Monday, March 20, 2017

Everything is Basically Weird Right Now

Are the planets all being crazy at the moment or something? Am I living in an alterna-verse where I am not slick backed cool haired Trinity but more the stuck in the mucus pod? I ask because I don’t know about all of you but everything seems off, weird, bizarro. Perhaps it’s my lifestyle but I don’t party THAT much. Or do I? Hmmm… Anyways, I am sitting at work and when I try to think thoughts my brain feels like a bumper car hitting the walls. Light and sounds are firing but I’m like, ‘oops the wall, oops the wall’ over and over again. I think we all feel this way sometimes and since I’m always one to say fuck it and embrace it here goes a crap list of all the crap that seems to be weird to me at this moment. Enjoy! Or don’t, whatever.

Talking to People – The other day I was doing a studio visit and the artist was talking to me and I was paying attention and could understand the words coming out of their mouth but I literally felt high. I wasn’t high at all but I felt like I was in this weird cone of silence/buzzy plane where I might pass out or feel a swoosh of euphoria. It was very unsettling. Also another time this weekend I was talking to someone and I just couldn’t remember what they just said. I knew what was being talked about but the sentence/statement they just said didn't fully register. Not sure what that’s about. Maybe my brain is like shutting things off for some protective reason but nonetheless it was freaky. Also if we talked this weekend and I seemed sorta spaced out, I was probably having one of these moments. My bad.

Polyamory/ Casual Everything – Okay! I get it, we are all hella evolved sexually and while conceptually I totally get it, I just can’t abide. Seriously, is everyone just DTF like whomever, whenever without any emotional commitment? If I have to hear, ‘Let’s keep it casual’ one more time I’m going to throw dirt on myself and call it a day. I think open relationships totally make sense but only AFTER you have established deep bonds first. How can you disassemble trust if you don’t have a foundation of it first? All this poly/undefined everything seems like a bag of phooey to me and I think it’s modern societies way to prevent deeper levels of intimacy because >Gasp< if people actually had to care for one another this whole detachment thing would fall to pieces. I’m not judging, everyone do their thing, but the more I choose not to do it the more backwards I feel. Perhaps I am, I haven’t been convinced yet though…

Trump  - Never, ever going to be able to deal with the fact that this ass hat is our President. Four years feels like a goddamn eternity. I hope something good comes out of all this… And here’s to hoping that we don’t all die in the meantime!

Weather – We did it everyone! We fucked up the planet! Gahhhhhhhhhhhhhh!

Art Openings – Feel like they should serve food from now on. Like snacks and also have places to lie down. Like futons and couches and big pillows. Blankets would be nice too. I guess I just want to go to bed at these things but also have snacks and light airy convos about art and gossip. Also drugs. Free drugs would be nice too.

Having to Do Things – Every damn day you have to do things. Like wake up. Dress yourself, eat stuff. And if you want to have an actual life you have to nurture relationships, communicate and contribute. It’s cool to do stuff. It actually can be rewarding but Jesus-h, it’s unrelenting! Sometimes I will be walking down the street or about to climb the stairs and I’m like ‘fuck this.’ And I just stare off and feel the weight of existence and then I take a deep breath and keep going. It’s not a depressed feeling; it’s like the reality of reality sort of feeling. Does anyone else get this way? Probs.

Self Absorption vs. Criticality – As the recent blog posts can probably attest I am in a very strange state of mind recently and while it would be soooo much better for me, and everyone who reads this thing, if I just SHUT THE FUCK UP, I just can’t. I have been obsessing lately about self-obsessing. Super gross I know. Anyways, for those that know what it feels like to be a sorta crazy person sometimes, the act of self-reflection is really necessary because it helps you cope and find ways to deal with and adjust emotions and behaviors. But this is also really bad sometimes because one falls into the pool of Narcissism. It’s not a good look. Not sure the point of this but ya, I totally think I’m being self-absorbed and weird and blah blah it’s very unattractive. Mirror mirror on the wall, who’s the fairest of them all? NOT YOU! GO TO SLEEP, CHILL OUT AND EAT SOME REAL FOOD!

