Maastricht 2016

March 18 2016

Image of Maastricht 2016

Picture: BG

I had an enjoyable time at Maastricht, which was looking better than ever (they've changed the layout). The vibe was good too, with many dealers reporting strong sales. Sometimes dealers tell you they've had a great fair, when you can tell by the gritted teeth they've sold nothing. But this year there has genuinely been some strong traction, which is a marked improvement on last year. I am glad for the fair and exhibitors, because recent performance was beginning to look like the beginnings of a decline.That said, the Old Master section felt a little smaller than previous years.

I saw many fine and beautiful things; highlights included for me a Houdon marble of Diana (above, at Daniel Katz's stand); the newly discovered Jordaens study of two men I mentioned below (at Talabardon & Gautier); a Van de Velde the Younger marine picture in sublime condition at Rafael Valls'; a delightful oil study by Mary Beale of her son, (one the best pictures by her I've seen), at Rob Smeets'; and a giant Ribera of Hercules at Fergus Hall's. The stand I most enjoyed was Lowell Libson's, who always has an array of fascinating works in excellent condition - an important discovery this year was a marble bust by Vincenzo Pacetti, The Hope Roma.

Apologies for the lack of photos, but as you can tell by the rubbish one above, the camera on my phone is bust. I also saw a questionable little picture which looked like it was 'of recent manufacture'. But that's for another day. Oh, and some of the mark ups for recently bought auction pictures were beyond silly.


'Should we care about attribution'?

March 18 2016

Image of 'Should we care about attribution'?

Picture: RA

The RA website has an interesting piece on whether we should care about who painted what, in light of the new Giorgione exhibition in which attribution is hotly debated. Arguing 'yes' is the eminently sound art historian and noted connoisseur, Prof. David Ekserdjian, while arguing no is contemporary artist Doug Fishbone (who should presumably have written anonymously).

You can read the cases for yourself here, and there's a poll at the end of the article in which you can vote. Pleasingly, it's running at 80% in favour of Prof. Ekserdjian's case at the moment. Which just goes to show that no matter how often we're told that 'attribution doesn't matter' in art history, it certainly matters to the public.

Bosch at the Prado

March 18 2016

Video: Museo El Prado

By all accounts the city of 's-Hertogenbosch has never seen anything like the crowds flocking to the new Bosch show in the Nordbrabants museum. Hotels, everything, all sold out. But if you can't get there, fear not, for here's a trailer for the Prado Museum's own Bosch exhibition, which runs from 31st May till 11th September.

UK export laws - "no substantive change"

March 18 2016

Image of UK export laws - "no substantive change"

Picture: Sotheby's

Earlier this year Stephan Deuchar, the director of the Art Fund, said he would support no more campaigns to 'save' artworks at risk of export until changes were made to the export system. He called for 'radical' changes. A reader has, however, drawn my attention to an unreported parliamentary question in the House of Lords (in February) from Lord Smith of Finsbury, who is chairman of the Art Fund:

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what consideration they are giving, and on what timescale, to the drawing up of proposals for substantial change to the current arrangements for export licensing for nationally important works of art.

And here was the answer from DCMS minister Baroness Neville-Rolfe:

The Government is open to considering practicable improvements to the export licensing system for cultural goods, but has no immediate plans to make any substantive change to the current arrangements.

The Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport has written to the noble Lord in relation to his recently proposed changes to the system and is grateful for his correspondence on this matter.

So that would appear to be that. There are a few minor changes that can be made which will help the Art Fund's particular grievance (or at least one of them). I've got a longer piece on the whole question in the latest issue of Apollo Magazine (print edition).

Quite where this leaves the Art Fund's widely discussed threat I'm not sure. Without substantive changes, will the Art Fund now quietly go back to helping save important works, which it does so well? I do hope so. The whole business is, though, a reminder of one of the cardinal rules of politics and diplomacy; don't make threats you're not prepared to carry out. 

By the way, a reader alerts me to the fact that a £5m portrait by Ferdinand Bol (above), which was subject to a temporary export bar in January this year, is no longer on the Arts Counci's list of pictures threatened with export. Has a museum stepped into buy the picture? Or has the export licence been withdrawn? Or possibly a combination of the two?

Update - a reader writes:

I had also notice the missing Bol on the Export Committee’s website although it is worth bearing in mind that the website is almost always out of date.  For example, the website has still not updated the entry for the Niagara Falls watercolour by Davies where the deadline for offers expired in February.  Three weeks on and we have no idea whether the painting has been bought by a museum or has gone abroad.  One would ordinarily consult the Art Fund website to see if they have supported a grant but in recent months this website has become next to useless for those members interested in where their money is spent.  The vast majority of the news items advertise exhibitions and successful acquisitions are now relegated to a few pages at the back of the quarterly magazine. The Art Fund's searchable art database on its database is also woeful; it is now not possible to search by year of acquisition for example. 

