We’ve moved — our blog!

New season — NEW SITE!

We’re excited to announce the relaunch of our blog at its new address: varaart.wordpress.com


Thank you to our followers on tumblr. Our tumblr will now be an archive.

Follow us here for continued updates on all that makes the art world GO!

Appraising Art: The Definitive Guide Publication Release and Party 9/17/2013


As an Executive Board Member of the Appraisers Association of America and contributor to this industry standard, I am pleased to announce the publication of Appraising Art: The Definitive Guide to Appraising the Fine and Decorative Arts, to be released Tuesday, September 17th, 2013.

The definitive guide to all aspects of appraising the fine and decorative arts, from connoisseurship to marketplace to legal considerations and beyond, Appraising Art will serve as an excellent resource for professionals in the arts, legal, insurance and financial communities, as well as for private and corporate collectors, students and academics.

Appraising Art covers nearly 90 technical topics, including:

  • Appraisal Procedure
  • Defining the Appraisal
  • Comparables
  • The Effect of Regional Concerns on Value
  • Conservation Issues
  • Due Diligence and Authenticity
  • Appraising Works of Art for Tax Purposes
  • Resolving Art Disputes

And over 50 connoisseurship topics, including:

  • Old Master Paintings
  • American Paintings and Drawings
  • Contemporary Art
  • Latin American Art
  • Antiquities
  • American Furniture
  • Arts and Crafts Furniture
  • Pottery and Porcelain
  • Gems and Jewelry
  • Historic Documents
  • Entertainment Memorabilia
  • Rugs and Carpets
  • Coins and Stamps
  • Stringed Instruments
  • Wine
  • and more

Editorial Board:  the late Wendell Garrett, Chair; Helaine W. Fendelman, David A. Gallager and Jane C.H. Jacob

Foreword by Nancy Harrison

Introduction and Acknowledgements by Betty Krulik and Aleya Lehmann Bench,

Dedication by Leigh Keno

Authors include Joseph Brady, Judith Bresler, John Cahill, John Case, Shari Cavin, Nicholas Dawes, Alan Fausel, Debra Force,  Nancy Harrison, Ralph Lerner, Brent Lewis,  Malcolm Mac Neil, Sarah Morthland, Judith Prowda, David Rago, Jan Reeder, Letitia Roberts, Rand Silver, Renée Vara, Laura Woolley, and Yuri Yanchyshyn, among others.

450-pages, color-illustrated

A release party Gala will be held on Tuesday, September 17, 2013.

For details on ordering the book, click here.

For details on attending the Gala release party, click here.

For more info on the Appraisers Association, click here.

Cutie and the Boxer (2013) documents the Brooklyn-based Japanese artist couple Ushio and Noriko Shinohara in their forty-year marriage and careers in the art world. The movie gives a fair picture of every artist’s reality: that coping with immutable challenges (age, lack of funding, ego) can make it difficult to sustain high levels of creativity and the art world’s attention.

While showing the brutalities of living life as an artist couple, Cutie and the Boxer also captures a brighter side of the couple that is sweet, funny, and touching. Meanwhile, the movie does fall into portraying the typical mythology associated with male versus female artists. As Noriko currently tries to create an identity for herself that is independent from her husband, we receive a first-hand account of an artist from a generation when it was more difficult for women to maintain an authentic career in the arts.

Overall, Cutie and the Boxer is an honest and endearing film following two artists’ fight for success in the art world. I’d recommend it to all who are willing to shed the glamourized pretenses associated with “big-name” artists and take on the intimate realities of Ushio and Noriko Shinohara’s life.

