Wet Paint: Lauren Halsey Reserves Art for Buyers of ‘Specific Ethnicity,’ Broad Buys Another Big Warhol, and More Juicy Art-World Gossip
Plus, who nabbed the most coveted spot on Gago's exhibition calendar with a show that's not for sale? And which star will play Frieze LA's hottest party?
Every Thursday afternoon, Artnet News brings you Wet Paint, a gossip column of original scoops reported and written by Nate Freeman. If you have a tip, email Nate at [email protected].
KORDANSKY’S UNORTHODOX SALES APPROACH
The opening of Lauren Halsey’s new show at David Kordansky Gallery was one of the biggest spectacles to hit the LA scene in months, with a total of 1,500 people streaming through over the course of the evening to take in the series of gigantic brightly colored sculptures done up to look like signs you might see in L.A strip malls, or billboards that tower over highways. At times, the line wrapped multiple times around the newly expanded gallery in Mid City. But not all of those visitors would have the opportunity to buy the work on view—even if they could afford it and if they could jump the waiting list. Due to the political nature of the work, some of Halsey’s new sculptures have been earmarked for institutions, while others are reserved for what the gallery described in correspondence with clients as “collectors of specific ethnicity.”
The voluble Belgian collector Alain Servais revealed the policy on Twitter, saying that he received a note attached to the PDF of works in the show explaining why certain objects were not listed among those available. “Preview PDF of our upcoming exhibition with Lauren Halsey is ready. This includes all new works the artist created for the show, except a few pieces reserved only for museums and collectors of specific ethnicity,” the note read, according to Servais. Apparently, Halsey asked the gallery to implement the policy due to the political subject matter of some of the works, which include text elements that would make it difficult, not to mention optically unwise, to be acquired by certain collectors (more specifically, white ones).
And actually, this guideline makes sense if you look at the work in the show. One of the sculptures, for instance, features a remade archival sign that clearly proclaims: “Yes we’re open and yes we’re black owned.” Another says: “Reparations Now! In memory of our black ancestors.”
In a statement, a spokesperson for the gallery said: “Lauren’s artwork is a personal reflection upon and celebratory archiving of the culture and iconography of South Central Los Angeles, where she was born, lives, and works. Her new installation imagines alternate futures for her neighborhood in a dreamscape architecture. Per the artist’s wishes, we reserved certain (not all) sculptures from this body of work for people of color and public collections. We fully support Lauren’s decision to ensure her work is acquired by—and lives on with—a diverse group of individuals and institutions worldwide.”
ELI, MEET LIZ
We can reveal that the collector who made Larry Gagosian go on a buying spree at Christie’s last May was none other than Eli Broad, the billionaire who has been having Larry find him prized artworks longer than anybody else in La La Land. Last May, Gagosian beat out a feisty Jose Mugrabi to capture Andy Warhol’s Liz [Early Colored Liz] (1963) for $19.3 million—slightly under the $20 million low estimate, but still a solid price for Warhol, whose market has been in a bit of a rut these days. In fact, it was the second priciest Warhol sold all year. (A few lots later, Gagosian bought Richard Prince’s 2007 Untitled (The Velvets)—previously in the collection of the late publishing magnate Si Newhouse—for $900,000, and it went to the same paddle number, i.e. Broad.) It seems that the billionaire bought the blue rendering of Elizabeth Taylor to have a shiny new trophy to anchor a show of Warhols from his collection set to go on view at the Los Angeles museum that bears his name in September. Of the 27 works expected to be included in the show, 13 have never been shown before.
BASEL DEALERS DEMAND ANSWERS
Oh, what a difference a rampaging deadly mega-virus makes. Last week, exhibitors were politely, if firmly, requesting that the organizers of Art Basel Hong Kong deliver a few concessions in light of the ongoing protests that have roiled the city for months—but they never threatened to pull out, or demand the fair be cancelled. Now, as the independent territory started shutting itself off from the mainland due to concerns over the spread of coronavirus—which has led to the deaths of 170 people and, on Thursday, prompted the Wold Health Organization to issue an international state of emergency—some participating galleries have had it, and want this edition of the fair to be scrapped. Much ink has been spilled over London dealer Richard Nagy‘s call-to-arms letter, sent to Art Basel global director Marc Spiegler and director of Asia Adeline Ooi, with directors of many of the world’s biggest galleries cc’d: Acquavella, Hauser & Wirth, David Zwirner, Gagosian, Lévy Gorvy, etc. “Not one of our foreign clients will be attending and they are surprised the fair is still on,” Nagy wrote. Art Basel sent an email to galleries Thursday (obtained by Wet Paint) in which it pledged to provide answers soon—but it held off cancelling, despite the widespread concerns about traveling to the region. “This is a challenging time for all of us,” the organizers wrote. “Our team is working hard to review all possible options. Needless to say, the contemplation of postponing or cancelling an event of this scale—which takes a full year to produce—is a complex process, with many factors and multiple stakeholders.” Still, most dealers we spoke to are girding themselves for the inevitable, and believe the fair will be officially cancelled in the next week.
We revealed in these pages that the annual Oscars show at Gagosian’s Beverly Hills outpost will this year go to Richard Prince, who will unveil a series of what he calls “new portraits.” The opening, always held the Thursday before the Academy Awards take over Tinseltown, is often the starriest night of the year in all the Gagosian Empire—and one of the most lucrative. In 2018, the gallery sold 24 works by Damien Hirst by the end of dinner, and the prices ranged from $400,000 to $1.6 million. (You do the math.) But that won’t be the case this year. When Gagosian offered the show to Richard after another artist who was planning to do it pulled out, the artist had one stipulation for the gig: none of the works could be for sale. And while the wheeling and dealing will be less frenzied than in years past, the mysterious new body of Prince works will no doubt bring in the moneyed masses. Expect the same high-energy vernissage, complete with rock stars, movie stars, and billionaire art collectors. Our bet is that some of them will still find something to buy, even if it’s tucked away in a back room.
Readers! Can you identify at which Hamptons house this Roy Lichtenstein famously hung? The winner earns fame and fortune in the form of a mention in an upcoming column.
There will be a “special performance” at the party to honor James Turrell during Frieze Los Angeles, hosted by Pace Gallery and Kayne Griffin Corcoran—could it be a certain born-again rapper who just shot a long-format video at Turrell’s Roden Crater? … New York’s Bridget Donahue and London’s Sadie Coles HQ will team up to host a pop-up gallery in Los Angeles, right next to Paramount Pictures Studios, home of Frieze LA, to present new works by Martine Syms, the venerable artist they co-represent … Desus & Mero, the hosts of the Bodega Boys podcast who have a Showtime talk show that has welcomed such varied guests as Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and the rapper 2 Chainz, will be honored at the Bronx Museum of the Arts‘s Visionary Duos Gala … Gina Fischli, the young artist who broke out with a solo booth presented by London gallery Soft Opening during FIAC, will have a show at the viewing room space within 303 Gallery … Salon 94’s space on the Bowery will close in June, a decade after its inaugural show, presumably now that the 10-year lease has ended … Virgil Abloh, Mark Bradford, Laurene Powell Jobs, and Darren Walker will be honored by the Gordon Parks Foundation in May.
*** Former New York Giants wide receiver Victor Cruz at the Whitney Art Party on Tuesday night *** Julian Schnabel strolling down Washington Street in (what else?) his pajama bottoms *** Harvey Weinstein, the disgraced former movie producer who is currently on trial for sexual assault in New York, was spotted in the aisles of the Outsider Art Fair by two different sources, though a publicist for the fair denies that he made an appearance.
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