Filed under: Yachts & Sailing
Filed under: Real Estate Developments
After 17 months of misery, luxury home prices in London are finally up on an annual basis. Banking and hedge fund industry professionals are spending money again, largely because they're being paid again. Homes with values of above $1.6 million appreciated 1.6 percent in November compared to the same month last year. This was the first annual increase since June 2008. Nonetheless, prices remain 15 percent lower than the March 2008 peak. From October to November, prices grew 1.2 percent.
Liam Baily, head of residential research at Knight Frank, told Bloomberg News, "Anecdotal evidence from across our offices suggests that City money is becoming more apparent as we get closer to the end-of-year bonus season," continuing, "Demand from senior management is driving the market." Bonuses could wind up growing by 50 percent this year to 6 billion pounds in London's largest financial districts, and professionals in this industry are responsible for half the city's demand for luxury homes.
For homes at prices of more than $16 million, the price increases are even better: 1.9 percent from October to November this year. Residences in Chelsea, Kensington and Knightsbridge got the biggest boosts.
This has led to a bit of optimism. Luxury real estate could reach May 2008 levels by 2012, up to two years earlier than expected.
Filed under: Art
The critics weren't kind to Damien Hirst's latest collection, which was exhibited at the Wallace Collection. It doesn't seem to have mattered. All news is good news in Hirst-land, as evidenced by the sales of his most recent effort. Hirst opened a new show yesterday at White Cube. Even if the media isn't crazy about his, the artist's collectors haven't ended the love affair. Five of the seven largest pieces in his new "Nothing Matters" collection sold before the show opened, with the highest-priced piece hitting $15.7 million, despite an initial point of only 235,000 pounds.
The show runs at White Cube through January 20, 2010, but you'll have to accept that you'll be checking out what is now other people's property. Hirst collectors are nothing if not loyal.
Filed under: Art
Ukraine is about to get a new contemporary art center. Victor Pinchuk is shooting to make Kiev a major art destination, so the wealthy art collector is creating a new center that will be larger than the existing PinchukArtCentre, which was the first private contemporary art center in the former Soviet Union and has had more than 830,000 visitors since its doors swung open in 2006.
Pinchuk, a steel billionaire, is an avid collector, with pieces by Jeff Koons, Damien Hirst and Andreas Gursky. His new endeavor, he tells Bloomberg News, "will make Kiev and Ukraine a fantastic place for contemporary art." Pinchuk made the proclamation at a show for 20 Ukrainian artists who were nominated for the first Pinchuk Art Center Prize, which comes with a cash component of $12,200 and a one-month internship with an artist from the international scene. Hirst himself will announce the winner on December 4, 2009.
Pinchuk has a strong relationship with the
artist celebrity and owns "probably half" of the skull paintings (by the collector's own estimation) in the current Hirst show at the Wallace Collection in London. He also participated in Hirst's solo auction in September 2008 but wouldn't tell what he bought.
Filed under: Dining
I guess everyone has to eat, even in a recession. When the light appears at the end of the tunnel, though, appetites get bigger ... and more discriminating. In London, upscale eateries are seeing the investment banking crowd come back, and the wine is once again flowing. The cities top chefs are still worried about what will happen after Christmas, but for now, they're happy to see their creations gobbled up by the city's financial sector.
Marcus Wareing has had what he calls "a fabulous year." The waiting list keeps getting longer, and he says, "There's a good vibe." Tristan Welch's Launceston Place is seeing more wine flow, and demand is picking up. Pearl's Jun Tanaka remains cautious, "We'll really know in the first quarter 2010 if business has returned ... I don't know if it's a trend or a hiccup."
Across the city, there's a mix of optimism and trepidation. Le Gavroche, Wahaca and Le Café Anglais, for example, offer some variation of "Business is good" or "Business is booming, and Gordon Ramsay tells Bloomberg News, "There's an increasing air of confidence, which has been particularly apparent since the beginning of September." Michelle McGuire of The Palm said the restaurant had its busiest week three weeks ago since its opening in May, "with record takings." Sam Hart, of Fino, Barrafino and Quo Vadis, on the other hand, calls the improvement "fragile."
