african masksPace Wildenstein
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Pace Wildenstein

Pace Primitive

Pace Primitive Gallery is located at:
32 East 57th Street
Seventh Floor
New York, New York 10022
Phone: +001 212.421.3688 
Email: Carlo Bella, Director carlo*paceprimitive.com

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Estate Property and Dealers: A Case History : PaceWildenstein Gallery

--- Pace sells much of their holdings in Primitive art to collectors of 20th Century painting and sculpture, probably more than to collectors of African and Tribal arts.---

read also :SAM FOGG PRESENTS Ethiopian art at PaceWildenstein in New York in October 2005 

found at http://www.artdealers.org/

Recently, PaceWildenstein Gallery was selected to market and sell the fine art in the Estate of Berthe and Oscar Kolin, including major masterworks by Hans Hofmann, Fernand Leger, Mark Rothko, Pablo Picasso other artists and African Art. 

Robert Fishko, editor of the ADAA Report discussed how this process occurred with Jeffrey Hoffeld, a consultant who was retained as art advisor to the Estate; and Anthony Grant of PaceWildenstein. From the conversation, a picture emerged of a resourceful and important art gallery presenting its position to knowledgeable and well-advised executors, and getting a great collection to offer to its clients as a result.


Prior to joining PaceWildenstein, Anthony Grant was senior Vice-President and Director of Contemporary Art at Sotheby's; Jeffrey Hoffeld's career has included service as Assistant Curator of Medieval Art at the Metropolitan Museum of Art and as Director of the Neuberger Museum of Art. He operated his own gallery in New York, and worked as curator at Jan Krugier Gallery, Hirschl and Adler Galleries and Max Protetch Gallery. Robert Fishko is the Director at Forum Gallery.


Berthe and Oscar Kolin were major collectors on the New York art scene for years. Mr. Kolin was a nephew of Helena Rubinstein, and a number of works in the Kolin's collection had been in the collection of Helena Rubinstein. Mr. and Mrs. Kolin loved art and were passionate collectors in their own right, visiting modern and contemporary galleries regularly in New York and throughout the world. They assembled, in the course of more than thirty years of collecting, a diverse collection including great works of Tribal Art and a large collection of opaline glass. When Berthe Kolin died in 1994, the collection became the property of Oscar Kolin, who died a year later. Upon Mr. Kolin's death, the collection passed into his Estate.His principal beneficiary, his daughter, is the Executor of the Estate.


Anthony Grant was familiar with the Kolin Collection while at Sotheby's because that firm was asked several times for appraisals by the Kolins. And other executives and department heads at Sotheby's knew the Kolins and the collection as well.Christie's was also aware of the Kolin Collection. According to Jeffrey Hoffeld, when Oscar Kolin died, his daughter was approached by representatives of Sotheby's and Christine's almost immediately.


Jeffrey Hoffled Anthony Grant


Jeffrey Hoffeld: I was contacted by Diane and Robert Moss [Diane is the daughter of Berthe and Oscar Kolin and is President of the Helena Rubinstein Foundation and a board member at the Whitney Museum] because they were confused and bewildered about all the numbers being thrown at them. In addition to the auction houses, there were some approaches by individual dealers targeting specific works. They sought me out to help them understand better all the choices before them and to help them create a strategy for the disposal of the art. Several works, including a major David Smith, were given to the Whitney Museum during the collectors' lifetime; but there were two homes to deal with, one in East Hampton and an apartment in New York. From the outset they knew that they wished to sell the majority of the works in the collection. PaceWildenstein became involved when I asked another dealer and Arne Glimcher [Arnold B. Glimcher, President of PaceWildenstein] to come in, look over the collection and make proposals.

Robert Fishko: Was there any discussion of splitting up the works, taking them various places according to individual works or was it thought the collection would best be served by keeping it all together?

