Previous Posts: January 2011

Museums at risk in Cairo

January 31 2011

Image of Museums at risk in Cairo

Picture: CNN. Troops guard the Egyptian Museum in Cairo.

There are reports of mass lootings and tomb openings during the revolution. 

Friday night, a group of 'criminals' entered the Cairo Museum using a fire department staircase, Zahi Hawass, secretary-general of the Supreme Council of Antiquities, told CNN early Sunday.

Once inside the museum, they went to the Late Period gallery, Hawass wrote. 'When they found no gold, they broke 13 vitrines (glass showcases) and threw the antiquities on the floor'.

One to keep an eye on...

January 29 2011

Image of One to keep an eye on...

Picture: Sotheby's

Sotheby's minor Old Master sale in New York was full of hidden treats. One of the pictures I liked was this Mengs self-portrait, a replica of that in the Uffizi. It was catalogued (with a rather blurry photo) as 'Circle of Mengs', but was well painted, and could certainly stand being 'Studio'. Indeed, the author of the Mengs catalogue raisonne thought it might have been painted by Mengs himself, in parts.

It made $25,000. I hope to see it again, cleaned.

Impressionist discovery in US 'yard sale'

January 28 2011

Image of Impressionist discovery in US 'yard sale'

Picture: Skinner Inc.

A work by the American Impressionist painter Frederick Carl Frieseke has been bought in a 'yard sale' for less than $100. It will be auctioned on Friday 28th with an estimate of $50-70,000. More here.

Update 29.1.11; it didn't sell.

Just One Bidder

January 27 2011

Image of Just One Bidder

Picture: Sotheby's

The New York Times reports that there was just one bidder for the epic Titian sold by Sotheby's in New York on Thursday. Still, they managed to set an auction record for a work by Titian. 

More interesting, perhaps, was the fierce struggle to secure Perino del Vaga's Holy Family with the Infant John the Baptist. At the beginning of the bidding someone in the room shouted out increments of $100,000, to the delight of auctioneer Henry Wyndham. The picture was bought by the Met in New York. The museum's Chairman of European Paintings, Keith Christiansen, said, "the minute I saw this painting, I nearly keeled over."

When is a Holbein not a Holbein?

January 27 2011

Image of When is a Holbein not a Holbein?


When the museum label next to it says 'Netherlandish Painter, 1569'. 

One of the joys of viewing the Old Master sales in New York over a weekend is being able to go to the Met early on Sunday morning - it opens at 9.30am, perfect for the jet-lagged. I was amused to see one of my favourite Holbein's demoted, and tried to tell the museum staff. They must get hundreds of people trying to tell them 'your label is wrong', so I don't blame them for not taking me seriously. 

You can see a better photo of the portrait, properly catalogued, here

Judging the Last Judgement

January 27 2011

Image of Judging the Last Judgement

Picture: Doyles

One of the pictures that caught my eye in New York was a grisaille of a Last Judgement 'attributed to Frans Francken' at Doyles. Beautifully painted, but with some losses, it was estimated at just $2-4,000. 

Not mentioned in the catalogue was the apparent Salander O'Reilly Gallery provenance, according to a sticker on the back. It was perhaps this unfortunate recent market history (Mr Salander is currently in jail) which led the picture to make just $3,750.

Which is puzzling, because when it came up at auction some years earlier, at Sotheby's, it made £35,000. 

Lot 403: An English 'bubonic' country scene.

January 26 2011

Image of Lot 403: An English 'bubonic' country scene.

...or should that be 'bucolic'?

See for yourself at May Auctioneers, 28th January

From Sleeper to Museum Wall

January 24 2011

Image of From Sleeper to Museum Wall

I was interested to see this fine portrait of a gentleman by Quentin Metsys in the Metropolitan Museum in New York on Sunday. Not so long ago it had appeared in an auction in Switzerland with a very low estimate and called something like 'Flemish School' (I can't remember exactly). 

I had it eagerly flagged up, but the picture was withdrawn from the sale. It then reappeared at Christie's in London correctly described and with an estimate of £700,000 - £1m. Now, it hangs happily reunited (on loan) with its pendant, which has belonged to the Met since 1931.  

The New York viewings

January 23 2011

Here are some of the pictures I liked and didn’t like in the Christie’s and Sotheby’s sales. Generally a good offering, with Sotheby’s having the better pick of the two. If you have queries about anything else, please get in touch.

In catalogue order, pictures I liked were;

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New Director for the Wallace Collection

January 22 2011

Congratulations to Dr Christoph Vogtherr, who has been appointed the new Director of the Wallace Collection. He takes over from Dame Rosalind Savill later this year. More here.

Off to New York...

January 22 2011

Image of Off to New York...

