Wet Paint: The Biggest Flippers of the Fall Auctions, Warren Kanders Squares Off With the Whitney, & More Juicy Art-World Gossip

Which gallery is doing a solo show of a female artist for the first time in six years? Which artist's holiday card is being hawked at auction? Read on for answers.

Image of Nicolas Party's Untitled (2018) work as seen in Phillips's contemporary afternoon sale catalogue. Photo: Caroline Goldstein.

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].



There are plenty of respectable consignors unloading works next week during New York’s auction bonanza. The estate of late Interview editor Glenn O’Brien is selling Jean-Michel Basquiat’s Famous Negro Athletes for an estimated $2.5 million to $3.5 million at Sotheby’s. And sources say Robert Gober’s The Split-Up Conflicted Sink, guaranteed to sell at Sotheby’s and estimated at $4.5 million to $6.5 million, is being sold by Norwegian billionaire Hans Rasmus Astrup, founder of the Astrup Fearnley Museet in Oslo. 

Dana Schutz, Shooting in the Air (2016). Courtesy of Christie's Images Ltd.

Dana Schutz, Shooting on the Air (2016). Courtesy of Christie’s Images Ltd.

Christie’s would not say who consigned Dana Schutz’s Shooting on the Air (2016), a painting that, according to the catalog essay, is from a “small body of work” that includes Schutz’s Open Casket, which caused an uproar at the Whitney Biennial in 2017. Shooting on the Air and Open Casket both debuted in Schutz’s 2016 show at Berlin gallery Contemporary Fine Arts, where her works were for sale within a range of $90,000 and $400,000. The artist opted to keep Open Casket for herself, and not have the gallery sell it—a fact emphasized by a new label Whitney curators put next to Open Casket after the protests, which included a quote from Schutz saying “This painting was never for sale and never will be.” But Shooting on the Air was most certainly for sale, and sources say that the Japanese collector Takumi Ikeda bought it from the gallery for $300,000. Now, Ikeda is the one who has consigned it to Christie’s. Shooting on the Air—which is a depiction of the killings of TV broadcaster Alison Parker and cameraman Adam Ward live on air by a lone gunman in 2015—can be yours for somewhere between $600,000 to $800,000. Or much higher. 



The prize for the year’s most-flipped artist goes to Julie Curtiss, the young French-American imagist who had a painting, Princess, sell for a staggering $106,250 over a high estimate of $8,000 at Phillips in May. In October, another one of her pictures, Hotelbreezed past its £40,000 to £60,000 estimate to hit £212,500. Those two sales initiated a frenzy of selling on the secondary market, and now we have Party Down, estimated to go for $30,000 to $50,000, slotted as the auspicious first lot in Phillips’s New York evening sale on November 14. Kathy Grayson, who runs The Hole gallery on the Bowery, bought the work in 2017 from the SPRING/BREAK fair for a bargain-bin price of $3,000, and sold it this year to a so-far-unnamed Miami flipper-slash-collector, who then sold it to the consignor. And that consignor must be hoping the Curtiss market is still sizzling, as a source said the price he or she paid to the Miami cog in this oh-so-complicated flipping machine was $165,000—more than three times its current high estimate.



A few weeks ago, we broke the news that Warren Kanders—the former board member at the Whitney Museum who resigned after artists started pulling their work from the 2019 Biennial to protest his ownership of a weapons company that makes tear gas—had put a legal hold on the papers of his primary antagonist, Amin Husain, a leader of the museum board rabble-rousers Decolonize This Place. But those aren’t the only papers that Kanders has asked not be destroyed in case he wants to follow up with legal action. He’s also made the same move with the Whitney itself—even though its director, Adam Weinberg, fiercely defended Kanders to the end. Sources say that as director, Weinberg’s papers and emails would be subjected to the legal hold as well. 



The once-omnipresent curator Jens Hoffmann hasn’t been heard from since late 2017, when he was fired from his job at the Jewish Museum following an investigation into accusations of sexual harassment. But now he’s tiptoed his way back into some new projects, quietly enough that it hasn’t been widely remarked upon. Last year, he founded a mysterious-sounding endeavor called the Office for Curatorial Wonders, which is based in New York. He also co-founded an art space in Bogotá, Colombia, called Espacio Mango that is currently exhibiting a group show of local artists he co-organized. And on Thursday, a show opens that Hoffmann curated at Lisbon gallery Cristina Guerra Contemporary Art, a sculpture survey that includes such artists as Elmgreen & Dragset, Kathryn Andrews, and Lawrence Weiner. Next up is a show he organized solo at Espacio Mango—the website says it’s a “group exhibition about life and work at night”—which opens in February 2020. We also hear that Hoffmann wrote an essay for a show that opened earlier this fall on the Lower East Side with the title “Presumed Innocence, or Fifty Shades of Green.” 



Those doing a deep dive into the Phillips afternoon auction catalogue got wind of a curious lot deep into the proceedings: A postcard-sized Nicolas Party work “on cardstock” that bore the inscription “Merry Christmas and Happy new [sic] Year 2018 Nicolas.” Turns out, the artist distributed the missive as a Christmas card to friends and gallery staffers that year—and now that Party’s a bona fide art-market phenom, one of those lucky recipients was looking to cash in big. At first, it appeared the seller was about to have a holly jolly Christmas indeed—the work was originally estimated to sell for $15,000 to $25,000. But by Wednesday, Phillips had pulled it from the sale, and now a source says it’ll be slotted into an online auction and saddled with a much more reasonable estimate of $2,000 to $3,000. (That’s still a big windfall for a piece of holiday cheer.) A Phillips spokesperson confirms the house removed the work from its afternoon sale “after learning that it was not entirely unique, but rather a unique variant from a group of around 50 similar works.” 



For the first time in years, there will be no pre-auctions jaunt out to Greenwich for the biannual boozy picnic at the Brant Foundation, as the compound on a polo field is “temporarily closed for construction”—but select VIPs will be able to check out the foundation’s new Manhattan space, which features a show of works from Peter Brant’s collection that have never been shown to the public … Michael Werner will open a solo show of works by Raphaela Simon in London later this month, marking the first time a woman has had a solo show at the gallery since Elizabeth Peyton in 2013 … Arthur Jafa is dating Tara Subkoff, the artist, actress, and fashion designer who filed for divorce from Urs Fischer in 2016 after three years of marriage. 



*** Gucci designer Alessandro Michele gushing over the 93-year-old Betye Saar during the LACMA Art + Film Gala in Los Angeles (where that other artist-celebrity duo made headlines) *** Jay Jopling showing up to the Gladstone Gallery party at Le Baron Shanghai Thursday night, as there wasn’t a White Cube fête during West Bund this year *** Marina Abramović delivering a speech at the Hirshhorn New York Gala at Lincoln Center that amounted to a very serious, very solemn “manifesto for artists,” but got some guffaws from the artist-heavy room when she said that “artists should not date other artists” *** the artist Lu Yang lunching with French prime minister Emmanuel Macron during the opening ceremonies for the new branch of the Centre Pompidou in Shanghai, which coincides with the openings of the West Bund Art & Design fair.



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