Last Thoughts on Banksy

Contemporary Art Auction Values By Country; Peggy Cooper Cafritz Donates; and The Case for Keeping KJM's Knowledge and Wonder in Chicago

We forgot one important point from yesterday’s Q & A about Banksy. The video Banksy posted on Instagram raises even more questions about the prank. Sotheby’s controls access to its sale room by ticketing the event. Yet Banksy’s video suggests more than one confederate is in the audience when the device was triggered. Notice there is a close shot of Oliver Barker hammering the lot. Then, seconds later, there is phone footage of the work of art engaging. Each vantage point is on the opposite side of the sale room.

While we’re at it. Let’s add a few more observations. Artprice just published its report on Contemporary art sales from June 2017 to June 2018. Banksy’s total sales are $9,898,703 for 478 works with an average price of $20,709.

Jason Bailey is a self-described art nerd. He usually likes to play with data about art and the market but he comes from a family of mechanically inclined folks. His Artnome post on Banky’s device has been picked up by Boing Boing and Andy Richter. Jason shows us what a real shredder looks like and its not even remotely like what’s shown in Banksy’s video:

  • “The device in Banksy’s video shows roughly 38 Exacto® blades lined up inside the frame. While this looks badass, it does not look anything like the mechanism inside of a traditional shredder.”

Bendor Grosvenor went into greater length on his site about the idea behind the act itself and what it could have been had Banksy been interested in making a meaningful work of art rather than plumping up his market:

  • “A far better protest would have been to press the button during the auction itself. I'd like to have seen Sotheby's explain that one; an artwork self-destructing while people were actually bidding on it. That would have been much more impressive. But it would also have required a little more authenticity, and balls. Whatever you think of his art, Banksy seems as keen to trouser the cash as anyone. And so the show goes on. Bravo, Banksy.”


Artprice’s Contemporary Art Report, 2017-2018

Artprice’s somewhat quirky annual Contemporary art report released in time for FIAC measures artists who were born after World War 2. There’s a lot in this report. So we’re going to give you our take on some of the data over a number of days.

First, Artprice tells us that only 3% of the works sold at auction make more than $100k.; 2% make more than $163k; and the top 1% of works start at $382k.

Second, Artprice gives us a breakdown of sales by country. The US has the most Contemporary art sold, in lots and total value, but not the highest average price. That belongs to China where the auction houses are a bit more freewheeling. The UK sells fewer works and a lower total volume of Contemporary art than the US but the average price is significantly higher, according to Artprice. Total volume in the US was 12.5% higher than the UK but average price was 17.5% higher in the UK than the US.


Did Rahm Emmanuel Take the Easy Way Out with Kerry James Marshall’s Knowledge and Wonder?

Jason Farago made some very good points in The New York Times about Chicago’s sale of Kerry James Marshall’s work, Knowledge and Wonder, which was commissioned for a West Side public library. The proceeds of the upcoming sale will be used to improve the branch library, but “it grossly tells black people of west Chicago that they must choose between sufficient civic services and an artwork created expressly for them.”

More than that, Farago faults Chicago’s Mayor Rahm Emmanuel for not being able to find a better way to fund the improvements of public infrastructure:

  • “Mr. Marshall painted “Knowledge and Wonder” specifically for the West Side library, where a predominantly black public, and in particular black children, he said, could see themselves as proud, curious readers. It’s beyond belief that the price of improving this community’s library is the loss of its art, but Mr. Emanuel is not the first official to conclude that visual art, with its unique place in an international speculative market, offers an easy budgetary fillip and an escape from more difficult fund-raising and political calls.”

Finally, Farago wonders why there was not more of an effort made to come up with a creative solution like the one around Thomas Eakin’s The Gross Clinic which is now in the Philadelphia museum after a fund-raising campaign kept the work from moving out of the city:

  • “If Mr. Emanuel and the library were set on selling, they should have at least followed Philadelphia’s example […] and brokered a private sale and a long-term loan or donation to a museum, ideally in Chicago. I can think of one possible buyer who could keep the mural there, and who could ensure that it remains on public view. The Barack Obama Presidential Library is scheduled to open in 2020 on the South Side — and while that will be a special institution, it will also contain a branch of the Chicago Public Library, open to all adults and children.”


Peggy Cooper Cafritz’s Art Goes to Duke Ellington School and Studio Museum of Harlem

The art collection of one of the country’s great collectors of African-American art has been divided between the school she founded in Washington, DC and New York’s Studio Museum of Harlem, the Washington Post announces:

  • “Peggy Cooper Cafritz’s support for the Duke Ellington School of the Arts went beyond her checkbook. […] Cafritz died in February at age 70, but her contributions to the school will live on. The activist and educator bequeathed a third of her renowned art collection, or about 200 works, to the Washington high school in the Georgetown neighborhood of Washington. The balance of the gift is going to the Studio Museum in Harlem, a champion of artists of African descent.”


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