Nonetheless, this is a far cry from the angst that characterized the fine dining world a year ago. When people start to eat well, you know that things are turning for the better.
The Frieze Art Fair is drawing the right kind of people this year, even if the art market is showing little more than hope (and even that's debatable). Roman Abramovich - billionaire, Francis Bacon fan - has been seen scoping out the merchandise. Gwyneth Paltrow is at the show, too. Both were at the VIP preview (separately), and David Ganek made an appearance as well. Ganek is a hedge fund manager and art collector, and his wife, Danielle wrote a god-awful novel about the art business in Manhattan.
The Frieze Art Fair runs through October 18 and occupies 70,000 square feet in Regent's Park. In attendance are 165 gallery owners from 30 countries, all eager to take advantage of collectors excited to be at Europe's largest art fair. But, they have their work cut out for them. Auction sales are down between 70 percent and 80 percent from last year, and that's usually a pretty good sign of how the art market as a whole is doing.
There is some action at Frieze this year. Artist Jim Hodges has an exhibition at the Pompidou Center in Paris that's captured the attention of a museum. Stefan Edlis, Jean Pigozzi and David Roberts - all prominent collectors - have been seen at the fair. Art dealer Marianne Boesky moved 13 paintings from a new series of 15 watercolors by Barnaby Furnas that depict the capture and execution of John Brown, the Civil War abolitionist. Prices ranged from $25,000 to $30,000.
After the dismal situation at Frieze in 2008, there's a collective desire for this year to be better. While wishing for an art market recovery probably won't make a difference, the sentiment itself is comforting.
Damien Hirst is again playing the role of philanthropist (so I have to be nice), along with Raqib Shaw and Marc Quinn. The artists have donated paintings to an auction that London jeweler Laurence Graff is holding for FACET (For Africa's Children Every Time). Graff wants to raise $1.26 million for the organization, which seeks to support the education, health and quality of life of children in Africa ... where Graff Diamonds picks up most of its raw material.
Graff's event follows several other charity auctions this year, all of which were pretty impressive in their results. Sotheby's raised ₤453,950 for two organizations that help orphans in Africa, and Christie's raised an astounding €342.5 million at its Yves Saint Laurent collection auction back in February – the money will be used to fund HIV research and fight the spread of AIDS.
The first lot donated was by Graff himself: diamond earrings estimated to be worth around ₤80,000. The other paintings (e.g., by Hirst) are pegged at around ₤100,000 each.
Sotheby's, Christie's and Phillips de Pury have released their estimates for the October auctions, and late summer signs of confidence have disappeared. Contemporary art forecasts for next month's auctions are down 81 percent from October 2008 – which was the first series of auctions conducted following the financial crisis.
The three auction houses expect to rake in around $33 million during London's Frieze Art Fair, according to Bloomberg News. Last year's low-end estimate (not accounting for currency fluctuations) was five times greater than this year's low-ball number. And, last year, the houses were offering minimum price guarantees to sellers, a practice that has since been suspended.
Frustrating the situation for auction houses further is the fact that many collectors are turning to private sales rather than auctions, as they hope to retain a greater degree of control over the outcome of the transaction. If the buyer doesn't agree to a sufficiently high price, the seller at least walks away with his piece.
The coming of the Frieze Art Fair includes contemporary art auctions by Christie's and Sotheby's which will be held on the same day. The former will send 25 lots under the gavel on October 16, 2009, with a low estimate of ₤6.8 million. This is a profound drop from 2008's 47 lots (six guaranteed) and a low estimate of ₤57.8 million. The only promising sign earlier this year was an increase in sold rates, with Christie's moving 88 percent of its lots in June and Sotheby's selling 92.5 percent.
At today's Phillips de Pury & Co. auction, Now: Art of the 21st century, handbag designer (and possibly former artist) Damien Hirst is back on the scene with a major auction house. A year ago, he divested his collection of his own work, ostensibly sensing that the market for him was about to crash (which, in fact, it did). Phillips de Pury isn't making any big bets today with Hirst, though. For now, it has two lithographs of Hirst's famous(ly expensive) skull up for sale. For the Love of God, Laugh; The Diamond Skull is listed at £10,000 - £15,000.
