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August 25, 2011

Arte Not So Povera

By Spear's

At the other end of the scale, doing something new and thoughtful and even a bit daring, is Bonhams, which is launching its Contemporary department

We are, we understand, to be treated to every one of Larry Gagosian’s eleven worldwide galleries (or stores, as one of our contributors declared with some Freudian slippage) hosting Damien Hirst’s spot paintings simultaneously next January.

At the other end of the scale, doing something new and thoughtful and even a bit daring, is Bonhams, which is launching its Contemporary department. Because Bonhams has been around since 1793, you might argue that it’s been selling Contemporary work since before the Pre-Raphaelites, but now it’s creating a whole new department for new work.

Why enter into an already fiercely fought-over field now? Sotheby’s, Christie’s and Phillips have carved up Contemporary with their sleek parties and sleeker salesmen, and if the top pieces are still selling, middle-ranking Contemporary work has not held its value since the credit crunch. Anthony McNerney, the head of the department, says: ‘It was about finding the right time and the right people to do it properly. I was given a blank sheet of paper to start afresh.’ He emphasises that sellers as well as buyers will receive his full attention, which is not necessarily true at every house. He also says that greater competition can only benefit the market.

Rather than unwieldy, unrelated sales, ‘We’ll concentrate on small sales that we know will sell, almost a curated sale; we want works of art that sit well together.’ The first evening sale in October has as its star lot Alighiero Boetti’s 1984 (estimate £1.2-1.8 million), twelve panels of 192 pencil-drawn magazine covers from 1984. At that price, Arte Povera might have to be renamed.
 

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