Directed by Zachary Heinzerling

In Case You…Missed the Sensation of the Summer

image              Photo: James Ewing via GalleristNY

True to his iconic obsession with dysfunction, power struggles, and psychological perversion, Paul McCarthy’s WS at the Park Avenue Armory is a bigger, better and more over the top interpretation of his 1980’s work. The Armory show is full of sumptuous costumes, vivid color, and elegant detail that can almost distance the viewer from the often scatological, obscene and perverse imagery and subject matter at hand. Unlike his 1980s signature work, the loss of intimacy with the special ingredient of “spectacle” – à la Disney – is the exact verisimilitude McCarthy is after. In this grand, cinematic scale, the work loses the gritty reality so expected from McCarthy’s earlier 1980’s work because of its overwhelming display and distance. But his ability to showcase 1980’s critical notions of postmodern narratives – which all blend, start and stop – without losing the viewer is the predicable nature of stories that McCarthy likes to tell. WS is a phenomenon, a spectacle of post-modern mythology, and a fascinating collision of Hollywood narratives which balances the bipolarity of mass culture and counter-cultural obscenity.

McCarthy’s intention and project go way outside the function of typical “art” and are very clear and successfully accomplished in the installation.

Per the exhibition website: “The ‘ribald, pop-culture-obsessed provocateur’ (The New York Times) Paul McCarthy applies his signature, irreverent wit to take aim at American myths and icons in WS, his largest work to date and the pinnacle of his creative output. Adding a touch of malice to subjects that have been traditionally revered for their innocence or purity, McCarthy weaves together a massive, fantastical forest of towering trees with grotesque video projections of iconic characters playing out their own fairy tale drama in a replica of his childhood home.

This daring social commentary lampoons the American dream and its cherished icons, bombarding the viewer with a sensory overload of scatological, sexual, violent, and debaucherous imagery that boldly forces the viewer to acknowledge the twisted underside to saccharine idols in popular culture. The result is a visceral, very challenging, immersive experience by one of the most influential and important artists of our generation.”


For more details, an interesting clip of the artist himself describing his process, click here.

WALTER DE MARIA (1935-2013)


A pioneer in the genre of minimal and conceptual sculpture, the late Walter De Maria was renowned for his ground-breaking and often monumental Earth Art and Minimalist installations. One such installation is the New York Earth Room, a 3,600 square-foot loft filled with two feet of loamy soil, which has been maintained by the Dia Foundation since its opening in 1977.

Vara Fine Arts is proud to be located in the same building as the Earth Room at 141 Wooster Street in SoHo, NY.

Click here for Walter De Maria’s obituary in the New York Times. 

Exciting New Program at NYU

NYU logo

I am pleased to announce a new Certificate Program at NYU SCPS, the Certificate in New Media for Arts Professionals, for which I was involved in developing and designing the curriculum.

This Certificate allows students to explore how technology offers opportunities to develop their business’ market presence and brandpower, create new audiences, expand communities, facilitate interactive exchanges, streamline operations, and develop marketing strategies. Since technology and social media have revolutionized every aspect of the art world from the auction houses to museums and collectors, technology has become a critical asset that every art professional needs to understand and manage actively.

The certificate, designed for both the seasoned and emerging professional, provides students with the knowledge necessary to properly integrate and apply new and digital media into their professional activities. The knowledge and practical skills acquired in this program can be applied and adapted for art businesses, nonprofit art organizations, artist studios, and art service providers.

For more information click here

I am also excited to a announce a new course entitled “The Virtual Art Market,” which I developed and will be teaching:

virtual art market

Course Description: As global tastes and habits for buying art through traditional venues change, established players and new entrepreneurs are quickly developing models to expand art businesses beyond brick-and-mortar operations. Become familiar with current and emerging technologies and the business models within the art market that are using these models, from traditional auction houses and virtual art businesses to art investment research firms. Explore the managerial and strategic aspects of online art businesses and the challenges represented by the particular commodity that art businesses sell. Through a case-study approach, the course focuses on the range of art businesses that utilize online technology as their primary business strategy—or to augment their business strategy.

For further information on this course or to enroll, see the NYU course website.  

Additionally, I will be once again teaching the course Creating Public and Private Art Collections.

Course Description: A broad range of organizations and corporations hire experts to create art collections for them. Learn exactly how to conceive and to create an art collection. Instruction covers how to define a collection and to obtain, maintain, and display art. This course presents case studies, features guest speakers who have curated both public and private corporate collections, and includes a visit to one of New York City’s excellent collections.

