Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Working Out — in a Museum

Credit Paula Lobo
Beginning this Thursday, Monica Bill Barnes & Company, the irreverent contemporary dance troupe, will offer “The Museum Workout”: a 45-minute physical journey that spans two miles of the Metropolitan Museum of Art before opening hours. The workout, commissioned by the MetLiveArts, contains a route curated and narrated by the illustrator Maira Kalman, the author of “The Principles of Uncertainty,” and encapsulates the company’s motto to “bring dance where it does not belong.” “We wanted to honor what exists and build from it,” Barnes, the company’s artistic director, says of the unlikely setting.
By pre-selecting objects to encounter along the way (the Met’s permanent collection houses over two million items) and dictating participants’ movements, Barnes hopes the format’s “physical framework allows each audience member to have a unique emotional experience.” The workout begins promptly at 8:45 AM; at this hour, the museum’s usually clogged steps are clear, shrouded in shadows and bright patches of morning light.
Within the museum, Barnes and the performer Anna Bass serve as our athletic docents. They dance side by side, snaking through the museum, trotting, marching, speed-walking with ease. When objects, like a terracotta monument carved with angels, obstruct their path, they diverge like hand-holding lovers, separated by an oncoming crowd.
Make no mistake: this is a workout. Your body will perspire, your heart rate will rise and you’ll shed any light layers. (That said, my one request would be to increase the cardio incrementally and start with more stretches that early in the morning.) And because our enjoyment of anything increases when it’s otherwise prohibited, the workout’s massive pleasure derives from its illicitness: “trespassing” the Met before opening hours, writhing to Elton John within the galleries, gently sweating on various marble surfaces. It confers other singular bragging rights as well — like having done jumping jacks before the marble statue of a nude Perseus.
Museum Workout Courtesy of the Metropolitan Museum of Art
Though Kalman isn’t physically present, her presence is pervasive. Her narration proffers personal thoughts about art and unexpected aphorisms on mortality. Barnes admired her work as an acquaintance, and admitted that, like anyone she approaches for projects, “It’s just an excuse to become close to somebody that you think is going to add value and perspective to your own life.” Novelty aside, the building is exceptionally beautiful uncluttered with people. What the workout gives participants is an appreciation of the museum itself: the soaring ceilings, narrow hallways, spacious galleries; how the sunlight rakes and refracts through the windows, then scatters like beads from a broken necklace across the floor.
Yet these moments of sublimity are tempered by irreverence. The workout, with its pop-rock playlist and jazzercise-y moves, successfully removes any pretense or affected erudition. For one, talking is prohibited. (Kalman, at one point, narrates, “I really hate talking about art.”) And the constant disorientation disallows for higher cognitive thought to occur. Mostly, conflicting emotions arise: elation (speed walking, arms flung behind you like a Thunderbird from “Grease,” before a Sol LeWitt wall drawing!) or annoyance (must we observe this suit of armor again?). Even primitive enthusiasm (at one point, a woman next to me gutturally yelped like a SoulCycle devotee).
At the end, there’s coffee, clementines, crusty bread and butter. The assortment, neatly spread in the American Wing cafe, was chosen by Kalman, and her handwritten notes — scribbled with “KEEP MOVING” — lay arranged for participants to pocket. Though thrilling, the experience is ultimately ruinous. Wandering the halls after the museum has opened, your resting heart rate restored, How wonderful, you’ll think, as school children scuttle around, when none of you were here.


