The complex world of art sales

Auctioneer Jussi Pylkkanen calls for final bids on Pablo Picasso's Women of Algiers
Auctioneer Jussi Pylkkanen calls for final bids on Pablo Picasso's Women of Algiers

So Picasso's Women of Algiers (version O) has been sold for a record-breaking sum - going for $160m (£102.6m) at Christie's in New York.

Other than the high price, the transaction appeared fairly straight-forward. There's a seller, an (anonymous) buyer and an auctioneer to conduct proceedings.

But the opaque nature of the art world means trophy sales, such as the one last night in New York, are rarely that simple.

The auction houses are desperate for top-quality product and will go to great lengths to secure grade A works for their most prestigious sales. They might, for example, waive their fees for selling the work.

On occasion, they may even offer a guaranteed price to the owner, whether the work sells or not.

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What on earth is a dramaturg?

It is a word you might never have heard of, and a job you might never have known existed.

But dramaturgs are all the rage backstage in theatres, and even more traditional venues like the Royal Opera House.

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Trying to shine at Venice

Helen Sear
Helen Sear of Wales is exhibiting large-scale video installations and stills photography

So far Sarah Lucas has received all the attention, her giant phallic sculptures overshadowing the exhibitions presented by her fellow Brits. Which is fair enough, she is in the main British Pavilion, after all. But now she's had her moment in the Venetian sun, it's time to shine a light on the work of her compatriots.

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Review: Sarah Lucas at the Venice Biennale

Work of artist Sarah Lucas for the 56 Venice Biennale 2015
The work exhibited by Sarah Lucas includes several plaster sculptures cast from the lower torso of the artist and her female friends

The Venice Biennale reflects the best and worst of us.

On the one hand, there are the most amazing examples of what the human imagination can achieve. You are surrounded by great beauty and great art.

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When did curators become cool?

Suddenly everyone wants to be a curator.

Once a niche job in the art world, now everyone seems to have jumped onto the curating bandwagon, from TV types to Twitter feeds.

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Could the Young British Artists happen again?

The YBAs - or young British artists - emerged from art colleges in the 1990s and took the art world by storm.

Their work was bought up and marketed, to great effect, by Charles Saatchi.

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Does Sir Kenneth Branagh want to run the National Theatre?

This week, the National Theatre's chief executive exited stage right from the organisation. Under different circumstances that could have left Sir Kenneth Branagh in charge.

Instead, on Friday he announced that he was launching his own theatre company. The troupe includes Rob Brydon and Dame Judi Dench, and will be at a West End theatre for a year.

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What does it take to be a museum director?

The director of the British Museum, Neil Macgregor announced he was stepping down in early April.

Since taking over in 2002 he has transformed the institution into Britain's most visited tourist attraction.

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Can we design for a better living?

A device that texts a farmer when one of his cows goes into labour, a light shade made out of mushrooms and a bollard that talks to you are just some of the latest cutting edge designs shortlisted for the Designs of the Year award.

I take a look at the role of imagination in saving the world from its problems.

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Should museums ban selfie sticks?

The National Gallery in London is among a growing number of venues that have banned selfie sticks - those telescopic arms that allow people to take photos of themselves using a mobile phone.

The gallery says it needs to protect artworks and other visitors. But some users can't see what the fuss is about.

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