Tuesday, February 25, 2014
Monday, February 24, 2014
A view of the intervention from the floor of the atrium. (image provided by G.U.L.F. aka Gulf Ultra Luxury Faction)
Last night, over 40 protesters staged an intervention inside the
in Guggenheim Museum during Saturday night’s
pay-what-you-wish admission hours. Unfurling mylar banners, dropping leaflets,
chanting words, handing out information to museum visitors, and drawing
attention with the use of a baritone bugle, the group worked to highlight the
labor conditions on Saadiyat Island in the United Arab Emirates, where
Guggenheim Abu Dhabi, a franchise of New York’s Guggenheim, is being built. Manhattan
Staged in the midst of the museum’s newly opened Italian Futurism exhibition, the intervention, a term used by some members of the group to describe the action, received both applause from visitors who seemed excited by the commotion and reactions of confusion from others unsure what was going on.
Flyers raining down onto the floor of the Guggenheim Museum in Manhattan, while protesters and chant and hold banners over the railings of the museum (all photos by the author for Hyperallergic unless otherwise noted)
The intervention began at with a bugle call and a loud question: “Who is building the Guggenheim Abu Dhabi?” The whole action continued for roughly 20 minutes, during which time security guards appeared to react slowly to the protesters as hundreds of museum visitors captured images and video of the protests.
The participants, who were a diverse group of artists, professors, students, and activists loosely affiliated with Occupy Museums, Gulf Labor, and various NYU-related groups, timed their protest to take place during the pay-what-you-wish hours of the museum, which normally charges $22 admission for adults. When I asked organizers if they purposely chose their action to coincide with the Italian Futurism exhibition and the Carrie Mae Weems retrospective, they told me that they did not, but that they were delighted for the coincidence since Futurism sought to combine art and politics, while Weems is a champion of those who have been historically excluded from museums.
The front cover of an informational brochure distributed during the February 22nd intervention. It was
designed by Noah Fischer of Occupy Museums
“This is a new phase of the campaign, we’re moving beyond talk to action, and bringing it home obviously to the Guggenheim,” said Andrew Ross, a NYU professor of sociology, who is involved in the Gulf Labor coalition and the NYU Fair Labor coalition. “There are so many more people involved in this action that were not involved in Gulf Labor until this point. We’re widening the circle of participation, and that will have an impact.”
Gulf Labor is a coalition of artists, academics, and activists who have worked for over a year to ensure that the labor conditions on
in Saadiyat Island , which will house Guggenheim- and
Louvre-branded museums and a NYU-affiliated university, are not exploitative to
workers. Many human rights organizations say that the workers who are brought
to Abu Dhabi are victimized by the nation’s
sponsorship system and face grueling and inhuman conditions on a daily basis. Saadiyat Island
During our brief conversation, Ross explained how their work raising awareness about workers’ debt, which translates to a type of indentured servitude for migrant workers, is connected to much bigger issues.
“We’re trying to make a connection with chains of debt that are transnational, and in the various locations we’re looking at, Bangladesh, Abu Dhabi, NYU, and the art world, there’s an enormous accumulation of debt in each of these places, and the money is getting extracted by the transnational creditor class,” Ross said. “And artists are more and more [in debt], and in order to practice art, you’re required to take on a big debt burden … so there’s a connection across many continents. Another art world is possible, one that’s more principled and ethical, and that looks out for the human and labor rights of all. Artists should not be asked to exhibit in museums that have been built on the back of abused workers … that’s what it boils down to. When you’re acquired by a museum that does that, that’s unfair. Your complicity is being bought along with the artwork.”
A close-up of some of the banners unfurled during the intervention
The idea of using art as a way to reimagine the world was at the heart of another participant’s passion for the issue. “Art, among other things, is about doing, living, and imagining a better world,” said artist Nitasha Dhillon of MTL Collective. “Art should not violate human rights, art should not endanger workers lives, and art should not create debt slaves. And definitely not be part of a system that creates debt bondage.”
