The Haus der Kunst in Munich just closed a major retrospective of the British artist Phyllida Barlow, who has risen to international recognition with her participation in the Venice Biennial in 2017, where she represented the United Kingdom.
The artist is only one of several female artists in the later stages of life who have had stellar rises in their careers at a time when other people are thinking of retirement and slowing down. This recent phenomena is worth looking at, not only because it reshapes the canon of art history of the 21st Century, but also because the critical and institutional acclaim comes with an increase of value of these works through art market validation, often driven by large commercial galleries.
As Barlow is a point in case, she is an excellent example to analyse more closely. For most of her life, she was what is often referred to as an artist’s artist. The sculptor was recognised as an inspirational teacher for a whole generation of sculptors in her tenure at the Slade School of Art in London. After retirement, an exhibition at the Serpentine Gallery in 2010 propelled her into the public’s eye – and the eye of Iwan and Manuela Wirth, who began representing her shortly after; and have since been instrumental in exposing her work to private and public audiences internationally. Finally, having more time for work (and not teaching), allowed the artist to take on ever larger and bigger commissions in institutions such as Tate Britain and most recently a temporary installation at the entrance of famous Highgate Cemetery in, as well as the above-mentioned Venice showcase. Numerous solo exhibitions, of which the exhibition in Munich is a culmination, have added to the international recognition. The Munich show featured work in her typical manner of constructing large scale installations which, due to the often flimsical nature of the materials used, feel fragile and robust at the same time. Tarpaulins, pallet boards and other industrial and waste materials denote an experience which isn’t often compatible with the status of high art. Often called “exuberant”, navigating them feels like navigating an obstacle course. For this exhibition, the artist who previously recycled works of art into new works – before her installation carried any monetary value - restages early works, while also adding new structures as well as drawings. These often-vibrant coloured pencil drawings date back to the 1960s and are especially attractive for private collectors who can only dream of finding a home for an installation which feels more like a construction site than a sculpture. Since being taken on by Hauser & Wirth, it is unlikely that the artist recycles old work and sketches have become a precious commodity. In work owned by Tate London, lines on the floor mark the distance to the work, another signifier of price – in this case insurance values.
Barlow is by far not the only female artists whose prices have gone up when the artists were themselves in their 70s, 80s or even older. Until the end of September, the Mori Art Museum in Tokyo, Japan, pays homage to 16 of them in an exhibition with the apt title “another energy”. Amongst them, of course, Phyllida Barlow. Barlow herself was born in 1944. Cuban born, Carmen Herrera, who is now 104, is probably one of the oldest living female artists of stardom. She is represented by Lisson Gallery. She outlived the French American sculptor Louise Bourgeois who died in 2010 at the age of 99. Bourgeois is equally shown by Hauser & Wirth. Similarly, Etel Adnan, Rose Wylie, Carol Rama or Geta Brătescu come to mind. They all share late international fame, institutional recognition at the highest level and blue-chip gallery representation – either of their work or their estate. The interest is easily explained: Wishing to expand Western and non-Western canons at still a fraction of the prize of a male artist of similar calibre, but of equal if not better quality, with decades of work documented and a highly developed and refined practice, these artists are just too good to miss. The art market research company Wondeur ranks most of them in the highest category of recognition – both in regard to museum exposure but also institutional acquisitions at top museums worldwide. With prices having risen exponentially in the past five years, their value – in more than one category - is likely to rise for a long time – often beyond their death.
Written by: Stephanie Dieckvoss, author of ARTE Generali
Image by: Gilber Franco, Unsplash
Public Relations is an essential part of any art business, and David Ulrichs knows that better than most. For almost 12 years, he has been in charge of the public image of some of the most important galleries in Europe. Esther Schipper, Lisson Gallery, Galerie Judin and many more have come to him to make sure the great and good of the art world know about their projects, exhibitions and artists. Here, he tells us how PR is the lifeblood of any good gallery.
So first of all, what exactly is art PR?
