'Peaks and Glaciers'

January 22 2018

Image of 'Peaks and Glaciers'

Picture: John Mitchell Fine Paintings

It may be because I'm half Swiss, but I've always had a thing for snowy pictures. So allow me to plug an annual selling exhibition in London, Peaks and Glaciers, put on by my friends William and James Mitchell on Avery Row, just off Bond St. William is an intrepid climber. The exhibition opens on 25th Jan, and runs until 9th March. Catalogue and further details here

Me on connoisseurship! (ctd.)

January 22 2018

Image of Me on connoisseurship! (ctd.)

Picture: Martin Postle

I'm glad to say that we'll be doing my short course on connoisseurship again at the Royal Academy in London, this time in the summer; Saturday 30th June and Sunday 1st July. This will coincide with the Old Master sales in London. It was wonderful to meet so many AHNers on the last one. I'll post more details when the RA site is updated.

Tefaf drops art market report

January 22 2018

Image of Tefaf drops art market report

Picture: via FT

Surprising news from Melanie Gerlis in the FT that the Tefaf fair in Maastricht will no longer produce its annual art market survey. This was always big news ahead of the fair, and generated significant news coverage. But last year a new author was commissioned to write the report, and the numbers might not have been to everyone's liking, at least from the market's point of view. Gerlis writes:

In truth, their future hung in the balance after 2016 when economist Clare McAndrew, their author since 2008, said she was instead crunching numbers for the Art Basel franchise. Maastricht University professor Rachel Pownall ably took the reins for Tefaf last year but there were differences between her methodology and McAndrew’s, which led to vastly different results. Pownall revised the art market’s 2015 value to $44bn from McAndrew’s $63.8bn and for 2016 had a total of $45bn, while McAndrew had $56.6bn — even the direction of travel was different.

More here

Tefaf recently signed another lease with the NEC centre in Maastricht, committing the fair to the city for another ten years. Personally, I agreed with those dealers who wanted to see the fair move to a larger, ideally capital city. At least somewhere that was easier to get to. A number of well-established Old Master dealers have decided not to do the fair this year.

Charles I's Titian in New York

January 22 2018

Video: Sotheby's

Another picture at Sotheby's in New York is this 6ft tall religious picture by Titian and his workshop, of St Margaret. It once belonged to Charles I, and when valued after his death was deemed to be worth more (at £100) than Leonardo's Salvator Mundi (at £30). Today the estimate is (by comparison with the Leonardo) a modest $2m-$3m.

As The Guardian reports, it was offered to a plumber, in part exchange for repairs carried out at the royal palaces during the Cromwellian regime. 

It's one of two versions, the other is in the Prado.

A Velasquez two for the price of one

January 22 2018

Video: Sotheby's

Here's a Sotheby's video on a portrait partly by Velasquez in next week's  New York Old Master sale. The head is all by Velasquez, but the rest was completed by another artist, Pietro Martire Neri. The catalogue entry is here

When I was teaching a course on connoisseurship at the RA last month, we were lucky enough to spend some time with this picture. It was a great way to practice connoisseurship, seeing where Velasquez stopped, and where Neri began. 

Two new Van Gogh discoveries

January 18 2018

Image of Two new Van Gogh discoveries

Pictures: via TAN

When the Van Gogh museum was asked to give a view on the authenticity of a previously unknown Van Gogh drawing (above) it prompted them to reassess a work in its own collection. Now, the museum has declared that both works are indeed by Van Gogh. The picture above is The Hill of Montmartre with Stone Quarry, and is in the collection of the Van Vlissingen Art Foundation. The picture below is The Hill of Montmartre, and belongs to the Van Gogh Museum, but had been rejected by curators there as a pastiche. Both works were drawn in 1886. More here from Martin Bailey (himself a Van Gogh scholar) in The Art Newspaper

The $250 Rembrandt (ctd.)

January 18 2018

Image of The $250 Rembrandt (ctd.)

