Thursday, May 10, 2007

The Art Business in Vancouver


Back in March, I asked if it was really true that the Vancouver Sculpture Biennale raised $3 million. According to this article in Business in Vancouver magazine, "the Vancouver International Sculpture Biennale Foundation (VISB) generated $2.6 million in March..." Notice the new verb used to describe what they did, and it appears that a 15% margin of error when talking to the CBC is standard business practice on the left coast.

Then the article goes on to quote Barrie Mowatt as saying "The foundation is spending a portion of its proceeds to buy five of the sculptures to create a legacy collection: Dennis Oppenheim’s Engagement Rings, which has been on display at English Bay; Sorel Etrog’s King and Queen, which has been on display at Coal Harbour’s Harbour Green Park; Michel Goulet’s Echoes, a set of 10 stainless steel chairs that has been on display near Sunset Beach; Magdalena Abakanowicz’s Vancouver walking figures at Queen Elizabeth Park; and Dennis Oppenheim’s Device to Root Out Evil, the upside-down church at Harbour Green Park." while the article from the CBC article says "However, five works that did not sell will be offered to the City of Vancouver... The money raised will help support the next biennale..."

And the article continues to quote Mr. Mowatt as saying 'the Abakanowicz piece alone is worth US$1.6 million.' So if I understand correctly, there is someone in Vancouver who appraised Magdalena Abakanowicz’s Vancouver walking figures after they went up for auction and did not sell as being worth US$1.6 million. Last I heard, an appraisal was used to determine fair market value (FMV) of an object. Now you can correct me if I'm wrong, but I was certain that someone, somewhere had told me that "The role of auctions in the art market is becoming increasingly important as they bring together a number of categories of buyers and sellers such as collectors, dealers, estates as well as the general public... Prices achieved at auction (the hammer price and buyers' premium but not taxes) are thus important, and in some cases the only verifiable indication of market value." While I wouldn't go so far as to call Magdalena Abakanowicz’s Vancouver walking figures worthless or valueless, if I was appraising them I sure as shooting wouldn't say that they were worth the low estimate that was given in an auction where they didn't sell. Then because it is getting late, I won't even bother getting into a discussion about the sentence '"But we weren’t paying retail," said Mowatt, who declined to reveal legacy collection works’ purchase prices' Other than to say I find it an very interesting choice of words.

Finally, because despite what you think I really do not enjoy questioning what Barrie Mowatt says, and I truly believe he is trying to do good - but if he thinks that the Vancouver Sculpture Biennale is "the only civic sculpture biennale in the world and the only one that is free to the public." the I would love to know what he calls The Palm Beach International Sculpture Biennale, the Poznan International Sculpture Biennale, and The Ein Hod Sculpture Biennale?

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