Peter Fuss, on the other hand, seems to have nailed it. His piece, For the Laugh of God,, shown above, is also up for grabs. It's a knockoff skull, listed for a little more than half the price of the lithos (£6,000 - £8,000), but the title conveys the spirit. Created when Hirst was peddling the original skull for the princely sum of £50 million ($100 million at the time), For the Laugh of God was originally offered for £100, as a way to help Britain reclaim this "treasure."
The blog "Modelator," which covers Polish art, observed in June 2007, "Our British friends, we are coming to rescue you! Like the cheap Polish labour well known to you, Polish artist Peter Fuss wishes to relieve the British nation from such a great expense." This was in response to Guardian journalist Jonathan Jones, who declared, "We must buy the diamond skull for Britain."
While Hirst's skull cost a fortune even in materials, For the Laugh of God consists of close to 9,900 pieces of glass made to look like diamonds and entailed an investment of £250 and 18 hours. Now, it's up for more than 40 times that amount, while Hirst is reduced to selling posters.
Selling at the top of a bubble is fantastic ... if you can pull it off. You look, feel and live like an absolute genius. Former art dealer Anthony d'Offay did this, unloading 725 postwar and contemporary pieces before the art market collapsed, dragged down by a global financial crisis. Timing is everything, and the collection purchased for a mere £26.5 million was valued at an astounding £125 million. Included were Jeff Koons' "Winter Bears," an Andy Warhol hamburger (evidently more expensive than those at Burger Joint) and an Anselm Kiefer palm tree.
Rather than sell the collection at a profit of close to £100 million, he sold them to the United Kingdom at cost: £26.5 million. Instead of taking the money, d'Offay chose to be paid with strings ... namely those attached to the deal. The condition of his sale was that the country had to send the artwork on tour throughout the UK, making it easy for people under age 18 to access the art.
D'Offay explains that financial constraints on British museums – which are free and thus have no money with which to acquire new pieces – are great for the people, but not for keeping the walls full with fresh material. On the list for the future is a special room for Damien Hirst's "Pharmacy" installation and has already purchased Hirst's "Painkillers" piece (pill cabinet) for $877,000. In a deal with Hirst, he also picked up work by Koons, and Hirst's new "Necromancer." Hirst was d'Offay's gallery assistant as he was finishing college.
D'Offay's talent, he says, is buying art, rather than curating or creating. He became inspired as a child in northern England when viewing a collection of Francis Bacon (shocking, right? Bacon connection comes back again ...).
Filed under: Art
The Hackney Council of Stoke Newington, England just made a big mistake: it painted over a mural featuring a spoof image of the Royal Family by graffiti artist Banksy. The owner of the building on which the mural was painted, Sofie Attrill, agreed to have the mural painted so it could be used on the cover of the band Blur's 2003 single Crazy Beat. And for six years, it sat there, attracting plenty of attention.
When she saw the Banksy artwork partially covered in black paint, however, Attrill was moved to tears – a feeling ostensibly made worse by the fact that the workers were smiling as they covered the (once) priceless creation. Working with a crowd that had gathered, Attrill was able to get the painters to stop before they covered the mural completely.
The Hackney Council claimed to have had permission because it sent letters to Attrill and received no reply. Then, it sent an enforcement notice and again heard nothing. Unfortunately, they sent them to an address she used 25 years ago.
At first, the Hackney Council offered no apology. When it realized its error, though, it began to talk to Attrill about ways to resolve the situation.
[Photo of the Stoke Newington mural unavailable]
Toward the back of the hotel, like-minded guests can gather in the bar for a drink before stepping outside to a blissful smoking location with a great view of the Bedford Estate's private gardens. I tend to bring my own cigars when I travel, but sometimes like to sample the locally available fare and The Montague on the Gardens offers plenty of incentive. The bar has more than 20 brands on hand, including the coveted Cohiba Siglo VI. Smoke it gently while sipping a glass of Remy Martin Louis XIII, and you'll struggle to find a more enjoyable situation.
The hotel itself is designed to impress. It's a Georgian townhouse hotel with 101 rooms and suites – not to mention a two-bedroom apartment. This four-star establishment is within walking distance of the West End and The British Museum, and the "Type A" crowd will be happy to know it isn't far from London's Financial District.
