Better glaze that Gauguin...

April 4 2011

Image of Better glaze that Gauguin...

Picture: BBC

A picture by Gauguin on loan to the National Gallery of Art in Washington has been attacked during an exhibition.

Susan Burns pounded Two Tahitian Women and tried to rip it from a gallery wall on Friday, officials said. The 1899 painting, which depicts two women's bare breasts, was behind a plastic cover and was unharmed. She was charged with attempted theft and destruction of property and is being held pending a mental evaluation.

Restoring Gainsborough's Grave

April 4 2011

Image of Restoring Gainsborough's Grave

Graves aren't really my thing, but here's a deserving cause: Gainsborough's grave in St Anne's, Kew is seriously in need of restoration. The sum needed is £15,000. Here's a rather wobbly but charming video on the project.

A number of you kindly responded to my plug for the Anne Boleyn restoration fund - and if anyone wants to spread the word about this, the friends of St Anne's would be most grateful.

If you're so minded, cheques should be sent to:

'The Friends of St. Anne’s Church, Kew', The Treasurer, The Friends’, C/O The Parish Office, St. Anne’s Church, Kew Green, Richmond, Surrey TW9 3AA

Eisenhower speech on saving art in WW2 found

April 1 2011

Image of Eisenhower speech on saving art in WW2 found

Picture: AP

'Ike' was no orator, but this newly discovered speech is well worth a listen. It relates Eisenhower's rationale behind his decision to help save the thousands of works of art looted by the Nazis. 

We've been researching the work of Ike's 'Monuments Men' (those who helped find the stolen art) for our new BBC1 series, Fake or Fortune. We all have a lot to thank them, and Eisenhower, for.

Art history relief?

April 1 2011

From the Art Newspaper:

The visual arts survived the Arts Council England (ACE) cuts better than most sectors, including theatre, music and dance. Visual arts organisations funded by ACE will overall actually receive a 2% increase in their grants from 2010/11 to 2014/15, although once inflation is taken into account this represents a 7% fall in real terms.

Looking for Eworth

April 1 2011

Image of Looking for Eworth

Here's an interesting article by Hope Walker on what is thought to be Hans Eworth's only known drawing. Trouble is, nobody knows where it is. If you do, pray tell...

This one is Not an April Fool

April 1 2011

Image of This one is Not an April Fool

If you're in Pennsylvania this weekend, you can go to the Tattoo and Arts gathering at 'Inkin the Valley', and get your favourite painting tattooed somewhere special. Nice.

Turning Deaccessioning into Art

April 1 2011

Image of Turning Deaccessioning into Art

Next month, I shall be taking part in a conference at the National Gallery on whether major galleries should begin deaccessioning. However, one gallery has jumped the gun: Tate has announced a collaboration with a Turner Prize contender to create an interactive deaccessioning exhibit.

Store/Sell/Destroy No.4 promises to take Michael Landy’s Art Bin concept to a whole new level. A number of low-value, damaged, and less popular paintings will be deaccessioned and shredded, and rewoven into a giant quilt. The stuffing will be made of pulped frames. 

The artist, Korean performance interpretive specialist Ei Pri Fuh, will then sleep under the quilt for the duration of the exhibition. In order to make the installation participative, both Fuh and Tate are hoping that the quilt will be large enough to allow visitors to sleep under it too, subject to a health and safety assessment.

Fuh’s agent said;

Store/Sell/Destroy No.4 will be a commentary on accessioning, deaccessioning and reaccessioning through the creation of a temporal cacophony of orchestrated multi-linear collisions between spatially and historically remote works, set within a rich inheritance of reductive aesthetics. 

Fuh said:

I hope it will be warm.

At the end of the exhibition, the quilt will be sold to benefit Tate’s acquisition fund. 

Update 2.4.11: This was a joke.

Gauguin bust for sale

March 31 2011

Image of Gauguin bust for sale

Picture: Sotheby's

A rare wooden bust by Gauguin will be offered by Sotheby's on May 3rd in New York for $10-15 million.

Van Gogh's 'weave maps'

March 31 2011

Image of Van Gogh's 'weave maps'

An electrical engineering professor, Richard Johnson Jr., has developed an algorithmic programme to help authenticate Van Gogh paintings. The programme analyses the 'weave maps' of Van Gogh's canvasses. Johnson, who has been working at the Van Gogh Museum in the Netherlands, said;

'This is pretty extraordinary... What's happening is some doubted paintings are being authenticated, and some that had been placed at a funny date are now being moved.'

