There are some days when one wants to be as far away from his familiar surroundings, no matter how pleasant they might be. The gloomy June weather, I guess, got under my skin. With the International Art Newspaper in front of me, let me take you on a trip.
The month of May in New York is known for high-profile art auctions and fairs. The effect of the recent Middle East turmoil on the art market was less than expected. Sotheby's, slowly recovering from their own legal problems, continued to struggle to keep up with its main rival, Christie's. Three days of sales in mid-May brought in close to $70 million dollars for Christie's, versus $27 million for Sotheby's. A star attraction at Christie's that captured a lot of attention was a magnificent painting by Mark Rothko that went for $16.4 million dollars. I don't know about you, but my heart starts to beat a little bit faster with a number like that dancing in front of my eyes.
Overall results of the sales would be less impressive, if not for the presence of Steve Wynn, the legendary Las Vegas casino owner who started the whole fad of high culture entertainment with his Bellagio Hotel and Casino. Mr. Wynn proved that Las Vegas visitors are ready and willing to stand in line to see his well-advertised collection of 19th and 20th century art. In record time he amassed an impressive collection to the tune of $300 million dollars of his own and his company's money. After selling his share of the Bellagio, he retained half of the collection and kept a low profile as far as his art purchases were concerned.
But he wouldn't be who he is if he didn't have plans for a new resort hotel that will be bigger and more luxurious than anything else in Las Vegas. His new venture, La R-ve, is being built on the site of the Desert Inn, and that's where Mr. Wynn's collection can currently be seen in temporary galleries. During the May auction sales in New York Steve Wynn returned to the fray, spending over $45 million dollars in just 24 hours, buying from both Sotheby's and Christie's.
The most impressive purchase he made was Cezanne's Self-Portrait for which he paid over $17 million. This excellent late painting by a great French artist, belonged to a Japanese oil company until recently. Do you remember the late '80s when the Japanese were the biggest art buyers on the international scene? Two years ago, the company, in an effort to reduce its huge debt, sold the piece to an unknown buyer. Since then, Cezanne's Self-Portrait was discreetly offered around for between $40 and $50 million dollars. And now that we're counting the change left in Mr. Wynn's pocket, how about another lovely painting he acquired the night before he bought the Cezanne? It was an early Renoir portrait of a woman in her garden - exactly the type of Impressionist painting that any man with plenty of money would kill for. It cost him $23 and a half million dollars.
And as long as we're talking Las Vegas, it's a good time to set the record straight. After last year's news that the Guggenheim Museum inside the Venetian Hotel had suspended its activities and subsequently was closed, many people mistakenly assumed that was the end of the Guggenheim in Las Vegas. But there was, and still is, a second Venetian Hotel museum - the Guggenheim Hermitage - a collaboration between American and Russian institutions. Currently on display is the exhibition "American Pop Icons", presenting the art of the 1960's. If this June winter weather persists, I'm on the next bus to Vegas.
"American Pop Icons"
May 15 - November 2, 2003
Guggenheim Hermitage Museum at the Venetian
3355 Las Vegas Blvd So.
Las Vegas, NV 89109