intentionality & the post-covid cultural landscape

Individually we are no match for nature. Together we are.

Stewart Simonsen, Assistant Director-General, World Health Organization; in conversation with Fareed Zakaria, GPS, 24 May 2020

Congress will have to think with knowledge that we will have another crisis.”

Gary Cohn, Former Director, National Economic Council, Former President & Chief Operating Officer, Goldman Sachs, in conversation with Fareed Zakaria, GPS, 24 May 2020

Given the health, governance, and legal risks posed by the coronavirus and the covid-19 response, a primary issue affecting us all, including galleries, museums, and cultural organizations around the world, has been how to limit its spread. As a prophylactic vaccine has not yet been developed, decisions were made to limit possible exposure and contagion by distancing people from one another. In many countries all organizations and enterprises except those providing what have been considered “essential” services were closed, museums included.

Museums are public spaces that welcome people through their doors into shared spaces to look at art together. They have had to grapple with the questions of whether or not and how to engage their audiences while closed. They grapple now with the question of how best to re-open while continuing to mitigate the risk of contagion and spread.

The learning curve has been steep and rapid. Marc Spiegler, Global Director of Art Basel, and museum leaders from Asia, Europe, and the United States addressed the learning curve and responses of the museum sector during a webinar discussion that took place on 21 May,  “How will the pandemic change institutions?

Dr. Zoé Whitley, director of the Chisenhale Gallery, London, Anne Pasternak, Shelby White and Leon Levy Director of the Brooklyn Museum, New York City, Phlip Tinari, director and CEO of the UCCA Center for Contemporary Art, Beijing, and Dr. András Szántó, author and cultural strategy advisor, New York City, shared their thoughts and perspectives on the missions, priorities, and activities of their organizations, how they were managing during the pandemic and concomitant shut-down, risks, risk management, and ways to make it possible to be back in physical spaces looking at art with other people.

“What roles should institutions play in the post-covid cultural landscape, assuming you can even guess what the landscape is going to be?”

Acknowledging that “we have a responsibility to re-think how we remain relevant to our audiences,” Dr. Whitley asked, “how do you start charting a new path under these incredibly strange circumstances?”

“I think that’s precisely the question,” she continues. “What might rank as the world’s worst hypothetical interview question: how would you lead an organization remotely in the midst of a global pandemic? And you would think it was so absurd as to be not really be able to entertain it. And yet here we are.”

While understanding that the pandemic and the global response caught many off guard, knowing what we now know, we may need to revisit underlying assumptions of absurdity and re-map our thinking. The pathogen and pandemic did not come out of nowhere.  See: “Q&A: Could climate change and biodiversity loss raise the risk of pandemics?“.

Pathogens such as the coronavirus that is causing the covid-19 response occur abundantly in nature. As we, through our many behaviors, draw closer to wild animals, for instance, and draw them closer to us, and unless we work consistently and with intention to acknowledge, manage, and mitigate risk, we may expect ever more such pandemics.

The UCCA Center for Contemporary Art in Beijing may serve as a case study. Having closed its doors on 24 January, the UCCA re-opened to the public on 21 May. 

Philip Tinari reflected on the disappearance of everyday routine during the closure, the mood of solemnity of everyday existence, the poignancy of being back in physical space looking at art with people,  and the freedom to enter into a public space and look at art.

He observed that while “it’s poignant and it’s just wonderful to be back in physical space looking at art with people, … that can only happen because of larger dynamics in the society.”

“The freedom to enter into a public space and look at art,” the freedom to enter the UCCA Center for Contemporary Art, and Beijing’s 798 Art District in which it is located, is afforded by measures taken to control the contagion and spread.

“To even enter into 798, one needs to have one’s temperature taken and one needs to show a kind of virtual pass which is generated by a government app that, you know, tracks your data and proves that you have not been in any high-risk areas for the last 14 days or 21 days, and even, in some cases, synchs to facial-recognition thermometers that are around town. So, there’s a complete panopticon, and we’re the indirect beneficiaries of it.