Monday, March 13, 2017

Am I Too Old and Grumpy to be in the Art World?

So the other day I had a dinner party and I was not in a very good mood. It’s probably a mix of hormones, alcohol abuse and my general existential doom in overdrive but nonetheless I was pretty much a sourpuss for most of the night. It wasn’t due to my guests necessarily, they were all lovely, but they were all super duper young. Like early 20s young.

These hot young things are all in the art world nay, art scene, in one way or another and while I usually enjoy basking in their youthful exuberance I just couldn’t drown out the art hag in me that evening.

It was coming out because they (the young ones) were talking about this that and the other thing and person in the art world. Artist, curators, gallerists, blah blah blah. They are all so sincere and into it that it was sort of breaking my brain. I know, I know everyone’s path must be walked alone but for me, the art hag, being 10+ years older then some of them made me utterly unenthused.

I kept saying old art hag things like, ‘(insert name) is a Queen and a terrible curator.’ Or, ‘Darling, you have no idea.’ Or, ‘I’ve known that person for --- years, they will make it but they are just the worst.’ Insufferable? Yes. I was a total wet blanket and while I knew I was doing it I just didn’t give enough craps to stop myself that evening.

I used to do this ALL the time. Before I asylumed myself overseas for a year + to the UK, I was miserable in NYC for about two years. I had been in NYC for over 10 years and I just couldn’t stand the art scene, openings, conversations, and people anymore. The last year or so before I left I barely went to receptions, was barely seen around town. I literally had a boyfriend and jobs that no one even knew about or met. And when I would hang out with my art world friends (basically the only friends I have) I would end up drinking so much that it came out my eyes in the form of tears and I would rant and sob about how Art was being ruined.

Granted, a few years ago the emerging art scene thing in this city was repellant and I had good reason to feel the way I did, but the real problem was that I let it get to me. I got jaded and bitter and I felt pleasure in my self-exiling and my ‘getting it.’  Hooray, who cares if you ‘get it’ though? I mean it matters but you can’t really care because it will only bring doom and gloom.

So, I went away because that’s my thing, running away from my problems, but thankfully it was a godsend. I came back refreshed, relaxed and had a renewed love for this city and all the art and art scene stuff attached to it.

Now it’s been a nearly a year and half since I’ve returned and I am feeling the blah art bug again. This time around it’s not about the market effects on the art world but more the social aspect. This isn’t the young kids fault though. It is mine. I am too old to be gallivanting like a 20 something when I am very much in my 30 somethings.

Age is but a number you may say but it gets different, especially in the art world. The cycles in art, especially for ‘emerging’ art, last about ~4 years. Every 4 (recently it could be as short as 2!) years a trend comes in, makes some waves, marks, etcetera and then it flames out or fades away and then just when you think nothing will ever happen again, Voila! A new one appears. For someone who has experienced a few cycles of this you see the pattern. You are no longer IN the pattern but rather looking at it from above. Those that are new to this, they are inside of it and it all feels so very important and definitive. Some parts might stick but most drop away and that dropping away is what makes art still vital.

Watching it from above has advantages because you can see a bigger picture and it feels both smaller and larger. Being within is great as well because you are riding in the funnel of the wave and it is alive and real. I guess the other night the true fact that I am too old to really, truly be in the same state of mind as the young art things really cemented.

This doesn’t mean that I am not a part of it but it’s making me realize that I can’t go around wagging my finger at every fresh new face. I know, and everyone who knows me knows, that I’m going to be that weirdo art lady that is chilling out with 20 year olds when I am in my 80s (if I make it that long). I will always be doing this not because I vampire off the young but because I know that youth has an arrogance and stupidity that is truly needed to make great art.