It’s all about securing the best possible media attention for one's clients. In the art world, PR mostly focuses on adapting and shaping narratives and stories about exhibitions, events, artists or artistic productions to make them worth re-telling. Since the 2000s the number of art PR agencies has grown quickly and each company has its own strengths and focus. I believe in long-term partnerships and prefer a tailor-made approach with each client receiving a bespoke strategy, wherein I also lay out the challenges as well as the aims of each campaign. It’s up to me to be as honest as possible in projecting the possible success of whatever it is that the client is offering. The more solidly I fulfill my projections, the more trust my client puts in me, which fosters long-term collaborations. Obviously, I can only speak for myself and my own approach, which I have adapted through practice, since I never studied communications or marketing or even art history!
How important is PR to an established gallery or artist?
It’s hugely important. A lot of contemporary art has a relatively low production value. The actual profit margins can be extremely high - the price is determined by the name - and name or brand management is at the heart of every PR. Shaping or re-shaping the brand of an established artist or gallery might not be as exciting as creating a different logo every day, or discovering an exciting new art trend every two seconds, but it’s very rewarding to see clients become opinion leaders.
What makes a good art PR?
A good PR is measured in the attention given to projects, not money. Success is to only represent clients and products that you believe in; to have the courage and luxury to choose, the product in which you have faith. It's neither about the number or size of the clients. It’s about having the best product. You choose the clients, don’t let the clients choose you!
How did you get into the PR business, and who do you mainly work with?
By chance. I was a doctoral candidate of philosophy and wrote about art on the side in magazines like Art in America and ArtReview. I was offered a temping job at an art comms agency in Berlin, but realized after about two weeks that secretarial work requires a certain knack for organization that was beyond me. So I was given a small account to manage. I went at my tasks with the skills of a natural-born salesman, since already at an early age I often ended up manning my family’s wooden toyshop in Galway, Ireland. My approach proved successful, and I worked on exhibitions by Mona Hatoum and Douglas Gordon. Both artists almost simultaneously encouraged me to continue in PR.
About 13 years ago, when I moved towards PR, the art world in Berlin was becoming more and more professional and hiring any kind of consultant as a museum or gallery was definitely not the norm. Press releases were still largely being sent out by post - or even fax. It was the advent of communication by email, cellphone and I bought my first Blackberry. Fast response times became more and more important and working 'on the go' was a relatively new concept: both I wholeheartedly embraced. With the energy of an entrepreneur, I started my own shop working with Douglas Gordon and two contemporary art galleries (both of which have since closed). In 2011, I started working with Esther Schipper and my business really took off from there. I still work closely with her and about a dozen other clients from the studio of the artist Xu Zhen in Shanghai to the art fair EXPO Chicago or Zeno X Gallery in Antwerp. On larger projects, I work with other PRs and most of my longstanding clients have dedicated personnel to liaise with me, for which I am very grateful.
What was your journey into art, is it something you loved since you were young or something you came to later?
Since my teenage years, I have been interested in art and I even wanted to attend art school. I had prepared a very elaborate application folder and remember my open-day visit to the National College of Art and Design in Dublin back in the 1990s. All the students had hidden away their artworks for fear of the open day visitors stealing their ideas. The students all looked like members of Oasis and the atmosphere felt a little hostile. But apart from that I also never had the firm belief in my own artistic genius to take the leap of faith necessary to become an artist. At university, I decided to study philosophy and one of the first courses was on aesthetics, taught by a Franciscan monk. I remember lengthy arguments with him about art and beauty - and of course, about the sublime.
How has the pandemic impacted you?
Since I had to significantly reduce my billable hours, it gave me the opportunity to accept projects that I usually would not have had the time and capacity to take on. Covid-19 travel and venue capacity restrictions, actually forced the art world to slow down and re-think its formats. Video conference calls became viable modes of working together in the art world, reducing travel stress. Art fairs went outdoor or online and became more carbon-friendly; vernissages became less crowded - so visitors could actually see the art; and one artist even opened up a temporary nightclub - allowing entry to one person at a time. And there was Clubhouse. But many regular projects, like indoor in-person exhibitions or art fairs were postponed or even cancelled. Welcome, financial aid came from the national and regional governments and thankfully all of my clients continued to be supportive of my work, as best they could. Recently, the situation has improved and more and more the art world is realizing the importance of art being experienced in person.
What would your advice be to someone looking to hire a PR?