Picture: AHN

Remember the story of the discovery at auction of one of Rembrandt's Senses? It surfaced at auction in the US, with an estimate of just $250, and is now in the Leiden Collection. Now the three brothers who inherited the painting from their mother have described their decision not to sell it in a 'yard sale', and how they found out it had actually sold for $1.1m:

After their mom died in 2010, the three brothers cleaned out her house and decided to sell the items that they didn’t have a need for.

“We had a garage sale, but there were a few things like the china and silver that looked very nice and we thought, well, we don’t really want to just give them away,” [...]

The small painting was unsettling to Ned Landau during his childhood, and he recalled “As a kid I thought, ‘why did we have a painting like that in our dining room?'”

Their mother’s nicer items lived in Roger Landau’s basement for four years before approaching an appraiser, John Nye, who gave them an estimate of a few hundred dollars for the painting.

More here

Another Tate Britain re-hang

January 18 2018

Image of Another Tate Britain re-hang

Picture: Tate 

In an interview in The Art Newspaper, Tate Britain director Alex Farquharson reveals that he's going to re-hang the entire gallery. This is just five years after the previous director, Penelope Curtis, unveiled a much vaunted chronological rehang, which did away with the previous social and thematic one. Now - guess what - Tate Britain is going back to a thematic and social hang.

We must wait to see the finished result (in 2020), but this seems to me reflective of an institution which doesn't really know what it's about. Shackled to the mother ship of Tate Modern, Tate Britain seems to see itself not as a museum, but a giant exhibition space, one that's almost embarrassed by what it has to show. Consequently, the exhibition space - and what goes in it - must be changed every five years or so. A museum which was comfortable in itself, and happy to celebrate its collection, wouldn't do this. 

There is of course one thing a new re-hang could achieve, and that is a significant addition to the hanging space by making use of the central Duveen Galleries. These walls are just left empty, above. A similar space exists at the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston, which is used much more effectively. Given the amount of great art Tate Britain has in store, the under-use of the Duveen galleries is a shocking waste of hanging space.

'Stop reading, start looking'

January 18 2018

Image of 'Stop reading, start looking'

Picture: TAN

Here's my latest diary column for The Art Newspaper. I discuss the time I asked a group of final year art history students if they could identify a Titian - only one of 40 got it. Are our art history students being sold short?

Charles I: King and Collector

January 15 2018

Video: RA

Excitement is building ahead of the Royal Academy's new blockbuster show on Charles I and his art collection. Above is the RA's trailer. The show opens on January 27th. More here

PS - I'll be writing about it in The Art Newspaper.

Introducing 'eVasari'

January 15 2018

Video: eVasari

Ever struggled to remember when Van Dyck's Italian period ended, or which cities he visited? There's a clever new website which helps you find out when and where artists travelled in their lives, and shows all the information visually. It's called eVasari; the video above tells you how it works, and site itself is here.

Antwerp 2018: year of the Baroque

January 15 2018

Video: Visitantwerpen.be

2018 is the year of the Baroque in Antwerp, one my favourite cities. There will be a range of Baroque-inspired events, with many featuring Rubens; more here. Sadly, the much delayed refurbishment means the KMSKA won't be open until 2019, but there are many other art treasures to see around the city, including at the Rockoxhuis and of course the Rubenshuis. At the latter, you'll find a newly loaned picture by Titian (below, and featured here in a short video).

How not to pack a drawing

January 15 2018

Image of How not to pack a drawing

Picture: Crispian Riley-Smith

The drawings dealer Crispian Riley-Smith has shown on Twitter what happens when an auction house doesn't pack artworks properly. Happily, after a little conservation, the damage is less obvious. 

Hunt for lost Ravilious works

January 15 2018

Image of Hunt for lost Ravilious works

Picture: via Telegraph

The author of a new catalogue raisonné on the works of Eric Ravilious, James Taylor, has launched an appeal for 40 lost watercolours by the artist. Have you got one? More here

William Blake at Petworth (ctd.)

January 15 2018

Image of William Blake at Petworth (ctd.)