I also know that it’s okay to be an old and grumpy hag stewing the cauldron from above. From now on though, when you hear me gripeing and see me rolling my eyes at some silly comment or desperately too cool for school name drop or insight, just ignore me and don’t take offense. I’ll be here to the bitter bitter end and I hope you are too.

Monday, March 6, 2017

Sex and the City

I did it. I watched all of Sex and the City for the first time over the past few weeks and to be honest I am exhausted by the effort. It has been nearly twenty years since it first aired (June 2008) and I have to say that maybe it’s me, maybe it’s the two decades in between, maybe it’s my general malaise at this moment, but I really can’t be bothered to go into it all that much.

If I were to sum it up in one sentence it would be this: Show that failed the Bechdel test while wearing Manolo Blahnik. It was a TV show. It happened. I guess I sort of understand why people like/d it so much but meh, not me. It did make me think things though. About sex, being a women, being a women in their 30s, about dating, about living in this city called New York. I’ll take some time now to ruminate on some of these thoughts and may ricochet off the show to give it some sitcomic flavor.

Mid 30s Curse

‘Hi there, I’m in my mid 30s and still single, why am I still alive you ask? I really don’t know.’ You are no longer a 20 year old nitwit but you are also at the, should be married/have kids soon/already point in your life. You look good, you are smart, you probably have a good job and you have an actual life. But being in your 30s means that your dating pool goes from a sea of fishes to a muddy pool. As the year pass, it gets shallower and shallower until you are left nose-diving into the dredges and hoping that some salvageable divorcés pop up here and there.

It’s ugly out there and while women in NYC have more time and less expectation then their fellow women, it starts to become stark. The Sex and the City ladies were in their mid 30s when they started the show (besides Samantha who is ~5 years older) and that seemed to be their only hurdle. They were rich (very) and all seemed to have so much disposable everything that the focus of being self obsessed and being akkkin their 30sand single seemed to be their only pressing concern.

As silly as that is, it is sort of true. For those in the art world, youth is more then just an obsession it is de rigueur. Age is just a number but what it really is, is a number that represents certain things. How much you have done or not done by a certain age is a qualifier. Period.

The reality I have seen in the art world is that women rule the show. We really do. We run things, own things, manage things and are the bulk of the workforce within the arts. There are men of course but you know what I mean. So many times I have seen/know of professional women in the art world who are in high level positions and they date or swoon to date a young male artist or coworker of lesser stature. Think gallery director sleeping with the art handler. I know people don’t want to talk about it, but it’s true and happens often. I’m not judging, hey love is proximity and a good shag is worthy of any dismantling of social stratas but I can’t help but ask: Why is it that we women refuse to settle when it comes to our professional life but when it comes to love we settle for settling?

Dating. Ha!

Throughout this series it seemed like 1) There were men everywhere that one just bumped into and then voila, a new love affair. 2) That men actually ask women out. Yes, twenty years and a whole lot of technology has made it so that the process of meeting people and going out on a date has changed so drastically that gendered roles have been flat lined to those blinky (…) things on a screen.

I think I have been picked up by a stranger maybe 5 times in my life. Each time it happens I’m perplexed, annoyed and revolted all at the same time. It happens so rarely because like most veteran NYC women my face isn’t ‘resting bitch’ face it’s more like ‘why are you breathing the same air as me’ face. So instead you go online or you go to a party and you hope that you will meet someone there to create actual sparks with but ya, it usually doesn’t happen does it?

Also, going on a date is so passé. I actually love going on dates. I like being a bit old fashioned and dare say, getting to know someone before you sleep with them, but the rules have changed and if you want to play ball, you gotta be willing to pinch hit the whole ‘it’s cool that it’s vague, of course I’m not looking for a relationship either, let’s keep this simple by not knowing each other’s last names’ performance.

It’s not impossible to meet that maybe special someone in a fantastically real world way, but anyone who dates in 2017 knows that it is rare. Like a unicorn or finding someone’s drugs in the bathroom. So I guess the question is: Is chivalry dead or are we all just dead inside?