She sees yesterday’s action as “a call for solidarity and a call for museums to do the right thing.” She added that “it’s important for museum goers to understand what kind of system they are participating in.”
One college student I spoke to, who originally hailed from China, said she was taking part in this, her first action, because it excited her to think about how art and social justice can work together to help change people’s lives. When I asked her how that interconnectedness changed her perception of art, she replied: “It changes art for the better for me.” She said she’d like to bring these ideas to
when she returns. China
One Polish artist who participated with the group dropped one-sided leaflets he printed and brought to the event. The ambiguous pieces of paper featured an eye, a recycling symbol, an EKG, and the words “Human Toy Tool.”
I recorded as much of the intervention as I could on my smartphone, and the video is posted here:
After guards removed all the remaining banners, the intervention participants slowly left the museum. One man, who was playing the bugle, was temporarily detained by the NYPD, though he was released after a few minutes without providing ID or other personal information. Guggenheim guards, who were obviously unnerved by the event, yelled at one participant in front of the museum entrance. A few moments later, a guard came out to the street to tell hundreds of people lined up in front of the museum that no one else would be allowed into the building that evening. The crowd was visibly disappointed and many people lingered hoping the museum administration would change their mind.
Museum visitors reading the manifesto tacked to the wall beside the introductory text
to the Italian Futurism exhibition.
After the intervention, I encountered artist Amin Husain, who helped lead the chants, and I asked him if he thought it was all a success. “I think it was well-received by the people in the museum. One person told me that they didn’t know that was happening, so public education is really important,” he said. I asked him about the exhibitions themselves and whether he thought people understood what they were saying in that context, and he said he did: “I think the context is really appropriate, because they [the Futurists] talked about restructuring the universe, so clearly the museum is giving that some thought at this moment, and we want to talk about restructuring the universe without fascism and without slave labor.”
The intervention, which was the first by a new coalition that includes Occupy Museums, Gulf Labor, and various New York University–affiliated groups, came about after a month of meetings between the various organizations. The coalition, which was using the acronym G.U.L.F. (Gulf Ultra Luxury Faction) to identify themselves in their informational brochure, hope that this will be the first in a series that builds bridges in their continuing fight for social justice. The next event is scheduled for Wednesday, February 26, 5:15pm EST, at NYU’s Global Center for Academic & Spiritual Life (GCASL), which is located at 238 Thompson Street, Room 369, in Manhattan’s Greenwich Village.
Hyperallergic reached out to the Guggenheim Museum for comment last night, and we have yet to hear back from the organization. [UPDATE: The Guggenheim Director Richard Armstrong has provided Hyperallergic with a statement.]
The G.U.L.F. coalition’s manifesto that was placed on the wall of the museum and read by visitors
These were the words participants were chanting last night (according to a text provided to Hyperallergic during the intervention):
A readers comment with a photo on original news site:
Image taken from 1971 Demonstration/performance by the Art Workers Coalition at the Guggenheim Museum in support of Art Workers' Coalition co-founder Hans Haacke, whose exhibition was canceled by the museum’s director over his artwork Shapolsky et al., Manhattan Real Estate Holdings, A Real Time Social System, as of May 1, 1971. Photographer unknown.
Hrag Vartanian for Hyperallergic
Monday, February 10, 2014
Art historian Thierry Lenain claims Italian frequently forged artworks in order to obtain the originals from their owners by giving them the copies
He is known as a Renaissance great – but Michelangelo was also a skilled forger who made copies of major works before ageing them with smoke and swapping them for the originals.
The little known details of his penchant for forgery were revealed by art historian Thierry Lenain at the Institut Français in
According to Mr Lenain, author of Art Forgery: The History of the Modern Obsession, the Italian frequently forged artworks in order to obtain the originals from their owners by giving them the copies. On one occasion, Michelangelo made a painted copy of a print representing Saint Anthony by the engraver Martin Schongauer, making his version so similar to the original it was impossible to tell which one was which.
Speaking at the VIEW festival of art history, Mr Lenain said: “He admired these originals for the excellence of their art and sought to surpass them.”