Major art theft in Italy (ctd.)

March 18 2016

Image of Major art theft in Italy (ctd.)

Picture: Museo di Castelvecchio

Last November there was a major, armed, robbery of works from the Castelvecchio Museum in Verona. Italian police have now made a number of arrests - including the security guard on the night - but so far no pictures have been recovered. More here.

From this Antwerp street...

March 15 2016

Image of From this Antwerp street...

Picture: BG

This is Hoogstraat in Antwerp. In the house on the right with the red brick upper floors, Jacob Jordaens was born in 1593. In the house at the end of the street, facing down Hoogstraat, Anthony Van Dyck was born in 1599.

So much artistic genius from one street. There must have been something in the water...

Update - a reader writes:

There's even more 17th century art history connected to this street. The Hoogstraat leads on one side directly into a small medieval alley called the Vlaeykesgang where there was once a famous inn called 'De Roode Schild' (The Red Shield)', run by the greatgrandparents of Nikolaas Rockox, the great art patron and personal friend of... Peter Paul Rubens ! So maybe there must have been something in the beer rather than in the water....

To Maastricht, loudly.

March 15 2016

Image of To Maastricht, loudly.

Picture: BG

Greetings from Antwerp, where I am en route to Maastricht and the 29th annual Tefaf Old Master fair. This morning, those kind people at Hertz upgraded my Vauxhall Astra to... a Jaguar F-Type.

I can report that it's quite a car. Strangely, there's a button to change the exhaust noise. I have it switched to 'loud'.

Update - Looking at my map yesterday morning, I saw that Maastricht wasn't far from Spa, Belgium's grand prix track in the Ardennes. When I say 'not far' I mean about an hour in the opposite direction. But AHNers, I couldn't resist. Ooph...

"Van Dyck" at the Frick (ctd.)

March 12 2016

Image of "Van Dyck" at the Frick (ctd.)

Picture: Frick

The curators of the Frick's wondrous new Van Dyck exhibition, Adam Eaker (above left) and Stijn Alsteens (right, who here looks as if he could well be in a Van Dyck) can be heard discussing their new show in some depth in this interview on New York's WNYC radion station.

Sleeper alert! (ctd.)

March 12 2016

Image of Sleeper alert! (ctd.)

Picture: @lizss via Twitter

Further to my post below about the French dealers Talabardon & Gautier of Paris shrewdly discovering a Rembrandt in the US, I learn via Twitter that they also spotted the above study by Jordaens, which back in July last year made €260,000 in Paris against an estimate of €600-€800. Excellent sleuthing! 

Jetting into Maastricht

March 12 2016

Image of Jetting into Maastricht

Picture: Telegraaf

Apparently some 200 private jets have flown into Maastricht airport for the TEFAF opening. 

I'll be going next week, by car.

"Georges de La Tour" at the Prado

March 12 2016

Video: Prado

There's a new exhibition on at the Prado on the French 17th Century artist Georges de La Tour, of whom I've always been a fan. The show is on until 12th June this year. More here.

Van Gogh sunflowers to be cleaned?

March 12 2016

Image of Van Gogh sunflowers to be cleaned?

Picture: TAN/Van Gogh Museum

Martin Bailey in The Art Newspaper reports that the Van Gogh museum are considering cleaning their version of the Sunflowers. Martin, himself a well-respected Van Gogh scholar, tells us:

A key question that is being examined is whether the varnish of the Amsterdam painting could safely be removed. Van Gogh did not varnish his pictures, preferring a matt finish, and this coating was probably added in 1927, to help protect the surface. The varnish has aged since then, leaving a brownish tinge and dulling Van Gogh’s sparkling colours.

A further problem causing concern is the deterioration of Van Gogh’s chrome yellow pigments, which have darkened and become slightly greenish-brown. This is due to a photochemical reaction that takes place when chrome yellows are exposed to light. The effect on the Amsterdam picture is to make the flowers appear flatter than originally intended. Later tiny retouchings, also probably added in 1927, now appear more orange than Van Gogh’s original ochre-looking flowers. These retouches probably reflect the colour that was present nearly 90 years ago, revealing how the picture has changed since then.

€160m Rembrandt pair go on display

March 12 2016

Image of €160m Rembrandt pair go on display

Picture: via Art Daily

The pair of Rembrandt portraits (or Maerten Soolmans and his wife, Coppit) bought jointly by the Dutch and French governments for €160m have gone on display at the Louvre. The President of France and the Dutch King and Queen were there to see them. The pictures will be at the Louvre for three months, then the Rijksmuseum for three months, before a period in conservation. Then the rotation will be every 5 years, and later rising to a period of 8 years. The pictures cannot be loaned to any other institution. More here.