Jeffrey Hoffeld: I stepped through many alternatives with the family. We felt increasingly that the diverse interests in the collection ranging from the Tribal Art to early 20th Century European masters-Leger, Picasso, Giacometti; together with the post-World War II art made for a very appropriate situating of the collection with PaceWildenstein. The African component, of course, did not match any other dealer's program, but that was not a decisive point because there were several alternatives to deal with the African element, such as Pace Primitive, auction, or by a private dealer. Pace is one of the last galleries handling African art in New York, I don't know if there is another that is open to the public. Actually, Pace sells much of their holdings in Primitive art to collectors of 20th Century painting and sculpture, probably more than to collectors of African and Tribal arts.


Anthony Grant: There is more of a crossover from Tribal to 20th Century painting, drawing, and sculpture at the gallery.


JH: With private dealing in Tribal Art, which I do some of, there is a little of that crossover, but it's much more targeted toward the usual suspects and museums. I think that for obvious reasons, given the physical structure of PaceWildenstein, with its slate of offerings, people can get turned on to Tribal Art on the premises and feel comfortable about the expertise that the gallery provides.


RF: So that the diversity of PaceWildenstein's program was appealing to the estate and was a major factor in the estate winding up at PaceWildenstein. Anthony, if this group of works including the African works, was to be consigned to a major auction house, would it have been appropriate for it to be grouped together and sold at a single-owner sale or would it have been spread through category sales?


AG: I think probably in a series of sales, based upon the collection that we have to sell. The family did not sell everything. I think they sold the lion's share, but there were some pictures and works of art that they held back for themselves. If I were working at Sotheby's at the time and the whole collection was being sold, I think the Contemporary Art, at least the post-War art, could have made up the basis for a catalogue. I think the Modern was a little more spread out, diffused in period. There were paintings, drawings and sculpture, everything from a small Cassatt work on paper to a major Picasso from 1963. The post-War abstract works had quite a nucleus of very strong pictures. I think after they decided what to keep for themselves and what to sell, it would have been best, had it gone to auction, to put it into various-owner Modern and various-owner Contemporary sales. The Tribal Art as well.


RF: That being the case would it take longer or less time to make the works available to the general public?


JH: The auction houses said that they would have the job done in six months. It would have been this season and the Fall sales for the appropriate number of major works and other works would have gone down to Christie's East or Sotheby's arcades.


RF: But PaceWildenstein was able to make these works available in what period of time?


JH: Well, virtually instantly. As soon as an agreement was reached, sales began.


RF: That presumably is something that dealers can do, they don't have to wait until the scheduled opportunity to make potential buyers aware of the availability of the material.

AG: It is very interesting to sit on this side of the fence now, as opposed to an auction house. The way we targeted buyers for this material was the same as we targeted buyers at the auction house. Obviously if we came up with two or three or four people, we would think it was a worthwhile piece to bring into the sale. Then we could come up with an estimate easily, the more potential buyers the better the estimate. I think we get more walk-ins at Pace but I think that for the expensive objects we know who the interested parties are now and the auction houses do as well. I am fascinated now that I am at Pace, that there seems to be a number of collectors who are only in the market of the galleries and not at auction. There are pure auction buyers also, of course. At Pace, as Jeffrey said, in an instant after the agreement was reached, we had already decided who were the likely buyers of say, a 1963 Picasso. Another example is the Hans Hofmann, which we thought was slightly out of our realm, but it wasn't at all, we identified people that would buy the picture and eventually one of them did. So we managed to fairly quickly sell work and prior to scheduled auction dates. The terms of payment were also more immediate than the 35 to 40 days after an auction sale would occur.

JH: I think it is particularly noteworthy, after Anthony's comments that I attempted to make the executors aware of how special the expertise of dealers is, and how diversified this expertise can be under any given roof. I made the point that PaceWildenstein also had the auction house experience residing under their roof. Many of the things that the executors might be seeking in the specialists and the wherewithal of the clientele and so forth, of the auction houses, they would in fact have an opportunity to avail themselves of at PaceWildenstein.


