Wet Paint: Jeff Koons Goes Missing in Manhattan, Gagosian Sells Many $10 Million Mardens, & More Juicy Art-World Gossip

Which tony gallery is trying out younger artists? Which dealer sold almost $90 million in art last week? Read on for answers.

US artist Jeff Koons poses with Gazing Ball (Birdbath). Photo by Leon Neal/Getty Images.

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].



A giant Jeff Koons sculpture potentially worth tens of millions of dollars has vanished from its extremely visible perch in a downtown Manhattan plaza—and no one can figure out where it went. The artwork in question, Jeff Koons’s Balloon Flower (Red) (1995–2000), was installed in 2006 as a blinged-out trophy to greet visitors to developer Larry Silverstein‘s new citadel at 7 World Trade Center. The hope was that the childlike balloon sculpture—redolent of little-kid birthday parties everywhere—would bring some joy back to an area that was still recovering from 9/11. “We thought everybody would walk by it and smile,” David Childs, one of the architects of 7 World Trade Center, told the New York Times at the unveiling.

Over the years, the sculpture increasingly stood for something other than the smiles of happy children: a whole lot of money. In 2008, Howard and Cindy Rachofsky sold their edition of the Koons series, Balloon Flower (Magenta), for $25.7 million at Christie’s, and in 2010 the Daimler Collection sold Balloon Flower (Blue) for $16.9 million, also at Christie’s.

The Jeff Koons sculpture in its previous home at 7 World Trade Center. Photo Courtesy Jeff Koons.

Then, suddenly, in late 2018, the sculpture disappeared from the park—causing locals to wonder if it would ever return. Almost a year later, there’s still no definitive answer. When we asked Silverstein Properties about its whereabouts, they replied with a statement saying the work was “removed so that it could be refurbished by the artist in Europe,” but couldn’t confirm when the work would be coming back.

And it turns out it might not be. Jeff Koons’s studio said that the work was still owned by the artist and was simply on loan to Silverstein Properties—initially for for a five-year period that was then extended—and added that the work was indeed being “refreshed,” but not necessarily for 7 World Trade Center. “There is currently no specific location intended for the work at this time,” said the statement.



It’s been less than three years since Brice Marden left his longtime dealer Matthew Marks for Gagosian, and ever since his primary market prices have inched higher and higher—making the American master one of the most expensive fresh-from-the-studio buys on earth. Back in 2017, at a show at Gagosian’s Grosvenor Hill gallery in London, large paintings were priced at $7.5 million—but if you want one of the six large paintings at the exhibition that opened at Larry’s uptown space Saturday, you’re going to have to pay $10 million. (The five smaller paintings are priced around $4 million.)

OK, so you think a drawing might be your way in? Think again: the four drawings in the show are $1.5 million each. And yet the gallery had no trouble finding people to part ways with eight figures of pocket change. Less than a week after the opening, all of the art in the show is already sold, with latecomers offering millions being sent away empty-handed.

The dinner was at Larry’s Upper East Side mansion, where several members of the Marden clan snapped Instagram shots next to one painting hanging on the wall that’s worth even more than these new ones by their beanie-hatted patriarch: A gigantic Cy Twombly “Bacchus” painting, one of which sold at Christie’s in 2017 for $46 million.



Last week, Wet Paint revealed the news of a relatively minor Nicolas Party work being offered at a relatively major price: a “unique variant” postcard-sized artwork that the artist had given away as a Christmas present, which Phillips had priced at $15,000 to $25,000 in its day sale. Yes, the Swiss artist is a market darling, and a painting sold at auction last month for more than $700,000—but $15,000 began to look like an unreasonable ask after Phillips realized the petite work was one of 50 nearly identical Christmas cards, and, before long, it was pulled from the sale.

And yet! We heard that it ended up selling privately for the original high estimate of $25,000. (Phillips said it doesn’t comment on private sales.) So whatever you do, make sure you keep all the Christmas presents you get from artists in a very safe place this holiday season.



Matthew Marks Gallery has been steadily adding a new class of artists to its coterie, offering them shows as a way of road-testing them before potentially bringing them on the roster officially. In September, the dealer opened a show by painter Laura Owens, who was being hotly pursued by Gagosian once she became a free agent in Los Angeles. (Gavin Brown’s enterprise still reps her in New York.) Now, Matthew Marks is planning shows with the American painter Leidy Churchman, who impressed in his auction debut at Phillips in September, as well as with Julian Nguyen—who, at 29, would be one of the youngest artists to show at the gallery in years.



… that the Asian collector Takumi Ikeda—the same collector who flipped Dana Schutz’s Shooting on the Air at Christie’s Wednesday—consigned a Lucas Arruda and a Josh Smith to Sotheby’s just months after buying them from Zwirner, causing the gallery salesperson responsible for the deals to lose their commission… that Hauser & Wirth now officially represents Nicole Eisenman, and they’ll be bringing her work to Art Basel Miami Beach (although the artist will still have a show at Anton Kern in February).



*** Rashid Johnson being fêted at the Boom Boom Room after the opening of his new show at Hauser & Wirth Tuesday night *** Andrea Lissoni, who last month was named Okwui Enwezor‘s replacement to run the troubled Haus der Kunst in Munich, having a drink at the venerable red-sauce joint Forlini’s in New York’s Little Italy *** Simon de Pury and Dominique Lévy tag-team charity-auctioneering at the Swiss Institute gala *** Jose Mugrabi struggling to find his ride outside of Christie’s following the postwar and contemporary sale, then forcing his sons to walk toward dinner in freezing temperatures *** Francesco Bonami and Daniel Birnbaum—curators of the 2003 and 2009 Venice Biennales, respectively—lunching at Flora Bar on Thursday a few tables down from a heavily bearded David Letterman.



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