Sleeper alert! (ctd.)

March 12 2016

Image of Sleeper alert! (ctd.)

Pictures: AHN & Artnet

Remember the '19th Century Continental School, Portrait with Lady Fainting' that made $870,000 hammer in the US, against an estimate of $500-$800? It has gone on display for the first time at Maastricht. Galerie Talabardon et Gautier of Paris were the brave sleuths who spotted and bought the painting, which of course is by the young Rembrandt, and is one his five 'Senses' series, in this case 'Smell'. This is what it looks like now:

It has been bought by the well-known Rembrandt collector Tom Kaplan, for his Leiden Collection.

Kaplan's extraordinary collection of works by Rembrandt, as well as other Dutch masters such as Gerrit Dou, is testament to the fact that it's still possible to put together a collection of important works by the greatest Old Masters. 

By the way, keep your eyes peeled: the whereabouts of 'Taste' is unknown...

Mauritshuis acquires Savery still life

March 12 2016

Image of Mauritshuis acquires Savery still life

Picture: Colnaghi

One always has to be wary of first day sale announcements at art fairs, for it helps to take along a few sold pictures to unveil to the press and massed crowds. Red dots on a stand help build momentum. That said, things seem to have got off to a positive start at Maastricht this year, from what I've heard. Colnaghi announced the sale of the above 1615 Still Life of Flowers by Roeland Savery to the Mauritshuis for €6.5m. More here.

Portland Collection opens new gallery

March 12 2016

Video: Portland Collection/Harley Gallery

We often hear about museums closing here in the UK, but every now and then some exciting new ones open. The latest is a new gallery at Welbeck Abbey, which will put treasures from the Portland Collection on public display for the first time. The video above tells you about the new space, while this piece in The Guardian tells us more about the decision to create it:

From 20 March, the extensive art collection, which to date has simply adorned the walls of the family stately home, is to be opened up in its entirety to the public for the first time.

William Parente, grandson of the seventh Duke of Portland, said his family had taken a decision 15 years ago that this priceless art should no longer be locked away.

“We’d been very private for 50 years and we wanted to open things up. We knew there was this fantastic collection, I’d grown up with it, and we all felt a bit uncomfortable that we were the only ones who saw it,” said Parente.

He said it had been “crucial” that the artwork, of the sort rarely seen outside large London galleries, remained in the local area. By making the public gallery – funded by an endowment from the family – a permanent home for priceless works such as the Michelangelo sketch and five Van Dyck paintings, Parente said he hoped this small corner of Nottingham could grow into a cultural hub.

“Keeping the art in Nottinghamshire was the most important part of this project for us,” he said. “This was once a rich mining area that suffered terribly from the closing of the pits, and still hasn’t recovered. We’ve had the thick end of 30 years of misery, so we were desperate to contribute in any way we could to get things moving and we were keen to use the art as part of this.”

The Welbeck collection is full of Van Dycks, so obviously I can't wait to go.

What makes a painting valuable?

March 11 2016

Image of What makes a painting valuable?

Picture: Sotheby's/TAN

Well, cats for a start. There's no hard and fast rule about what makes an Old Master painting desirable, but I've had a go at explaining the various elements behind value here in The Art Newspaper.

£20m-£30m Rubens at Christie's

March 11 2016

Image of £20m-£30m Rubens at Christie's

Picture: Christie's/FT

The FT kindly asked me to write about Christie's latest stellar consignment, an early-ish Rubens of 'Lot and His Daughters'. You can read the article here.

The picture has never been exhibited, and has been in the same collection since the 19th Century. Yet another picture to challenge the myth of 'supply' in the Old Master market. Well done Christie's for securing the lot. It's in the most exceptional condition - I saw it on Wednesday.


'Fake or Fortune?'

March 10 2016

Image of 'Fake or Fortune?'

Picture: Philip Mould & Co.

Apologies for the lack of action today. I've been in charge of the 'Fake or Fortune?' laptop again.

Come and hear me talk! (ctd.)

March 9 2016

Image of Come and hear me talk! (ctd.)

Picture: Eventbrite

I'll be moderating an evening of talks and debate at the Mall Galleries in London on Thursday 14th April at 6.30pm about Scottish Art. What is it, where does it come from - is there in fact such a thing as 'Scottish Art'? Speakers include the broadcaster and author Andrew Marr, Alice Strang (curator of modern art at the Scottish National Galleries), and Lachlan Goudie, the artist and broadcaster whose recent BBC series on Scottish art wowed us all. The Mall Galleries are also hosting an exhibition of works by Lachlan's father, Alexander. And of course, there'll be free booze. Tickets are available here.

Update - the event suddenly sold out yesterday, thanks everyone for your interest!

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