Monday, March 05, 2007

Did the Vancouver sculpture biennale auction really raise $3 million?


According to this article from the CBC they 'raised $3 million.' However, in doing a little bit of digging, I would guess that the auction they had grossed $3 million, and quite likely cost more than that in order to do it.

A) Five pieces (out of 22, or almost 25%) did not sell. Although this article says that there were 24 sculptures in 35 lots (were they trying to sell half sculptures? I don't get it)
B) At least two of the artists were persuaded to work for free (Dennis Oppenheim and Sorel Etrog).
C) There are no announcements of how many people paid $1,250 for the dinner after the auction, and the CBC pointed out that 'Most works were bought by U.S. collectors, bidding by telephone.'
D) The most expensive piece sold went for less than its low estimate (and probably exactly the reserve).
E) as they write in the catalog
Proceeds will be distributed in the following manner: to pay the artists, and then to pay all financial obligations of the Auction. The residual amounts will be applied to sustain the Vancouver International Sculpture Biennale.
I would love to see the expense report on the auction. Who got paid how much for 'a specially created dessert called the Biennale Passion: it consisted of layers of passionfruit and raspberry mousse topped with chocolate in the shape of the Bernar Venet Arc sculptures in Vanier Park and Sunset Beach.' That all the attendees ate at the end of the meal?
And F) The most telling: The low estimates only added up to less than $8 million, as Christies had waived their fees all the buyers knew that there was at least a 15% (or so) discount on all the art being sold that night. And they only could manage to get 38% of the low estimates in (or at the peak) of the biggest bubble the Art Market has ever seen. Either, the boom has gone bust, and Vancouver is the canary in the coal mine, or they have no clue as to what they are doing at the Vancouver Sculpture Biennale.

In related news Parviz Tanavoli, an Iranian sculptor sold a piece of his called "The Standing Poet" to Simon Fraser University for $17,000. But even that was less than half the estimate [pdf alert] - what's up Vancouver?

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