Art Market Mines Gold on Instagram

The buyer of this Fabergé icon saw it on Sotheby’s Instagram feed. Credit via Sotheby's
LONDON — The singularity and relatively high cost of most fine art have, so far, made it resistant to sales on the internet. There aren’t many collectors who seem willing to spend millions of dollars online. But Instagram has quietly become a commercial game changer for the art market, a force in influencing auction and gallery transactions, especially for younger buyers.
“I often get contacted by collectors about specific objects I’ve shown on Instagram, and then that turns into a different conversation,” said Matt Carey-Williams, the London-based deputy chairman for Europe and Asia at the Phillips auction house.
Last Tuesday, Mr. Carey-Williams used his personal Instagram account (5,644 followers at the time) to highlight the inclusion of a 1969 Josef Albers painting, “Study for Homage to the Square: Wet and Dry,” in Phillips’s March 8 contemporary art auction here. The work is estimated at 150,000 pounds to 250,000 pounds (about $180,000 to $306,000).
Phillips itself has 95,400 Instagram followers, twice as many as in 2015. That is about four times the number of its followers on Facebook and three times the number of its followers on Twitter, Mr. Carey-Williams said. Sotheby’s (417,000 followers) and Christie’s (261,000) are also making the most of Instagram as a marketing tool. In London in June, Sotheby’s sold a Fabergé silver, enamel and seed-pearl icon for £245,000 — 10 times its estimate. The buyer had seen it on the auction house’s Instagram feed.
Continue reading the main story
“Instagram has become the leading social media tool for discovering, showing and following art, particularly for people below the age of 35,” said Anders Petterson, an author of the Hiscox Online Art Trade Report. Of the more than 650 art buyers questioned for the 2016 report, 48 percent said that Instagram was their preferred social media platform. The figure rose to 65 percent among the younger buyers contacted. “It has hit a sweet spot in the market for sharing information,” Mr. Petterson said, “but no one saw this coming as a sales tool.”
Its direct effect on art sales, however, remains difficult to quantify, apart from anecdotal evidence. Last month, a Jean-Michel Basquiat canvas priced at about $24 million was hailed by Bloomberg News as a breakthrough Instagram sale.
Brett Gorvy, then Christie’s global head of contemporary art, had posted an image of the Basquiat, a 1982 painting of the boxer Sugar Ray Robinson, on his personal Instagram site (57,900 followers) as he boarded a plane for the auction house’s private selling exhibition in Hong Kong. When he landed, Mr. Gorvy said he had messages from three collectors — in the United States, London and Asia — expressing interest in buying the painting. The unidentified American collector completed the transaction two days later.
Credit Estate of Jean-Michel Basquiat / ADAGP, Paris / ARS, New York
Christie’s declined to comment on the Basquiat, though it would technically regard it as a private sale, rather than an online transaction. But Mr. Gorvy, who is now a partner in the newly branded Lévy Gorvy dealership, said, “From the buyer’s point of view, this was a total Instagram sale.”
Mr. Gorvy’s Instagram account is all the more influential for having no corporate branding and a strong individuality.
“It allows you to get into the hearts and minds of important collectors,” Mr. Gorvy said. “People think they know you, and that pulls down barriers. People saw that I had a daughter, a dog and a home. I became less of a guy that sells paintings.”
The quirkily personal Instagram accounts of tastemaking specialists like Mr. Gorvy and Mr. Carey-Williams, or of high-profile private collectors and dealers like the Japanese billionaire Yusaku Maezawa (38,500 followers), Simon de Pury (177,000) and the art world “disrupter” Stefan Simchowitz (77,600), remain the unquantifiable “soft power” of today’s art market.
Just as difficult to gauge is the impact of the huge Instagram followings on sales at the world’s major galleries. Gagosian Gallery’s Instagram site has at least 593,000 followers, with that of Pace not far behind, at 506,000.
“It’s a two-way thing,” said Stefan Ratibor, the director of Gagosian’s London galleries. “We put out the information and we value the feedback. This has led to conversations that have led to sales, but they can’t be quantified.”
Mr. Ratibor said that Gagosian regarded Instagram as “hugely important,” to the extent that the eight-part series of Rudolf Stingel exhibitions held last year at the dealership’s Park Avenue gallery in New York was announced on Instagram, rather than through the traditional medium of cards and advertisements.
“Instagram made it more special,” Mr. Ratibor said. “People think they are in on a secret. That’s the magic of the medium.”
Jonny Burt, left, and Joe Kennedy put together the “art popularized by Instagram” exhibition in London. Credit Matt Rendell/Riser Films
The contemporary dealers Joe Kennedy, 27, and Jonny Burt, 26, are now holding an exhibition of “art popularized by Instagram” at Unit London (78,800 followers) in the city’s Soho district. A collaboration with the Instagram-savvy dealership Avant Arte (490,000 followers) of the Netherlands, the show, which opened on Jan. 13, features 31 works at the more accessible end of the market, for emerging art. Information about the works is available not through labels, but through smartphone quick response, or QR, codes on the gallery walls. As of last Wednesday, 27 had attracted confirmed sales at £1,500 to £25,000 each.
“Young people of our age are growing up on social media. They’re glued to their phones,” Mr. Burt said. “Instagram creates a safe place to enjoy art. They feel part of the gallery before they walk in.”
Although half of the show was reserved via Instagram before it opened, sales at Unit London continue to be confirmed in person, in the way that gallerists have been closing sales for hundreds of years.
But there is one, perhaps slightly unlikely, area of the market in which Instagram has proved a true sales platform: affordable collectibles.
Mikki Towler, a dealer in antique kitchen items in Norfolk, England, has been active on Instagram for 12 months, drawing 2,427 followers and averaging two sales a day.
Mikki Towler, a dealer of antique kitchen items in Norfolk, England, said she averaged two sales a day as a result of her Instagram feed. Credit Mikki Towler
“I put a piece on Instagram and it’s sold before I get to put it on my website,” said Ms. Towler, a trader for 26 years. “Some people don’t even ask the price, they just say, ‘I’ll have it.’” Ms. Towler added that the Instagram-friendliness of her business was helped by having few pieces priced at more than £200.
To keep things in perspective, though, Kylie Jenner, 19, the reality star turned cosmetics magnate, announced on her personal Instagram account last Wednesday that her sold-out $45 range of Royal Peach Palette eye makeup would be restocking on After 14 hours, the post had attracted 781,373 likes.
Correction: January 20, 2017
An earlier version of this article misstated the number of parts in a Rudolf Stingel exhibition at the Gagosian Gallery. There were eight parts, not seven.


art sales online