The relationship between a client and their PR is determined by honesty and trust, which takes time to build. Sticking with a PR for a longer period, is more rewarding - there is no quick fix. You shouldn’t need to try too hard to convince a PR of your product. If the PR isn’t truly convinced, ask another agency. In the art world, there is very little difference in how PR agencies work, we all have the same tools. And PR is not magic, it’s hard work.
What would your advice be to someone looking to become a PR? What's the path into the industry?
Soft skills, like communication, manners and the ability to empathize are hugely important. And being able to put oneself in a good mood in difficult situations is a huge plus. Obviously, sales skills are required, because you will need to ’sell’ stories to the media; and, if you are in client acquisition, you will need to convince your skill set is what the new client needs to tap into, to be successful. Be informed, communicative and patient. Be good at making connections. Sell the stories, not yourself. I don’t think there is one definitive path into the industry, although starting at an existing art PR agency is definitely one way.
Do you yourself collect any art? Do you have a favourite piece?
I don’t really collect art, but have received a few works from clients. My highlight is a work from Douglas Gordon, which the artist made for me in 2013. My favourite work ever is Barnett Newman's Onement I from 1948. One of my contemporary highlights is a work by Pierre Huyghe entitled C.C. Spider, 2011, which was part of the first exhibition of his that I worked on. I recently moved to a new apartment on the banks of the Spree river in the centre of Berlin, for which I became interested in Danish and German furniture design from the mid-century era along with fitting wall-ceramics; a widespread West-German craft at the time.
What do you think is the future for PR in the art world?
Smaller, flexible PR agencies will do better in the future. They will have a well-curated list of interconnected clients, which offers media the access to an art network larger than the sum of its parts. I think the focus could shift towards a more client-supporting role: functioning as a kind of communications consultant. Small teams of highly-trained specialists will probably be more sought after than a 'big' agency structure with high running-costs.
Interviewed by: Eddy Frankel, author of ARTE Generali
By Serena Tabacchi
One should start by defining what digital art and cryptoart are and how these differ from each other. “Cryptoart” defines art which is encrypted and tied to the blockchain technology. The latter constitutes an immutable data repository, also known as “ledger”, that gets inserted into a virtual chain capable of preserving it. “Digital Art” is art that was created under digital form. Digital technologies may be deployed as part of the creative process or the exhibitive one. GIFs, JPEG files, 3D animations, 4D cinemas and video art are all examples of digital art.
Cryptoart’s popularity has increased in the past couple of years due to the ease of its distribution. Cryptocurrencies are used to purchase and sell this type of art due to both convenience and technological reasons, which have helped to support its circulation. Since 2018, cryptoart has given many artists the possibility to increase the value and appreciation of their creations, which formerly had rarely been collected and taken into consideration. On the one hand, thanks to cryptocurrencies and some platforms, digital art creators found a successful solution to register directly their works on the blockchain without the need of tying themselves to art galleries. On the other, they have also finally encountered an audience willing to buy and sell their creations.
Moreover, the blockchain technology also allows for the certification of the authenticity and source of art works. For instance, in the case of the emblematic piece by XCOPY entitled “Right click and Save As guy”, anyone can save and download a copy of the image. However, since the art piece has been registered on the blockchain and is thus associated with a unique code, also known as “HASH”, it is always possible to trace the art piece back to the creator and the current owner.
The expression “NFT” stands for “Non Fungible Token” and it refers to non-fungible and exchangeable tokens that are tied to a unique identifying code, which is in turn associated with a work of digital art. In contrast to NFTs, the popular cryptocurrency tokens are both fungible and exchangeable. A token consists of a set of digital data recorded on the blockchain, which entitle an individual to a specific right. For example, a token may be a cryptocurrency unit (e.g. Bitcoin, Ethereum).
The Italian museum MOCDA, also known as “Museum for Contemporary Digital Art” has been one of the first organizations to acknowledge and give value from a museum perspective to digital art. MOCDA’s focus is to educate individuals on the topic of digital art and to promote and distribute digital art at an international level. Alongside with its curatorial team, MOCDA also promotes cultural activities aimed at raising awareness on this theme and making Italian and international digital art known. Amongst these initiatives, one of the most prominent ones is to document and collect digital art from 1960 to present times, with a particular focus on Italian artists who have left a distinctive mark in this artistic movement and its evolution. The goal is to historicize the artistic movement of digital art, also including more recent cyptoart works, especially from 2018 onwards.