“And at our door, there’s another temperature check as there is at the entrance of any restaurant or store. And masking here is completely mandatory and universal. And so then it just becomes a question of how to be responsible and keep things disinfected and use our guards to keep people distanced.

From “How technology is safeguarding health and livelihoods in Asia,” Oliver Tonby, Jonathan Woetzel, Noshir Kaka, Wonsik Choi, Jeongmin Seong, Brant Carson, and Lily Ma,McKinsey & Company, 12 May 2020

“I guess all to say that we’re all kind of working inside the contexts where we find ourselves. And this one, for the draconian nature of certain measures, they paradoxically allow for the freedom to enter into a public space and look at art.”

As risks abound, continue, and even, arguably, increase, it is crucial to plan and conduct business smartly, in a forward-looking manner, clearly articulating desired outcomes, on the one had, and negative externalities, that are increasingly no longer external, on the other.

UCCA has postponed shows that were on the calendar for this year, “many of which involved intense overseas collaborations and were not going to happen as scheduled.” Yet, learning as early as early March that the museum re-opening would take place on 21 May, the first date also of the re-scheduled Beijing Gallery Week-end, Mr. Tinari and the museum curators realized “that there was no way we could get to May 21 and not have something to show everyone.”

“And so I sat in a room with my curators for about a week. And we came up with an exhibition that we titled “Meditations in an Emergency” after the Frank O’Hara anthology which kind of looks at the post-covid world from five different angles. Everything from the disappearance of everyday routine to the relationship between humans and animals to the proliferation of a sort of de-centered polyphonic or contradictory narrative around news and information.

“It’s a 26-artist group show that’s actually, I don’t mean to brag or anything, but it’s really beautifully installed. And it’s poignant and it’s just wonderful to be back in physical space looking at art with people.”

Zhang Hui, “Just Line in the Mirror 2” (2018, oil on canvas).
Credit: Zhang Hui and UCCA, Center for Contemporary Art, Beijing: “Meditations in an Emergency,” 21 May – 30 August 2020

Thinking forward, Mr. Tinari observes “a certain solemnity to just everyday existence now. People are ready to come. And in a way that’s a very not the worst frame of mind with which to enter into an exhibition.”

What he’s been calling “the new intentionality,” engaging in activities “with a very specific purpose and for a limited duration,” applies, he says, to programming as well. “It’s not that we won’t continue to do big international shows but we’ll do them for specific reasons with kind of very measurable goals in more measured ways.”


Art Basel, “How will the pandemic change institutions?“, YouTube, 22 May 2020

Oliver Tonby, Jonathan Woetzel, Noshir Kaka, Wonsik Choi, Jeongmin Seong, Brant Carson, and Lily Ma, “How technology is safeguarding health and livelihoods in Asia,” McKinsey & Company, 12 May 2020

Zoé Whitley, Star Curator Behind Acclaimed ‘Soul of a Nation’ Show, Named Director of London’s Chisenhale Gallery,” ARTnews, 17 January 2020

UCCA, Center for Contemporary Art, Meditations in an Emergency, 21 May 2020 – 30 August 2020

Kehinde Wiley: “St. Andrew”

Kehinde Wiley’s “St. Andrew” (oil and enamel on canvas in an antiquated frame with gilded ornament) of 2006.

A young man in contemporary street-wear straddles the cross on which he will die. The unusual cross is associated with St. Andrew, a disciple of Christ who was executed for refusing to renounce his faith.

Kehinde Wiley, “St. Andrew” (2006, oil and enamel on canvas in antiquated frame with gilded ornaments; detail)

Kehinde Wiley poses his contemporary St. Andrew against rich brocade that comes to life as it winds over the figure.

