Online Fair Grows as Bordeaux, $3.3 Million Freuds Test Auction

VIP Art Fair
A screen shot from VIP Art Fair, the world's first online contemporary art fair. About 115 galleries will be participating in the second annual edition. Source: VIP Art Fair via Bloomberg

Jan. 9 (Bloomberg) -- The world’s first online contemporary-art fair is set to expand with three new events in 2012, following the hiring of a new chief executive officer, director and technical team.

The first edition of the VIP Art Fair, held last January, was billed as an unprecedented event where collectors were able to access 2,000 works and connect with more than 130 dealers from 30 countries. The debut suffered from teething problems such as a jammed chat system.

After that, 25 percent of the first-time participants -- including Michael Werner Gallery and L&M Arts from New York -- haven’t returned. Big names such as Gagosian, White Cube and Hauser & Wirth remain among about 115 dealers signed up for VIP 2.0, which previews on Feb. 2.

“We’ve now hired our own in-house technical team and have completely re-architected the site,” Lisa Kennedy, the fair’s new chief executive, said in a telephone interview. “It will now be able to handle a lot more traffic and many more simultaneous queries.”

VIP will also be holding events devoted to works on paper and photography running from April 20-22 and July 13-15 respectively. A three-day “Vernissage” (preview) will be held from Sept. 7-9, the fair said today in an e-mailed statement.

“The Vernissage will be a smaller, shorter event in which dealers spread the word about what’s new and fresh before the Fall season starts,” said Kennedy. VIP is hoping for about 50 dealers at this weekend event, she said.

The fair has received angel funding from two international art collectors. Selmo Nissenbaum, based in Brazil, and the Australian Philip Keir, have invested a total of $1 million, VIP said in the statement.

Kennedy, 43, was hired in October from Quidsi Inc., a subsidiary of Inc., where she had been executive vice-president of e-commerce. Liz Parks, a former head of sales at Artnet, has been appointed director of the fair.

VIP 2.0 will be open online through Feb. 8.

Freud Collection

A private collection of prints by Lucian Freud, who died at the age of 88 in July last year, may sell for as much as 1.5 million pounds ($2.31 million) at an auction next month.

The 45 etchings are being sold at Christie’s International by Marc Balakjian, proprietor of north London-based Studio Prints. The stand-alone Feb. 15 auction will include six further etchings on loan from the printers’ archive.

Balakjian collaborated for more than 25 years with Freud, who would etch his subjects directly from life with the copper plate on an easel. Editions range in size from 10 to 50 prints.

The auction includes “Woman Sleeping,” a study of Sue Tilley, the model for Freud’s “Benefits Supervisor Sleeping,” which sold for a record $33.6 million in 2008. The print, dating from 1995, is valued at 30,000 pounds to 50,000 pounds.

Freud’s 1987 etching of U.K. lawyer Arnold Goodman in yellow pajamas -- the only print to include color -- and the 2000 study of a pet whippet, “Pluto Aged Twelve,” both carry a low estimate of 50,000 pounds.

Bordeaux Test

The auction market for top Bordeaux will be tested on Jan. 25 when a European collection of more than 6,000 bottles comes under the hammer at Sotheby’s in London with an estimate of 1.4 million pounds to 1.8 million pounds. The event follows a trio of wine sales in Hong Kong valued at more than $25 million.

The auction also comes after a year in which the benchmark Liv-ex Fine Wine 100 index declined 15 percent. The collection spans five decades from 1953 to 1995 and includes more than 100 cases from the highly rated 1982 vintage.

Price Outlook

“We’re in a period of consolidation,” Miles Davis, partner at Wine Asset Managers LLP, said in an interview. “People are still wondering if prices have hit the bottom yet. We are following a similar pattern to 2008 and 2009. I suspect the market will improve by the end of the year.”

Asian buyers, who dominate the auction market for fine wines, were unwilling to pay ever-higher prices for First Growth Bordeaux in 2011. Sotheby’s 2012 estimates have been adjusted accordingly.

Cases of Chateau Lafite-Rothschild 1982 carry minimum valuations of 22,000 pounds and 16,000 pounds each. The same wine was selling for a record HK$1.03 million ($132,700) a case at Sotheby’s, Hong Kong, in October 2010.

A case of Chateau Petrus 1982 is the most valuable lot in the collection, with an estimate of 36,000 pounds to 44,000 pounds. The most affordable is a double magnum of Chateau Clinet 1986 at 160 pounds to 220 pounds.

(Scott Reyburn writes about the art market for Muse, the arts and culture section of Bloomberg News. Opinions expressed are his own.)

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