Brexit and Covid ‘perfect storm’ affects Italian art dealers in London


The double whammy of Brexit and Covid-19 lockdowns wreaked havoc on Italian art dealers in 20th century London. Matteo Lampertico, owner of ML Fine Art, headquartered in Milan, is the last to leave the city. “Customs cost more, shipping costs more, but it’s mostly the extra complications, paperwork and delays. All of this at a time when the market is not really booming, ”says Lampertico. Like many others in the field, it opened in London in 2015, when modern Italian art was all the rage. However, clients rarely came from the UK. “We took advantage of Europeans in London,” he says, adding that many have moved after the Brexit vote while few are now visiting, due to pandemic restrictions. Instead, he focused on his recently expanded space in Milan, which this week wraps up an exhibition of sculptures by Lucio Fontana, Fausto Melotti and Leoncillo Leonardi.

In March, the Tornabuoni art gallery also closed in London, citing the ‘perfect storm’ of Brexit-related costs and the ‘ghost town’ of Mayfair. The gallery, headquartered in Florence, continues to operate in Italy, Switzerland and France – and business in Paris is particularly strong, confirms director Ursula Casamonti. A third Italian art dealer, Cortesi Gallery, confirms that it has also closed in Mayfair, while continuing to run out of Lugano and Milan. Lampertico and Casamonti say they would like to return to London if his art business was more incentivized. “It’s not forever,” says Lampertico.

Jeff Koons “ Puppy ” (1992) © Jeff Koons Photo: Dieter Schwerdtle, Kassel

The pandemic has given mega-artist Jeff Koons some time to reflect, who has moved from the David Zwirner and Gagosian galleries to the benefit of Pace, who now represents him around the world. “Sometimes, professionally in life, we can find ourselves at a crossroads,” the artist said in a statement, adding that the change “will bring tremendous opportunities for my work”.

Koons holds the record for the most expensive living artist at auction since his three-foot silver “Rabbit” (1986) sold for $ 91.1 million in 2019. Pace is planning an exhibition of a “unique sculpture” (the spirit mind-boggling) at its Palo Alto, Calif., space in 2022 and will present a new body of work in its New York gallery the following year. “Working with Jeff has been a huge privilege. We wish everyone involved in its next chapter the best of luck, ”says David Zwirner; The Gagosian Gallery did not comment.

Amy Cappellazzo, soon to leave Sotheby's

Amy Cappellazzo, soon to be leaving Sotheby’s © Alamy Stock Photo

Amy Cappellazzo, one of the auction industry’s most influential women, will be leaving Sotheby’s after five turbulent years with the company. Cappellazzo, president of Sotheby’s global fine arts division, plans to attend in July, after the massive New York auctions. She didn’t elaborate on what will follow, but says there are “entrepreneurial things going on” that are unlikely to replicate existing models of the art market. “If you’re starting a new business, it has to meet a need,” she says.

Cappellazzo has joined Sotheby’s in an $ 85 million deal struck by its former managing director, Tad Smith, to buy boutique-consultancy firm Art Agency Partners (AAP). The 2016 acquisition and expensive add-on, essentially for three senior executives who will all be gone once Cappellazzo leaves Cappellazzo, have been unpopular with many Sotheby’s employees and catalyzed high-profile departures. The reshuffle arguably also helped the company attract its new private owner, Patrick Drahi, who bought the auction house in a deal worth $ 3.7 billion in 2019. “It was before my time, but the [AAP] this agreement was as much aimed at securing Sotheby’s position in the contemporary art market, and was therefore successful, ”says CEO Charles Stewart.

Sotheby’s will divide the responsibilities of Cappellazzo between three inside people: Brooke Lampley becomes head of sales (including private sales) and Mari-Claudia Jiménez takes on the strategic role of managing director of the global fine arts company. Grégoire Billault for a long time is promoted to president of the contemporary art department, with a role within the management committee of the auction house.

The Mississippi River by Yayoi Kusama (1960)

The Mississippi River by Yayoi Kusama (1960)

The art world is going badly for 92-year-old Japanese artist Yayoi Kusama. His major retrospective opened at the Gropius Bau Museum in Berlin last week and his sculptures are currently popular with crowds in the New York Botanical Garden, while the artist’s immersive “Infinity Mirror Rooms” are due to open soon at Tate Modern in London and the Hirshhorn Museum in Washington. Additionally, on May 12, Bonhams will offer a collection of Kusama’s early works – three paintings and eight drawings – which were gifts to his doctor, Teruo Hirose, who died in 2019. The works are being auctioned in New York and include two of Kusama’s “River” Paintings from 1960. These present the artist’s “infinity net” motif, the canvases of dots and semi-circles, for which she is best known (between $ 3 and $ 5 million each).

Yayoi Kusama with Dr Teruo Hirose in 2007

Yayoi Kusama with Dr Teruo Hirose in 2007

Both Kusama and Hirose had both emigrated to the United States, although she has since returned to Japan. Hirose was a pioneering cardiologist and one of two Japanese-speaking physicians in Manhattan in the 1960s, providing after-hours medical care to the Japanese community often for free, according to Bonhams. The works Kusama gave him were made between the late 1950s and 1960s and were confirmed by his studio, the auction house said.

'View of Verona with the Ponte delle Navi' (1745-1747) by Bernardo Bellotto

‘View of Verona with the Ponte delle Navi’ (1745-1747) by Bernardo Bellotto © DALiM

Christie’s unveils first-rate work to lead its Old Masters auction in London on July 8. Bernardo Bellotto’s first oil painting, “View of Verona with the Ponte delle Navi” (1745-1747), will sell for between 12 and 18 million pounds. If the painting sells for even a low estimate, it would set a new record for the Italian artist, whose uncle was the topographic painter of Venice, Canaletto. “Bellotto was a real prodigy, already painting to Canaletto standards as a teenager,” says Henry Pettifer, head of the Old Masters department at Christie’s. The large-scale (2.3m by 1.3m) painting was ‘revolutionary at the time it was made’, says Pettifer, and was last sold in 1971, for a staggering £ 300,000. at the time. It has been on long-term loan to the National Gallery of Scotland in Edinburgh since 1973, while its original companion hangs at the National Trust’s Powis Castle in Wales.


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