Thanks to the financial crisis, auction houses may not ring in many record prices this year, but the art world is hardly going into hiding. Many collectors and curators are making plans to visit events around the globe, from Italy’s oldest biennial to South Africa’s new art fair. Here is a guide to the year’s potential highlights.
New frames: (left) Yoan Capote’s Open Mind. Courtesy Yoan Capote; and Brice Marden’s Attendant 2 in Chicago. Collection of Dr Paul and Dorie Sternberg / The Art Institute of Chicago
Buyers can gauge the art market’s mood during a round of Impressionist and modern art auctions at Sotheby’s and Christie’s in London in early February. A more significant test may come on 23-25 February when Christie’s in Paris tries to sell up to $400 million (around Rs1,900 crore) worth of art from the estate of the designer Yves Saint Laurent and his partner, Pierre Bergé. Seasoned collectors and society types seem equally curious about this encyclopedic sale of 700-plus objects, including an Egyptian sarcophagus from the fourth century BC, estimated to sell for up to $88,000; a 17th century flower pot covered in rubies, estimated to sell for up to $190,000; and Picasso’s Cubist masterwork Instruments de musique sur un guéridon, estimated to sell for up to $38 million.
The Musée du Louvre in Paris and the Museum of Fine Arts (MFA) in Boston will try to lure big crowds with the sumptuous exhibit, Titian, Tintoretto, Veronese: Rivals in Renaissance Venice, opening in Boston on 15 March and travelling to Paris on 14 September. These three artists dominated 16th-century Venetian painting with their richly coloured scenes of devout virgins and nude Venuses. This show will bring many of Tintoretto’s works to the US for the first time, says Frederick Ilchman, the MFA’s assistant paintings curator. To keep the blockbuster within budget, Ilchman had to whittle his initial list of 70 artworks down to 56. The upside, he says: “There’s no filler.”
Biennials, big and small
The Venice Biennale, running from 7 June to 22 November, will be bigger this year—92 nations are building pavilions for this world’s fair of new art, up from 76 in 2007. First-time participants include the United Arab Emirates, Gabon, Pakistan and Montenegro. Although video art has been popular in recent biennials, director Daniel Birnbaum has encouraged countries to submit more paintings and drawings this time.
The Renaissance age: Giovanni Bellini’s Virgin and Child with Saints, in Boston. Museum of Fine Arts, Boston
Argentine artist León Ferrari, an award winner from Venice’s last biennial, will be honoured at Cuba’s Havana Biennial, which runs from 27 March to 30 April (Ferrari protested the Vietnam War in 1965 by creating a sculpture that depicted a crucified Christ on a US fighter jet). This spring, at least 200 artists from 44 countries will place artworks in colonial buildings across Havana, and local artists such as Yoan Capote will offer studio visits. In a possible sign of artistic detente, the US has agreed to allow American artists such as Erica Lord and Titus Kaphar to participate.
South Africa will present the continent’s only major contemporary art fair, the Joburg Art Fair in Johannesburg, on 2-5 April. South African art stars such as Marlene Dumas, William Kentridge and Robin Rhode showed works during last year’s inaugural fair. Organizer Ross Douglas says this year’s draws will include an exhibition of Malian photography and Jane Alexander’s installation, Security. In Alexander’s piece, uniformed guards will be posted around a razor-wire fence that cages in a pile of machetes, sickles, workers’ gloves and wheat. The Joburg fair doesn’t boast huge sales or crowds—last year’s 6,500 attendees spent around $4 million—but Western collectors can savour the exchange rate (one US dollar equals roughly 10 rands).
Major museum expansions
Two major museums will complete substantial overhauls in 2009. On 16 May, the Art Institute of Chicago will unveil its $280 million Modern Wing, a Renzo Piano design that includes 65,000 sq. ft of new galleries and a 620ft bridge that arcs from the museum’s new sculpture garden to nearby Millennium Park. Director James Cuno says 95% of the wing’s funding came in before the financial crisis hit, a feat he credits to “a good project and lucky timing”. England’s oldest public museum, the Ashmolean in Oxford, is also slated to reopen in early November after being closed all year while staff members move its 700,000-piece collection, including a prized group of Raphael drawings, into a new building on campus with twice the gallery space.
THE WALL STREET JOURNAL