Picture: NPG

The William Blake exhibition at Petworth is now open; Maev Kennedy has had a preview in The Guardian.

Brexit and the art market (ctd.)

January 15 2018

Image of Brexit and the art market (ctd.)


Immediately after the Brexit referendum result, AHN predicted that the cheaper pound would help boost art exports from the UK, as buyers took advantage of the newly discounted art on sale in Britain. But I didn't expect that art exports would rise so dramatically that they would have an effect on the UK's trade deficit. In the last quarter, overseas art buyers bought an extra £500m worth of art in the UK. The Times reports:

Foreign art collectors came to Britain’s rescue in the three months to November by spending an extra £500 million in auction rooms, helping to pare back the ballooning trade deficit.

The Office for National Statistics said that the deficit had narrowed by £1.2 billion to £6.1 billion over the period, once oil and “erratic” items such as ships, aircraft and non-monetary gold were excluded, with just under half of the improvement down to higher art exports.

The trade deficit reflects the country’s ability to pay its way in the world, measuring how much more Britain imports that it exports. A wide deficit is linked with a risk of currency collapse.

All of this is good for those doing the deals in the UK - auction houses and dealers, at least in the short term. But it's not so good for British heritage. How much of this extra £500m will be accounted for by works of national pre-eminence? I don't know, but I should imagine there will be a proportional rise in export licence applications.

'A Stitch in Time'

January 15 2018

Video: BBC

There's a new series on the BBC looking at fashion in art, called a 'Stitch in Time'. More here

An early Leonardo discovery in the US?

January 10 2018

Image of An early Leonardo discovery in the US?

Picture: Worcester Art Gallery

Judith H. Dobrzynski of The Art Newspaper reports that a small panel at Worcester Art Gallery (above) might be an early work by Leonardo da Vinci. It is thought to be very close to another early work in The Louvre:

The museum will display the work with another predella panel, the Annunciation (around 1475-78), from the Musée du Louvre in Paris. Both have been attributed mostly to Lorenzo di Credi. Drawing on research by Rita Albertson, WAM’s chief conservator; Laurence Kanter, the chief curator of Yale University Art Gallery, and Bruno Mottin, the senior curator of the Centre de Recherche et de Restauration des Musées de France, the exhibition will argue that Leonardo was the main author of both paintings.

The panels were part of an altarpiece for the Duomo of Pistoia in Tuscany; documents show that Andrea del Verrocchio received the commission around 1475. Leonardo and Lorenzo were members of Verrocchio’s workshop in Florence at the time. X-ray studies on the Worcester panel confirm previous theories that two artists worked on it, Albertson says, arguing that underdrawings betray the hand of Leonardo. The painting also presents light effects, details such as eyelashes and wrinkles, and a naturalistic landscape consistent with the master, she says. Mottin’s analysis of the Louvre’s work tallied with Albertson’s conclusions.

More at the site of Worcester Art Gallery here

Fakes, fakes everywhere? (ctd.)

January 10 2018

Video: Palazzo Ducale, Genoa

Last year, an exhibition of works by Modigliani was put on with great fanfare at the Palazzo Ducale in Venice. Alas, all but one of them were (as the Telegraph reports) fake, and the exhibition was closed down.

I suspect most of you can tell from the exhibition video above that the pictures are not only fake, but are really bad fakes. How did they ever slip through the net?

The Telegraph adds:

Three people are now under investigation for the alleged fakes, including Rudy Chiappini, the curator of the art exhibition, and Joseph Guttmann, a Hungarian art dealer who owns 11 of the works.

You can see a video of Chiappini saying the works are not fake here.

Always nteresting to see what other exhibitions people have been involved with.

Carlo Pedretti (1928-2018)

January 10 2018

Image of Carlo Pedretti (1928-2018)

Picture: Ansa

The art historian Carlo Pedretti (above left), hailed by Kenneth Clark as 'the greatest' Leonardo scholar of his time, has died. He started writing on Leonardo in 1944. More here

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