Kehinde Wiley, “St. Andrew” (2006, oil and enamel on canvas in antiquated frame with gilded ornaments)

The subject is painted in a powerful and dramatic Baroque style in strong contrast to the flat background.

Born in Los Angeles in 1977, Kehinde Wiley now lives and works in New York. He earned his BFA from the San Francisco Art Institute in 1999 and his MFA from Yale in 2001. He holds an honorary doctorate from the  Rhode Island School of Design.

Represented by New York gallerist Sean Kelly, Wiley

“has firmly situated himself within art history’s portrait painting tradition.

“As a contemporary descendent of a long line of portraitists, including Reynolds, Gainsborough, Titian, Ingres, among others,

“Wiley engages the signs and visual rhetoric of the heroic, majestic, and the sublime in his representation of urban, black and brown men found throughout the world.”

Kehinde Wiley, Sean Kelly

Kehinde Wiley’s “St. Andrew,” a museum purchase of 2014, is now in the collection of Norfolk, Virginia’s Chrysler Museum of Art.


Kehinde Wiley, Sean Kelly

Kehinde  Wiley, Chrysler Museum of Art

art, the built environment, & the Bizot Green Protocol

Works of art. History. Cultural heritage. The market. Galleries. Art fairs. Museums. Private museums. Institutional and private collections. Fiduciary care. Value.

Let’s consider a pressing issue:

How collections are housed, managed, and cared for and the protection of works of art and tangible assets in an age of increasingly erratic weather, increasing sea-level rise, floods, fires, storms, … and pandemics – which in themselves and the response to which can be devastating.

Does one barricade the art behind flood walls and barriers? Insure the works of art? (Insurance is a good idea. Insurance does not, however, mitigate or prevent future damage. Insurance is used to protect the “value” of the art, not the work of art itself. It is used after damage occurs to recover value.)

Can we protect works of art while mitigating possible future damage?

Atmospheric CO2 is a key factor leading towards the storms, floods, and fires that can be so damaging to art and tangible assets. Is it possible to care for our collections while reducing emissions of CO2 into the air?

The Bizot Group of museum directors, or the International Group of Organizers of Large-scale Exhibitions, thinks so.

Max Hollein, now the Director of New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art, was Chairman of the Bizot Group in 2014. Richard Armstrong, Director of the Solomon R. Gugenheim Museum, and Glen Lowry, Director of the Museum of Modern Art, are members.

Wangechi Mutu (Kenyan, born Nairobi, 1972), “The Seated II” (bronze, 2019) situated in one of four niches in the facade of New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art. Courtesy of the the artist, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, and Gladstone Gallery, New York and Brussels.

Wangechi Mutu (Kenyan, born Nairobi, 1972), “The Seated II” (bronze, 2019). Courtesy of the the artist, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, and Gladstone Gallery, New York and Brussels.

Axel Rüger, Director of the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam from 2006 until June of 2019 when he left the Van Gogh Museum to take up a new appointment as Chief Executive of London’s Royal Academy of Arts, is a member.

So are many others.

The Bizot Group agreed the Bizot Green Protocol in 2015:

The directors agree that museums can reduce the amount of CO2 emissions they are responsible for while recognizing their duty of care to collections:

1.  Guiding Principles
Museums should review policy and practice, particularly regarding loan requirements, storage and display conditions, and building design and air conditioning systems, with a view to reducing carbon footprints.

Museums need to find ways to reconcile the desirability of long-term preservation of collections with the need to reduce energy use.

Museums should apply whatever methodology or strategies best suit their collections, building and needs, and innovative approaches should be encouraged.

The care of objects is paramount. Subject to this,

environmental standards should become more intelligent and better tailored to specific needs. Blanket conditions should no longer apply. Instead conditions should be determined by the requirements of individual objects or groups of objects and the climate in the part of the world in which the museum is located;

where appropriate, care of collections should be achieved in a way that does not assume air conditioning or other high energy cost solutions. Passive methods, simple technology that is easy to maintain, and lower energy solutions should be considered;

natural and sustainable environmental controls should be explored and exploited fully;

when designing and constructing new buildings or renovating old ones, architects and engineers should be guided significantly to reduce the building’s carbon footprint as a key objective;

the design and build of exhibitions should be managed to mimimise waste and recycle where possible.