RF: The two most difficult challenges for dealers are first, to answer the concern about price. People say "How can I be sure I am going to get the highest price? If it goes up at auction there is always a chance two people will make a competitive result and we might realize a price far in excess of what you, the dealer, say you're going to sell the painting for." The other issue that is related, particularly for trustees and executors of estates, is one of scrutiny and comment. One can say, "At least if the art sold in front of God and everyone in an auction sale, no one can point a finger at me and say, I did my clients in." How do you address those questions?


JH: First of all, in this case, the numbers that were put forward by the dealers who had examined the estate were much stronger than the auction house numbers. The estimates were higher, and the evidence that each of the dealers was able to present–examples of comparable sales–supported those estimates. That was very different from what the auction houses had to say. The results at auction for comparable works did not support the claims of the auction houses as to what they thought they could achieve. One of the exercises that was crucial to the decision-making on the part of the executors was seeing a base line of comparable auction results. Together with hearing from dealers about the comparables that they had experience with, once the comparables were put on the table from the auction houses, the numbers that had been proposed as estimates by the auction houses lost their credibility. This was true in virtually every case. We used the results over the period of the last three years, rather than go back too far to an inappropriate market. Three years was felt to be a comfortable window. There was a concentration of value in a small group of works, Picasso, Leger, Rothko, etc. which added up to the bulk of the value. In all those works, the auction house results could not support the numbers that they were proposing.

Estate Property and Dealers: A Case History, continued.

AG: I noticed with my colleagues when I was at the auction house, one deals with such volume that one tends to forget that one is working with works of art. For example a Hans Hofmann from the 50's–by looking over what sold in the last three years without really looking at the work of art in this particular case- you might not see that a truly incredible painting from 1954 would not have come up. You are dealing with something unique. Therefore, there is nothing to compare it to relatively quickly. You have to decide that this is wonderful, it is better than anything that has come up. There has to be an appropriate amount of money to place on it. That, in concept, rules out who was the underbidder the last time a Hofmann came up. Would they be in the market for this kind of painting? For another example, you are dealing with a Picasso from the 60's, it was possibly the largest from the last decade and the quality was extraordinary and when you look what else was available from this period, it just cannot compare to this picture. The same with the Rothko. I think that what the auctions do is to go to their archive cards and lay them all out and they say 1960's Picassos have brought anything from $800,000 to $2,000,000, let's say. So they average it out and put an assessment on it in cookie-cutter fashion, without really thinking about the work of art, without thinking about the people out there who may have bid on something six months ago or may have looked at it carefully, then chose not to bid because it just was not right. That is what you have to store in your head, and I think the cards of past sales are relevant and one has to look at them, you can use them as a barometer, but I think that at the end of the day, one has to judge the work of art. They are all unique and they have to stand on their own. As a seller, you have to look at who is selling the work of art for you and who can best articulate it.

JH: Absolutely.


RF: Identify it first and then articulate it...


AG: And who has the sensitivity to groom the clients whom you are targeting. I think that in galleries, you can't abuse the relationship you have with your best clients for short term goals. It has to be thought through, so when you call client "X" and say, 'look, we are getting an extraordinary 1963 Picasso and I think this is the one for you,' you had better mean it and it better be a picture with very few arguable qualifications about it. I think the right dealer looking at estate material can exercise those talents in a special way. And give the client the breathing space to think about them. Several of these pieces were out at peoples' homes on approval and sent all over the country for people to live with before making their decisions.

RF: Is that something that an auction house would not be able to do?

AG: They certainly can move them around their various offices, but on approval, that happened only very occasionally. It was always at the suggestion of the expert in the department, it was never by the client, they would have been reticent to ask the auction house to borrow a work on approval. I remember we used to send some works over to Park Avenue for a day or two before the auction to try it out. It's not
the same as sending a Louise Bourgeois sculpture to the West Coast and giving the person the luxury of giving it some real serious thought about whether they want to have it or not have it. This is the part that is extremely satisfying to me.


