Previous Posts: July 2011

Friday amusement

July 29 2011

Image of Friday amusement

Picture: Cartoon Stock

Stolen Lowrys recovered

July 29 2011

Image of Stolen Lowrys recovered

Picture: Liverpool Echo

A cache of Lowrys stolen in 2007 during an armed raid on a dealer have been recovered in Liverpool. One of the pictures was Tanker Entering the Tyne, thought to be worth £600,000. Perhaps inevitably, drugs seem to have been involved. It seems there's a fad amongst some drug dealers to use art as 'collateral' when making large deals. Full details here

How the Leonardo show was put together

July 29 2011

Richard Dorment has the story behind the loan negotiations in The Telegraph.

Met's McQueen exhibition open till midnight

July 28 2011

Image of Met's McQueen exhibition open till midnight

Picture: Metropolitan Museum

A bit off-beam this one (and a chance to publish a cool photo)... but it's interesting to note that, for the first time ever, the Met Museum has extended their opening hours until midnight. It's for their exhibition on Alexander McQueen's dresses. 

Sewell on 'Twombly & Poussin'

July 28 2011

Image of Sewell on 'Twombly & Poussin'

Picture: Dulwich Picture Gallery

Perhaps inevitably, he doesn't like it:

Poussin has nothing in common with this charlatan and is abused by this silly exhibition and the overblown and extended conceit on which it rests

As ever, though, it's worth a read. 

New tax concessions for art donations

July 28 2011

The UK government is currently consulting on a plan to give tax concessions for donating works of art to the nation. At the moment, the only tax break you can get for giving your Rembrandt to a museum is when you're dead, under the Acceptance in Lieu (AIL) scheme.

Now, you will be able to donate the Rembrandt whilst you're alive, and get a tax concession not on your inheritance tax liability, but on your income tax.

You can take part in the consultation here. The government wants views on:

  • who will be eligible to apply for the new scheme;
  • how to define pre-eminent and how these objects will qualify for the new scheme;
  • how acceptance of offers will work;
  • which institutions will be eligible to receive objects;
  • how objects should be allocated to institutions;
  • what conditions should attach to objects allocated to institutions;
  • how the tax reduction should be calculated, including the rate of reduction which should apply per donated object; and 
  • whether there should be a cap on the amount of tax reduction per object or per donor.
This is obviously good news for museums and galleries. The idea was first suggested by Sir Nicholas Goodison, in the 2004 Goddison Review. But Gordon Brown, wary of tax breaks for 'the rich', sat on the scheme and nothing ever happened. 

There are, however, two important catches buried in the small print. First, the level of tax available to be written off per year will be shared with the existing AIL scheme. Currently this is £20m (or, for example, less than half of one of the Sutherland Titians). So there will be no 'new' money available. And second, you won't be able to write off the full value of your Rembrandt against tax. Only a certain percentage (yet to be decided) of the value can be written off, unlike the AIL scheme, where you can offset the full value of the picture against any inheritance tax owed. So it may be better to wait until you're dead after all. 

Leonardo's two 'Virgin of the Rocks' to be displayed together

July 27 2011

Image of Leonardo's two 'Virgin of the Rocks' to be displayed together

Picture: Louvre, Paris (left), National Gallery, London (right)

They are rightly calling it a 'historic collaboration': later this year, both versions of Leonardo's Virgin of the Rocks will be displayed together in the National Gallery's Leonardo exhibition. This will be the first time this has happened. In return, London's Leonardo 'cartoon' for Virgin and Child with Saint Anne and John the Baptist will be sent to Paris to hang alongside the Louvre's Virgin and Child with Saint Anne

What a great coup the National has pulled off - many congratulations to the staff there. If you haven't booked your tickets yet, you can do so here.

New acquisitions for the National Trust

July 27 2011

Image of New acquisitions for the National Trust

Picture: Sotheby's

Colin Gleadell in the Telegraph has news of two enticing acquisitions by the National Trust. The first is for Montacute House, a fine portrait of James I by John de Critz, bought in the recent Old Master sale at Sotheby's for £199.250.

