UK 'facing art export crisis'

UK 'facing art export crisis'
Tate Britain
Galleries like Tate Britain cannot compete with overseas buyers
The UK faces a cultural crisis if the government does not set up tax breaks to prevent important art going overseas, a government body has warned.

The government must work with the art trade and collectors to make sure important arts stays in the country, said Sir John Guinness, the chairman of the reviewing committee on the export of works of art.

"The objects that have been temporarily kept here, but then exported, invariably through lack of funds, greatly outnumber those that have been saved," Sir John told The Times.

Owners were tempted by the huge prices being offered by overseas buyers and the crisis could only escalate, he warned.

His committee can recommend temporary banning orders on work leaving the UK if the piece is decided to be in the national interest.

Raphael's Madonna of the Pinks
Raphael's Madonna of the Pinks may go overseas
Temporary bans on overseas sales, lasting three months, give galleries and museums a breathing space to try and find funds to buy and keep the artworks in question.

Several important pieces of art currently under temporary export ban are expected to end up overseas.

The J. Paul Getty Museum in California has put in a £25m offer to buy Raphael's Madonna of the Pinks from the Duke of Northumberland.

Sir Joshua Reynolds' Portrait of Omai, valued at £12m, is also receiving interest from overseas buyers, although both the Tate and the National Gallery have tried to prevent the sale.

The portrait of Richard Arkwright Junior with his family by Joseph Wright, an important Renaissance piece, was given a temporary ban on Tuesday.

Sir John's comments followed a Lords debate on Wednesday, which argued that capital gains tax for art sales should be cut from its current level of 30%.

Labour's Lord Strabolgi said the high cost of art had made it difficult for galleries to compete with private sellers overseas.

He called on the government to raise the inheritance tax ceiling to £20m, and to change the tax system so artworks sales were exempt from tax.

Premier league

A similar system is already in place in the US.

The Lords also called for the National Heritage Memorial Fund to be given £12m a year, £7m more than they currently receive.

The fund is used to buy artwork and cultural buildings for the state.

Britain could no longer afford to be in the "premier league of the art market", said Lord Luke of the Tories.

More effort should be put into protecting British paintings rather than non-British art, and money should be diverted to help improve the galleries and museums showing the art, he added.

What Crisis? Some Promising Futures for Art Criticism

By Martha Schwendener

The big narrative in the art world over the last decade has been the market. Money, as you may have heard, changes everything. But now that the market is marching in lockstep with the global recession, the big question for those involved with art is: How's it affecting you?

One population, ironically, has been less affected than others, and that's art writers: We're at the low end of the art economy either way. As former Voice critic Jerry Saltz pointed out a few years ago, no one's further from the epicenter of action at an art fair—the recent boom market's vehicle of choice—than a critic. Art fairs, Saltz wrote, made him feel "existentially adrift."

Besides, art writing already experienced its own sort of crash. The days of power critics like Clement Greenberg or Harold Rosenberg ended decades ago; writers have been eclipsed by globe-trotting curators, mega-dealers—even, in recent years, collectors. Roundtables and panel discussions have been devoted to the "crisis in criticism"; recent books include titles like Critical Mess and What Happened to Art Criticism?

But at the same moment that the old guard has been decrying the sorry state of "criticism" (a contested term that's come to mean everything from academic papers to exhibition reviews), something has been happening in art writing. While James Elkins, author of the doomsaying What Happened to Art Criticism?, claims that art criticism is "dying, but everywhere . . . massively produced and massively ignored," writers are pushing out in new directions, trying hybrid forms, and blurring the distinction between art writing and art making.

One of the writers who has paved the way is Chris Kraus, whose books Aliens & Anorexia (2000), Video Green (2004), and Torpor (2006) mix disparate kinds of writing. (Her I Love Dick, which chronicled her obsession—or, more likely, fictional obsession—with cultural-studies figurehead Dick Hebdige, was a cult hit in the late '90s.) When Kraus won the Frank Jewett Mather Award for art criticism last year—a prize given by the College Art Association that usually goes to more "traditional" art writers and critics (Greenberg, Rosenberg, Robert Hughes, Arthur Danto, Roberta Smith)—it seemed to signal a shift in what art criticism could be. Because, while Kraus's writing combines biography, autobiography, criticism, theory, history, and Joan Didion–esque journalism, she often identifies it not only with fiction, but as fiction.

Earlier art critics and historians cited fiction as a primary influence: Leo Steinberg described James Joyce's Ulysses and Finnegans Wake as "the pabulum of my teens." But since the '60s and '70s, art writers have been mostly under the sway of critical theory and are often hostile to fiction. (I experienced this personally when I was in a graduate program in art history, studying with a professor who wrote in her first book that her students read theory, not fiction.)