This is not the first time rumours of the artist’s forgeries have emerged. One anecdote describes how in 1496 a young Michelangelo copied a Roman sculpture, Sleeping Cupid. He buried it in the ground to give it the various stains, scratches and dents needed to make it look like a genuine antique. He then used a middleman to sell the piece to Cardinal Riario for a substantial sum.
According to Mr Lenain, Michelangelo’s copies earned him great notoriety, which helped launch his career.
Significantly, the perception of art forgery in the Renaissance era was very different to the negative attitudes which developed in later centuries.
“In late-modern forgeries, the main goal consists not so much in the creation of a work of art than in the construction of a trap,” said Mr Lenain.
“The most important authors on art, from the Renaissance to the 18th century, had a completely different approach to the issue,” he explained. “Far from condemning those who performed that kind of trick, they hailed them with the utmost enthusiasm.”
CHLOE HAMILTON for the Independent
Saturday, February 08, 2014
An astonishing ornamental ball discovered from Makran. It is 15 cm high and 15 kg in weight made by pure lead and wrapped in copper.
Lakhan jo Daro, located a mere 100 km away from Moenjodaro in the Sukkur industrial area, is believed to predate the ruins which have attracted such attention recently and is the second largest city belonging to the Indus Valley Civilization. Developmental activities are, however, pushing the site towards destruction.
Digging in just 10cm revealed much archaeological treasure but after careful excavations pottery, seals, vases, terra cotta ball and weights and ivory and copper object were unearthed, Dr Nilofer Shaikh, , Vice Chancellor of the Shah Abdul Latif University ( SALU) in Khairpur, told all those gathered at a conference highlighting French contribution to science in Pakistan.
Organized on the 50th anniversary at the Alliance Francaise,
, the conference
revealed that the Lakhan jo Daro site, discovered in 2009 and spread over three
kilometers, was perhaps once a hub of commercial activity. Karachi
Door pivots, staircases, walls, platforms, covered drains in resembling those in Moenjodaro, an 'I’ Shaped brick formation on the floor, and a ritual room with some structures have been discovered which is new in context of Indus Valley Civilization.
According to Dr Shaikh, walls upon walls from this treasured archaeological site have been taken away or destroyed.
She said upon further excavation, as the discoveries already point to, the site could well turn out to be the longest-ever lived city in
From Left to Right eminent French paleontologists, ( left to right) Didier Merle, Jean Loup Welcomme and Gregoire Metais.
Where are the bones of Baluchitherium?
Dr Gregoire Metais and Professor Jean- Loup Welcomme from
also shared details
of their amazing discoveries in Dera Bugti, Balochistan, the famous bed of
bones where fossils are best exposed to study. France
Welcomme and his colleagues, discovered the fossils of ‘Baluchitherium’ or ‘the beast of Balochistan’, the largest ever land mammal in 2001 from Dera Bugti.
A huge kin of Rhinoceros, Baluchitherium was seven meters tall, and 25 tonnes in weight. The team made a nearly complete skeleton of the animal which was then locked in 12 metal containers and handed over to Nawab Akbar Khan Bugti – who actually took personal interest in the expedition and accorded full assistance to the paleontologists working in the area.
After the killing of Bugti, the bones were moved to the Geological Survey of Pakistan (GSP), headquarters in
Metias said Dera Bugti was just like a misty rainforest in Cenozoic era and they discovered fossils of huge turtles, a seven meter long snake and other animals in the Paleo wild
. park of Dera Bugti
Talking to Dawn.com, both Welcomme and Metias expressed concern over the misplacement of the bones belonging to the Baluchitherium fossils.
Both scholars urged the authorities to take immediate action over the matter.
Mehrgarh – the home of first ever dentists!
In the Balochistan province, several amazing sites of Mehrgarh, one of the most important Neolithic sites in archaeology, were discovered. It has been confirmed that first ever dentists of the world belonged to this area. It is the first ever place in
South Asia where agriculture
flourished, a progression from the nomadic lifestyle that existed earlier. A
thread in a bead discovered from the area showed that the first ever cotton was
weaved in the area thousands of years ago.