NYC Poor

As remarked, the women in the show, Carrie, Miranda, Charlotte and Samantha, are all super rich. Like they all own their apartments rich and can eat out and get cocktails whenever they want rich. They can go on $500 shoe shopping sprees rich and it seems men just throw diamonds and puppies at them left and right. Well, that shit is not even close to how it really is.

Being well off in the city this day in age means you can take a cab once in a while and not have to worry. It means going to a birthday dinner party and not wincing when you get the massive shared bill. It means buying a bottle of wine AND a dessert on a date. It does not mean having a personal driver, taxi-cabbing a few blocks cause you are wearing heals, buying a house in Brooklyn and being all annoyed you have to live in eh gads, Brooklyn!

Jeez Louise, I know it was 20 years ago but back then the city was still very expensive. Now instead we 20-30s are lucky if we live alone in a small one bedroom or have a few thousand in our savings. We are lucky if we can take a trip to LA or Berlin or rent a car upstate for the weekend.

Money shouldn’t affect love but it does. Money always makes things funny. Money is always personal so when love and dating get mixed up it always rears its ugly head. If you make more money then the other person you soon find out the balance of this and either you adjust and accept or there is humiliation and overcompensation.

You know why so many people are coupled up in this city? Because the rent is too damn high and sharing a bed = half rent not necessarily = true love. Also, showing your independence is another type of qualifier. You made it kid, you are a-ok, if you can make it hear, you can make it anywhere as they keep saying. Managing your money and then throwing in another person’s can be beneficial or entrapping. At times one dreams of finding that person who can buy you the house, the trips, the fantasy lifestyle that makes this city glitter even with all its dirt but then you realize at what cost? When it comes to love and money, is there ever a good exchange?

Gal Pals 

So, the four women on the show are best buds and self-ascribed soul mates for each other. They all represent a color swatch archetype which is so ugg trivial but ya I guess we are all clichés heh? Anyways they lunch and walk around the city and get drinks and go to parties and talk about menall the damn time. It is a bit wretched to watch/listen to but then I also had to admit that this is what I do with my gal pals as well.

Of course we talk about other things but talking about men, women, relationships (whatevers) is usually the number one topic as no matter where or who we are, we are all going through the same complications of love or the lack there of.

Why do women feel the need to chatter about their love and sex lives with each other? Is it a form of competition or companionship? Is it a way to expose ourselves and show our foibles and vulnerabilities hence getting an emotional bug delousing from our fellow ladies? Whatever the reason, it is a real thing that just seems necessary in most female friendships.

Does intimacy require friendship as much as it requires romantic love? All these questions but I must admit I felt a momentary pang of idealized envy towards the lifelong friend bonds that the characters had in this series. A sort of cabal of estrogen sisterhood that to be honest is rare to maintain in the city. Sometimes in this city it is better to have a best friend then it is to have a lover but then you realize you want both and wonder: Why can’t we have it all?

Monday, February 27, 2017

Mental House Cleaning

Yes, it’s another Monday. Yes, I’m still alive. The last few weeks have been s-h-i-t-t-y but now things are sort of getting back on track and my mind is basically back to normal (or as normal as it can ever be) and although this blog is like a Sisyphean ball and chain, here we are again.

I have lots I want to go into depth with but I’m still a bit fuzzy and frankly exhausted, so today you are in for one of my blah-blah-blah posts. As always, feel free to close tab now if you care at all about anything good and holy. If not, come along as I de-clutter my mind of my throwaway thoughts.

Sex in the City - I’m watching this for the first time ever and WOW have I got a lot to say about this. I’m going to do a post once I watch the whole thing, (3+ seasons to go) but I’m just mentioning it now because it is going to be a goddamn diatribe. Wow. That show. So many issues. So so many things to hack apart. For those that love this show, try to convince me before I rip it to shreds.

