Austria’s Leopold Museum has rediscovered an early work by Egon Schiele, and plans to include it in a sale of non-fungible tokens (NFTs) based on works by the Viennese artist. “Leopold Czihaczek at the Piano” (1907) is an impressionistic painting of the artist’s uncle and legal guardian made when Schiele was only 17. Missing for more than a century, though recorded in Schiele’s 1972 catalogue raisonné, it was unearthed in a Viennese private collection when its owner sought advice on its restoration. “It is a sensational discovery,” says Hans-Peter Wipplinger, director of the museum.
The work will be shown at the museum as part of a five-year loan and joins a fundraising NFT sale through LaCollection (May 16-26). Here, 24 Schiele NFTs will be offered at different price levels: three works, defined as “ultra-rare” with only two editions of each, will start at €100,000; 10 images will start at €15,000 (10 editions); and 11, including the rediscovered painting, are fixed at €499 (100 editions). The museum will keep one edition of each.
Among the ultra-rare works is “Portrait of Wally Neuzil” (1912), a painting of Schiele’s lover that was stolen by the Nazis from the Austrian Jewish art dealer Lea Bondi Jaray in 1938. The work was returned to the Leopold after a restitution settlement between her estate, the US government and the museum in 2010.
The Leopold has had a budget gap of about €5mn since the Covid-19 pandemic drastically reduced its visitor numbers, Wipplinger says. Any funds raised from the NFT sales will go towards the cleaning and restoration of the painting, “and of course we hope to acquire it,” he says. “We start with the physical object, then we make a digital image and, if we can sell it, we can afford the physical painting.”
Christie’s has art from a second female American collector to sell this year. In May, the auctioneer will offer $250mn of works from the late New York arts patron Anne Bass, and now comes news that, in October, it will start to sell the Ann and Gordon Getty collection. Ann, who married the son of the oil tycoon J Paul Getty in 1964 and died in 2020, assembled the collection during their marriage.
The sale is expected to raise around $180mn from nearly 1,500 pieces of art and decor from the Gettys’ lavish Pacific Heights home. Jonathan Rendell, deputy chair of Christie’s Americas, describes this as “the greatest, most magical interior” and says that the well-travelled Mrs Getty had “such a way of layering civilisations. To see [the home] is like eating chocolate cake while listening to organ music.”
Highlights include a view of the Grand Canal in Venice by Canaletto (c1745, estimate in the region of $6mn), which hung in the entrance hall, and a pair of George II armchairs made by William and John Linnell for Badminton House (c1752-55, estimate around $120,000). Indian jewellery and textiles will be offered online at lower price levels, Rendell says. All proceeds from the October sales will go to the newly created Ann and Gordon Getty Foundation for the Arts, whose beneficiaries include music and (despite the name) science organisations. A Christie’s highlights tour starts in Hong Kong (May 21-26).
Concerns persist about the political situation in Hong Kong, but demand for art in Asia remains high. Sotheby’s reports its second-highest total for a Hong Kong season, HK$3.9bn (US$496mn), from its April 27-May 3 sales of fine art — western and Chinese — and luxury items, including the 15-carat “De Beers Blue” diamond, which sold for an above-estimate HK$451mn.
Art highlights included Zhang Daqian’s “Landscape after Wang Ximeng” (1947), which soared above its HK$70mn estimate to an artist record of HK$370mn and Picasso’s 1939 portrait of Dora Maar for HK$169mn, which sold to a Japanese buyer, the auction house says. A third of the new buyers in its Modern and contemporary sales were aged under 30; of these, two-thirds were from Hong Kong or China, according to Sotheby’s.
Activity was also strong at the rebranded Kiang Malingue gallery, which has added co-founder Lorraine Kiang to its name and last week opened its expanded space in the Aberdeen district with an exhibition of the Hong Kong-born artist Yeung Hok Tak. Co-founder — and Kiang’s husband — Edouard Malingue says that 20 of the 22 works in the show sold (€5,000-€18,000). Social distancing rules are gradually relaxing in Hong Kong, Malingue notes, while he too reports a prevalence of young buyers.
He says that he has been asked about the political implications of working in the city since the 2019 protests against extradition. “We are gallerists, our mission is to show art. There is an ongoing dialogue that we can only be part of if we are visible and present,” Malingue says. Works with political overtones are still being shown and sold, he adds: “It is still possible, otherwise I wouldn’t be here.” The gallery will open a new headquarters in Wan Chai in September.
The art-dealing industry largely deserves its cut-throat, competitive reputation but two of its mega-players — Gagosian and White Cube — seem to have buried the hatchet for now. With only the Atlantic between them, each has just opened near-identical shows of the German photographer Andreas Gursky — at Gagosian in New York (until June 18) and White Cube Bermondsey in London (until June 26).
Photographs handily come in multiples and, it seems, the artist wanted it this way. “Both White Cube and Gagosian are committed to the business of representing world-class artists and it is their interests that always come first,” says Jay Jopling, founder of White Cube. Stefan Ratibor, director at Gagosian, says: “It has been a fun collaboration. Capitalising on our different relationships, we’ve been able to place works globally.” The photographs are priced from €400,000 to more than €2mn.
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