This was shared in a presentation of Jean-François Jarrige, eminent archaeologist who worked in the area for many decades and made several discoveries in the Mehrgarh to Pirak areas (3,000 to 10,000-years-old).
People of Mehrgarh quickly mastered ways making fine pottery and glass beads, their seals and buttons indicating complex geometrical patterns.
In mid-80s, another site near Mehrgarh was discovered named Naushahro which is a transition settlement from Mehrgarh to
civilization. Indus Valley
The untold story of Makran
Thousands of years back, Makran was a center for trade and business not only in the area currently Pakistan, but its pottery and other goods were exported to Oman, Iran and even Afghanistan, Aurore Didier said while detailing the 20 years of archaeological work in Pakistan.
One of his slides, which put in focus a huge ornamental piece discovered from one of the 22 ancient settlements of Makran, stunned the audience. It is a 17 cm high and 15 kg elliptical ball made of pure lead encased in a copper jacket and decorated with sea shells.
Makran was also a place for manufacturing the finest pottery of its times.
Fossils of Sindh
French paleontologist Annachiara Bartolini and Pakistani scholar Dr Rafique Lashari also highlighted the importance of microfossils discovered from Lakhra and Jhirak areas of Sindh.
Both said the biodiversity of invertebrates’ fossils in the area were remarkable.
Dr Lashari from
, shared his views on
paleontological studies carried out in Lakhra, Ranikot and Jhirak areas,
supported by the French government. University of Sindh
Lashari talked about the invertebrate fauna from Sindh within the context of continental collision. He collected 180 samples of invertebrate (microscopic) fossils which can be considered very rare.
It is also interesting to mention that the French and Pakistani experts also strived to find the traces of the past 100,000 years of global warming also dubbed as Paleocene–Eocene Thermal Maximum (PETM). In geological terms this was the most extreme Earth surface condition which took place some 55.8 million years ago.
SUHAIL YUSUF for Dawn
Tuesday, February 04, 2014
TWO CONFLICTING NEWS ARTICLES ABOUT THE ART BAZAR OF INDIA APPEARED IN TWO MAJOR PUBLICATIONS ALMOST NEXT TO EACH OTHER ON THE NET NEWS AT THE SAME TIME!
PROBABLY THE INSIDER SOURCES KNOW THE SECRET. NO IMAGES HERE, BECAUSE ACCORDING TO CRITICS, BETTER WORKS WERE ELSEWHERE IN THE CITY.
Moderate sales and lots of people at
India Art Fair Delhi
Indeed, the exhibitions away from the fair grounds that are featuring leading modern and contemporary artists are more exciting than the fair itself, which this year has lacked dramatic new contemporary displays. In a depressed market, galleries have been showing conventional works and there has been some criticism of a lack of consistent quality, especially with Indian galleries – “kitsch” was the unkind word used by one critic to describe some exhibits, responding to me saying it was all very “predictable”.
Maybe there is nothing wrong in that. Arguably, there is no reason why
should not produce its own version of art fairs in the
same way that it challenges other foreign concepts of orderliness, quality and
convention. That said, the fair does confound sceptics with its efficient
organisation and presentation and, as I have written several times in earlier
years, its importance is that it has successfully opened up interest in Indian
modern and contemporary art both in India and abroad. India
Thousands of visitors, including schoolchildren, who would never venture into formal art galleries, have been touring the stands, which provide them with access to culture that they would not otherwise experience. This is similar to the Jaipur Literature festival that I wrote about ten days ago, though there the audiences are building on their existing interest in books whereas the art fair is opening new vistas.
Established Indian collectors have been at the fair to see, and some to buy, instead of relying on internet images which, gallery owners tell me, astonishingly suffices for many buyers.