Spring Clothes - While watching this show I thought about something else. Clothes. This show is known for its Patricia Fields styling and I couldn’t help but feel like a pathetic sack in my 3XL sweater and sweat pants and I kept thinking, ‘damn girl, step it up!’ Every women knows this feeling. In Winter you were allowed to burrow deep under layers of flesh protective swaths of fabric but dun, dun dun, SPRING IS COMING and that means you gotta prepare now. Because we have basically killed our planet we are getting an early taste of this now with 70+ weather in freaking February and while I just love sexy hot NYC vibes it feels way too soon and too fast.

Nonetheless, weather and fabulousness waits for no one so I am preparing myself now for my new spring looks. I’m on a mission to show more flesh this year because it is the brutal truth that in like 5-10 years no one- NO ONE is going to want to see my exposed flesh en masse in public. I’m also super into slacks. I love slacks. Have for a while but I want to be know as the girl that wears slacks this coming season. Also, not sure if I can pull it off but I think loafer (like) shoes and bobby socks will be super cute. Just image 80s Madonna on top, J Crew on deck and Paris school girl c. 1955 footgear. I know this sounds like a disaster but haha, c’est la vie!

Addiction - You either have an addictive personality or you don’t. There are degrees of this of course and which substances/focuses affects one to greater or lesser degrees but those that have an addictive personality know that it is a lifelong struggle. I’m not that bad in comparison to others. I don’t use substances or do things that put me in immanent danger. No hard drugs, no private deviant escapades. But I do have others; the slow and grinding ones that one can actually live their whole lives with and be ‘productive.’

Addictions are not just substances. They are can also be habits, feelings, ways of reacting. I have been thinking about this a lot and have thinking a lot about the concepts of desire. Some may recall my love of the philosophic thought of Alexandre Kojève and his ideas of desire. I recommend reading his interpretations and also thinking about the concept of self-care and addiction and the role desire plays in this. Heavy stuff here I know but it is important to confront these things and if using a mixture of hardcore philosophy with self-help steps is a way to address them, then I say go for it.

New Sheets – Honestly. What is a better feeling then brand new sheets, newly washed, put onto you bed and then you get into them a few hours later when you are exhausted and you think you are in a chariot to sleep heaven?

Donald Judd House – I went to this a week or so ago and it was okay to see but I’ve seen ‘old’ Soho lofts before and that whole thing was like just okay…. The furniture was cool and I want my friend to replicate the kitchen table in smaller version for me and there were other cool things and art and such but I couldn’t get the feeling out my mind/body that Donald Judd sort of seemed like a jerk. There was a coldness that pervades and I know that the Foundation has made this “home” into a tome but homes/places hold onto things even if they are lustered and managed away through small group tours. It all made me feel a bit sad. Not about myself but about him, his family, or something about the system of being an artist and projecting, consuming, and complying to some set of rules that are both written and/or intentionally broken. It felt diabolically manicured in its clichés! It was nice to see though and you should if you want to and also I would suggest not going while hung-over.

Chill – Imma get all hippy-dippy on all of you but being calm is like the best. Those who know me know that I am not calm – like at all. I’m actually like the anti-calm. I am the buzzy energy bouncy ball that would rather hit itself against walls then to stay still. But there are times when I’m like whoa. Chill. And I do, and it feels really good. Actually it feels a little freaky at first because it’s against my general nature but once you like ‘succumb’ to it, it’s easy. For those like me, or those that end up like me cause of the NYC hustle, I recommend chilling out in whatever way you can once in a while. I’m definitely not one that will be known or wants to be super chilled out all the time but it’s nice to do even if for a minute or two, even if in the middle of the city. Just stop and let everything buzz around you and be still.

Monday, February 20, 2017

Gears in The Sand: Has the Art Market Become an Unwitting Partner in Crime?

Henri Toulouse-Lautrec’s “Au Lit: Le Baiser”
 Woke up this am and read this article in The New York Times. Feels fitting for the political state we are in and while I doubt any real change in the art world re: transparency at least there is some conversation, albeit too little possibly too late.
Below is the article in full. We are all apart of the problem. Let’s start thinking about solutions.