2.  Guidelines
For many classes of object containing hygroscopic material (such as canvas paintings, textiles, ethnographic objects or animal glue) a stable relative humidity (RH) is required in the range of 40 – 60% and a stable temperature in the range 16-25°C with fluctuations of no more than ±10% RH per 24 hours within this range. More sensitive objects will require specific and tighter RH control, depending on the materials, condition, and history of the work of art. A conservators evaluation is essential in establishing the appropriate environmental conditions for works of art requested for loan.

Environmental Sustainability – reducing museums’ carbon footprint,”National Museum Directors Council


Environmental sustainability – reducing museums’ carbon footprint,” National Museum Directors Council

Wangechi Mutu: The NewOnes, will free us,” Metropolitan Museum of Art, The Facade Commission, 9 September 2019 – 9 June 2020

Wangechi Mutu, Gladstone Gallery

Axel Rϋger Appointed Chief Executive of London’s Royal Academy of Arts,” Artforum, 13 February 2019

Axel Rüger,” 40 Under 40 Europe 2018, Apollo Magazine, 3 September 2018

Groupe Bizot, Letter of 26 February 2014 to Mr. Mikhail Piotrovsky, Director, State Hermitage Museum, St. Petersburg, Russia

Acknowledging risk, Sotheby’s revises 2020 Hong Kong Spring Sale

“Monitoring the impact of the Covid-19 virus and the resulting travel restrictions” – in effect acknowledging, and attempting to manage, the health, travel, and business risks that the coronavirus poses – Sotheby’s has revised its 2020 Hong Kong Spring Sale.

The Modern Art Evening Sale, the Contemporary Art Evening Sale, and the Contemporary Art Day Sale will take place in New York on 16 April.

Further 2020 Hong Kong Spring sales have been re-scheduled from April to July. The plan is that they will take place in Hong Kong.

The revised schedule can be found here: “Revised Schedule For Sotheby’s Hong Kong 2020 Spring Auction Series Announced.”

Sotheby’s publishes a message from Kevin Ching, CEO of Sotheby’s Asia:

“We have been closely monitoring the impact of the Covid-19 virus and the resulting travel restrictions.

“After careful consideration and reflection on nearly 50 years of working with our clients in Asia, we have made the strategic decision to continue to hold our major Modern and Contemporary Art auctions in April but relocate them to New York and to postpone the balance of our spring auctions to early July in Hong Kong.

“April in New York represents the best possible venue and timing for our consignors of Modern and Contemporary art. We have scheduled these sales at times that will make it easy for our clients in Asia to participate and our global team stands ready to activate the international market for the great works of art we have assembled.

“Similarly, given the nature of the property and collectors in our other categories, we have decided to postpone those auctions until early July when we can safely hold a traveling exhibition across Asia and present our sale week in Hong Kong.”

Kevin Ching, CEO, Sotheby’s Asia


Revised Schedule for Sotheby’s Hong Kong Spring Auction Series Announced,” Sotheby’s, 24 February 2020

Revised Schedule For Sotheby’s Hong Kong 2020 Spring Auction Series Announced” and “Sale Calendar,” Sotheby’s

your money, your life, your choice ・ the painting that did not sell

The painting that did not sell.

While there may be a well-established “cartel of taste” (see Anna Louie Sussman’s article “Why You Can’t Always Buy a Work of Art Just Because You Have the Cash,” @artsy, 12 December 2018), market stakeholders can and sometimes do display independent judgment.

