"Orgy of the rich!"
February 16 2011
Hats off to demonstrators from 'Arts Against the Cuts', who last night staged a daring demo in the middle of Sotheby's evening contemporary art sale. The bidders gave a generous round of applause at the end.
One of the protester's slogans was an ironic; 'I like my money on the wall'. Better than in the bank...
Tate's new 'Watercolour' exhibition
February 15 2011
Picture: 'Scarlet Sunset' by Turner, Tate Britain.
Richard Dorment doesn't like it:
"Watercolour isn't a complete disaster, but it's a close call."
Matilda Battersby in The Independent is more enthusiastic.
I haven't seen it yet, but so far I hear good reports, and can't wait to go.
Soane Museum Restoration
February 15 2011
The director of the Soane Museum, Tim Knox, has launched a £500,000 public appeal to raise the final funds needed for the museum's restoration. He has already raised a whopping £6.5m. More here, and at the museum's website here.
Tim Knox said;
"Rest assured that it will all be done in the best possible taste... no brash new labels or burbling audioguides."
Van Gogh's Dying Sunflowers
February 15 2011
An international team of scientists has analysed the fading pigments used by Van Gogh, most notably his yellow. The findings confirm that over time his yellows have become brown, and will continue to get browner.
Van Gogh's original use of ultra-bright colours was dependent on the limited type of pigments available at the time. Inevitably, they will not last as well as pigments available later on, when paint companies had to cater for the very style that Van Gogh and his like had created.
Of course, Van Gogh was not the only artist who had trouble with his 'fugitive pigments'. Joshua Reynolds mixed his own experimental pigments, usually not very well. He had a particular problem with his reds and pinks. As a result, many of his portraits look like ghosts today.
Will future generations wonder why Van Gogh was so interested in dead flowers?
New pictures at Hampton Court
February 14 2011
Two rarely seen Royal Collection portraits are now on display at Hampton Court Palace. They've been up for a while, but I've only just got round to seeing them. Both are well worth the trip, and well done to the curators at Historic Royal Palaces for securing their loan.
On the left is John Michael Wright's magnificent portrait of the freshly restored Charles II, painted in about 1661. It is one of the finest royal portraits of the seventeenth century, by one of my favourite artists. Wright is often overlooked, being squeezed between Van Dyck and Lely. At his best, however, he comes close to the former, and beats the latter.
On the right is the Giant Porter, painted in 1580. I posted on this earlier, but it's difficult to get a sense of its scale unless you actually see it - it's enormous. To a Tudor viewer it/he must have been terrifying.
A novel way of getting stock
February 13 2011
A US art dealer has been jailed for four years for stealing paintings from one set of clients, and then selling them to others. Apparently:
The scheme was doomed from the start, investigators claim, as Lidtke's big buyer since his release was an undercover FBI agent.
For sale: 'most important modern American painting ever'?
February 12 2011
Picture: University of Iowa Museum of Art
The University of Iowa is considering selling 'Mural' by Jackson Pollock. Apparently valued at $150 million in 2008, the money would go to fund scholarships. It was given to the University by Peggy Guggenheim in 1951.
The University's website says of the picture; [more below]
Mural is considered by many to be the most important modern American painting ever made. For Mural, Pollock evoked the myriad stylistic techniques and theoretical methodologies to which he had been exposed. He synthesized these elements in the moment and created a painting that is inundated with personal, cultural, social, political, and art-world references: the work of his early mentor Thomas Hart Benton and the Regionalist style; the landscape of the Midwest and Native American imagery and philosophy; commercial art; the Works Progress Association (WPA); Mexican murals, Soviet Social Realism and Marxism; the influence of refugee artists from wartime Europe; Asian calligraphy; African and other non-Western art; film; the explosion of World War II and America's response; Picasso's work, especially Guernica (1937); and Jungian psychotherapy. Pollock harnessed all of these elements, with their diverse strengths, as he experienced them in a frenetic coming-togetherness, acting and reacting within his own bravura-painting performance.
Bacon & Freud continue to rise
February 12 2011
A 1952 Lucian Freud self-portrait sold at Sotheby's last night for £3.28m, beating its £600-800,000 estimate. Well worth it I'd say. Francis Bacon's triptych of Freud sold for £23m, a price that comfortably beat the $3.8m for a comparable work that sold in New York in 2003.
The pictures were part of the private collection of the late George Kostalitz.
A New Raphael self-portrait?
February 11 2011
Picture: Alessandro Vezzosi & Scripta Maneant
A new book claims that a little known copy of Raphael's self-portrait is in fact by Raphael himself. The picture, which follows the Uffizi image, has been in a bank vault for many years.
You can flip through a section of the new book, and zoom in on the pictures, here.
It's hard to tell from the photos, but the 'new' picture is clearly much better than the ubiquitous copies one sees of the Uffizi image. Judging by the faded blue pigments of the background it appears to have some age to it. Elements of the face, such as the nose and lips, are well observed.
