Art Dealer of Fake Hirst Editions Caught - Again!

CounterfeitHirst

Charges were filed yesterday in New York City against a dealer, Vincent Lopreto, for allegedly conspiring to sell fake editions from Damien Hirst's "dot" series of paintings. Lopreto allegedly passed off as genuine some USD $400,000 worth of counterfeit Hirst prints. Lopreto was apprehended after an undercover operation by the NYPD. Lopreto and his associates reportedly created fake certificates of authenticity and purchase receipts to establish fraudulent provenance.

Incredibly, Lopreto apparently began his most recent scheme only 15 days after being released from prison after serving a sentence for...selling fake Damien Hirst works.

Photo courtesy of New York District Attorney

Basquiat, The Art World's Homecoming King.

Following the Sotheby's recent sale of Jean Michel-Basquiat's untitled painting from 1982 for a record-shattering USD $110 million, there is a proliferation of significant Basquiat paintings on offer at Art Basel this year. Julia Halperin of Artnet News has posted a summary of all of the Basquiat works that dealers have brought to Basel for this year's fair. The combined asking prices for all eight works tops USD $89 million. Notably, several of the works have been sold publicly within the last several years and are now being re-offered with precipitous price increases. For example, the painting "Baby Boom" is being offered by Lévy Gorvy for USD $35 million, which represents a 2,900% price increase since it was auctioned at Phillips in 2001.

Art Basel Takes Aim at Adidas

Just two weeks prior to the opening of the annual Swiss edition of the art fair, Art Basel has filed a lawsuit against the German sportswear and sneaker manufacturer Adidas.

The suit stems from an event at last year's Miami edition of the fair, where Adidas staged an event with dancers wearing a version of the manufacturer's "EQT" running sneakers with the words "Art Basel" printed on the tongue.

Adidas gave away 1,000 pairs of the sneakers. None of the promotional sneakers were sold by the company, although some pairs have subsequently turned up in the very active limited-edition sneaker re-sale market.

The company which owns the Art Basel fairs contends that the sneakers have tarnished the Art Basel "brand" and is seeking damages along with destruction of any remaining examples of the trainer.

Robin Pogrebin's Honest Filter on Art Auctions

KevinHagen

New York Times writer Robin Pogrebin has an interesting piece about her own experiences working the art auction beat for the last two years. Though generally skeptical about the high-end evening sale ecosystem, she does admits to some vicarious thrills while watching the jockeying for record-busting lots, such as the Constantin Brancusi sculpture that sold this week at Christie's for USD $57.4 million.

The most interesting aspect of the article, however, is the contrast between the often prosaic details and boredom and the moments of genuine excitement. With regards to the perpetual challenge of determining who is actually bidding and buying, she notes that "there is a premium on figuring it out, getting to know the backs of important people's heads."

Photograph by Kevin Hagen for The New York Times

Will Damien Hirst's New Underwater-Themed Show Sink or Swim?

damienhirst_venice

Damien Hirst's first major exhibition in over a decade, "Treasures from the Wreck of the Unbelievable," opens on Sunday in Venice. The show is housed in two palazzos owned by Christie's owner Francois Pinault. Hirst has undergirded the show's theme with an elaborate backstory involving an underwater recovery of treasures from a sunken ship that mixes classical Egyptian themes with anachronistic contemporary visual references including Kate Moss, Pharrell and Mickey Mouse. Anticipation regarding the show is augmented by intense speculation over how the market will respond to the new works. Oliver Barker of Sotheby's, who oversaw Hirst's 2008 auction house blow-out "Beautiful Inside My Head Forever" sale in 2008, likens the exhibition to Elvis Presley's historic "comeback" performances in Las Vegas.

Photograph by Christoph Gerigk

Christopher Lew Weighs In

c_lew

With all the socio-political turmoil buffeting the nation (and much of Europe) at present, it is surprising how much attention and vociferous debate has resulted from the exhibition of Dana Schutz's painting "Open Casket" (2016) at the Whitney Biennial. The painting, which is based on a photograph of the funeral of Emmett Till in which his mutilated body was displayed, has been the subject of widespread criticism and number of demands, including the suggestion that the work should be destroyed.