To enroll or for more information on this course click here.

To enroll in one of these courses or to learn more, please visit the NYU SCPS website or click here.


Kenneth French
NYU School of Continuing and Professional Studies
7 East 12th Street, 7th Floor
New York, NY 10003
Phone: (212) 992-3258
Fax: (212) 995-4890

In Case You Missed Ugo Rondinone and Don’t Miss Tracey Emin

Ugo Rondinone: Human Nature
April 23, 2013 – June 7, 2013
at the Rockefeller Center Plaza


Ugo Rondinone’s very ambitious installation grapples with monumentally; the original smaller versions made from the rocks surrounding his Northern Pennsylvania home have grown into to the larger-than-life figures displayed on the Rockefeller Plaza. The installation Human Nature – according to the public art fund – consist of figures ranging about 16 to 20 feet in height and weighing up to 30,000 lbs. each.  It was  amazing to see how an artist like Ugo, who started out with using the materials from his local surroundings as a means of intuitively investigating his environment, could create such a determined work that is magnanimous and conceptual at once.

It was exciting to see Ugo’s work, which we showed at our INPUT #4 Second Skin exhibition, in such a fantastically large scale.                

Though no longer currently on view, these works struck me as particularly engaging and I look forward to seeing more from this creative and talented artist.



Tracey Emin: Roman Standard
May 10 – September 8, 2013
on view at Petrosino Square (Between Spring and Lafayette)


The public art installation by Tracey Emin grapples with monumentality but with a much more subtle gesture than Ugo’s monolithic giants.  On Friday, May 10th during Frieze Week, I attended a private breakfast with Tracey Emin, Jay Jopling and a host of curators and collectors to celebrate Roman Standard’s opening. This very subtle piece, a tiny bronze bird perched on a thirteen foot pole, inventively brings together the legacy of ancient Roman military sculptures and contemporary issues of perception.  The bird, especially when seen from a distance, is convincingly realistic.  Emin had stated her desire to play with perception, symbolism, and the idea of public art.  Rather than dominate the space, Roman Standard provides an elevation of thought for the viewer.  The piece is mentally engaging and visually unassuming, but the stark simplicity of Emin’s profoundly subtle work is well worth a visit. 

The exhibition is on view in Petrosino Square until September 8, 2013.  Along with Roman Standard, the Lehmann Maupin galleries (both W. 26th Street and Chrystie Street locations) featured Tracey Emin work in a solo exhibition featuring over 100 pieces of her work entitled I Followed You to the Sun.

For more information about Tracey Emin, click: http://www.traceyeminstudio.com/homepage/

Two Weeks in Review: Art, Art and More Art

May’s Spring Auction Season, combined with Frieze and other fairs, means 2 weeks straight of 24/7 events, shows, openings and parties.

Spring Auction Season in May has, for the last several decades, served as the benchmark for international markets sales. Since Frieze NY arrived on the scene in 2012, the two most important weeks of auctions got longer, with a “fair week” preceding the Post-War and Contemporary Art Sales. The sheer breadth of activity during these two weeks, including both blue-chip auctions, middle-market auctions, fairs, VIPs events and satellite fairs, is vast and can be overwhelming.

Here are some of my best moments, art epiphanies (both good and bad), and anything else that resonated.

Frieze In its 2nd Year, By Most Accounts, A Resounding Success

Clockwise: Paul McCarthy, “Balloon Dog,” 2013; Fair Structure Design by SO-IL Architects (image courtesy of Iwan Baan, archdaily.com)

Left: Paul McCarthy’s riff on Koons at the Northern Entrance of the tent
Lower right: Frieze Sponsored Artist-Curated Meals (Worst Ever goes to Matthew Day Jackson who should stick to art)

Standout Booths included:
Gavin Brown

Bjarne Melgaard, Theresa starting to know she will die, 2013

imageBjarne Melgaard,Theresa starting to know she will die, 2013 (full room)