Whatever the day's distraction is, though, return to The Montague on the Gardens and settle down for the evening with the cigar of your choice. Savor each draw, and punctuate it with your preferred spirit. Perfect.
Filed under: Art
Prizes – in art, journalism or anywhere else – are intended to show that a particular achievement exceeds the others in its field. The Turner Prize is a prestigious contemporary art award in Britain is for artists under 50 and has been around for 25 years. Here's the problem: the Turner Prize has always gone to art that sucks. Nobody liked the work. So, this year, a prize that typically has gone to pieces that shock is doing some shocking of its own.
The judges hope that the Turner Prize will go to a creation that people actually like.
The four artists nominated this year aren't as controversial as past entries, but they do bring unusual perspectives. Roger Hiorns is described as a "modern alchemist," mixing a variety of household materials with liquid copper sulphate and an empty apartment to express his vision. Enrico David focuses on the human figure, while Lucy Skaer uses photographs as starting points for drawings and sculpture. Richard Wright, rounding out the list of nominees, works with large wall paintings tailored to the spaces in which they appear.
This work makes a bit more sense than at least one past winner (2001): Grayson Perry, a cross-dressing potter, and Martin Creed had an installation consisting of lights flickering in an empty room. Reaction: one visitor threw two eggs at the wall.
Judge and art critic Jonathan Jones observes, "People say 'my child could do that.' It's not conceivable that you could look at any of these artists (in that way)." He goes a bit too far, however, when he continues, "It shows there is a great deal of talent in contemporary art."
Maybe the Turner Prize will redeem itself in 2009. We'll find out on December 7.
Filed under: Art
Any successful entrepreneur can tell you that tough markets are fertile ground for future success. If you can carve your piece of the world out now, an upturn later will reward you handsomely.
This sentiment must be on the mind of young British artists – such as Merlin Carpenter. London's contemporary art galleries are starting to show affordable works by newer artists. Far from investing in the future or giving the hopeful a fighting chance, this tactic is seen as a way to develop a near-term revenue stream that will help galleries survive the current financial crisis. Retrospectively, this stopgap measure could be seen as pure genius for the art galleries that discover the next Richard Prince or (blech) Damien Hirst.
Claims of forward thinking, however, will have to remain in the future. For now, dealers and galleries in London are struggling. Allsopp Contemporary shut down an exhibition space, and Yvon Lambert pulled out of London.
The market is searching to find – and exploit – some young blood, and buyers are pressing for discounts. The winners may just be the artists. Those discovered through desperation will define the market in the future.
Birmingham gunmaker Westley Richards was established in 1812 - three years before the battle of Waterloo - by founder William Westley Richards. In less than 30 years he secured a royal appointment to Queen Victoria's consort Prince Albert, and a "continuous stream of technical innovations" put the Westley Richards name firmly on the map. In addition to beautiful craftsmanship, the company introduced notable improvements in breech loading, military gunmaking and ammunition, and a Westley detachable lock is still the trade standard for many modern shotguns.
Today the firm is thriving, having just moved into new $9 million headquarters in Birmingham's old Gun Quarter to house a revamped retail operation and an ever-expanding team of in-house craftsmen. The 21,000-sq.-ft. site, converted from 19th century brick warehouse buildings, is dedicated to all aspects of the gunmaker's craft. State-of-the-art workshops, a full tannery, engraving studios and an underground shooting range are complemented by an opulent new retail showroom, stocking sporting clothes and accessories, including bespoke leathergoods, books, art and ephemera. It's designed to be the "perfect blend of expert outfitters and enthusiasts den."
A new Westley Richards gun may take anywhere upwards of 600 hours to complete – 800 for a double rifle, "unbeaten in its ability to place two shots in rapid succession precisely on target" - depending on the level of engraving required. The gunroom creates an average of 30 pieces per year, with finished rifles and shotguns dispatched internationally. From consultation to delivery, a Westley Richards handmade double rifle or shotgun will be in production for up to two years; hence the maxim "Passion and patience go hand in hand for a Westley fan." They also stock a selection of second hand guns.
Gallery: Westley Richards