Rare Rockwell drawing sold
February 10 2011
A fine drawing by Norman Rockwell called 'The Plumbers' was auctioned last night in Florida. Estimated at $35,000-$45,000, it sold for $120,000 hammer. More here.
Christie's Impressionist & Modern evening sale
February 10 2011
Which is just below the £68.8m made by Sotheby's evening sale. The difference may be explained by a £7-10m Gauguin that failed to sell.
Picasso - A Lecture
February 9 2011
The lesson of the lecture is - if you have a Picasso, sell it now.
Last night, Picasso's 'La Lecture' (a portrait of one of his mistresses) sold well above its £12-18m estimate at £25.2m.
Its success demonstrates the incredible buoyancy of the modern art market at the moment. In 1996 the same picture had been offered at $6-8m, when it failed to sell.
Titians on Tour - Jangling the Tin?
February 8 2011
Picture: National Gallery of Scotland
The LA Times wonders whether The National Gallery of Scotland's decision to send Titian's Diana & Actaeon and Diana & Callisto to America is part of a fund-raising trip;
It’s perhaps no coincidence that a U.K. institution has decided to send some of its choicest goods to America at this moment: private philanthropy dominates our arts economy, and the Brits are starting to get used to the fact that their own economically pressed government is pulling back the kind of public support that has long made American arts institutions jealous.
Treat of the Week
February 7 2011
I love paintings that combine raw history and artistry. At Bonhams on Wednesday is this study by John Lavery of the German naval surrender in 1918. Lavery was aboard HMS Queen Elizabeth and witnessed the scene.
Prado & Hermitage swap-shop
February 7 2011
The Prado and The Hermitage are to temporarily exchange a slew of works for an exhibition. AFP reports:
About 66 works from the Spanish museum will be put on display at the Hermitage between February 25 and May 29 as part of the "Prado at the Hermitage" exhibit.
In return 170 works from the Hermitage will be put on display at the Prado between November 8 and March 26, 2012.
Celebs meet History of Art
February 6 2011
Picture: Sky Arts. Myleene Klass as the Girl With a Pearl Earring.
A new TV series sees forger John Myatt paint celebrities "in the style of" the Old Masters. Also featured are Stephen Fry, James May, and Imelda Staunton.
Impressionist, Modern & Contemporary sales on view
February 5 2011
The atmosphere at Sotheby's and Christie's auction viewings of Impressionist & Modern art is very different to the Old Master sales I'm used to. The pictures are sparsely hung and strongly lit. Sharp-suited specialists slink silently between the high-rollers. Everyone whispers.
Of the two sales, I thought Sotheby's had the edge. But that's probably because I was drawn to the trio of Lucian Freuds, which was complimented by Francis Bacon's triptych portrait of Freud. The latter will surely beat its £7-9m estimate, in which case cue headlines saying 'Bringing home the Bacon'.
The picture I most liked was the tiny self-portrait by Lucien Freud. Painted in 1952, it is an intense work suffused with self-doubt. The estimate is £600,000-800,000, which in this market is probably rather low.
Being Norman Rockwell's Model
February 4 2011
Scott Ingram recalls his role in some of Rockwell most famous paintings;
'He never paid us much, but it didn't really matter,' Ingram said.
Picture Loans - the Way Ahead?
February 4 2011
Left: Renoir, Right: Caillebotte.
The Carnegie Museum and the Milwaukee Museum of Art are betting on the outcome of the Superbowl to decide the loan of two Impressionist paintings.
The stakes are as follows: if the Green Bay Packers win, the Carnegie Art Museum in Pittsburgh will loan Pierre-Auguste Renoir's "Bathers With Crab" to the Milwaukee Art Museum.
But if the Pittsburgh Steelers steal victory, the Milwaukee Art Museum stands to temporarily lose to the Carnegie its prized "Boating on the Yerres" by Gustave Caillebotte.
"Our art director is from Green Bay, so this is personal," said Kristin Settle, head of Public Relations for the Milwaukee Art Museum.
Should we do the same in the UK with the FA Cup Final? Why not?
Like, totally amazing.
February 3 2011
Google have a new website, www.googleartproject.com, where you can virtually explore some of the world's leading art galleries; Tate, Uffizi, Met, the National in London, etc. etc.
The most amazing thing of all, however, is the ability to zoom in in ultra-high resolution on some of the paintings. I've never seen digital art images as good as this online, and all for free too. Usually, galleries are so terrified of protecting their image rights, that you all you get is a blurry thumbnail.
It's brilliant. Congratulations to everyone involved.
I hope more UK art galleries can participate with Google in this project. The goal should be a comprehensive online database of the UK's national art collection. With Google's help, we could do this far more cheaply and effectively than if we tried to do it as, say, a government project.