Other forces have helped shape a more laissez-faire climate for art writing. Art blogs have created a new, largely unedited, admirably "unprofessional"—hence, democratic—venue for people to speak their minds, gossip, or theorize about art. (Edward Winkleman's blog, edwardwinkleman.blogspot.com, provides a comprehensive list of links that also demonstrates how relatively cooperative and uncompetitive the blogosphere is, compared to other art writing venues.) Journals like Cabinet blur the boundaries between academic writing, journalism, fiction, and other forms.

And then there are the critical writings of artists themselves. These have ranged over the decades from the prickly formalist criticism of Donald Judd to the wacky manifestos of Ad Reinhardt to Agnes Martin's poetic texts. Writing was also important for two artists whose work has set the parameters for many contemporary artists: Andy Warhol and Robert Smithson. Warhol's obsessive cataloging in the diaries and his genre-bending and sleight-of-hand banalities in The Philosophy of Andy Warhol (1975) feel intimately linked to Kraus's writing, as well as to Wayne Koestenbaum's Hotel Theory (2007) and Andy Warhol (2001) biography for the Penguin Lives series, and to the novel Reena Spaulings (2005) by the artist-collective Bernadette Corporation. Seth Price, who combines a visual art practice with writing, is perhaps the most self-conscious heir to Smithson's delirious sci-fi-and-George-Kubler-influenced writing.

Another bellwether of changing modes in art writing is a book like Saul Anton's Warhol's Dream (2007), which also combines art theory with fiction. Its premise is an imaginary conversation between Warhol and Smithson that starts in Warhol's favorite diner on the corner of Madison and 37th Street and ambles through a vacant, entropic/post-apocalyptic-feeling New York. What's interesting is that Anton, a former Artforum.com editor currently working on a dissertation on Denis Diderot—often considered the father of art criticism—took his cues from artists, mimicking Andy and "Bob's" voices rather than the discourse of academia or "straight" art writing.

Anton is also taking cues from Diderot, however, which makes you wonder if the "crisis in criticism" hasn't opened things up by driving us back to our origins, which were considerably more eclectic and heteroglossic than most 20th-century art criticism. After all, Diderot was writing criticism—or some version of it (his bimonthly newsletter was circulated privately to subscribers like Catherine the Great of Russia and Frederick the Great of Prussia) in the 18th century. At the same time, the novel was being test-driven by writers like Laurence Sterne, whose Tristram Shandy serves as a kind of proto-meta-novel (or, to quote Michael Winterbottom's rogue 2005 film adaptation, "postmodern before there was any modern to be post about").

Art sales: Phillips crisis

In 1796, when George III was on the British throne and the US was a newly independent nation, a young man called Harry Phillips, who had been head clerk at Christie's, founded his own London auction house. For the next two centuries, Phillips ploughed a steady furrow in the middle market, selling brown furniture and unspectacular paintings. As Sotheby's and Christie's became glitzy retailers to the rich and famous in the late 20th century, Phillips stuck to the old ways.

It was only four years ago that the winds of change started to blow along the corridors of Phillips' London headquarters, but they soon whipped up to hurricane force. A long overdue package of reforms turned into an insane attempt to challenge Sotheby's and Christie's head on, which Phillips, de Pury and Luxembourg, as the auction house is now called, made more than a third of its employees redundant, abandoned regular sales of Impressionist art and announced that it will move out of its glossy Manhattan headquarters. The French billionaire Bernard Arnault disposed of the last of his minority holding in the company. Phillips, which was supposed to become a major force in the art market, is left with just half a dozen departments and some 85 employees.

This journey to disaster started out sensibly enough. In early 1999 Chris Thomson, a hard-nosed Scot who had recently taken over as chief executive of Phillips, decided that it was time to shake up the sleepy, unambitious auction house. Thomson knew nothing about the art market but had plenty of business experience and decided to smarten up the New Bond Street headquarters, trim the chain of regional salerooms and move slightly upmarket. Although Thomson wanted to sell more six-figure paintings, he had no intention of challenging Sotheby's and Christie's directly until Arnault bought Phillips in November 1999. But the Frenchman's LVMH group has made a fortune from marketing scent, champagne and suitcases and Arnault believed that selling art would be no different.

The Thomson plan went out of the window as Arnault, fuelled by his rivalry with Christie's owner François Pinault, poured tens of millions of pounds into his new venture, much of it in guarantees paid to vendors regardless of how their artworks performed in the saleroom. Over the next three years, the art dealers Simon de Pury and Daniella Luxembourg joined the company, which changed its name, and the British end of Phillips was sold to Bonhams because the new regime was uninterested in the middle market. Last year, Arnault decided to cut his losses and hand control of Phillips to de Pury and Luxembourg and last week he ended his ill-fated venture altogether.

