The . Art Art Market Recap: Crypto Bubbles, A $4 million Consignment Nightmare, Climate Change Impacting Museums, A Seized Picasso and More!

This week we have it all! The Bored Apes are up to new tricks, Sotheby’s in hot water over a rare diamond consignment, London museums feeling the heat, a Picasso drawing held in Ibiza, and a seminal art institution is closing its doors for good.
Featured image: Champagne Avenue Foch, featuring NFTs from the Bored Ape Yacht Club and the Sneaky Vampire Syndicate. Courtesy of Champagne Avenue Foch.

Two Italian brothers just bought a $2.5 million bottle of champagne that came with Bored Ape Yacht Club and Sneaky Vampire Syndicate NFTs. Entrepreneur Shammi Shinh had originally launched the magnum-sized Champagne Avenue Foch bottle in June which was decorated with images of five NFTs designed by Mig—the artist behind the celebrity favorite Bored Ape Yacht Club and the Sneaky Vampire Syndicate NFT. The NFTs were transferred digitally to the new owner after the sale of the record-setting bottle. Giovanni and Piero Buono, cryptocurrency investors, purchased the bottle in a private sale, according to the Wall Street Journal.

The Champagne Avenue Foch is made from 100 percent Premier Cru grapes and was produced at an estate in Chamery, northeastern France. In an interview with the website “Made in Shoreditch”, Shinh said, “NFTs are the new diamonds,” adding that the unique bottle “features art from NFT collections that have over a billion dollars in sales.” Giovanni Buono told the Wall Street Journal that, “There is a lot of turmoil in the investment world, things are changing geopolitically very quickly. Wealthy people will look for places to store their wealth for a while—and that could be a champagne with an NFT attached to it.” The big question now is if the brothers drink the most expensive bubbly ever sold?

And speaking of diamonds, a judge has ruled that Sotheby’s may be responsible for losing $4 million in rare yellow diamonds. M&L Financial, Inc., a financial services firm, had sued Sotheby’s claiming that the house was liable for losing 45 rare diamonds that they had consigned for auction. Although M&L had indicated that they were the sole owner of the gems, the consignment agreement listed M&L alongside Jadelle Jewelry and Diamonds, a Beverly Hills retailer that was reported to be the subject of a federal criminal investigation in 2020.

Jona Rechnitz, owner of Jadelle Jewelry and Diamonds in Beverly Hills and jeweler to celebrities like Kim Kardashian, owed M&L a substantial sum of money, the original suit said. As security for his debt, Rechnitz allegedly transferred ownership of the diamonds to M&L with the understanding that he could later repurchase them at a fixed rate. The diamonds were then taken by M&L to Sotheby’s in Los Angeles for consignment in April 2019.

However, Sotheby’s released the diamonds to a man who was supposedly picking them up on behalf of Rechnitz. Sotheby’s purportedly did not tell M&L, and the house did not provide the judge with written records of the release. M&L claimed it was not notified of this and sued Sotheby’s. Due to the ambiguity between the consignment and spoken agreements, the judge “reverse[d] the judgment and remand for further proceedings regarding M&L’s breach of contract claim. We award costs to M&L.”

Sotheby’s has stated that they will appeal this judgment claiming that the accusations are riddled with lies. The diamonds are still missing.

While London and Europe endure an unprecedented heatwave, the British Museum and the Victoria & Albert Museum have decided earlier this week to close parts of their respective institutions to ensure the safety of its staff and guests. The British Museum also agreed to reduce its operating hours following pressure from their staff union, the Public and Commercial Services (PCS) said Monday. “PCS has raised ongoing concerns with the British Museum regarding poor indoor air quality. We recently wrote to the museum asking them to sign up to the Independent SAGE safety pledge, however they have refused,” a Museum Association union spokesperson said in a statement.

“While historically, there have been hot summers, the very high magnitudes in this part of the world is more recent and the result of climate change increasing global mean temperatures as well as hot extremes,” Mariam Zachariah, a research associate at the Grantham Institute, Imperial College London, told Artnet News. “Unless we stop net greenhouse gas emissions, we can expect high temperatures to become more common in the future.”

A museum spokeswoman said in a statement that “the safety and security of staff, visitors, and the collection is the British Museum’s first priority.”

With reports of possible damage to some art objects due to melting wax or glue, the museum said that “temperature-sensitive items” were removed before the high temperatures set in and will remain there until conditions improve.

Credit: Civil Guard/Handout/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock

Spanish authorities have seized a smuggled drawing attributed to Pablo Picasso worth nearly $500,000. The work was found in a passenger’s suitcase by Spanish customs officials in an Ibiza airport earlier in July, Spain’s customs office said in a statement Monday. The passenger, who was flying from Zurich, failed to declare the artwork titled “Trois Personnages” (1966). Flagged as suspicious, the traveler was later questioned upon landing. The traveller had claimed that the work was just a copy of the artist’s work and therefore did not require any customs paperwork. First presenting an invoice of 1,500 Swiss francs ($1,549) for the work, authorities uncovered another receipt referencing the Picasso drawing from a Zurich-based art gallery for 450,000 Swiss francs.

Since Switzerland is not included in the European Union’s non-customs territory, artworks exceeding 150,000 euros must be declared. As a result of not declaring the drawing with customs, the traveler will face smuggling charges.

Diego RIvera’s mural at the San Francisco Art Institute. Image courtesy the San Francisco Art Institute.

The San Francisco Art Institute (SFAI) has closed its doors after operating for more than 150 years. The iconic institution boasted past teachers including Ad Reinhardt, Mark Rothko and Dorothea Lange, along with an alumni list spanning Kehinde Wiley, Catherine Opie, Annie Leibovitz and more. A deal with the University of San Francisco (USF) was in discussions to save the institution, however in a statement by USF president, Paul J. Fitzgerald, and provost and vice president of academic affairs, Chinyere Oparah, the university nixed the deal “due to business risks that could impact USF students, faculty, and staff,” and will in-turn open its own art department.

Although the school will no longer continue in its current iteration after many merger attempts, the institution will consolidate into a smaller nonprofit organization that will seek to maintain SFAI’s invaluable archives and legacy. No new students will be admitted, but a contingency of contracted staff will “manage security, regulatory, legal, and financial matters, and ensure that students and alumni can access their academic records,” the board said.

In the crosshairs of this closure sits the famed Diego Rivera 1931 mural, “The Making of a Fresco Showing the Building of a City” — valued at $50m USD. The fate of the Rivera piece is uncertain, but has attracted potential offers from George Lucas and SFMOMA, amongst others. SFAI owns the mural, though the Chestnut Street campus where it lives now belongs to the University of California. According to the board, “SFAI will lose possession of the fresco if it defaults on or loses its lease on the building.”

Katlin Rogers
Katlin Rogers
Katlin is a Toronto-based art consultant, advisor, and appraiser. She holds a Master’s in Art Business from Sotheby’s Institute of Art, London and enjoys writing on topics surrounding the globalization of the art world, politics and ethics in art, and post-colonial theories in contemporary art.