Gerhard Richter’s “Schädel” (oil on canvas), the first of a series of eight skull paintings painted in 1983, was held in the same collection for 30 years after a last public exhibition in 1988.

Based on a photograph taken by Richter himself, the painting demonstrates a “dialogue between painterly abstraction and photo-realist representation that had been simmering across separate stands of Richter’s practice for nearly two decades.”

This painting led the Post-War and Contemporary Art Evening Sale held at Christie’s London on 4 October 2018.

With an unpublished estimate, the painting was expected to sell for between £12 and £18 million (US$15 – US$23 million).

Bidding reached £11.5 million. The painting was not allowed to change hands.

Note also the instance of Edward Hopper’s 1972 painting, “Portrait of an Artist (Pool with Two Figures)” that sold at Christie’s in New York on 15 November. It closed narrowly, at what may have been a precisely agreed threshold of $80 million – with what appeared to be Christie’s bidding against itself to reach the sales price.


Why You Can’t Always Buy a Work of Art Just Because You Have the Cash,” Anna Louie Sussman, Artsy, 12 December 2018

Seen for the first time in 30 years: Gerhard Richter’s ‘Schädel’ (‘Skull’),” Christie’s

Gerhard Richter ‘Skull’ to Headline Christie’s Sale in London,” Fang Block, Barron’s, 4 September 2018

Rare Richter’s a Bust, but Christie’s Moves $25.9 M. Bacon, $21 M. Fontana at London Sales,” Judd Tully, Artnews, 4 October 2018


collections care & engineered resilience

As the markets for works of art, collections care, and engineered resilience in the built environment (private collections, museums – public and private, galleries, fairs, corporate and university collections, etc.) converge, renewable energy will be a factor.

“Underlying property increases in value by virtue of the fact that positive externalities associated with the performance of the resilience investments represents a superior outcome to the status quo – even when netted out by any costs.” (Keenan

Companies have signed long-term contracts to purchase solar and wind energy in 28 markets.

Cost declines and efficiency improvements are making renewables cost-competitive with wholesale power prices of more traditional sources of electricity.

While larger corporations are entering into corporate power purchase agreements (PPA),

smaller companies are increasingly pooling electricity demand together to access economies of scale achieved through solar and wind projects.

This is called “aggregation.”

“Aggregation” might be a workable model for entities in the art market concerned about the long-term resilience of structures and care and value of works and collections.

See: 1) Jesse M. Keenan, Thomas Hill, Anurag Gumber, “Climate Gentrification: From Theory to Empiricism in Miami-Dade County,” IOPScience, 23 April 2018; 2) “Corporations Already Purchased Record Clean Energy Volumes in 2018, and It’s Not an Anomaly,” Bloomberg New Energy Finance, 9 August 2018


#art #artmarket #museum #privatemuseum #collection #contemporaryart #energy #co2 #wind #solar #renewableenergy #resilience #resilienceengineering #architecture #design #engineering #NewYork #Miami #LosAngeles #London #Paris #Amsterdam #Stockholm #Oslo #Berlin #Vienna #Dubai #HongKong #Shanghai #Beijing #Tokyo #Delhi #realestate

Art Basel ・ Joan Mitchell

Reports from this year’s Art Basel indicate how well the works of artist Joan Mitchell (1925-1992) are performing.

Joan Mitchell’s “Composition” of 1968, is reported to have been sold by gallery and dealer Hauser & Wirth to a European collector for $14 million.

Marion Maneker of Art Market Monitor suggests the “sale was arranged before the fair and concluded upon viewing.”

Nate Freeman of Artsy reports the following market-oriented observations:

“‘It was obviously a time for a correction in perception, and in price, for her – as with a lot of women.'”

Iwan Wirth, co-owner, Hauser & Wirth

“‘When you have a strong market force, the prices change – shortly, we’re going to see $20 million to $30 million Mitchells.'”

Brett Gory, co-founder, Lévy Gorvy

Gorvy observes that Mitchell (who spent much of her life in France) has long been collected by the Germans and Swiss.

