Post-internet art waits its turn_
Scott Reyburn : NY times, Sep, 26, 2014
LONDON — The old-fangled medium of painting continues to dominate the auction market for new art. Collectors and speculators are lining up to buy big abstracts by artists like Lucien Smith, Christian Rosa, Alex Israel, David Ostrowski and Israel Lund, knowing that a five-figure purchase from a dealer can quickly turn into a six-figure price in a salesroom.
A case in point was Phillips’s “Under the Influence” sale in New York on Sept. 16, where the top price went to Mr. Smith’s 2012 “Rain” painting. One of as many as 300 abstracts made by the artist using a fire-extinguisher, that work fetched $173,000, doubling its low estimate. Joe Bradley’s 2011 canvas, “Berlin Duck #2,” led Christie’s “First Open” sale in New York on Sept. 23 with a price of $869,000. Paintings, including abstracts by Mr. Smith, Mr. Lund and Mr. Ostrowski, will also make up more than two-thirds of the 59 lots at Sotheby’s Oct. 17 evening contemporary auction in London, timed to coincide with the Frieze Art Fair.
Back in the galleries, meanwhile, there are many innovative artists making works that engage with today’s Internet-mediated realities. But their auction prices, as yet, haven’t made them art market news. For collectors, conceptual art and digital works lack decorative wall-power, and they aren’t unique works produced in series with the five-figure price points that make paintings currently such an attractive commodity to re-sell, or flip. But sooner or later an artist embracing new technologies will make a commercial breakthrough, and painting may soon look a lot more old-fashioned, both visually and as an investment.
“At the moment, when you walk around art fairs, artists who use new media are ghettoized in the young section,” said the New York-based art adviser Heather Flow. “It’s only a matter of time before they spread into the fair as a whole. Art has to deal with the moment we live in. There’s no way painting can remain hot for so long.”
The Los Angeles-based Englishman Ed Fornieles, 31, is one of the young “post-Internet” artists using a range of media. In “Modern Family,” a one-man show at the Chisenhale Gallery in East London, which opened on Sept. 19, he combines found objects, painting, video, sound, sculpture, performance and a hot tub to satirize American suburban life. The slide show of jarring consumerist imagery showing on various flat screens is available on http://www.edfornieles.com.
Clearly a name to watch, Mr. Fornieles is represented by the London-based dealer Carlos/Ishikawa, which also handles the Colombian-born wunderkind Oscar Murillo.
Vanessa Carlos, the director of Carlos/Ishikawa, said Mr. Fornieles’s use of the Internet as his preferred medium discouraged flipping. “Ed’s work challenges speculative behavior,” Ms. Carlos said. “It’s hard to do that if there isn’t a physical object.”
Versions of Mr. Fornieles’s website works, though freely available to view online, have been sold to collectors for between 1,000 and 8,000 pounds, or about $1,600 and $13,000. The more physical “Modern Family” — which includes a trio of large-scale “tombstone” paintings encrusted with moss and Sara Lee apple pies — will be sold in sections, though prices have yet to be agreed upon with the artist, Ms. Carlos said. As yet, his work hasn’t appeared at auction.
The meticulously crafted videos of another Los Angeles-based artist, Ryan Trecartin, shown at MoMA’s PS1 space in 2011, are also free to view on the web. However, when installed in specially-designed “sculptural theaters,” these films portraying partying humanoids can justify a significant privately-brokered price. The New York dealer Andrea Rosen was asking between $1 million and $2 million for the installation — created in collaboration with the Los Angeles-based artist Lizzie Fitch — which Ms. Rosen presented at last year’s Venice Biennale, according to market insiders.
That Trecartin/Fitch installation, “Priority Innfield,” was acquired by the London-based collector Anita Zabludowicz. The piece has transformed Ms. Zabludowicz’s project space in Camden and will open to the public on Thursday, in time for Frieze Week.
“Ryan is a post-Internet artist who’s looking at the virtual world and how it affects us in real life,” said Ms. Zabludowicz. “We prefer artists who like to work on long-term projects with institutions. The get-rich-quick painters are another story.” That said, Mr. Trecartin is beginning to gain some traction in the auction market. Last October, Christie’s sold one of his limited-edition DVDs for £37,500.
Ms. Zabludowicz, together with her husband Poju, has been collecting challenging contemporary works since the early 1990s. A lot of this kind of art, as well as commercially successful abstract painting, is now coming out of Los Angeles. The jaw-dropping $1 million paid at Christie’s, New York, in May for the 2012 canvas “Sky Backdrop” by the Los Angeles-based Mr. Israel remains a benchmark price in today’s speculative market.
Reflecting the growing importance of Los Angeles as an art center, the hip London gallery Ibid opened a space in the city on Sept. 19. The inaugural show of 10 canvases by the Brazilian abstract painter Christian Rosa was a predictable sell-out. Given that one of his 2013 paintings had been flipped for $87,500 at Phillips, New York, three nights earlier, the gallery was understandably reluctant to release its latest “primary” market prices.
For many galleries like Ibid, painting still holds commercial sway. The gallery held a sell-out exhibition of the Vienna-based Alex Ruthner’s paintings at its London showroom in the summer. It will be offering a further 10 of his paintings, priced at around £10,000 each, in a pop-up show, co-organized with the collector-curators Lisa Reuben and Kenny Schachter, with previews on Oct. 15 at 30 Millbank, near Tate Britain. That show, together with the Oct. 11 opening of Ibid’s new gallery in the Fitzrovia district with more conceptual works by Michael Van den Abeele, Flora Hauser and Maria Taniguchi, will be one of the dozens of events jostling for the attention of visiting collectors and curators during Frieze Week.
“Our more conceptual artists tend to be supported by institutions and foundations,” said Chelsea Zaharczuk, the assistant director of Ibid’s London gallery. “Private collectors are more interested in the painting. It’s accessible, it feels more familiar. It will never go away.”
That’s certainly what the auction house catalogs are saying. And until a “post-Internet” artist becomes the Next Big Thing, the commercial dominance of painting will remain.
Correction: October 1, 2014
An earlier version of this article referred incompletely to the authorship of an installation that was presented by the New York dealer Andrea Rosen at last year’s Venice Biennale and that opens to the public on Thursday in London. The installation, “Priority Innfield,” which was acquired by the London-based collector Anita Zabludowicz, is a collaborative work by Ryan Trecartin and the Los Angeles-based artist Lizzie Fitch. It is not just by Mr. Trecartin.
A version of this article appears in print on September 29, 2014, in The International New York Times. Order Reprints| Today’s Paper|Subscribe