By Serena Tabacchi
Serena Tabacchi is a young entrepreneur, curator and author. She has worked at TATE Modern and is cofounder and director of the Museum of Contemporary Digital Art (MOCDA). Currently, she is developing a format to curate digital art exhibitions both online and in person.
The Humbold Forum is 2021’s first major museum opening. It combines original baroque architecture and modern design by Franco Stella for a celebration of non-European art in the heart of Berlin. One of their debut exhibitions is ‘Terrible Beauty. Elephant – Humans – Ivory’, an exploration of humanity’s problematic relationship with ivory. Here, co-curator Alberto Saviello has picked six standout exhibitions from the show to tell us about.
The first object seen in the exhibition is immediately a special highlight. It is a small mammoth figurine made of mammoth ivory, only 3.7m high (image one). This sculpture is one of the oldest figural representations in the world – about 40,000 years old. It illustrates not only how enormously durable ivory is, but also that the material played an important role in the artistic creativity of the early homo sapiens. One of the oldest musical instruments, a fragment of a flute made of mammoth ivory, will also be on display in the exhibition. The small mammoth figure and the flute were, like numerous other Stone Age objects made of ivory, found in the caves of the Swabian Alb in Germany, which today is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Ivory was a symbol of wealth and sophistication. This was particularly true in the Baroque period. The European courts promoted the art of ivory carving and turning. Masters of this art, such as the "Furienmeister" represented in the exhibition, created objects of extreme virtuosity for the stately table and treasury. But not only professionals worked with the noble and expensive material of elephant tusks, princes and princesses were also skilled in using the material. For example, the young Archduke and later Holy Roman Emperor Leopold I was trained in using the lathe as part of his princely education. He is said to have produced this lidded tankard (image two) himself at the age of 14.
The exhibition moves from small to the large – from the manufactured ivory object and work of art to the tusks and their bearers, the elephants. In the section titled "Local and Global", tusks come into view in their original form. Like hardly any other natural resource, elephant tusks have become a symbol of the exploitation of the people and animals of the African continent. The tusk from Angola, with its frieze of approximately 90 figures spiralling around the tooth, eloquently expresses the local social consequences of European colonialism (image three). The numerous depictions of violence are striking – for example, a troop of elephant hunters armed with rifles, a bound man being abducted, and a man being forced down and threatened with a machete. With such objects, produced specifically for European buyers, the native artists held up a mirror to the colonizers.
Regardless of the suffering associated with its extraction, ivory still stands for purity and beauty. In prehistoric times, ivory was used for the manufacture of toiletries, and the metaphor of "ivory" beauty has survived into today's advertising for cosmetics, despite the racist idealisation of light skin associated with it. However, the late 18th century toilet mirror (image four), completely covered with ivory veneer, did not only represent the beauty and virtue of its owner at the time. Unlike smaller ivory objects, such as combs and fans, which were by then within reach of a broader European class, such furniture completely encased in ivory was reserved for the elite of the British Empire, especially the leading employees of the English East India Company, which controlled the Indian subcontinent. The toilet mirror was produced in Vizagapatam on India's east coast, combining the 'exotic' ivory with furniture forms of European classicism.
The second half of the exhibition focuses on the elephant. The fascination with ivory is also due to its origin from the largest land creature. From a biological point of view, the elephant is a keystone species that decisively shapes entire ecosystems. From the perspective of human culture, it is a symbol of strength and power as well as gentleness and justice. The elephant, therefore, plays a central role in many cultures and religions. This is also the case with this elephant mask (image five), which was worn during performances of the Kuosi Society of the Bamileke in western Cameroon. The mask was part of an elaborate and costly full-body costume with indigo fabrics, red parrot feathers, a leopard skin, and horse tail whips in the hands. Thus, the costume combines various symbols of power and prosperity. The elephant is considered a royal beast. The Fon, the Bamileke king, was said to possess the ability to take on the form of this animal.