“‘The new interest is everywhere else – we’ve been showing her in the Basel art fair for years…. There’s a hunger in the market. She’s being recognized as one of the greatest Abstract Expressionists, and it helps that now there’s all this interest in art made by women.'”

Howard Read, gallery co-owner, Cheim & Reid 

“‘I think they could be $30 million or $50 million. If Franz Kline can be, why not Joan Mitchell?'”

John Cheim, gallery co-owner, Cheim & Reid



At Art BaselOpening, a Pair of $14 Million Joan Mitchell Sales Shows Surge in Market for Women Artists,” Nate Freeman, Artsy, 12 June 2018;

Art Basel Sales Report,” Marion Maneker, Art Market Monitor, 12 June 2018


#art #artmarket #artbasel #joanmitchell #abstractexpressionism #contemporaryart #postwarart #collection #collector #collectionsmanagement #newyork #london #zurich #vienna #oslo #amsterdam #dubai #hongkong #seoul #tokyo #luxury #architecture #design #realestatedevelopment

Hans Hofman ・pictorial space & the hidden inherent laws of the picture surface.

Across time, space, and generations, the magic and spirit of Hans Hofmann, teacher to many, continues.

A composition of warm and vivid hues, geometric blocks of color, a surface that is rich in both visual and textural details, highlighting the materiality and thickness of the paint and the flatness of the canvas.

“Into Outer Space,” Hans Hofmann (oil on panel, 1957), at the Chrysler Museum of Art, Norfolk, VA (Gift of Walter P. Chrysler, Jr., 1971)

Action painter? Abstract expressionist?

“While critic Robert Coates first used the term Abstract Expressionism in his review of Hofmann’s 1946 solo exhibition at the Mortimer Brandt Gallery in New York, histories of postwar American art, have always focused on the youth, vitality, and uniquely American experiences of the generation of artists who matured in the 1940s.”

Lowery Stokes Sims, former Curator of 20th Century Art at The Metropolitan Museum of Art and organizer of the exhibition of 1999, “Hans Hofmann at the Metropolitan Museum of Art“.

Hofmann does not fit the narrative of such postwar histories. Born in 1880, Hofmann immigrated to the US from Germany in 1932 when in his fifties, developing a new style and creating a whole new body of work in his seventies and eighties.

During the course of his life Hofmann was a contemporary of and acquainted with Picasso, Braque, Matisse, and the Delaunays (both husband and wife). He had a lifelong interest in nature, science, music, poetry, and science. He crossed more significant barriers, national and aesthetic, than almost any other twentieth-century painter.

He was never a follower, nor an expressionist, fauvist, a cubist, or a surrealist.

I am often asked how I approach my work,” Hofmann wrote in 1962 on the importance of the act of painting.

“Let me confess: I hold my mind and my work free from any association foreign to the act of painting. I am thoroughly inspired and agitated by the actions themselves which the development of painting continuously requires….This seems simple but it is actually the fruit of long research”

H. Hofmann, “Hans Hofmann on Art,” in Art Journal, Vol. 22, Spring 1963, p. 18; quoted in Lot Essay, Hans Hofmann, “Auxerre,” Lot 36B, Christie’s, Post-War and Contemporary Art Evening Sale, New York, 13 May 2015

William Chapin Seitz, the first scholar to receive a PhD from Princeton University in the field of modern art (it took him more than a year to convince the Princeton art history graduate committee that the work of living artists was a topic worthy of graduate study) and formerly Associate Curator of Painting and Sculpture Exhibitions at New York’s Museum of Modern Art, organized the 1963 MoMA exhibition, “Hans Hofmann”.

Dr. Seitz observes,

“When one looks back at the years after 1945, when the “New American Painting” was taking form, it is apparent that one of its aesthetic determinants was the desire felt by many artists to incorporate in their work tendencies of style and feeling previously thought to be contradictory. Both the temper of Hofmann’s mind and his supranational development led him in this direction.”