Regen Projects, Los Angeles

Liz Larner, iii (caesura), 2013

imageAndrea Zittel, A-Z Aggregated Stack #12, 2012

White Cube

imageDamien Hirst, Pharmacy, circa 1992, offering $5,000,000

Pulse NY This Year Disappointed Many, Including Myself

A Few Noteworthy Works:

imageArnulf Rainer, Sin titulo, 2000 at Galeria Nieves Fernandez, Madrid; Ted Larsen, Same Difference, 2012 at PanAmerican ArtProjects, Miami. Offering price: $7,200

imageJulie Oppermann, TH1223, 2012 at Galerie Stefan Ropke, Germany

At its new location at Basketball City, Pier 36, the fair space was both refreshing and lively - a great context for young artists, which had a relaxed but serious tone to it. At the Opening VIP Preview, most good works were sold within 1 hour (or less) and it was a successful fair. The fair featured 75 exhibitors this year and coincided with Frieze for the first time. Many dealers reported extremely good sales - especially for emerging art below $20K - which is really their niche market.

imageDavid Brooks, Stress Tests

imagePart II: Private Studio Visits with 2 Amazing Artists
Renauld Regnery, Brooklyn, represented by Elizabeth Dee Gallery. Renauld’s bio here.


Betty Tompkins, SoHo, represented by Galerie Rodolphe Janssen. Betty’s bio here.

“I am considering doing another series of pieces using images of women comprised of words.  I would appreciate your help in developing the vocabulary. Please send me a list of words that describe women. They can be affectionate (honey), pejorative (bitch), slang, descriptive, etc. The words don’t have to be in English but I need as accurate a translation as possible. Many many thanks.” (Excerpt from artist statement, 2002)

imageClockwise: Betty Tompkins, untitled painting #1, 36 x 36 in.; 10, 2013, 4 x 4 in.; vamp #1, 2013, 4 x 4 in.; hana-yaka, 2013, 4 x 4 in.

Sotheby’s Evening Sale and Highlights
Totally packed saleroom on Tuesday night where people stood for 1.5 hours as the sale included incredible works to raise funds for the Whitney Museum. Barnett Newman’s Onement VI sold for a record $43,000,000 at block.

imageSotheby’s Evening Sale, May 14. Barnett Newman’s Onement VI in the background

Other highlights included this Richter which sold for $37M (wow, what a price!), establishing a new benchmark for any living artist at auction. And some surprises, like this Donald Judd, which sold for $5.7M - a steal!

imageFrom left to right: Gerhard Richter, Domplatz, Mailand [Cathedral Square, Milan], 1968; Donald Judd, Untitled (91-2 Bernstein), 1991

Also of note was this Cy Twombly, which sold for $15,000,000.

imageCy Twombly, Untitled (Bolsena), 1969

Christie’s 11th Hour
Christie’s partnered with the Leonardo DiCaprio Foundation in this charity auction to benefit wildlife and the environment. The sale set records: all 33 works sold for a total of $38.8M, 13 world auction records were set, 9 works of art sold for over one million dollars, and many lots exceeded their pre-sale estimates. Highlights included Mark Grotjahn’s Untitled, which sold for $6.5M and Zeng Fanzhi’s The Tiger, which fetched $5M.

imageFrom left to right: Andreas Gursky, Ocean V, 2010. Price Realized: $630,000; Sterling Ruby, SP231, 2013. Price Realized: $1,785,000

imageBharti Kher, The Skin Speaks A Language Not Its Own, 2006. Price Realized: $1,785,000

imageAdam McEwan, Untitled, 2012. Price Realized: $315,000

Happy to see a similar work to the ones featured in the show and book I curated, Input #4: Second Skin (Summer 2012).

Christie’s Evening Sale Highlights
Christie’s Evening Sale of Post-War and Contemporary Art set a new benchmark for the art market on May 15th, becoming the highest sale total in auction history at $495 million. The sale set 16 new world auction records for artists including Asawa, Basquiat, Guston, Lichtenstein, Manzoni and Pollock. Click here to see a video of Basquiat’s record-setting Dustheads (sold for $48,843,750) in the saleroom.