One theme that runs through the exhibition is the much-debated issue of provenance. Many objects in European museums came into their possession illegally as a result of colonial crimes. The provenance of the elephant mask also requires an in-depth investigation. It was given to the Berlin Museum in 1913 by Karl Adametz, a captain of the colonial troops of the German colony of Cameroon. Adametz led a punitive expedition to suppress indigenous peoples in the Cameroon grasslands in the summer of 1912.
In discussing the interrelations of elephants, humans and ivory, the exhibition also looks at the biology of elephants living today, and the mammoth, and shows the far-reaching significance these species had and have. The model of permafrost can serve as an example of this (image six). As a result of climate change, the permafrost of the Siberian steppes is melting and releasing the tusks of the mammoths that lived there just a few thousand years ago. Since trade in mammoth ivory, unlike that in elephant ivory, is still permitted, these tusks are coveted raw materials that are tracked down by professional “hunters”. What many do not know is that the millions of mammoths wandering the steppes back then contributed to the compaction of the snow and thus to the creation of the “eternal ice” that is permafrost. The disappearance of mammoths, and the dramatically poor situation for elephants today, have profound consequences for the ecological fabric of planet Earth.
Written by ARTE Generali author Eddy Frankel
For information about the exhibition click HERE
For what concerns the intersection between technology and art, the most fascinating topics are: digital art, applications of artificial intelligence to art, online sales, which have experienced 500% growth as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic, artists’ and collectors’ use of social media, technologies such as augmented, virtual or "mixed" reality for artistic fruition and lastly the fingerprinting, blockchain and tokenization technologies.
I would like to focus especially on the latter. Nowadays we often talk about NFTs and digital art. However, the topic of tokenization is not only tied to these two applications, but it is also associated with the possibility of creating security tokens for art pieces. It is estimated that globally over $1,74 trillion are invested in art and collectibles. Thanks to technology and especially to tokenization, it might be possible to integrate this sum in wealth management practices. In the past 10 years, we have been able to identify the difficulties of including an art related offering in financial and wealth management practices. This is mainly due to issues related to art work valuation, liquidity, lack of transparency and of an adequate regulatory system. At present, even though multiple solutions are being developed to overcome these challenges, a widespread and systematic approach to identify art pieces with certainty is yet to be implemented. Over time, technology will enable for a more holistic approach to wealth management, comprehensive of art related services.
Should it be possible to tokenize the aforementioned $1,74 trillion as security assets, and therefore treat them as financial products, the Wealth Management sector could better manage collectibles, also from a collection management, valuation and protection standpoint. One of the possible future applications could be “art secured lending”, which consists in granting loans to purchase art pieces on a parametric base, and thus insured by the blockchain system. Protection, monetization and transferring value to the next generations are fundamental themes.
Lastly, future applications of the tokenization technology in the art world could support cultural institutions with liquidity issues. For instance, some cultural institutions in the USA who were experiencing economic hardship have sold art pieces of their collections to support themselves financially. Although it is a rather controversial and provocative topic, instead of selling art pieces from their collections, why do cultural institutions not create security tokens for an art piece instead? This would allow selling partial ownership of the piece to other private and institutional clients, but the tangible art piece would remain exhibited in the cultural institution’s premises. At present, such a solution would be impossible to implement in Italy and in Europe, but one day it could become a way of “monetizing” art pieces.
Written by Adriano Picinati di Torcello
Adriano Picinati di Torcello is Global Coordinator for Deloitte Art & Finance and leads all activities related to the Deloitte Art & Finance division in Luxembourg. Since 2008, Deloitte’s Art & Finance operations have started growing internationally. Adriano Picinati di Torcello is co-author of the biannual publication Deloitte and Art Tactic “Art & Finance Report”, which describes the main trends and topics related to the art world.