It has been said that Hofmann is an “automatic” painter; he has also been called an “action painter” because of his direct enactment of emotional content. Yet his automatism has never been mere psychic catharsis, his activity is never purely physical, and his fury, like his delicate lyricism, is that of nature as well as himself. And even in the most passionate of his works the adjustment of formal relationships can be as precise as in the compositions of Mondrian or Malevich.”

Hofmann admired Mondrian for the purity of his abstract structure. He admired Kandinsky — whom he once called an “anti-plastic” painter — for his automatism and fluid color.

The architectural basis of his own painting derives from a study of Cezanne, and from cubism, yet (at least in his representational paintings).

By synthesizing such diverse materials, Hofmann developed his own metier: the unhampered autonomy of lines and planes; the elevation of color to a primary means; the maintenance of clear “intervals” between color planes; the preservation of physical gestures in pigment. He cast aside the dross of systematic perspective, tonal modeling, literature, and illusionism.”

Hans Hofmann with selected writings by the artist,” William Chapin Seitz, The Museum of Modern Art, 1963

Believing in the innate integrity of the pictorial space, Hofmann theorized the “push and pull” within a painting, describing how he used balance and contrast between colors and forms to create pictorial dynamism. Rejecting the traditional practice of creating depth through graduations of tone, Hofmann created space without denying the flatness of the picture’s surface.

Hofmann wrote in a late essay,

“Pictorial space is an aesthetically created space and is as such as real as nature. Its reality is based on the reality of the hidden inherent laws of the picture surface.”

H. Hoffman, quoted in S. Hunter, Hans Hofmann, New York, 1963, p. 44.


Hans Hofmann with selected writings by the artist,” William Chapin Seitz, The Museum of Modern Art, 1963.

Hans Hofmann,” September 11 – December 1, 1963, The Museum of Modern Art

William C. Seitz: Defending the Modern,” The Museum of Modern Art

Hans Hofmann at the Metropolitan Museum of Art,” April 13 – October 17, 1999,

Hans Hofmann at the Metropolitan Museum of Art,” exhibition catalogue, Lowery Stokes Sims, 1999.

“Post-War and Contemporary Art Evening Sale,” Lot 36B, Hans Hofmann’s “Auxerre,” Christie’s, New York, 13 May 2015, Lot Essay

“Post-War and Contemporary Art Evening Sale,” Lot 20B, Hans Hofmann’s “Lava,” Christie’s, New York, 15 November 2017, Lot Essay

#art #artmarket #arthistory #history #hanshofmann #science #physics #pictorialspace #modernart #postwarart #contemporaryart #picasso #braque #delaunay #matisse #mondrian #malevich #jacksonpollock #actionpainting #abstractexpressionism #met #metropolitanmuseumofart #moma #museumofmodernart #christie’s #germany #newyork #sanfrancisco #london #berlin #oslo #vienna #milan #dubai #hongkong #seoul #tokyo #architecture #design #luxury #urban #urbanliving #realestatedevelopment

“Let’s create some strange and weird things.” – 元永 定正

Let’s create some strange and weird things.” – Motonaga Sadamasa

Sadamasa Motonaga (元永 定正, 1922-2011), a founding member of Japan’s post-World-War-II crucible of abstraction, the Gutai Art Association (具体美術協会 Gutai Bijutsu Kyōkai), reaffirmed the Gutai artists’ use of “all possible techniques and materials in their creations”.

Motonaga mastered the use of spray painting techniques while in New York on a grant from 1966 to 1967.

In the 1970s he created lively and varied two-dimensional images, a modern take on the Ukiyo-e characteristics of Japan’s Edo period, selecting organic and mobile qualities, some from everyday life, as visual elements.

