Your Guide to the Whitney Biennial

If you’re planning to go to the Whitney to check out the Biennial, it’s always nice to be given a little direction as the experience can be overwhelming. ARTLOG provides a guide to their top ten artists to look out for, written by one of my former students, Amanda Ryan. Thanks Amanda!


How Much for Munch?

Thanks Elizabeth for flagging this post on ArtInfo about a UK bookie taking bets on how high the market will go for Munch’s The Scream. A market on top of a market?

Elizabeth asks: “Is placing bets on the final hammer price of an art work low brow and unacceptable or have auction houses turned into arenas where one can experience a new sporting event? And gambling is just part of the thrill and a way to engage the spectator?

Feel free to comment below.

Whitney Punk’d

And then the follow up:

The Web page, at, looks official enough. The typeface matches the one used by the Whitney Museum of American Art, and it purports to offer the latest news about the museum’s upcoming Biennial exhibition. It even features links to exhibition listings and other information on the Whitney’s site,

But the page is actually a hoax, said the real Whitney Museum.


Corporate Sponsors kicked out of the Whitney Museum

In light of our recent class discussion on corporate sponsorship and museums, it’s worth reading the full press release about corporate sponsorship of the Whitney Biennial (opening this week):

“The Whitney will find a way to open the 2012 Biennial in spite of the Museum’s difficult decision to break with the two major corporate sponsors of the Biennial. Regretfully, the Whitney entered into a sponsor agreement with Sotheby’s before the auction house locked out forty-three of its unionized art handlers once their contract expired in July 2011. Last year saw record-breaking sales with profits over $100 million for Sotheby’s; the pay of the CEO alone doubled to $6 million. Yet Sotheby’s has sought to break organized labor by starving their workers into submission—locked out of their jobs and without wages since August, these workers and their families lost their health care benefits at the end of 2011.

The Whitney recognizes that the financial speculation on art taking place in secondary sales of works benefits wealthy investors far more than the artists who created the works, let alone the workers who craft, move, install, maintain, or guard them. The Museum understands the importance of providing working people—including artists who must work second jobs to support their careers—with the livable wages and healthcare for which the Sotheby’s art handlers are fighting. Sotheby’s actions are a direct attack on the Museum’s mission to support and collect the work of living artists. For these reasons, the Whitney cannot allow Sotheby’s to tarnish the image of the Biennial any longer.

The Whitney also announces its break with major sponsor Deutsche Bank, which is facing numerous lawsuits and accusations of fraud from both investors and the U.S. government. Deutsche Bank and its subsidiary Mortgage IT profited from selling and insuring mortgages, and are currently in litigation with the U.S. government over a $1 billion claim for fraudulently obtained federal mortgage insurance; because of their dealings in mortgage-based collateralized debt obligations, they have also been sued by the Federal Housing Finance Agency, and the Teachers Insurance and Annuity Association. The reckless and even fraudulent financial speculation by banks like Deutsche Bank has created enormous social costs in terms of lost jobs, savings, and homes. The Whitney does not want the bank’s sponsorship of the Biennial to distract from these serious matters or to reflect poorly on the Museum, and so must end the sponsorship agreement.

An Apology to the Participating Artists

The Whitney is proud to be able to redistribute resources from major corporate donors and super-wealthy individuals to deserving artists, especially within a political and economic system that concentrates wealth for a tiny minority while the majority grows poorer, suffers without healthcare, is forced from their homes, or goes without food. However, the Whitney also recognizes that some donors and sponsors may seek to use their partnership with the Museum to whitewash their image and to hide the social costs of unchecked capital accumulation behind a façade of charity. These sponsors seek to capitalize on the creativity, intelligence, and culture brought into the world by contemporary artists even as the sponsors make that world unlivable. The Whitney recognizes that many emerging artists cannot refuse to participate in a major museum show without endangering their careers, and so apologizes deeply to the participating artists for allowing them to be exploited by the former sponsors in this manner. The Museum hopes the participating artists will join us in denouncing the wrongs committed by our former sponsors and trusts the artists will use the resources provided to them to foster a more vibrant, livable, just, and sustainable world.”

Exit Through the Gift Shop

In his response paper Eitan mentioned a documentary he watched recently that changed his views towards art in general and towards the art market in particular – the 2010 Exit Through the Gift Shop: A Banksy Film. Directed by street artist Banksy, it tells the story of Thierry Guetta, a French immigrant in LA, and his obsession with street art. One consistent theme in reviews of the work was the authenticity of the film itself: was it just an elaborate ruse on Banksy’s part? See the trailer here.

It’s been on my Netflix queue for a while now – I’ll be watching it this week. Report back in class if you do too.

Knoedler Gallery and the (alleged) faking of Abstract Expressionist paintings

Few cases in recent years have roiled the art market as much as this mystery of how an obscure art merchant could have discovered an astonishing number of unknown treasures by the titans of Abstract Expressionism. Each explanation carries its own burden of implausibility. If they are real, why do some contain pigments that had not been invented at the listed time of their creation. If they are fakes, who are these preternaturally talented forgers who have been able to confound experts?

NYT article here.

Keeping up with Contemporary Sales

The newsletter is a great place to keep up with contemporary auction sales. It covers the financial highs and lows, as well as a round up of the social scene, Twitter break-down, and related gossip.

“Can’t make it to London for this week’s sales of contemporary art? Well, you could watch live streams of the action on the auction house websites, but the camera stays glued to the rostrum, which hardly gives the full picture. Increasingly, art-market fiends can follow journalist-tweeps in the salesroom, who, in addition to tweeting results, often make note of ambient details the cameras miss.”

Lieber Code

In response to our discussion of the Lieber Code and looting-as-collecting as a political or militaristic statement of collective identity, here’s an essay from Chicago-Kent College of Law on legal and ethical issues of cultural heritage. Remember, while the Lieber Code asked American Civil War military personnel to be as careful as possible around sites of cultural importance, anything “moveable” was fair game:

“The Lieber Code stated that if such works could be moved without injury to them, they may be seized for the benefit of a conquering nation and their ownership would be settled during negotiations for peace.”

However, the code was instrumental in beginning to qualify issues of cultural heritage in times of conflict:

“The Lieber Code set the stage for the creation of the first international regulations to protect cultural heritage: the 1899 and 1907 Hague Conventions. With these conventions, signatory parties committed themselves to preserve cultural property and to abandon prior wartime norms of the “victor’s right to plunder.”

Full text here.

Vermeer Wouldn’t Make It In Today’s Art Market

Josh Baer (features in Seven Days in the Art World) interviewed by ArtTactic about the Contemporary art market. (Click on the link to listen.)

One question the interviewer asks is why artists like Gerhard Richter and Andy Warhol have reached higher and higher prices even though they created very large bodies of work.

Baer responds by saying that Vermeer would never make it in today’s art market.

Via the Art Market Monitor

A free glass of wine

Artcards is the best way to keep up with all the gallery openings that happen in New York each week (and also a great way, as a student, to ascertain where to get a free glas sof wine – most openings have cheap, warm wine to attract visitors). It’s a weekly email digest of everything that’s happening, along with some editors picks. A very reliable way to begin forays into gallery hopping.

Create a free website or blog at