Deloitte Tax & Consulting, société à responsabilité limitée (“Deloitte”) grants Generali Italia S.p.A. (“Generali”) a perpetual, revocable, non-exclusive, non-transferable, royalty free and worldwide license to use, print and publish, in the form approved by Deloitte, the white paper entitled “L’Ecosistema Digitale dell’Arte” written by Generali based on the participation of Deloitte’s employee, Adriano Picinati di Torcello, to Generali’s conference on May 12, 2021 regarding the “L’evoluzione tecnologica del mercato dell’arte” (the “White Paper”). Deloitte authorises Generali to use Deloitte’s name in the White Paper only to the extent required in the framework of its publication. The licence hereby granted to Generali being limited, revocable, non-exclusive, non-transferable, royalty free and worldwide. Any and all publications and/or materials relating to the White Paper and/or any reference to Deloitte to be made by Generali has to be submitted in draft version to Deloitte for approval prior to publication and/or distribution. Deloitte reserves the right to request Generali to modify content of such publications and materials.” “Further information about Deloitte processing of personal data, rights of data subjects (e.g. access to, modification or deletion of data, or withdrawal of consent) and how such rights can be exercised, can be found in Deloitte Data Privacy Statement at https://www2.deloitte.com/lu/en/legal/privacy.html.
by Nicolas Ballario
In the past year, the majority of cultural institutions have had to deal with an “earthquake”, which caught many unprepared. In these months, we have realized that a physical relationship and contact with art is not the only one, but certainly the most important.
The art world has been one of the most severely hit by the pandemic’s outbreak but it also is amongst those which better reacted to the crisis, given its ability of showing solidarity and actively organizing initiatives, such as online auctions, to support those in need during these troubled times. This period has taught us that no matter how interesting and engaging online auctions may be, from a content perspective, these may represent a “side dish” but not the art world’s “main course”.
As a consequence of the pandemic:
Museums were able to continue some of their activities via digital means, but in multiple instances this has not been sufficient to support their financial needs, leading several cultural institutions to sell part of the works from their collections to replenish funds for acquisitions or to move forward. Thanks to online sales, the greater China region (incl. Continental China, Taiwan and Hong Kong) has become the largest market for auctions, overtaking the USA and UK. The auction’s main axis has shifted towards the East and for the first time, the online auction sector was able to acquire a significant portion of the overall market and to double its size compared to the previous year.
Perhaps, the widespread adoption of digital means in 2020 has prevented a disastrous economic collapse as in 2009 from occurring. However, this may be attributable to a specific cause: while in the past year the number of billionaires worldwide increased by 7%, they decreased by 30% in the 2009 crisis. Such a polarization is ultimately what supports the market.
On one hand, auction houses have had the opportunity to continue their usual activities through online channels by organizing online only, hybrid auctions and virtual private sales. Galleries on the other, have faced greater challenges and difficulties because of the pandemic. Approximately 50% of gallery revenues derive from sales during art fairs and in the past year, most of these have exclusively taken place online. Consequently, auction houses have embraced this as an opportunity to prevail over their main competitor: galleries. The strength that auction houses have of expanding their operations internationally and of embracing new online selling channels may pose a threat to the artistic research carried out by galleries, which ultimately protects and safeguards the art market as a whole.
Auction houses do not predominantly focus on conducting artistic research. Moreover, art galleries in Italy also face greater “structural” issues compared to auction houses, such as having to pay resale rights twice when they operate as intermediaries. Should political forces not intervene to implement structural changes, such as ones of financial nature, the risk is that new digital openings will eventually cannibalize the artistic research conducted by museums and galleries, which lays the foundations for the entire art system. This would inevitably lead us back, especially in the contemporary art system, to a closed, polarized and exclusive art world with little space left for artistic research as it had been until 2009.
Written by Nicolas Ballario
Nicolas Ballario is an art professional who attended Oliviero Toscani’s academy “La Sterpaia”. He has collaborated with multiple cultural and artistic institutions and was awarded the Bassani prize, one of the most important acknowledgments in the world of journalism. He is currently a contributor for the Rolling Stones Magazine’s Art section and has collaborated with Mudec and Il Sole 24 Ore Cultura for multiple culturally themed podcasts. He is both a television presenter for La 7 and Sky Arte and a radio one for Rai Radio 1 and Radio Radicale in Italy.
Credits: Ilde Forgione, currently responsible for the management of Uffizi’s Tik Tok page; source : https://forbes.it/2021/04/28/ilde-forgione-la-socialmanager-che-ha-rilanciato-gli-uffizi-grazie-a-tiktok