The artist once observed how

“this type of form and colour execution is inspired by nocturnal views from Mount Rokko near the city of Kobe, Japan.

“The neon light that outlines the mountains’ contours appears as if in a dreamscape and renders an effect of motion.

“The painting style of hard-edged, clear flowing lines in a twisting form exhibits a human-like appearance but has the dynamics of water, like a coiled up or continuously rotating and extending organism that leads the viewer’s gaze to wander along the arc of the curve.”

Sadamasa Motonaga’s “Tapa Tapa” sold at Christie’s Hong Kong in November 2015 for nearly five times the high estimate.

Explore the work of Sadamasa Motonaga during this week’s Art Basel at Natalie Seroussi and at Tokyo Gallery+BTAP (Beijing Tokyo Art Projects) (東京画廊+BTAP).


See: “Asian 20th Century & Contemporary Art (Evening Same),” Lot 35, “Tapa Tapa“, Christie’s Hong Kong, 28 November 2015.



#art #artmarket #arthistory #sadamasamotonaga #gutai #japan #tokyo #kobe #mountrokko #natalieseroussi #tokyogalleryBTAP #contemporaryart #abstraction #collection #collector #newyork #london #oslo #vienna #milan #dubai #asia #hongkong #artadvisory #artconsultancy #interiordesign #design #architecture #realestatedevelopment

Zao Wou-ki’s “29.01.64” (oil on canvas, 1964)

abstraction | a kind of inner imaginary landscape

The grand and bold “29.01.64” (the date of its completion; oil on canvas) sold at Christie’s Hong Kong in May 2017 for $19.7 million, then an auction record for the artist, “to bidders who clearly wanted this picture.”

Zao Wou-ki (1920-2013) moved to Paris from Beijing, where he was born, in 1948, began working with New York dealer Samuel Koontz (who encouraged him to experiment with larger formats) in 1956, and took a larger studio in the Montparnasse neighborhood of Paris in 1961.

Christie’s Paris’ specialist Clara Rivollet highlights the very complex composition:

“There’s actually a structure of very deep, black brushstrokes an then you can see around a kind of dilute-ink-wash-like oil around it and then on top of it he adds a whole network of intricate lines.

“You have very controlled sinuous lines that remind us of Chinese calligraphy. But also this very kind of loose movement in white paint is very inspired by Jackson Pollock’s painting.

“The painting could be a Western painting because it’s abstract. But actually in its essence it remains very Chinese because for Zao Wou-ki abstraction always represents a kind of inner imaginary landscape like the Chinese literati painting would do.”

“29.09.64”, at 230 x 345 cm. (90 1/2 x 135 7/8 in.), is one of the two largest that Zao painted in the 1960s.

It was purchased directly from the artist in 1969 by a French architect who built hospitals, research centers, and administrative buildings throughout France and Algeria in the years of rapid modernization following World War II.

“29.09.64” remained in the family’s collection for 48 years. The original owner’s son consigned the painting to Christie’s.

In an early 2017 exhibition, New York gallery Lévy Gorvy paired the works of Willem de Kooning and Zao Wou-ki. A little boost to the market?



  1. An inner, imaginary landscape: Zao Wou-ki’s ‘29.09.64,” Christie’s
  2. Contemporaries: Voices from East & West / Asian 20th C. and Contemporary Art,” lot 4, Christie’s HK, 27 May 2017;
  3. Zao Wou-ki’s 29.09.64 Sets Record in Hong Kong with $19.7m Sale,” Marion Maneker, Art Market Monitor, 29 May 2017.



#art #artmarket #zaowouki #arthistory #contemporaryart #postwarart #paris #france #newyork #abstraction #abstractexpressionism #jacksonpollock #literatipainting #songdynasty #oiloncanvas #inkonpaper #calligraphy #hongkong #beijing #berlin #vienna #milan #dubai #algeria #africa #realestatedevelopment #architecture #design #luxury #christie’s #LévyGorvy