SOTHEBY’S ART HANDLERS ARE ON STRIKE
The Measure / The L Magazine // August 2 2011
They normally have access to millions of dollars worth of art, but yesterday art handlers at Sotheby’s auction house weren’t even allowed into the building where they work.
After spending the weekend carrying placards instead of Picassos outside the Upper East Side auction house, art handlers—previously employed on full-time contracts to move, pack and ship some of the world’s most expensive art—were told not to come to work today. Letters were sent to the Teamster 814 Union members on Friday after the auction house and union have been in negotiations over contracts since May.
Teamster spokesperson Jason Ide told Artnfo.com that Sotheby’s has been trying to negotiate the reduction of senior union workers and a shortened workweek to cut costs. Sotheby’s claims the Teamsters wish to add 18 workers to their current staff of 43 full time workers, resulting in Sotheby’s employing more unionized handlers than its competitor Christies, even though Sotheby’s New York base handled only half the number of lots that Christies did in 2010.
The union argues however that in light of Sotheby’s recent increase in sales—up 74 percent to $4.8 billion in 2010—now is not the time to be cutting staff. Replacing trained handlers with temporary workers could result in priceless paintings being mishandled, Ide says.
Given the ongoing negotiations and the fall auction season approaching faster than an Andy Warhol painting exceeding its estimate, Sotheby’s claims it was concerned about possible strike action. The lockout and temporary staff have enabled the auction house to continue functioning as usual. A similar lockout occurred in 2004 and lasted for three weeks before contracts were resolved. The UK’s Independent newspaper claims that this new strike could have an effect on the flow of art between Sotheby’s New York and London bases.
Picketing is expected to continue this week with a rally planned outside Sotheby’s building at 1334 York Avenue this morning.
ART THIEF’S TREASURE TROVE DISCOVERED IN NEW JERSEY
The Measure // The L Magazine / July 15 2011
Forget the Met or MOMA, Hoboken, New Jersey is the place to go for rare art masterpieces! At least it was when NYPD raided art thief Mark Lugo’s (pictured) apartment on Wednesday and found 11 stolen works of art.
The police team was treated to an exhibition of 6 of the valuable works hanging on Lugo’s wall, including a Picasso drawing stolen from Soho’s William Bennett Gallery last month. Other works recovered include Fernand Léger’s 1917 ink-on-linen “Composition aux element mecaniques,” worth and estimated $350,000 and snatched from the Carlyle Hotel lobby a few weeks ago.
It seems Lugo, an out-of-work sommelier, is vying to take over the title of “Picasso Man” previously held by San Francisco’s most notorious art thief Terry Helbling. Lugo was caught last week walking out of a San Francisco gallery with the 1965 Picasso drawing “Tete de Femme (Head of a Woman)” (below) under his arm. Lugo is due to be arraigned in San Francisco today.
The Measure // The L Magazine / June 28 2011
Robert Miller, the dapper art dealer who developed an eclectic taste for art’s outsiders, died aged 72 in Miami last Wednesday. A prominent art world figure for 25 years, he championed many gay and female greats. Louise Bourgeois, one of his most successful female artists, called Miller a “compulsive hunter.” In the vibrant 70s art scene he indeed captured New York’s rising stars including Robert Mapplethorpe, Andy Warhol, Lee Krasner and Jean-Michel Basquiat.
Miller began his career as a painter, but his penchant for waspish suits rather than the cool beatnik threads of his fellow students signaled his transformation into an uptown gallery owner. He opened his first galleryin 1977 on Fifth Avenue after working for the André Emmerich Gallery. Robert Mapplethorpe was one of the first artists to join the gallery and Mapplethorpe’s closest friend and punk icon Patti Smith reflects today on him as her mentor.
“Everything looks easy,” Miller said in a New York magazine article from 1988, “but it’s like the ballerina who leaps but spent fifteen years practicing to do that move, there’s a lot of pain involved.” It was not only selling art that took over Miller’s life; he battled a series of illnesses that resulted in him undergoing brain surgery and having both hips replaced.
But illness never stopped him. In 1983 Miller chartered a plane to take his client, fashion mogul Calvin Klein, to a small New Mexican village to visit the studio of Georgia O’Keeffe, a painter Klein collected obsessively. The trip paid off and Klein returned with five key O’Keefe works purchased for approximately $3.3 million.
Miller nurtured two power dealers of recent years when Howard Read and John Cheim (of Cheim & Read) worked with him as directors, but in 2001 he moved the gallery to Chelsea before handing over its reins to his wife Betsy and son Robert Peter Miller Jr. the following year. He had become disillusioned with an art world increasingly more commercial than in his heyday.
“You cannot possess much of the great art in the world, but you can perceive it, particularly through reading,”he said. “People are reading less, and that opportunity to perceive is slipping away.”