Visual artists such as Frank Bowling, Mark Titchner and Rachel Whiteread are among the main creators supporting a campaign for the Smart Fund, a collaboration between UK cultural industries, tech companies and government. This offers a tax of between 1% and 3% on electronic devices, such as smartphones, tablets and laptops, and is expected to raise £ 300million – with more scope if things like smart TVs or the cloud storage come into the mix. The program came under pressure from the government this week and “the initial response was positive,” said Gilane Tawadros, executive director of the Design and Artists Copyright Society (DACS), the organization behind the countryside.
Similar programs run in 44 other countries and in 2018 paid creators over £ 930million, Tawadros said. The tax could raise up to £ 25million for visual artists alone, according to DACS. This would more than double the amount that UK artists currently receive in resale royalties; a prize pool of around £ 20million per year.
Tech companies are already complaining about placing an additional burden on consumers, although of course they could bear the cost themselves. And the proposal seems timely in a post-Brexit and Covid-19 environment. “If this country is to come out of a hole, then we have to start thinking about working in purposeful partnerships,” Tawadros said. DACS finds that the creative industries globally contributed £ 111.7 billion to the economy and accounted for 61,000 new jobs in 2019.
The Duke of Sussex could divide opinions worldwide, but a 1997 painting of young Prince Harry, made by Elizabeth Peyton the year her mother died, found favor at Sotheby’s London this week when it sold for above estimate of £ 720,000 (£ 886,200 with charges, guaranteed by the auction house). The work was one of 21 in a collection that punctuated Sotheby’s modern and contemporary art auctions on June 29 and accounted for £ 31.7million out of a total of £ 156.2million sterling on two sales (including charges). Listed by Sotheby’s as “a New York charitable family trust,” Artnet News linked the collection to real estate developer and former Museum of Modern Art president Jerry Speyer.
The back-to-back auctions of modern British art and broader modern and contemporary art have each exceeded estimates, with enough auctions from the Sotheby’s auction house in Hong Kong to more than justify the switch to sales earlier this season. The highest prize for the sessions went to Wassily Kandinsky’s startling ‘Tensions Calmed’ (1937), an abstract painting which was last sold by the Solomon Guggenheim Foundation in 1964 for £ 10,000 and grossed 18, £ 3m (£ 21.2m with charges) in the same auction room on Tuesday (estimated £ 18-25m, third party guarantee). The highlight of British art was a 2002 portrait of artist David Hockney by fellow painter Lucian Freud, which had never been auctioned before and sold above estimate for £ 12.8 million (£ 14.9 million with charges, third party guarantee). Christie’s equivalent auctions in London and Paris, which took place on Wednesday, were valued at between £ 118m and £ 174m.
Among the modern British works of art at Sotheby’s This week, Yinka Shonibare’s mannequin sculpture “Bad School Boy” (2014) was sold for £ 170,000 (£ 214,200 with fees). Its anonymous sender had bought the work just four years ago for £ 160,000 (£ 200,000 with charges) when it was part of Sotheby’s Art For Grenfell charity auction for survivors of the devastating fire in Grenfell Tower in 2017. The resale of the work was clearly within the rights of its charitable buyer, who is still down by £ 30,000 and had spent too much money at the initial auction, when the work was estimated to be between £ 70,000 and £ 90,000. But Sotheby’s change of mind and double fees are off-putting considerations when artists reflect on the many requests they receive for charitable donations. Shonibare, who donated the work at the 2017 auction, could not be reached for comment; its representatives at the Stephen Friedman Gallery declined to comment.
The availability of more attractive prices property since the pandemic continues to benefit galleries wishing to expand. Harper Levine, who has run Harper’s Rare Books and Contemporary Art Gallery in East Hampton since 2010, is opening two more spaces, having already opened a second gallery in Manhattan in December. It is now looking to Los Angeles, where it opens on the corner of Melrose and Crescent Heights later this year, and also has a new flagship space in Chelsea, New York, next to Hauser & Wirth and the High Line on 22nd. street. It will open in early 2022 with a solo exhibition by New Yorker Marcus Brutus.
Levine propelled the careers of artists such as Genieve Figgis and Jennifer Guidi, who then went on to be represented by major galleries. Levine says the real estate opportunities now available mean he can “offer a wider platform and better visibility” for his artists, and therefore be more likely to retain them. “This is the main reason for the expansion,” he says.
This week marked the official launch from the first group of young patrons of the National Gallery in London. The program of events and socialization is called Young Ambassadors, named after Hans Holbein’s famous gallery painting – “The Ambassadors” (1533) – a first example of a work purchased with private funds. The launch has been stop-start, admits Caroline Costin Wright, manager of the Young Ambassadors, as it started last fall, but the subsequent and prolonged lockdown of London has forced a hiatus.
The group is open to potential philanthropists between the ages of 20 and 45 and costs £ 1,200 per year plus a suggested donation, similar to programs run by London institutions such as the Serpentine Galleries and Tate Modern. Unlike these, however, “the emphasis is on historic art, with a reminder that the gallery has been an incredible resource for living artists since its founding,” explains art advisor Harriet Clapham, co-chair of the Young Ambassadors. . She shares the role with Sabine Getty, a jewelry designer whose husband is the great-grandson of oil magnate and philanthropist JP Getty (1892-1976).
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