In the same sale, the Trust also bought the above full-length, for £157,250. Sotheby's had identified her as 'possibly Lady Anne Cecil' (c.1603-1676), and attributed it to Robert Peake. The Trust, however, believe she is Vere Egerton, the grand-daughter of Lord Chancellor Egerton, Lord Brackley, and they have an early inventory reference to prove it. This painting will now be hung at Dunham Massey. (I don't personally see that it is by Peake - it's a little too sophisticated for him. Is it by someone nearer to van Somer?)

It's great news that the Trust is able to buy quality pictures like this.

Oddly enough, this is the second newly identified portrait of Vere Egerton to surface recently. In 2008 we (Philip Mould Ltd) bought the below portrait of three unidentified girls at Christie's. Subsequent research proved that the girls were three grandaughters of Lord Chancellor Egerton, thanks to the discovery of an early 19th Century sale reference. The ages insribed above the sitters' heads also matched the dates of the three Egerton sisters, Elizabeth, Vere and Mary. Vere is on the left.   

Jewish Polish painting restituted

July 27 2011

Image of Jewish Polish painting restituted

Picture: Auktionshaus Aldag

Here's a rare survival: Jewish Woman Selling Oranges was painted in Warsaw in 1880/1 by the Polish artist Aleksander Gierymski. The picture belonged to the Polish National Museum, but went missing during the war. It surfaced last year at a German auction, and has now been restituted. Old Warsaw can be seen in the background. 

Adrian Searle on Freud

July 26 2011


A gently interesting video on Freud's Standing by the Rags, 1989. Worth a click.

Freud - new exhibition at the NPG

July 26 2011

A new exhibition of Freud's portraits will open at the National Portrait Gallery, London, in February 2012. The artist had been working with the gallery ahead of the exhibition. 

'Leonardo' drawing case struck out

July 25 2011

Image of 'Leonardo' drawing case struck out


The US Appeals court has thrown out a case against Christie's brought by the consignor of the above drawing. It was catalogued as 19th Century German School in a sale in 1998, but some scholars now say it is by Leonardo. Full details in the ATG here

Wildenstein - 'Je ne sais rien'

July 25 2011

Guy Wildenstein has said he did not know about some 30 missing paintings found in his vaults: 

...last week he spent 36 hours in police custody, sleeping two nights in the headquarters of a special art-theft squad outside Paris, where he was formally charged with concealing art that had been reported missing or stolen.

The crime, known officially as a “breach of trust,” carries a maximum penalty of seven years in prison.

In the course of his questioning Mr. Wildenstein made a surprising claim: He told the police that the institute, which specializes in gathering detailed information about art for scholars, lacked any inventory for a roomy vault where dozens of valuable artworks that it does not own were discovered this year by the police.

“I didn’t inspect the vault,” Mr. Wildenstein said, according to internal court records of his questioning by an investigative judge while in custody. “We have never had an inventory of the vault.”

Full story in the New York Times here.

Freud - pre-superstardom

July 25 2011

Image of Freud - pre-superstardom

Picture: New York Times, Self-Portrait etching.

In The Art Newspaper, Anna Somers Cocks has a good piece on Freud's critical reception as recently as 20 years ago:

Some very high prices have been paid for Freud's work in recent years, Benefits Supervisor Sleeping, 1995, selling for $33.6m in May 2008 at Christie's New York, a new record for a living artist. The short memory of the conformist, fickle art world has led many to forget, however, that only 20 years earlier he was considered a curious, late, insular British manifestation of expressionism and so of no serious interest. His first Paris retrospective, by the unorthodox curator Jean Clair at the Centre Pompidou in 1987, was widely denounced for being unworthy of an institution dedicated to the avant-garde. That same exhibition could not find a top venue in the US prepared to take it so it ended up at the Hirshhorn Museum in Washington, DC, the same year.

Freud - the Studio Sale?

July 25 2011

Pure speculation, but if there is to be a Freud studio sale, it will surely be an epic. Are Sotheby's and Christie's already scrambling for the honours? Or was it all arranged a long time ago? Will Sotheby's' accidental shredding of a Freud drawing in 2000 count against them?

Freud - death of the portrait?

July 25 2011

Image of Freud - death of the portrait?

Picture: Telegraph

Mark Lawson has a fine piece in The Guardian today, arguing that the death of Lucian Freud marks the death of the painted portrait. His point is that Freud was the last redoubt of the portrait painter in his battle with the photographer. He concludes:

For decades, Freud succeeded in a fight that is now unwinnable. With his passing, the art of the portrait has passed from the canvas to the screen.

