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Posts Tagged ‘collectors’

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Do you listen to your old LPs? It took us a while to get a decent record player after the old one wore out, but now we can listen anytime — if we remember we have a vinyl collection. That’s not a given: it’s more automatic to turn on the radio.

And you have to get back in the habit of noticing when one side has finished playing and it’s time to flip the record. We did play the Mormon Tabernacle Choir when the children were in the house at Christmas. But then we forgot to turn off the machine.

I have been reading that some music connoisseurs prefer the sound of vinyl to CDs and the ubiquitous MP3s, and now it seems that other consumers are catching on.

In September Elias Leight reported at Rolling Stone that the revenue generated by record sales was on track to surpass the revenue generated by CDs.

“Sales of vinyl records have enjoyed constant growth in recent years. At the same time, CD sales are in a nosedive. Last year, the Recording Industry Association of America’s (RIAA) mid-year report suggested that CD sales were declining three times as fast as vinyl sales were growing. In February, the RIAA reported that vinyl sales accounted for more than a third of the revenue coming from physical releases.

“This trend continues in RIAA’s 2019 mid-year report. … Vinyl revenue grew by 12.8% in the second half of 2018 and 12.9% in the first six months of 2019, while the revenue from CDs barely budged. If these trends hold, records will soon be generating more money than compact discs.

“Despite vinyl’s growth, streaming still dominates the music industry — records accounted for just 4 percent of total revenues in the first half of 2019. In contrast, paid subscriptions to streaming services generated 62 percent of industry revenues.

” ‘We welcome [the growth in vinyl],’ Tom Corson, now the co-chairman and CEO of Warner Records, told Rolling Stone in 2015. ‘[But] it’s a small percentage of our business. It’s not going to make or break our year. We devote the right amount of resources to it, but it’s not something where we have a department for it.’

“Still, the vinyl resurgence has been a boon for some artists, especially classic rock groups. The Beatles sold over 300,000 records in 2018, while Pink Floyd, David Bowie, Fleetwood Mac, Led Zeppelin, Jimi Hendrix, and Queen all sold over 100,000.”

More at Rolling Stone, here.

Of course, reissues of classic records on vinyl are one thing, but original vinyl is quite another. The website Work+Money says that 28 particular classics are worth a combined total of nearly $2 million today.

According to reporter Eli Ellison, they include “The Beatles, ‘The Beatles’ (aka ‘White Album’) … Elvis Presley, ‘My Happiness’/’That’s When Your Heartache Begins’ … Sex Pistols, ‘God Save the Queen’/’No Feeling’ … Bob Dylan, ‘The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan’ … and The Velvet Underground, ‘The Velvet Underground & Nico.’ ” More about that here.

Wonder what our collection is worth.

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Photos: James Hill for the New York Times
A student at the Higher School of Folk Art in the village of Kholui, Russia.

Years ago, a Massachusetts industrialist who was fascinated by Russian religious icons turned his large collection into the Museum of Russian Icons, a site worth visiting if you are ever near Clinton, Massachusetts.

But after the Russian Revolution outlawed religion, icons stopped being made for a long time. Resourceful icon painters developed a new art form — lacquer boxes that drew on the same skills as the icons and were collectible in their own right. Then the Wheel of Fortune turned again. Icons are now on top, and the new art form is endangered.

Neil MacFarquhar writes at the New York Times, “Once upon a time, the small, picturesque Russian village of Palekh gained fame far and wide for producing religious icons.

“Then one day, a revolution came and its adherents, growling, ‘There is no god,’ banned such art.

“Hundreds of artists eventually learned to adorn lacquer boxes instead, painting scenes from Russian fairy tales or romanticized versions of country life. These delicate miniatures made the village famous anew, especially after foreign collectors plunked down tens of thousands of dollars buying an art form considered uniquely Russian.

“Then the fickle wheel of history rotated once more. With the collapse of the Soviet Union, the renaissance of the Russian Orthodox Church revived icon painting. It is miniature art now facing extinction.

‘It is going to be lost,’ said Yevgeny A. Sivyakov, 71, an accomplished miniaturist. ‘It is a frightening period right now.’

“The youngest generation of artists shows little interest, he said. ‘Everyone speaks of commerce — what is the point of developing lacquer miniatures when good money is being paid for icons, for frescoes?’

“Stunning antique icons and miniatures fill the collection of the State Museum of Palekh Art. The boxes are adorned with characters from Russian fairy tales — princes and princesses, the legendary firebird and Baba Yaga, a sorceress — replacing the Virgin Mary and the saints. The four seasons were a favorite theme, with countless troikas dashing across snowy fields.

“Each papier-mâché box, blackened with mud from the Teza River, is a blaze of meticulous detail. To paint faces, for example, the artists commonly used a brush made of just one hair from a squirrel’s tail.

