-based founder, get for his millions? He gets a JPEG, a file with 319 megabyte – or to imagine better the size of the file – 21 069 by 21 069 pixels. With the JPEG comes a special certificate of authenticity called “NFT”: a non-fungible token. It is a file which is recorded on a blockchain. This NFT exists on the Ethereum blockchain so the price paid by the buyer is in the crypto-currency Ethereum. The auction house accepted payment for the hammer price in Ethereum, only the buyer’s premium had to be paid in US-Dollar.

Where does “The First 5000 days” exist? It exists on the blockchain which is something like a database whose transactions are recorded and distributed over several computers in the net. So the file is forgery-proof and can not be copied by anyone else but the owner of the special key in his certificate, the string of numbers and letters.

The interesting thought behind this exceptional price for a file can be described as follows: Every asset known as of today like shares, bonds, or money – can be transmitted on a blockchain – it can become a tokenized code. So far, art aimed to be more and something else apart from being estimated as a pure asset. Of course, art works were collected for centuries by wealthy and powerful leaders in the world to demonstrate their position in society. And naturally the owner of expensive art mainly hoped that the price he/she had paid for a painting or sculpture would increase and not decline. But with this sale of a NFT art is mainly reduced to an asset.

Now this file can not be copied – it is original and singular in the world. But it has no special size or any other haptic character. It is a JPEG which can be presented on a screen. For centuries art works were copied and sold as forgeries. On the one hand, this traditional problem in art history disappears with a NFT. There won’t be forgeries anymore. But on the other hand, there is no aesthetic moment any more – something which even fake works use to have.

This record sale is a step in the art market into one specific direction: Art is estimated as a pure asset. It can be valued like a second cryptocurrency. If the aesthetic value behind a NFT will completely disappear is not yet predictable. Sometimes looking at the past helps to evaluate the current situation.

Art has changed radically within the last 500 years. With Johannes Gutenberg and his invention of the moveable-type printing the market for graphics was born. With Joseph Nicéphore Niépce invention of the photography the market for artistic photographies was born. And with George Maciunas the art world was enlarged by experimental art performances. Maybe Beeple will become part of this list of extraordinary figures in art history.

Anselm Kiefer at Kunsthalle Mannheim: Symposium on “Cosmos Kiefer – Materials, Themes, Reception”

  • Fridy, March 12, 2021, 10 am till 2.30 pm

  • Fee: 5 EUR

  • Registration is open at: https://shop.kuma.art/#/product/event/274?date=2021-03-12&date_id=6085

  • Participants of the panel discussion at 11 am: Klaus Gallwitz, Andreas Beyer, Esther Graf and Harriet Häußler

  • The symposium will examine how Anselm Kiefer draws on literature, religion and history. The artist’s choice of media and his way of creating images will also be discussed.

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