Today, co-curator of the Biennial Christopher Lew weighed in with his thoughts. Although the controversy has highlighted concerns that will not be easily resolved, Lew raises some good points--including the fact most people criticizing Schutz's painting have not seen the work in person or in the context of the entire Biennial. In that respect, it recalls some of the art controversies of the 1980s and 1990s, such as the row over the New Museum's exhibition of Chris Ofili's "The Holy Virgin Mary."

Photo © 2016 Scott Rudd

"Do You See Stars, Fascist Superman?"

pettibon-4thfl-detail-720x532.jpg

Writing in Hyperallergic, Jason Diamond has an interesting take on the fantastic survey of Raymond Pettibon's work currently on view at the New Museum: Raymond Pettibon- A Pen of All Work. In considering Pettibon's body of work from a macroscopic perspective, Diamond focuses on disparate themes that all seem to point point towards the present dystopian moment that we are all struggling to comprehend. Although moments of profound societal upheaval inevitably tend to sharpen our gaze upon facets of visual culture that seem, in retrospect, to be prescient or perhaps even prophetic, Diamond writes convincingly about how disconcertingly accurate Pettibon's dark visions of America now feel:

"Whether he’s drawing cops, dictators, or American presidents, [Pettibon is] telling us that people will abuse their power and that abuse will lead to untold horrors and the suffering of innocent people. But in Pettibon’s work...What’s frighteningly noticeable in 2017, more than ever before, is that Pettibon’s talking about the here and now. Things are terrifying and bad, they always have been, and they don’t look like they’re changing anytime soon."

Thankfully, Pettibon's drawings and paintings are intermittently leavened by hints of the ecstatic--particularly in his depictions of the physical pleasures associated with surfing and baseball. However, the center of gravity of Pettibon's work inevitably comes to rest at a point beyond which the American dream has already lapsed into nightmare. There are manifold pleasurable elements in Pettibon's art for the viewer to savor: the exuberance of his lines, the recognizable but enigmatic cultural references, and the mordant wit of his text. But right now, the more blighted and threatening facets of Pettibon's vision strike pretty damn close to the bone.

NEA, NEH and the Corporation for Public Broadcasting Slated for Elimination

nytimes-nea

President Trump just released his FY18 budget proposal and, as had been rumored, the package would completely eliminate the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA), the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) and the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. The NEA, in particular, has been a bete noire for many conservatives since the 1980s when a series of controversial exhibitions, particularly those featuring work by Robert Mapplethorpe and Andres Serrano, angered Republican members of Congress.

Although the exhibitions reviled by conservatives constituted a vanishingly small portion of the NEA budget, the agency has struggled to stave off their anger. The elimination of the NEA likely has more to do with symbolism than fiscal prudence, as the total funding of both agencies amounts to a rounding error in the federal budget. As far as symbolism is concerned, it is worth noting that the NEA had already been physically displaced from its former home in the building which has now become a Trump hotel. Moreover, the cost of redecorating the hotel significantly exceeded the entire annual NEA budget.

Unfortunately, the largest impact of destroying the NEA will likely be felt in areas outside the nation's metropolitan centers, whose public museums and private galleries will survive. In recent years, the NEA has increasingly focussed on supporting community projects in parts of the country that have few cultural resources, providing funding for projects radio stations in rural areas, community-based theater companies and programs for returning veterans.

As President Trump relies heavily on family and personal relationships in his decision-making, some had hoped that advocates for the arts with access to the President might have provided some protections for the endowments. Karen Pence, the wife of the Vice President, is an advocate for art therapy and a longtime painter. Ivanka Trump is a serious collector of contemporary art whose collection includes works by Richard Prince, Christopher Wool, David Ostrowski and many others. During the presidential transition, Mr. Trump himself seemed to evince some interest in the NEA when he reportedly offered his friend Sylvester Stallone a chance to run the endowment. Stallone, a long-time painter whose work has been widely exhibited, was reportedly flattered but declined the offer.

As the budget proposal moves through Congress, there is still a chance that funding for the endowments could be restored. Many arts organizations are already mobilizing support. However, the endowments themselves, legally barred from lobbying, cannot advocate for their own survival.