Our commentary on some of the recent ongoings in the Old Masters world.
Raphael’s “Head of a Muse” is temporarily banned for export from the UK.
British culture minister Margaret Hodge has requested a temporary period to review the Christie’s sale of Raphael’s Head of a Muse after ruling that an attempt should be made to keep the valuable drawing in the UK. The British like to keep their Old Masters on the isle, yet matching the egocentric purchase price of over $48 million USD for a preparatory sketch seems like a bit of an overkill, no?
Business as usual at TEFAF Maastricht.
Reports are almost giddy with news that buyers are bullish again. Before we get too excited about a full recovery, it should be noted that Maastricht is pretty exceptional as it represents the best of the market and attracts the top collectors with means—this is where museums shop, so it may not be a perfect fair to measure general collecting habits.
In any event, aggressive buying was taking place as hightlighted by London dealer Johnny Van Haeften who sold ten pieces. He presented important works like a still life by Amsterdam school artist, Simon Luttichuys, which was later completed by artist Willem Kalf. This $2.5 million picture was purchased by a U.S. collector from the Midwest.
Equally encouraging, New York dealer, Richard Feigen, reported sales of a $385,000 Constant Troyon landscape which was sold to an American collector. NY Times art writer, Souren Melikian noted that the Chinese market was showing strength and pointed out an obscure 16th or 17th century Buddhist figure rendered from a rhinoceros horn as an example of the growing interest in this flourishing market. All in all, the Maastricht fair has been emblematic that collectors are willing to spend money on exquisite pieces.
A Guilty Plea for Larry Salander.
The former New York art dealer, Lawrence Salander, pleaded guilty to stealing about $120 million USD from customers and investors. The sentence looks bleak: a bid of up to eighteen years in prison and a restitution penalty of $120 million. His victims includes Vanity Fair editor, Gordon Carter, the painter Stuart Davis’s son, Earl Davis, and tennis star, John McEnroe.
As for Salander’s confiscated works, a lawyer representing Salander’s victims disclosed in US Bankruptcy court that advanced negotiations were in place to have many of them auctioned off at Christie’s, for a sale reportedly scheduled for June.
On a closing note, let it be said that while such justice was served here, let it be an end to the talk of Salander being dubbed as the “Bernie Madoff of the art world.”- a timely, yet inaccurate comparison. As Ed Winkleman pointed out quite early in this case last year:
“Journalists of the art world: please do the math: Bernie Madoff is to Larry Salander what AIG’s losses are to your personal 401(k).”