The fair also brings foreign visitors to
– this year, for the first time, there is a group ofgallery owners and collectors and artists from China, while Christie’s, one of the fair
sponsors, has brought an international group. Neha Kirpal, the founder and
director of he fair, says that last year 40% of the works sold went to first
time buyers, some from what are known as second tier towns that do not have art
events. Several gallery owners however are sceptical about that figure, echoing
doubts about some of the claims of attendances in past years which Neha has
comfortably and rounded off to a cumulative unchallengeable figure of 400,000
over the past five years. Delhi
The array of art on show has ranged from Picasso and Andy Warhol to
’s reliable body of progressives such as M.F. Husain,
F.N.Souza and contemporary artists such as Atul Dodya and a spinning mud
installation and digital prints in plastic boxes. India
There were 91 exhibitors, the biggest of which is the
with 330 works covering 400 sq metres. Nearly a third of
the total exhibitors are from abroad, though some big international names, such
as the Lisson Gallery from London and Hauser & Wirth from Zurich, have not
returned after appearances four or five years ago. Delhi
This indicates some disappointment with a lack of sales to big buyers, and also frustration with shipping and other problems caused by
’s customs controls that make it impractical to bring
many foreign works for sale. “There is a risk of this not going much
further if the organisers don’t develop a co-ordinated programme with
collectors and corporate buyers,” says Carlos Cabral Nunes of Portugal’s Perve
Galeria, reflecting the views of other foreign exhibitors. India
A quick survey of stands this evening produced some unhappiness, like Nunes’ frustration about a lack of big sales. Most galleries that had done well sold works ranging from under Rs100,000 (£1,000, US$1,600) to four or five times that figure, though some went far higher.
’s Grosvenor Gallery did exceedingly well selling works
by Olivia Fraser., a Delhi-based British painter with limited edition prints of
new works that started at Rs50,000. Archer Art Galley of Ahmedabad also did
well with limited edition reproductions of well-known artists starting at
At the other end of the scale, Aicon Gallery of New York and London sold four works by established Indian masters, M.F.Husain and F.N.Souza, and a younger painter G.K.Irani, for between Rs400-500,000 to Rs1.5 crore (Rs15m). Art Alive of Delhi sold a long Thota Vaikuntum that had been priced at Rs40 lakhs (Rs40m). Mark Hachim of
was also happy, selling lively works, all foreign,
and including digital prints of scent bottles in plastic boxes from Euros 5,000
(Rs420,000). Sakshi Gallery of Mumbai’s sales included a tiffin (meal)
container carried by Mumbai’s dabbawwallas who are pictured in the
small buttons. Paris
Collectors will now be watching to see what effect these events have on the market.Christie’s had an amazingly good first auction in Mumbai in December that produced record prices but that has yet to have a visible impact.
On a broader front, experts have been saying that
should look eastwards to the buoyant Chinese and
south-east Asian markets to develop links. That will now begin following the
visit of collectors from India , led by Philip Dodd of Made in China . Among them was Budi Tek, a prominent
Chinese-Indonesian collector who is building a museum in China and is considering buying a contemporary work from Shanghai ’s Espace Gallery. Earlier in the day, he said the Indian
private sector needed to build museums and public awareness. Delhi
India always looks westwards to Europe and the US for foreign accolades and praise so it will, I guess, be some time before it recognises that looking east is where the future probably lies if Indian art is to appeal internationally to a wider audience than its present relatively small group of western collectors.
John Elliott for the Independent
A longer article that includes the other art events in
mentioned above, and more
illustrations including some of the works, is on John Elliott’s blog at: http://wp.me/pieST-21x Delhi
Art Fair Reports Strong Sales India
Spread across three tents and 200,000 square feet, this year’s fair, which ran from Thursday to Sunday, featured 91 booths and modern and contemporary works by over 1,000 artists from India and overseas.
