Monday, November 10, 2014

The block

As the final major art auctions of the year approach there's been a rush to print by the two competing houses Webb’s and Art + Object.  Webb’s catalogue doubles up as a magazine with news from the art world and an aggressive PR piece on Milan Mrkusich. Surprisingly it's written by one of our academic art historians Professor Emeritus Michael Dunn. He's abandoned his usual tone of scholarly consideration to pump the “famous” Elements series and the “celebrated” Corner series and then claims that Mrkusich has “outlived most of his contemporaries and outpainted them as well.” Well, maybe.  The numbers show that Mrkusich’s work has not so far commanded the marketplace. Of the 53 of his works put up for auction in the last five years, over 50 percent failed to reach their lower estimates and were passed in on the night. Of course many of these were probably sold privately in the following days but we couldn't find a Mrkusich painting that had broken the $100,000 mark during those five years. Of the 53 only seven were bid above $50,000 and 10 went below $10,000.

Art + Object's catalogue is not out as we write this but the latest issue of the magazine Content has arrived and again it’s impressive. Mostly interview-based, it focuses on artists living overseas including the ubiquitous Simon Denny. And outlier Dunbar Sloane chose a minor Affordable Art auction to join the hipster art catalogue crowd. Using a close-up of a Dick Frizzell painting (do any of these artists get a case of wine for their promotional services?) the catalogue looks as snappy as the Auckland ones, until you open it anyway.