“The egg tempera paint gave the boxes a polished glow, enhanced by rubbing them with bone. In addition, the Palekh tradition of edging in gold every person, animal and sometimes every leaf made the details pop out of the black background. …

“When icons were banned, [icon painters] floundered about for alternatives, including book illustrations and set designs.

“Then Ivan I. Golikov, a painter, stumbled upon a small exhibition in Moscow featuring 18th-century Asian painted lacquer boxes. In December 1924, Mr. Golikov founded the Ancient Russian Painting Workshop in Palekh. Throughout the Soviet years, a single collective produced the boxes.

“Palekh attracted both Russian and foreign visitors. Virtually everyone in Palekh will tell you that the Soviet Union earned some $1 million annually in hard currency off the boxes, which Western collectors considered a rarity.

“Lacquer boxes, as did all things following the Soviet Union’s demise, experienced a period of anarchy. Cheap fakes flooded the market and prices collapsed. If a shoebox-sized lacquer box that required a year to paint once sold for more than $40,000 abroad, that same box would earn about $5,000 today.

“Something smaller — a glasses case, for example — goes for $121 in the Palekh museum store. An imitation in Moscow costs less than $5. Demand for originals has fallen sharply. Few Russians can afford such prices, and foreign collectors died out.

“Sergei Bobovnikov, an antiques dealer in St. Petersburg, said there might be 150 regular buyers in the country, with an antique piece commanding $350 to hundreds of thousands for an original by Mr. Golikov or other founders of the Palekh school. ‘They invented a whole new style,’ Mr. Bobovnikov said.”

Learn what has happened since here.

Top: a Soviet-era Palekh board painted in 1975 and entitled “Holiday of Russian Winter in Palekh.” Bottom: detail from a Soviet-era Palekh plate, painted in 1955, entitled “Flourish, land of the Kolhoz!”

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Art: Roy Lichtenstein
Masterpiece, 1962, was sold by philanthropist Agnes Gund to launch the Art for Justice Fund. 

There’s a movement in the world of philanthropy to combine the arts with social justice. In some cases, donations to arts organizations specify reaching out to poor communities and new audiences. This particular article focuses on collectors who sell art to fund causes they believe in.

Mike Scutari writes at Inside Philanthropy, “After Agnes Gund launched the $100 million Art for Justice Fund with the proceeds from the sale of Roy Lichtenstein’s ‘Masterpiece,’ I wondered if collectors represented the sleeping giants of arts philanthropy. The prognosis thus far seems promising.

“A number of founding donors to Art for Justice have committed gifts of artwork or contributions, and late last year, the fund allocated $22 million to 30 criminal justice reform groups and education and arts initiatives. Around the same time, the anonymous consignor of Jean-Michel Basquiat’s ‘Red Skull’ announced they would donate the proceeds to a nonprofit that opens new public charter schools. …

“Glenn Fuhrman and his wife Amanda partnered with Suzanne Deal Booth and The Contemporary Austin to transform the existing $100,000 Suzanne Deal Booth Art Prize, which is currently celebrating its inaugural exhibition, into one of the nation’s largest awards presented to an artist.”

Scutari notes that although the prize doesn’t require attention to social causes, sometimes a winner’s work turns out to have been strongly influenced by the issues of the day.

“Collectors have historically deferred to institutional givers to do the heavy lifting when it comes to traditional grantmaking and the red-hot area of activist art in particular. This is why Gund’s Art for Justice Fund is so important. It’s predicated on the idea that by selling their work, collectors can advance social justice. As Ford [Foundation] President Darren Walker noted, ‘art has meaning on a wall, but it also has meaning when it is monetized.’ …

“An open question is the extent to which the Suzanne Deal Booth / FLAG Art Foundation Prize will align with the surging fields of boosting access to the arts and promoting socially focused work. Corroborating evidence suggests it will.

“Regarding access, the Fuhrmans’ FLAG Art Foundation exhibition space has been free and open to the public since its 2008 opening. The Fuhrman family has also underwritten free admission at the Institute of Contemporary Art [in Philadelphia] annually for nearly a decade. The couple is clearly committed to eliminating financial barriers to access.

“Exemplifying its social focus, in the charged aftermath of the 2016 election, the FLAG Art Foundation curated an exhibition that focused on artists who ‘negotiate politics, tragedies, social issues, and their own perspectives’ by using the New York Times as an inspiration for their work. …

“I recently spoke with VIA Art Fund President and collector Bridgitt Evans on the state of arts philanthropy and floated the theory that collectors are the sleeping giants of arts philanthropy. [VIA means Visionary initiatives in Art. It’s located in Boston.] She concurred with this assessment. Collectors, she said, are ‘exposed to a wider variety of artists, practices, ideas, and social commentary,’ and moving forward, they will ‘direct the same passion they have to collecting to philanthropy.’ ”

Read more at Inside Philanthropy, here.

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