Participants included 12 new galleries from outside
, including those from India , Israel , France , Portugal , Germany , Spain and, notably, from Turkey . The Karachi, Pakistan in Himalayas Art Museum and the Shanghai in Mark Rothko Museum both participated in the fair for the
first time. Latvia
The fair’s organizers said in a statement that a number of exhibitors sold out completely and that 96 percent of exhibitors reported “good” sales, but no figures on sales or attendance were released. Most of the Indian gallery representatives who spoke to India Ink said they were satisfied with their sales.
“We didn’t go in expecting very much, but we exceeded our expectations,” said Priya Jhaveri, the director of Jhaveri Contemporary in Mumbai, which participated in its very first art fair. “It was a positive experience for us because we were introducing artists who aren’t known.”
Among the works she sold were those by Rana Begum, Hamra Abbas, Alexander Gorlizki, and Yamini Nayar. None of the works, with the exception of the one by Ms. Begum, exceeded $15,000.
Jhaveri Contemporary’s booth was placed near several other notable Indian galleries, and these booths had some of the strongest contemporary works on display.
Yet critics and observers rued the lack of consistency in the quality of some of the art at the fair, saying that although top tier galleries from
and some from overseas had stellar
works, many middle-tier galleries had lackluster offerings. India
“In terms of art works and quality, the most interesting pieces were at some of the contemporary galleries,” said Mallika Advani, a well-known independent art consultant and former
representative at Christie’s.
“Although I normally deal more with the Moderns than with the younger artists,
I can’t say there were too many works by the senior artists that I would
recommend to collectors.” India
She said most of the artwork on display had been featured on other commercial platforms, including auctions and previous gallery shows.
There were gems to be found, however. Ms. Advani singled out the Experimenter Gallery of Kolkata and Gallery SKE, based in
and Bangalore , which displayed the work of the
mixed-media artist Avinash Veeraraghavan, Volte Gallery of Mumbai, which had a
visually appealing bronze sculptural work by the British studio Based Upon, and
Atul Dodiya’s works at Vadehra Art Gallery of New Delhi. New Delhi
Despite criticism about overall quality of the art, there was universal agreement that the fair acts as a creative catalyst and draws a diverse audience that includes a global community of curators, museums and collectors as well as locals who wouldn't normally have access to such a wide range of contemporary art.
"It's an important national convening that didn't exist before," said Melissa Chiu, director of the Asia Society Museum in New York.
Ms. Jhaveri said although 90 percent of her buyers at the fair were those already known to her, she met many people who hadn’t known that her gallery was in Mumbai.
Tushar Jiwarajka, founder and director of Volte, said he sold a few major works, but beyond that, he saw the fair as a great platform to showcase his gallery. “In the four years I have participated, we have sold to new collectors,” he said.
Mr. Jiwarajika’s booth had works by the South African artist William Kentridge, the British-Indian artist Anish Kapoor, and Indian contemporaries like Sheba Chhachhi, Ranbir Kaleka and Nalini Malani.
Auxiliary events that take place outside the fair, including museum shows of modern and contemporary Indian art, are almost as important as the fair itself. The National Gallery of Modern Art is currently showing two major exhibitions, one by the contemporary artist Subodh Gupta and one on the pre-Independence works by Amrita Sher-Gil.
Other highlights included a solo show of paintings by Zarina Hashmi, “Folding House,” at Gallery Espace, Ms.Malani’s solo show, “Cassandra’s Gift,” at
and Sudarshan Shetty’s show, “Every
Broken Moment, Piece by Piece,” at Gallery SKE. Vadehra Art Gallery
“The curated exhibitions like those by senior artists like Nalini Malani and Zarina Hashmi, that didn’t happen before, that is in large measure due to the fair as a convenor,” said Ms. Chiu. As a curator, it’s a very good way of getting a sense of what’s happening with Indian artists today, both emerging and established.”
Neha Kirpal, founder of the India Art Fair, wasn’t fazed by the criticism about the quality of art this year. An art world novice when she founded the fair six years ago, Ms. Kirpal said that her goal was to make the market more democratic.
“This is a domestic fair for a domestic audience,” she said. “The art scene here is small and the preference is not to exclude galleries right away.