Has the Art Market Become an Unwitting Partner in Crime?
by Graham Bowley and William K. Rashbaum

When you sell your home the paperwork details the sale, including your name, and the title search lists the names of the people who owned the property before you. But when someone sells an artwork at auction — even something worth $100 million, much more than your house — the identity is typically concealed.
Oh, the paperwork might identify the work as coming from “a European collection.” But the buyer usually has no clue with whom he or she is really dealing. Sometimes, surprisingly, even the auction house may not know who the seller is.
Secrecy has long been central to the art world. Anonymity protects privacy, adds mystique and cuts the taint of crass commerce from such transactions. But some experts are now saying this sort of discretion — one founded in a simpler time, when only a few wealthy collectors took part in the art market — is not only quaint but also reckless when art is traded like a commodity and increasingly suspected in money laundering.
“The art market is an ideal playing ground for money laundering,” said Thomas Christ, a board member of the Basel Institute on Governance, a Swiss nonprofit that has studied the issue. “We have to ask for clear transparency, where you got the money from and where it is going.”
The debate about anonymity in the art world has intensified over the past year, fed in part by the release of the so-called Panama Papers, which detailed the use of corporate veils to conceal ownership, dodge taxes and enable crime, its authors say. Now various expert groups, like the Basel Institute, are coming forward with ways for dealers and auction houses to curb secrecy and combat money laundering. In a significant change, Christie’s said last week it has strengthened its policy in recent months and now requires agents looking to sell a work through the auction house to tell it the name of the owner they represent.
“Where it has concerns, Christie’s declines the transaction,” the company said in a statement.
The stakes have risen alongside the soaring value of art, with an estimated $63.8 billion worth of sales in 2015.
In one current money-laundering case, United States authorities have accused Malaysian officials and associates in a civil complaint of converting billions of dollars of embezzled public funds into investments like real estate and art. Masterworks by Basquiat, Rothko, Van Gogh and others were purchased, many at Christie’s, according to a complaint filed by federal prosecutors. Later, a Cayman Island company owned by one of the accused launderers took out a $107 million loan from Sotheby’s in 2014 using some of those artworks as collateral, authorities say.
Another recent dispute seems to reveal that auction houses themselves do not always know whose art they are selling. In this instance a collector has accused Sotheby’s of selling his $16 million painting by Henri Toulouse-Lautrec without knowing who actually owned it.
The Toulouse-Lautrec work, “Au Lit: Le Baiser,” consigned for sale at Sotheby’s in London in 2015, depicts two women embracing on a bed. The Swiss dealer who brought the work to Sotheby’s, Yves Bouvier, signed the standard paperwork surrounding such a sale, which requires the consignor to indicate he or she either owns the painting or is authorized to sell it. After the sale, he was given the proceeds.
But the real owner was a trust controlled by Dmitry E. Rybolovlev, a Russian billionaire who had been using Mr. Bouvier as his art adviser. Mr. Rybolovlev agrees he had authorized the sale but says Sotheby’s should have checked who the real owner was before turning over the money.
“It is extraordinary that such a rare and high-value work could have been sold at auction without the auction house knowing the identity of the true owner,” Tetiana Bersheda, a lawyer for the Rybolovlev family office, said in a statement.
Actually, experts said, it’s not that rare. “Do auction houses know who the principal is?” asked Amelia K. Brankov, a lawyer who specializes in the art market. “I don’t think they always do.”
Mr. Rybolovlev, who himself has used offshore shell companies that obscured his ownership of art, is now engaged in a sprawling legal battle in several courts with Mr. Bouvier, over matters that include the money from the Sotheby’s sale.
(Mr. Bouvier, who is also a leader in the international art storage business, said he has not turned over the money because, he said, Mr. Rybolovlev had told him to keep it to partially settle a debt from another transaction.)
Sotheby’s declined to comment on whether it believed Mr. Bouvier to be the owner. But it says it knew him very well as a customer and that he had represented to them that he had the legal right to sell the property. As to its policy of learning the identity of ultimate owners, Sotheby’s said it takes a risk-based approach — sometimes requiring disclosure depending on the specific facts and circumstances of each situation.