RF: It is more about placing the work rather than just selling it.


AG: It's much more focused on an individual person and a work of art and linking that person with the work of art. I get great satisfaction out of that.


JH: And you participate in developing collections.


RF: It can be very exciting for dealers, and for sellers of art, it can represent an opportunity for them, rather than throwing it out into the mass of available works that might be out there.


JH: I think that with the Kolin Family what you are speaking of is particularly relevant because the Kolins had close relationships with dealers, but they were by no means antagonistic to the auction houses. They used the auction houses for the material that they thought the houses were appropriate for and to appraise the whole collection if they needed an insurance update or to sell some items that they felt appropriate and wanted handled that way. And the celebrity auctions surrounding Helena Rubinstein. So it was not by any means adversarial. However the Kolins visited the galleries regularly, Berthe was a high profile gallery-goer. She was a board member at the Whitney [Museum of American Art], she was on the Education Committee of the Whitney. So handling the works in a way that would be suggestive and representative of the dignity of the process of putting the collection together was important. This included friendships with artists, which the Kolins maintained -de Kooning, Louise Nevelson and others. Especially at their home in East Hampton. Working with dealers and disposing of the works in the manner of care in which they were first assembled, I think came to have some effect.


AG: They obviously set an example for their executors, who were basically their children.


RF: Were the executors concerned about scrutiny?


JH: Well, they were concerned about scrutiny because they wished to maximize the benefits to the beneficiaries, and that was the most important bottom line issue. They thought they had covered themselves by looking carefully at the numbers. And realizing the choice they were making would serve the purpose of maximizing benefit, whereas the auction houses created more perilous exposure together with some uncertainty about the actual financial yield.

RF: I am always concerned on the part of the seller with the possibility of having their work "burned" or ruined in the marketplace by failing at auction due to a high estimate. Is that a concern that comes up often in these questions?

AG: I think that is a difficult question. Often you find things can fall through the cracks, often they are quite respectable works of art, but it does happen and if I were an executor, it would be of concern to me. The auction houses are in a situation where there are hundreds of lots and in the midst of various-owner sales you have to try to represent the needs of every single consignor and every single work of art. Here our only needs were basically to represent the Kolins and the individual works they consigned to us. So there was no competition within our infrastructure of works of art. We are still working with it but basically I think it has been very very good for targeting material to collectors.


RF: Did the collection have several works of equivalent quality by the same artist?


AG: Well, yes, [Mark] Di Suvero, [Frank] StellaÉbut they are very different works of art, with Di Suvero, one is monumental, the other is not monumental, with Stella one is from the early period and there is a relief from a different period. So the collection can be characterized as usually one work by a major artist. It is a small collection but very choice works of art. Chosen very well.


RF: Perhaps that makes it ideal for dealer representation. Something I would be concerned about is you don't know when your art goes into a multiple-owner sale in an auction house, how many other works of art by the same artist, possibly from the same year, of equivalent or even better quality might be there.
If you've a thin market and you have six people that might be interested in a great Demuth painting, you had better hope that yours is the only one that is going to come up that night.


AG: That is why I think Jeffrey has done such a very good job getting through all this for the Kolin Family. One has to be fair to the experts at the auction houses, who will honestly tell you what is in the sale, and who will say, "maybe it isn't a great idea to do this now." Obviously you leave yourself wide open if you say "let's put this in the Fall sale or in six months." The real chance you took if you took in a work knowing full well you had one or two similar works, was that there would be a problem. Choice is not good at an auction. One seller usually suffers. "Suffer" means that they might bring a lesser price, which is the best way to suffer, but most times "suffer" means that it failed to meet its reserve.


RF: Does that have the destructive effect that some of us fear?