Nowhere is Lawson's point more obviously made than the soul-destroying photo-realist portraits one finds in the BP Portrait Award. Personally, I can't see how painting a photograph of someone is any more skilfull than photographing a painting of someone. But they seem to be all the rage these days. And the wider question is not just, was Freud the last great British portraitist, but was he the last great British painter? 

Poussin attack - Leonardo exhibition at risk?

July 25 2011

Interesting story in the Independent yesterday about the Poussin attack at the National Gallery - now there are concerns that the loan of Leonardo's Lady with an Ermine could be at risk. The Czartoryski Trust, which owns the picture, is in negotiations with the gallery:

Olga Jaros, who took over as chairman of the foundation, confirmed that a decision had yet to be made, and that a contract has yet to be signed with the National Gallery. "In the light of what happened last weekend at the National Gallery, I have informed the foundation what has happened. We are still in negotiations."

Even before Saturday's attack, concerns had been voiced over the painting's hectic schedule. It is at present on loan to the Palacio Real in Madrid for an exhibition of Polish art treasures. It is then scheduled to visit Berlin before travelling to London.

Obviously, there's a significant difference in risk between a Leonardo in a reinforced glass box, and an un-glazed Poussin. So I hope the Leonardo lenders don't overreact. 

The most worrying aspect, however, is the news that buget cuts have led to a reduction in security guards at the National Gallery, with some having to monitor two rooms. This, if true, is cause for concern - really the protection of the paintings is the National Gallery's number one duty. But I'm afraid that, having seen some of the guards at work, and the ease with which the Poussin was vandalised, a more thorough security overhaul is required. 

David Packwood at Art History Today also discusses the problem here

Jonathan Jones - charge for museum entry

July 25 2011

Image of Jonathan Jones - charge for museum entry

Picture: H M Bateman, detail from 'the man who' series.

In response to budget cuts, and the recent Poussin attack, Jonathan Jones says in the Guardian that museums should re-introduce museum fees:

Britons have realised how precious our great collections are. The world shares the passion, and if you visit the British Museum this summer the sheer crowd numbers startle. How about turning that popularity into money? We can't let recent progress in our galleries and museums be destroyed by a cost-cutting mentality that first freezes, then rolls back, everything that has been achieved.

I think free museums are a great British tradition, but I don't want these museums to decay. Charging for entry is a better remedy than selling paintings, closing galleries or sacking staff. Might it even give visitors a keener sense of the value of some of the greatest experiences it is possible to have?

It's hard to argue against these points. For those who go to galleries all the time, an annual national museum pass, like that for the National Trust, would be easy to administer - say £30? And as Jones says, a fee of sorts would generate a sense of ownership for our museums and galleries. It would also allow us to charge foreign visitors, who make up, for example, over half of the British Museum's visitors. Please don't lets pretend that tourists come to Britiain just because they can get into galleries for free, nor that we can make up the revenue through the gift shop and cafes.

For reasons I have never understood, museum charges are seen as some ghastly taboo. If museums want to be free, they should be. If they want to charge, they should be allowed to. Here's a paradox for you: in Paris, you pay to get into the Louvre, but not Notre Dame. In London, you pay to get into Westminster Abbey, but not the National Gallery. Which is right?

It's worth noting that the Metropolitan Museum in New York, which recently increased its entry charge to $25, has this year had a record 5.68 million visitors, the highest in 40 years. That's more than the National Gallery...

New Acquisitions at Philadelphia

July 25 2011

Image of New Acquisitions at Philadelphia

Picture: Philadelphia Museum of Art

Works by Monet, Sisley and Pissarro have been acquired by the Philadelphia Museum of Art. The works are all gifts from donors, and can be seen here. The highlight is Monet's Path on the Island of Saint MArtin, Vetheuil, 1881, above.

Lucian Freud 1922-2011

July 22 2011

Image of Lucian Freud 1922-2011

Picture: Sotheby's. 'Self-Portrait' by Lucian Freud, 1952.

The Guardian has a good 'life in pictures' slideshow here.

The Daily Telegraph has '10 things you didn't know about his paintings' here.

A reader writes:

He stopped in the street once to admire my dog, but of course I was far too shy to say anything.

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