What has happened would have been farcical had it not been so tragic. The merger between Bonhams and the British end of Phillips cost around 250 people their jobs and resulted in the virtual disappearance of the Phillips name in Britain after more than 200 years.

What was left of Phillips was like a head without a body. Sotheby's and Christie's derive much of their income from the middle market, yet Phillips had sold this part of the business to concentrate on the top end, where the overheads are highest and profits hard to make. The strategy blithely ignored the fact that there is hardly enough great Impressionist art around to supply two auction houses, let alone three. Once Arnault withdrew funding, Phillips could no longer afford many guarantees and immediately hit problems in this high-profile sector of the market.

In November Phillips' sale of Impressionist and modern art in New York raised a derisory £4.5 million, one seventh of what had been predicted. Most paintings failed to sell, including Picasso's Buste de femme souriante. Now, Phillips will concentrate on contemporary art, design, photography, American and Swiss paintings, jewellery and watch sales. It will deal in Impressionist art privately and may hold the occasional auction.

Whether it can survive in this truncated form is uncertain. What is clear is that the events of the past three years have been an unnecessary tragedy bornof arrogance and stupidity. Harry Phillips must be turning in his grave.


Φεύγουν οπι πολυκατοικιες της Διονυσίου Αρεοπαγιτου

Η ώρα ήταν ακριβώς 11 00 το πρωί . Είχα βγει βόλτα με τη Γκόλντι , στη Διονυσίου Αρεοπαγίτου όταν μπροστά μου βρέθηκα αντιμέτωπος με τον Δημήτρη Παντερμαλή, Διευθυντή του Νέου Μουσείου της Ακρόπολις, ο οποίος ξεναγούσε τον Υπουργό Πολιτισμού Κώστα Σαμαρά, λίγο πριν την άφιξη του πρωθυπουργού κ. Κώστα Καραμανλή.
Στην ερώτησή μου ..."τι θα γίνει με το εφήμερο πείσμα μπροστά στην αιωνιότητα ..." έμαθα ότι οι δύο κατοικίες θα μετακινηθούν.... Είναι είδηση...


Πλαστά έργα του Σπαθάρη στο Κολωνάκι

Δε πρόλαβε να κλείσει τα μάτια του ο άνθρωπος και αμέσως έκαναν την εμφάνισή τους πλαστές φιγούρες του Ευγένιου Σπαθάρη.
Στη παρακαλλιτεχνική αγορά του Κολωνακίου κυκλοφόρησαν δεκάδες πλαστές φιγούρες του Καραγκιόζη, του Χατζηαβάτη, του Μπάρμπα Γιώργου και των κολλητηριών Και μάλιστα με την υπογραφή του....
Μην αγοράζετε φιγούρες του Σπαθάρη χωρίς χαρτί υπογραμμένο από τη γυναίκα του. Γιατί οι αντιγραφές είναι πολλές και κατά βάση ...εύκολες...

Ο Άγιος Σπαθάρης

Όταν αναφέρομαι στον ζωγράφο-δημιουργό Ευγένιο Σπαθάρη δε το θεωρώ εύκολη υπόθεση. Φοβάμαι ότι θα παρασυρθώ από το «Θέατρο Σκιών», του οποίου υπήρξε αναπόσπαστο κομμάτι.

Φοβάμαι μην παρασυρθώ από αυτό που, 60 χρόνια τώρα είχε δημιουργήσει ο μεγάλος καλλιτέχνης στον νεοελληνικό κόσμο. Ένα μύθο με τύπους ηρώων και ανθρώπων αντικειμενικά πραγματοποιημένους .

Όταν για πρώτη φορά είδα τα ζωγραφικά έργα του, κατάλαβα σχεδόν αμέσως ότι ο Ευγένιος Σπαθάρης , ως μεγάλος δάσκαλος δεν «εξουδετερώθηκε» από τη μοναξιά του, όπως συμβαίνει σχεδόν σε όλους τους μεγάλους καλλιτέχνες. Τη μεταμόρφωσε. Την «κατοίκησε». Εντρύφησε στην ελληνική ιστορία και έφτιαξε δικούς του ήρωες, θεούς, φίλους, τόπους, γλέντια…Ήταν μια ανάγκη του για να κινηθεί, να ζήσει, όχι να αναπαραστήσει. Αυτή η θέση του, θέση ζωής, είναι πιο κοντά στη δημιουργία.