“We could have made it very exclusive and have only the absolute best, in which case from
there would be 20 galleries that made
that cut. But that’s precisely the problem — the art world is inaccessible. I
am that public that was too intimidated to walk into a gallery as a young
person growing up in India .” India
Among the fair’s 400,000 visitors over the past five years, she said, thousands of them had never before seen art in their lives.For such folks, works like the oil on canvas by Henry Singleton (1766-1839) titled “The Last Effort and Fall of Tipu Sultan,” which was featured at the Delhi Art Gallery booth, would have been an eye opener.
“I am passionate about building something in this country for art and culture that did not exist before,” she said. “We are at a different stage in its development cycle. We are where
was maybe 50 years ago — we are just
about starting off.” London
GAYATRI RANGACHARI SHAH for the New York Times
Monday, February 03, 2014
Three daunting facts confront anyone interested in buying one of Amedeo Modigliani’s distinctive elongated portraits. They tend to have multimillion price tags; they are a favorite of forgers; and despite an abundance of experts, no inventory of his works is considered both trustworthy and complete.
Christian Parisot, for instance, the author of one catalog and the president of the Modigliani Institute in
, is due in court this week in Rome on charges that he knowingly
authenticated fake works. Rome
Marc Restellini, a French scholar compiling another survey of Modigliani’s work, jettisoned part of his project years ago after receiving death threats.
And even those who swear by a listing of 337 works created by the appraiser and critic Ambrogio Ceroni acknowledge it has significant gaps. The effort to establish an authoritative record of Modigliani’s work “resembles nothing so much as a soap opera,” Peter Kraus, an antiquarian book dealer, wrote in an essay published a decade ago.
Authenticating art of all types has become more challenging in recent years as a widening circle of scholars and artists’ foundations refuse to offer opinions or publish a catalogue raisonné — the definitive compendium of an artist’s work — for fear of being sued by buyers or sellers unhappy with their conclusions.
But works by Modigliani, perhaps more than any other artist, illustrate the confusion such authentication difficulties have brought to a market awash in money, eager buyers and counterfeits. One result, art dealers say, is a market sown with uncertainty.
Sellers hope they possess a genuine, though lesser-known Modigliani. But without anyone’s opinion embraced as definitive, it is hard to predict what potential buyers might pay.
“It’s very different from the market of his peers Picasso and Braque,” the New York dealer David Nash said, “where the work is extremely well recorded.”
And it doesn’t help that Modigliani sometimes gave away paintings and drawings, without documenting their creation or owners, to pay his bills.
Some gallerists, like Michael Findlay, director of Acquavella, have labeled the Ceroni catalog — last updated in 1972 — the only one that “is generally accepted as reliable.” Leading auction houses, such as Christie’s and Sotheby’s, rarely agree to sell works not listed in it, although well-documented works also make it to auction. In 2012, for example, Bonhams sold “Jeune Fille aux Cheveux Noirs” for $1.3 million. It was not in the Ceroni catalog, but Bonhams indicated that Mr. Restellini planned to include it in his inventory and that it once belonged to the Rockefeller collection.
A painting cited by Mr. Ceroni will typically “sell for three or four times” the amount commanded by one of similar quality that is not included in his catalog, the financier and New York dealer Asher Edelman said. He is offering for sale “Jeune Femme au Petit Col Blanc” by Modigliani, from 1918. This work has been authenticated by Mr. Restellini and has a documented provenance and exhibition history, said Mr. Edelman, who declined to quote a price.
An intense and immensely talented Italian, Modigliani, described by a friend as “a young god,” struggled with poverty, addiction and rejection in turn-of-the-century
before dying at 35 from tubercular
meningitis. He drank with abandon, flung himself into nightlong bacchanalias
and maintained tempestuous love affairs with scores of women, including the
Russian poet Anna Akhmatova. His pregnant 21-year-old mistress, Jeanne
Hébuterne, undone by his death in 1920, jumped out a window two days later. Paris
As his biographer Meryle Secrest concedes, Modigliani remains an elusive figure within the myth.