More here.

Church of England sells Zurburans for £15m

March 31 2011

Image of Church of England sells Zurburans for £15m

The Church of England has sold its series of paintings by Francisco Zurburan to a financier for £15 million. The twelve pictures have been at Auckland Castle, home to the Bishop of Durham, since 1756, and represent Jacob and his twelve sons (the 13th painting, Benjamin, is by Arthur Pond).

The financier, Jonathan Ruffer, has decided to immediately give the paintings back so that they can remain at Auckland Castle in perpetuity. This is quite an amazing gift. Read the Spectator's interview with him here. See more of the pictures here.

The happy ending should not, however, blind us to the fact that the Church of England Commissioners are prepared to sell off some of the most important parts of our national heritage. Have the Commissioners got the balance right between protecting the Church's heritage, and continuing the Church's mission?

PS - the paintings cost Bishop Trevor £124 in 1756. Clever Trevor.

Arts cuts - deja vu

March 31 2011

Image of Arts cuts - deja vu

Above is a Canadian cartoonist's take on arts cuts in British Columbia.

And, as I always like taking the 'long view' of events, here's Woodrow Wyatt's critique of an earlier Conservative government's cuts, in 1952:

Nothing like this has ever happened before in our history. Never before have so many museums and art galleries been compelled by any Government to impose restrictions on the public. And all this in order to save 84 people on the staff and £30,000 a year. When these announcements were made, there were, naturally, tremendous protests from those interested in the presevation of our culture. The Financial Secretary to the Treasury sought to justify these cuts in the House on 25th June by a very peculiar method of argument. He said that all museums and art galleries, taken together, had 59 more on their staffs today than they had before the war, and he went on to say that they had 277,000 square feet less of galleries to look after, because of losses due to enemy action, and that therefore there was no need whatever for them to have closed down any part of their premises.

The Financial Secretary looks at our heritage, our traditions and culture as a matter of arithmetic, and no doubt this Government would try to assess the artistic value of the Elgin Marbles by weight. In that case, there would be very little hope—if there are to be further cuts—for Magna Carta, because, although it is a very important document, it does not weigh very much.

New evidence on the 'Sanders Portrait'

March 30 2011

Image of New evidence on the 'Sanders Portrait'

Staff at the University of Guelph in Canada have published new evidence they say reinforces the claim of the 'Sanders Portrait' to show Shakespeare. 

The evidence is in the form of what is thought to be a direct link between the present owner, Lloyd Sullivan, and either William or John Sanders, who at some point may have acted with Shakespeare. More here, and the detailed genealogy here. If you really think the portrait is of Shakespeare, you can buy it here.

I'm a firm believer in the c.1610 Chandos portrait - so I still have trouble believing that the much younger 'Sanders' sitter, of 1603, is the same man. I also don't see that the Sanders sitter is 39, as he would have to be if the portrait was Shakespeare.

Restoring Matisse's 'Joy of Life'

March 30 2011

Image of Restoring Matisse's 'Joy of Life'

Picture: The Barnes Foundation, Philadelphia.

Following the recent analysis of Van Gogh's faded sunflowers, scientists are now examining a 1906 work by Matisse, The Joy of Life.

Like Van Gogh, Matisse used a range of bright yellow pigments invented in the industrial revolution. These are now slowly fading, but by a combination of conservation and the right lighting levels it is hoped the process can be checked. 

Once the painting is in its own gallery in Philadelphia, the museum may use lights of a specific wavelength to minimize further oxidation [said Jennifer Mass, the scientist leading the project]. In the future, some chemical treatments might be considered to reverse the color changes, but that would be considered an invasive treatment and would be undertaken only with extreme care, she said.

"I think Matisse is not getting a fair deal at the moment," Mass said. "What art historians are looking at is not his original vision."

More here.

Winterhalter back at Osborne House

March 29 2011

Image of Winterhalter back at Osborne House

Picture: Jennifer Burton

A fleshy picture by Franz Winterhalter given to Prince Albert on his birthday by Queen Victoria has returned to Osborne House. Florinda originally hung in Victoria's sitting room, but was taken to Buckingham Palace after her death.