Από την εμπειρία της ελληνικής ιστορίας ο Ευγένιος Σπαθάρης κράτησε την ιδέα. Και το αντίστροφο. Γι’ αυτό είναι καθαρή η ζωγραφική του. Γι’ αυτό προβάλλει έντονη η ποίηση του χρωστήρα του. Γιατί, πέρα από αυτή, προβάλλει ένας χαρακτήρας που αγγίζει οικουμενικά ενδιαφέροντα.

Από την εμπειρία της ιστορίας πέρασε στη φύση του Έλληνα και από εκεί στην ίδια την ιδέα. Αφετηρία καθαρή. Η Ρωμιοσύνη βρήκε τους λαϊκούς της ήρωες .Η υπερφυσική, μεταφυσική τους γύμνια δεν είχε ανάγκη από ωραιοποιά σχήματα. Είχε ανάγκη μόνο από χαρίσματα, τα οποία, σε κοινή θεά ισοδυναμούν με τις ινδικές θεότητες, που, ακόμη και γυμνές, επηρεάζουν όλες τις αισθήσεις. Αυτή είναι η ικανοποίηση του Ευγένιου Σπαθάρη. Αισθάνεται ότι τα έργα του έχουν για όλους τουλάχιστον ένα αντίκρισμα στη σύγχρονη πραγματικότητα. Η σφαγή της Σμύρνης, οι Μικρασιάτες πρόσφυγες, οι επαγγελματίες του δρόμου, οι φιγούρες της γειτονιάς αποτελούν για όλους γνώριμες ιστορίες από τους γονείς μας. Αυτά τα βιώματα ελπίδας, πόνου και χαράς μας καθοδήγησαν. Οι ήρωες του 1821 ήταν σαν εικονίσματα κρεμασμένοι στις σχολικές μας αίθουσες. Οι μάχες, οι αγώνες για την ελευθερία, μας τροφοδότησαν με ψυχικό μεγαλείο. Αυτή είναι η ζωγραφική του Ευγένιου Σπαθάρη: Ένα ηθογραφικό τοπίο, στο οποίο αρμόζουν ορισμένοι άνθρωποι με ανάλογες πράξεις.

Οι αγώνες, ο εμφύλιος, η Κατοχή, οι δικαιωμένοι πόλεμοι έδωσαν την ευκαιρία στον Ευγένιο Σπαθάρη να δεθεί με τα περασμένα και να συνεχίσει. Αυτά τα έργα μοιάζουν με κλίμακα πνευματική που ισοδυναμεί με κανόνες της ζωής μας. Σχεδόν αποκρυπτογράφησε την φύση του Έλληνα. Ήταν μια ανάγκη για τον λαϊκό καλλιτέχνη, η οποία λειτούργησε ως ανάγκη καθαρότητας, ηθικής και αισθητικής. Δεν ανέχθηκε ποτέ την αδικία της Ιστορίας. Γιατί τα έργα του μοιάζουν μάλλον με ένα είδος «μετάληψης» και έχουν τεράστια συμβολική δύναμη. Οι εικόνες του συλλαμβάνουν παρομοιώσεις. Βιάζουν της αντινομίες της πραγματικότητας . Μέσα σε ένα μόνο έργο του περικλείονται όλες οι ανταποκρίσεις των αισθήσεων. Τα μηνύματά του μεταβιβάζονται άμεσα από τον έναν στον άλλο. Δεν χρειάζεται διανοητικός μόχθος για να παρατηρήσεις τα έργα αυτά. Αρκεί η συγκινησιακή δεκτικότητα για να αισθανθείς πόσο μεγάλο είναι το έργο αυτού του πολυτάλαντου λαϊκού καλλιτέχνη. Η ζωγραφική του έχει λάμψη, «σπιρτάδα». Δεν έχει ανάγκη από «σοφές » συζητήσεις για να γίνει δεκτική. Δονούνται οι εικόνες του σε μια πορεία ακατάληπτης μνήμης, όταν συνδέονται με τον συγκινησιακό μας παλμό.

Πίσω από κάθε τέχνη υπάρχει η μοίρα του φιλότεχνου που μιλάει. Ο Ευγένιος Σπαθάρης μας «προμηθεύει παράδοση». Τα έργα του είναι ελεύθερα. Έχουν την ίδια αυτοτέλεια, την ίδια αρμονία και την ίδια ένταση. Οι ίδιοι συντελεστές συγκίνησης προσδίδουν την ίδια βαρύτητα με τη ζωγραφική του μεγάλου καλλιτέχνη μας Θεόφιλου Χατζημιχάλη. Αποτελεί μια νέα αρετή στη νεοελληνική τέχνη η ζωγραφική του, γιατί μας αφήνει με μια διαύγεια που προβάλλει το βαθμό της ευαισθησίας μας.