Art Market Gains in 2016, Anish Kapoor Monopolizes the Color Black & Francis Bacon’s Last Work Unveiled

Just the 5 art world updates you should know this week.

1. Art Market Rebounds After Drop in Sales for 2015

After prices fell 10% in 2015, the worldwide art market has rebounded in the new year. While last year’s art sales fell $2 billion short of 2014’s $17.9 billion total, prices have recovered by 7.2% in the first seven weeks of 2016.

Picasso’s “Les Femmes d’Alger” which set an auction record in 2015 (Visual News)

One reason for the dip in prices last year is that throughout 2015 Chinese collectors had led the demand that drove high and even historic sales — with Picasso’s Les Femmes d’Alger selling to a Chinese collector for a record-setting $179 million last May. However, as the Chinese financial sector cooled substantially toward the end of the year, so did collectors’ art acquisitions. In fact, Artprice calculated that when the large fluxes in Chinese demand were discounted, art prices remained stable in 2015. Now, faced with falling international stock markets, both Chinese and international collectors are again searching for a more physical and perhaps safer place to invest their funds.

2. Hong Kong’s M+ Museum Finally Opens To Public … Sort of

After much bad luck — including multiple delayed openings and the recent departure of director Lars Nittve— the M+ Museum (now scheduled to open in 2019) is hoping to prove to its Hong Kong audience that it will be well worth the wait.

Renderings of the forthcoming M+ Museum (Designboom, Westkowloon)

Though not scheduled to open for another almost 3 years, M+ is showcasing a selection of 80 works from 50 different artists in an exhibition entitled “Four Decades of Chinese Contemporary Art.” The show is meant to increase the public’s excitement for a collection that has been plagued by setbacks and ensure them that the museum will open on its decided date. The show should also speak to the museum’s ability to display often politically-charged Chinese artwork without cencroship. And the pressure is definitely on as construction continues on the museums $5 billion waterfront building, for which billions of artwork has already been donated, including 1,510 pieces coming from major Swiss collector Uli Sigg alone.

3. Francis Bacon’s Last Work Comes to Light

Francis Bacon’s final completed painting — never written about, exhibited or publicly seen before — has now come to light. The 1991 piece, entitled Study of a Bull, was painted less than a year before Bacon’s death and depicts a translucent beast either entering into or exiting from a dark space.

Bacon’s “Study of a Bull” (The Guardian)

The piece was revealed by art historian Martin Harrison, who discovered the work in a private collection two years ago as he compiled and edited a catalogue raisonné of the artist’s work to be released in April. Harrison has spent 10 years compiling the 584 works featured in the catalogue — 100 of which will be included in a July exhibition in Monaco to celebrate Bacon’s career and new complete catalogue. Among the exhibited works will be this newly revealed piece, which Harrison told The Guaridan, is not at all accidentally ghost-like: “Bacon is ready to sign off … he was so ill. He knew exactly what he was doing here.”

4. Artist Anish Kapoor Monopolizes Black

Artists were infuriated this week as Anish Kapoor bought exclusive rights to use the purest of black paints in existence: “Vantablack.” The hue was created in 2014 by NanoSystems, a company that originally designed paint for military jets, and is dark enough to absorb 99.96% of light that hits it.

Anish Kapoor in front of one of his sculpture works in London (left) and Vantablack — which is so dark that when applied to a wrinkled piece of aluminum, the aluminum appears flat (Zimbio, Daily Mail)

The color is so dark that the human eye cannot perceive shadows on its surface; meaning that when Vantablack is applied to a wrinkled piece of aluminum foil — the foil appears flat, as we cannot see enough shadow to interpret the shape and texture of it. Kapoor described his affinity for the color in a radio interview: “It’s so black you almost can’t see it. It has a kind of unreal quality and I’ve always been drawn to rather exotic materials because of what they make you feel.” However, Kapoor’s monopoly on this blackest of paints has angered artists, including British painter Christian Furr, the youngest artist ever commission to paint Britain’s Queen. Furr told the UK’s Daily Mail: “I’ve never heard of an artist monopolizing a material. Using pure black in an artwork grounds it. All the best artists have had a thing for pure black — Turner, Manet, Goya. …We should be able to use it. It isn’t right that it belongs to one man.”

5. UK Crime Ring Busted for Stealing Millions in Antiquities

Fourteen men have been convicted for their involvement in a criminal ring that succeeding in stealing between £18 million and £57 million ($25 million — $80 million) of art from museums and auction houses across Britain during 2011 and 2012.

The hole that the burglars created Durham museum’s wall (left) and a jade bowl dating from China’s Ming dynasty that was stolen during the robbery (The Art Newspaper, The Guardian).

The ring was specifically focused on stealing pieces to resell on China’s growing black market for art. The constable who led the effort to bring the men to justice described the organization as a “sophisticated criminal network,” with members traveling constantly between the UK and Asia. Their most effective robbery took place April, 2012 at the Fitzwilliam Museum, where the burglars took 18 jade objects worth a combined total between £15 million and £40 million($20 million — $56 million), none of which have been recovered by authorities. In additional to targeting the Norwich Castel Museum, Corrignes auction house and Powell Cotton Museum, the robbers also snatched several antiquities from the Durham Oriental Museum in April, 2012 by smashing a hole through the museum’s wall.

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