This is a good move by the Royal Collection, who are increasingly lending pictures back to their original settings. You can zoom in on the painting here

PS - this is one of my favourite examples yet of the 'pointless use of white gloves' rule demanded by newspapers for art-related photoshoots. The improbably strong curator here is Michael Hunter.

Maastricht stats

March 29 2011

Some numbers from the world's biggest art and antiques fair, courtesy of Forbes. My favourite at the end;

Opening night: 144,000 flowers; 120,000 hors d’oeuvres dishes; 60 private planes.

Overall: 1800 bottles of Champagne; 3500 bottles of wine; 100,000 glasses; 78,478 visitors from; 55 countries; 181 museum representatives; 154 private airplanes; one airport runway converted to a parking lot to accommodate said planes; more than 30,000 objects valued at over 2 billion euros; 1 robbery.

Incidentally, the jet count is down from 171 last year.

£35m V&A extension design revealed

March 29 2011

Image of £35m V&A extension design revealed

A design by British architect Amanda Levete has been chosen by the V&A for their new Exhibition Road extension. The huge new underground space will be used for exhibitions, replacing the current exhibition court spread over three seperate rooms.

The V&A staff and trustees deserve great praise for undertaking such a project in these austere times. The work will be finished by 2015.

Half the £35m has come from an anonymous donor - who richly dserves all our thanks. This is the sort of gift that Polly Toynbee today laments as 'the whims of wealthy donors'.

Getty Restitutes Goudstikker Molijn

March 29 2011

Image of Getty Restitutes Goudstikker Molijn

Picture: Getty

The Getty Museum has returned a landscape by Pieter Molijn to the heirs of Jacques Goudstikker, the Dutch art dealer whose stock was seized by the Nazis.

The Getty bought the painting in 1972 at Sotheby's after it had passed through several hands, but have very honourably decided to surrender ownership. More on Bloomberg here, and at the Getty here. There is a fascinating website on Goudstikker's collection here.

Discovering Dou

March 28 2011

Image of Discovering Dou

Picture: Brooklyn Museum

These museum basement discoveries continue apace; now the Brooklyn Museum has discovered a 1631 work by Gerrit Dou, which had been languishing in their stores described as a contemporary copy. 

The museum's new curator of European art, Richard Aste, reviewed the gallery's holdings and decided to show the 4x6 inch panel to a number of colleagues and experts. Now that it is considered to be by Dou, further research is being undertaken to see if it is a self-portrait.

Interestingly, given the debate in the UK on deacessioning, the picture had been earmarked for possible sale.  

That Picasso - too expensive?

March 28 2011

Image of That Picasso - too expensive?

Picture: Tate

The Guardian's Jonathan Jones isn't sure if the The World's Most Expensive Painting (which I mentioned earlier) is really worth the money. Now that it's on display at Tate Modern, Jones asks:

...is it worth the money?

To my surprise, the answer is no. It comes as a surprise because I love Picasso. If money was just numbers (and in the world of high finance and art sales, perhaps it is just numbers), I would not blink at any price quoted for one of his paintings. But this is not la-la land. It is a troubled world with a troubled economy, and the blame for the problem, all sides agree, has something to do with bubbles, credit gorges, fantasy economics. And yet, ever more impossible prices are being paid for paintings.

For now, this Picasso is all about its price tag, and the display at Tate Modern is poisoned if you know its damned value.

I think I agree. However, I see that Jones has changed his tune since this reductionist rant when it was sold at auction in 2010:

The sale of Picasso's 1932 painting Nude, Green Leaves and Bust for a new world record price of £70m is a tragedy. Unless it turns out that the anonymous purchaser is a public museum – almost certainly not the case – what has happened here is a theft of world culture, art history and beauty from we, the people, by the super-rich. One of the last great surprises of 20th-century art has come and gone, photographed in the sale room on its journey from one private collection to another. If it appears in exhibitions in the future that will be the result of curators fawning to some billionaire for a peep at what, in reality, should be the cultural property of us all.

Jones is evidently a man of good taste, and doubtless has some nice art of his own. But I bet he wouldn't like it if I walked into his living room, nicked a painting off the wall, and said 'this belongs to the people!' 

Murillo returns to Tyntesfield

March 27 2011

Image of Murillo returns to Tyntesfield

The National Trust has announced the return of a Mater Dolorosa by the studio of Murillo to Tyntesfield House in Somerset, where it once hung. 

The Trust bought the picture for just over $80,000 at Christie's in New York, against an estimate of $30-50,000.

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