Auction houses live off the fees they earn for brokering sales, so it makes sense that auction houses would both value and trust customers who bring in a lot of business like Mr. Bouvier, who bought hundreds of millions of dollars of art at sales.
Other valuable customers for the auction houses and dealers were Malaysian businessmen who, beginning in 2013, bought more than $200 million in art, usually operating as the Tanore Finance Corporation, including eight works at Christie’s. The United States government contends in a civil complaint that the art was purchased with money that had been embezzled from Malaysian government accounts and that the ultimate beneficiary was Jho Low, one of the businessmen. Mr. Low, who has denied any wrongdoing, has not been criminally charged.
Art was far from the only asset into which Mr. Low transferred funds, and the art world has pointed out that he passed muster with other entities such as banks and law firms before federal officials here last year identified him in its complaint.
Christie’s and Sotheby’s said they each have long had rigorous programs to curb money laundering and that until the investigation became public, there had been no reason to suspect anything was amiss with Mr. Low.
“Before extending a loan to Mr. Low, we conducted extensive due diligence in accordance with our Anti Money-Laundering and Know Your Client procedures,” Sotheby’s said in a statement.
Artworks are particularly suitable vehicles for money launderers, experts said, because they transfer easily and store quietly, perhaps in a basement or in an offshore tax haven. Unlike the real estate market, where lightning escalations in price are rare, values in art can be suddenly boosted by intangibles such as fads and personal taste.
Beyond the question of money laundering, some experts say the anonymity of buyers and sellers hinders their ability to track ownership, a key element in establishing a work’s authenticity.
Anonymity was certainly a factor in the success of the scam that took down the estimable Knoedler gallery in New York after 165 years in business. Some $80 million was turned over by collectors to purchase unknown, albeit fake, “masterpieces” that were brought to market by a Long Island art dealer and her boyfriend. They said all the work had come from a mystery collector who became known as Mr. X. In fact, they were being created by a forger in his Queens garage.
Jeanne Greenberg Rohatyn, a New York gallerist and art adviser, said there are situations, as when a scholar is putting together an academic inventory of an artist’s work, where collectors do acknowledge ownership. “We work with the collector,” she said, ‘Would you like to cooperate?’ If they say no, we respect that.”
But she said she would resist a more general turn away from secrecy. “The move toward transparency is always there, but a collector’s private collection is their private collection,” she said. “It is in their home. It is not in the public domain.”
Regulators in other financial sectors have been working to eliminate veils.
In finance, Treasury officials last year began asking banks to identify customers who set up accounts in names of shell companies. In real estate, they introduced a pilot program that requires the full identification of people who buy expensive properties in New York and Miami using cash and shell companies.
But efforts to reduce anonymity in art sales have gone nowhere. In 2012, a New York appeals court ruled that auction houses did have to let buyers know the identity of sellers. But the decision was overturned on appeal.
The auction houses and some experts say that money laundering is rare and the threat overstated.
Sometimes, they said, the names of prior owners are carried in auction catalogs and even in situations where owners sell through an agent, the houses often know their identity because of their broad knowledge of the market.
Many in the art world believe that eliminating anonymity would damage the market and invade privacy. Some sellers, they say, are families only looking to avoid the embarrassment of crushing debt. Others may be museums seeking to quietly deaccession works from their collection without causing a big fuss.
Imposing rules on auction houses, some experts argue, would only push the business toward less regulated markets abroad or into the hands of private dealers — who are not required to announce sales or publish prices.
“We have to tread lightly,” said Evan Beard, who advises clients on art and finance at U.S. Trust, “unless we start to see that art is being misused in various ways. You have got to do it without throwing too much sand in the gears.”