AG: People look so closely, the people that are collecting now, whether it is an old collector or a new collector just coming in, their education is at such a high level. Perhaps they are being advised by someone like Jeffrey Hoffeld or they are doing their homework, their education is excellent and therefore they are looking very carefully at prices at auction and the changing marketplace in the galleries. Yes, when things don't sell, I think there is a definitely a new price to be paid for it. I am not sure I would go so far as to say it was burned. I just think that there has to be an estimate change which reflects the lack of interest. In the early 1990's, people wanted to buy well at a fair price and they might not like the estimate that night but felt perfectly fine about calling the next day. A lot of people bought some extraordinary works of art when the Saatchi collection came up. Those were great sales, extraordinary opportunities and many of them went unsold the night of the sale. Great things.


RF: Yes, but there were a couple of years when one of the worst thing you could say about a picture was, "Oh, that is a Saatchi picture." It meant it was overpriced, overexposed, stigmatized. As if the collector had participated in creating the work of art.


JH: People should have a wider view of things and not get stuck on those subjects. It just takes a little longer view because so many things do get absorbed ultimately into the marketplace and wind up on museum walls or individuals' walls that have so called "floated around." I'd like to have all of them in my inventory.


AG: Exactly. And in the environment we are working in right now, we have these highly educated collectors who are looking at works as individual works. At the end of the day the work of art does it to you or doesn't do it to you. I think a lot of the rest is bunk, you have to look hard and say "Do I want this work of art or not?" I am having a great time because I think we are dealing with extraordinary people who want to live in a great environment with art around them, really hang it and not warehouse it. The art that we are selling is going to peoples homes, or institutions, but for the most part homes and not to Judson Warehouse or Crozier to sit in limbo.


JH: You are actually able to visit and look at the art, which is wonderful.


RF: Was there any estate tax problem in the Kolin Collection, did they need cash to pay estate tax?


JH: I think that all of the requirements seemed easy to meet in view of what Pace could expeditiously sell. Anthony perhaps would have heard, as I have, the rumor that Pace bought the whole Kolin Estate, because it is hard for dealers, envious sounding actually, to understand how you can make your case heard and succeed in getting a collection on consignment without financial guarantees and without making purchases from the collection and in that respect, function on equal footing with the auction houses in making a case so strong as to not require guarantees, advances and the like.


AG: And also, maximizing the sale of that work of art, without the pressure of the tax bill, because very often we are seeing results of people having to, in desperation, place works for sale at auction with urgency or sell things outright to dealers and others in order to meet a tax obligation without having researched what the alternatives are for meeting the tax obligation and maximizing the revenue from the sale: having your cake and eating it too.


RF: Finally, was commission structure an issue? Is it an issue in general, in trying to get consignments from estates and collections? Or was it a matter mostly of the selling price and commissions are going to be about the same regardless?


AG: I guess everything is a negotiation. In this case, I think what the Kolins were dealing with more than commission structure, was the price they were given by the trade versus the prices they were given by auction houses. The auction houses being on the lower side and their fixed commission structure became double reasons for them to go with a dealer that could accommodate the work and sell at the prices we had quoted to them. So of course the commission really becomes secondary. This goes back to the high level of people that we are dealing with on the collector side, the curatorial side, and the dealer side. The issue of commissions is professionally discussed nowadays. I think when the market had more speculators, you had wild swings in commissions, wild swings in prices, a lot of things. We are looking at a much more stable environment now. It is a pleasure to be working in this environment rather than the old environment.


JH: I think that when our services and our expertise are made clear, side by side with the maximum selling prices that can be achieved, the case is very strong. One of the efforts we need to make as dealers is helping to publicize what we have to offer to collectors and to executors and estate managers in a clearer more direct way and not at random, preferably through systematic channels with estate and trust lawyers and bank people and the like, and I see no reason why dealers cannot work together, for example with banks, to formulate financing for an estate, based on the art that has been collateralized, in order to enable executors to meet timely payments and the like and proceed with the business of selling the art.

read also: 

Ethiopian art - Processional crossSAM FOGG PRESENTS Ethiopian art 
at PaceWildenstein in New York in October 2005 

 

 

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