Other notable works:

imageFrom left to right: Jean-Michel Basquiat, “Danny Rosen,” 1983. Price Realized: $4,939,750; Jackson Pollock, “November 19, 1948.” Price Realized: $59,363,750

Christie’s Afternoon Sale Highlights

imageJean-Michel Basquiat, Untitled, 1981. Price Realized: $999,750

imageAlighiero Boetti, I Vedenti, 1977

imageCady Noland, Four in One Sculpture, 1998. Price Realized: $68,750

imageDavid Hammons, Untitled, 1969. Estimate: $150,000-200,000

This work going unsold is a complete tragedy. Hammons is amazing artist, the work was just overpriced but is great and rare.

imageGeorge Condo, The Harlequin, 2004. Price Realized: $114,150

Phillips de Pury Evening Sale Highlights

imageAndy Warhol, Four Marilyns, 1962. Price Realized: $38,245,000

Auctioneer Alexander Gilkes with Warhol’s Four Marilyns, which sold for $38M against a presale estimate of $35-45M. Overall it was a muted sale for Phillips — Carol Vogel, as usual, was brutally accurate and truthful as to the turnout in her NYT roundup!

And lastly, the weeks ended with on a very sad note with a tribute to Daniel Reich, hosted by Nada @ Henry Street Settlement, see our post here.

A Tribute to Daniel Reich



imageDaniel Gene Pillis and Micki Pellerano; incense at the entrance


"The act of art-making is messy and difficult. People are much more complicated than materials. Most artists can close their studio doors and hide their struggles. But Daniel worked every day in an atmosphere filled with personalities to whom he chose to expose his own complexities. Daniel was an artist with a vision driven firstly by Love. This was most evident in his expansive writings and prescient, crystalline curating. When I look at…[the] list of artists he exhibited over the years, his vision, at times seemingly fragmented, becomes instantly, plainly clear." -Christian Holstad, Artforum, 4.17.2013

FRIEZE WEEK NY May 8-13, 2013


Frieze Randall’s Island Park May 10-13image

Nada Pier 36 Basketball City, 299 South St May 10-12 

Pulse 125 W. 18th Street, between 6th and 7th Ave May 10-12 


Man Made Jean-Michel Basquiat A Selling Exhibition
May 2-June 9, 2013
Monday - Saturday: 10 am - 5 pm, Sunday: 1 pm - 5 pm

Basquiat, Love Dub For A, 1987

Impressionist & Modern Evening Sale
May 7, 7:00pm. Sale N08987 Lots 1-71 Leger, Trois Femmas a la Table Rouge, 1921

Impressionist & Modern Day Sale
May 8, 9:30am. Sale N08988 Lots 101-303
May 8, 2:00pm. Sale N08988 Lots 401-571

imagePicasso, Buste D’Homme, 1969

19th Century European Art
May 9, 10:00am. Sale N08989 Lots 1-113

Beraud, Leaving Montmartre Cemetery, 1876

Impressionist & Modern Evening Sale
May 8, 7:00pm. Sale 2782 Lots 1-51

Derain, Madame Matisse Au Kimono, 1905

Impressionist & Modern Works on Paper
May 9, 10:00am. Sale 2783 Lots 101-180

Degas, Trois Danseuses Dans Les Coulisses, 1900-1910

Impressionist & Modern Day Sale
May 9, 10:00am. Sale 2784 Lots 201-240
May 9,  2:00pm. Sale 2784 Lots 241-396

Dufy, La place d’Hyères l’Obélisque et le Kiosque à Musique, 1927

Contemporary Art Evening Sale
May 16, 7:00pm

imageLichtenstein, Still Life, 1972

Contemporary Art Day Sale 
May 17, 10:00am

Ligon, Malcolm X, Sun, Frederick Douglass, Boy with Bubbles #2, 2001