6.30 am. BA aren't on strike. My excellent colleague Sara has swung me an upgrade. All is well. 

I'll post some thoughts on the sales tomorrow.

'Lot 31 - The Stolen Degas'

January 21 2011

Image of 'Lot 31 - The Stolen Degas'

A c.1870 painting by Edgar Degas stolen in 1973 has been returned to the French Government by US authorities after it was spotted in an auction catalogue. The picture, estimated by Sotheby's at $350,000 to $450,000, had slipped through a check on the Art Loss Register. 

U.S. customs officials, working with authorities from Interpol, said the painting was consigned to French art collector Ronald Grelsamer. 

Grelsamer said his father gave him the painting as a gift, but was unaware it was stolen, the statement said.

'Lost Rubens' faces Export Ban

January 18 2011

Image of 'Lost Rubens' faces Export Ban

Picture: Sotheby's.

A portrait believed to be by Rubens has been stopped for export by the government's Reviewing Committee. The picture was offered at Sotheby's in December 2009 with an estimate of £4-6m, but failed to sell and is now priced at £1m.

The 'striking portrait of a very real, although unidentified, woman', according to the Committee's Chairman Lord Inglewood, must have presented the panel with a tricky dilemma. The so-called Waverley Criteria, by which a picture is judged to be of national importance, are;

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The perils of not getting that export paperwork right...

January 17 2011

Image of The perils of not getting that export paperwork right...

Picture: Sotheby's

A US court has seized 'Leda and the Swan' by Lelio Orsi, after apparent irregularities in Italian export procedures. The picture had been sold at auction in New York for $1.5m in 2008.

This is not just a photo of some shoes...

January 15 2011

Image of This is not just a photo of some shoes...

Picture: Christie's

I'm fascinated by the language used by dealers and auctioneers to describe contemporary art, particularly when it's on sale with a hefty price tag.

Here's a good example from Christie's Spring 2011 'Highlights' magazine, describing a photograph by Andreas Gursky, 'Untitled V' (colour-print, no.2 of 6, estimate £800,000-£1,200,000):

Gleaming with spiritual beauty, the monumental scale and pure aesthetics of Andres Gursky's Untitled V makes this work one of the most powerful and arresting images. Based on the interioir of a luxury goods store, the work is a triumphal examination of consumer culture and the nature of global trade. Its strong architectural lines, muted, meditative lighting and row of sports shoes displayed like sparkling religious icons produces an almost sacred experience... The cool, crisp lines punctuated only by the brightly coloured footwear, are testimony to the enduring influence and Minimalism and to the work of Donald Judd in particular, whose transformation of what Peter Galassi has called 'the solemn majesty of infinite progression (...) into the aesthetic repetitions of the assembly line and the display case' has a particular significance here. 

Much more in the catalogue here.


The Holy Grail of Modern British?

January 13 2011

Image of The Holy Grail of Modern British?

A Francis Bacon triptych of Lucien Freud will be offered by Sotheby’s in London on 10th February. Painted in 1964, it should eclipse the £5.4m realised by Freud’s reciprocal portrait of Bacon, sold in October 2008 at Christie’s London. The Freud of Bacon had an estimate of £4m-7m. The Bacon of Freud has an estimate of £7m-9m.

Not William Gladstone...

January 12 2011

Image of Not William Gladstone...

Picture: Bonhams catalogued, but John Bright. Still worth buying though.

Bright wasn't Prime Minister, but he was one of the most important statesman of the Victorian age. He said the famous phrase during the Crimean War; "The Angel of Death has been abroad throughout the land. You may almost hear the beating of his wings." 

Update 19.1.11; it made £1,440.

How much will it make?

January 11 2011

Image of How much will it make?

Picture: Christie's

A previously unknown self-portrait by Andy Warhol will be auctioned by Christie's London on 16th February with an estimate of £3-5m. It is the eleventh version on a 6ft large canvas, and newly authenticated. Previously there were thought to be only ten.

There are more than forty on the smaller 22 inch scale. 

Update 20.1.11; full Christie's catalogue entry here.

Brueghel bought

January 7 2011

Image of Brueghel bought

Picture: National Trust

Splendid news; ‘The Procession to Calvary’ by Pieter Brueghel the Younger at Nostell Priory has been bought for the nation after a campaign to raise £2.7m. The National Heritage Memorial Fund contributed £1m, and the Art Fund £500,000.

Public donations amounted to an impressive £680,000. The picture is a religious scene, by the younger Brueghel, and can in no way be described as specifically British. But that it still generated such a strong public response is testament to the appetite for good acquisitions.

Given the strong prices for anything Brueghel these days, I think £2.7m was a bit of a bargain. Well done to everybody involved.


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