The tragic romanticism has only enhanced the market value of his work, which is prized by buyers, though it often gets a ho-hum reception from critics. In February, one of his portraits of Hébuterne, for example, fetched $42 million at a
Kenneth Wayne, founder of the Modigliani Project, said he finds laments about the capriciousness of the Modigliani market to be exaggerated, particularly since Modigliani has recently been among the best-selling artists in the world. He estimates that about three dozen paintings are missing from the Ceroni catalog, half of them in museums. Others are less sanguine. Referring to the ubiquity of fakes, the Italian collector Carlo Pepi has said, “Modigliani was producing more dead than when he was alive.”
Many experts were taken in, for example, by pranksters who in 1984 planted three sculpted heads — carved in stone in Modigliani’s style — in a canal in
, where the artist supposedly dumped
them in 1909 after receiving negative reviews. In recent years, the
authenticity of two oil paintings, initially valued at more
than $10 million each, has been questioned. One was exhibited at the State Pushkin Museum of Fine
Arts in Moscow. Livorno, Italy
Mr. Restellini has said he expects to add between 70 and 80 works — twice Mr. Wayne’s estimation — to his catalogue raisonné. Five other catalogues raisonnés already exist. Mr. Parisot, author of a four-volume catalog, has had unusual access to the artist’s records. Before she died in 1984, Modigliani’s daughter, Jeanne, gave Mr. Parisot her father’s archives and the right to authorize reproductions.
In the years that followed, Mr. Parisot built on his advantage, founding the Modigliani Institute Legal Archives, consulting for the Italian government on cultural matters, and organizing exhibitions in state museums — despite mounting controversies.
But as early as 2002, Hébuterne’s great-nephew had accused Mr. Parisot of forging Hébuterne’s drawings. In 2008 a
court fined Mr. Parisot and
sentenced him to two years in jail for that, although after an appeal he was
Then in 2010, the Italian police raided a Modigliani show that Mr. Parisot had organized at the
in Palestrina. Twenty-two of the
works confiscated, the police said, were fakes. After a two-year investigation,
police charged Mr. Parisot with receiving counterfeit goods and falsely
authenticating them. A hearing on the case is scheduled for Thursday in Archaeological Museum . Rome
Mr. Parisot denies the charges. “It was always clear that the works were reproductions,” he said in a telephone interview.
Despite these criminal charges, in January an Italian court rejected an attempt by Modigliani’s granddaughter, Laure Nechtschein Modigliani, to regain control of the archives, saying that her mother had legally entrusted them to Mr. Parisot, who, it said, through his catalogue raisonné, had worked to enhance the artist’s legacy.
The accusations of fraud have helped quiet what for years had beendescribed in art circles as a battle of the experts, with Mr. Restellini pitted against Mr. Parisot. Nonetheless, some in the market say the case has meant the loss of an expert voice. “His opinions on oil paintings were in my view pretty reliable,” Mr. Nash said of Mr. Parisot, “and I’m sorry that this fraud case has thrown a shadow on that.”
Mr. Restellini’s scholarship has had its own share of drama, though of a different sort. In 1997, for example, he said he would not include in his catalog a portrait of Beatrice Hastings that was listed by Ceroni because it had been so extensively overpainted. Christie’s sold it anyway, for $2.6 million.
A few years later, Mr. Restellini abandoned plans to create a catalogue raisonné of Modigliani’s drawings, saying he had received death threats from owners unhappy with his conclusions. His publisher, the Wildenstein Institute, a research center on art in
, says it still plans to release a catalogue raisonné of
the paintings, but no date has been set, and several experts doubt it will ever
Other projects have certainly been competing for Mr. Restellini’s attention. In 2007, he founded a private museum, Pinacothèque de Paris, that has astounded skeptics by drawing hundreds of thousands of people with major exhibitions. Most recently, he was in
, organizing a preview of the $24
million branch of his Pinacothèque that he said will open there next January. Singapore
Planned for the inaugural exhibition is a blockbuster show on Modigliani.