Previous Posts: June 2011

£5m Michelangelo drawing at Christies

June 1 2011

Image of £5m Michelangelo drawing at Christies

Picture: Christie's

Christies will offer this drawing by Michelangelo, a preparatory study for the abandoned Battle of Cascina fresco, on 5th July. The upper estimate is £5m. Lovely - but a lot of money for a fragmentary sketch.

Contemporary at Versailles

June 1 2011

Image of Contemporary at Versailles

Picture: AP/Bob Edme

Bernar Venet is Versaille's guest artist this year - from today until 1st November.

Scottish National Portrait Gallery

June 1 2011

Image of Scottish National Portrait Gallery

Picture: John Mackenzie

The SNPG will re-open soon after an £18m refit. Tim Cornwell in The Scotsman has a preview:

About 15 years ago the portrait gallery tottered on the brink of closure, until plans to transfer key artworks for a new Scottish gallery caused wholesale revolt in Edinburgh. Yesterday, director James Holloway could stand on its showcase top floor and declare its new galleries among the best in Scotland, if not the UK.

"What we have got on this floor are fabulous spaces for showing art," he said. The gallery, he suggested, represented "Scotland's family objects. It's Scotland's DNA. It's thrilling that we are going to be back, and firing on all cylinders."


Exhibitions in main gallery spaces will run for about four years, drawing on the portrait gallery's existing collections with some loans. The small galleries will change 18 months or two years, while the photography gallery will stage three exhibitions every year, exploring "what in many ways is Scotland's greatest art form," said Mr Holloway.

I wonder what Ramsay, Raeburn et al would say about photography being Scotland's 'greatest art form'.

Sketches by Jean Francois de Troy

June 1 2011

Image of Sketches by Jean Francois de Troy

Picture: Sotheby's

An important set of seven sketches by Jean Francois de Troy will be offered at Sotheby's in Paris later this month. Brilliantly painted, they were the artist's initial designs for a series of Gobelins tapestries. They mostly carry an estimate of EUR200-3000,000. An eighth is catalogued as 'Studio of de Troy', tho' frankly you'd be hard pushed to tell the difference. 

The sketches will be sold under 'Faculte de Reunion' rules: each one will be auctioned in the normal way, but at the end the opportunity will be presented to buy the group by offering them all at the cumulative price. If nobody bids for the lot, then the previous seperate sales go ahead. 

Maybe size is everything...

June 1 2011

Image of Maybe size is everything...

Picture: Sotheby's

I mentioned earlier a 2 inch high miniature by Frida Kahlo, estimated by Sotheby's at a hefty £800k-£1.2m. But it turns out it didn't sell. 

'Now, lot 32 - the really rubbish fake. Do I hear €500k?'

June 1 2011

Image of 'Now, lot 32 - the really rubbish fake. Do I hear €500k?'

Picture: Der Spiegel

German police have smashed a highly succesful forgery racket. Believed to be Germany's largest ever forgery scandal, the victims included Hollywood actor Steve Martin, and Christie's. 

The above painting, 'Landscape with Horses', was sold as a genuine work by Heinrich Campendonk at Christie's in 2006 for €500,000. (I would link to it on their website, but, mysteriously, the lot has been removed). It had in fact been knocked up by Wolfgang Beltracchi, and his accomplice Otto Schulte-Kellinghaus. They had been producing high-quality fake modern and contemporary art since 2001, and possibly earlier. From Der Spiegel:

The accused allegedly attributed almost all of the forged works to artists from the first half of the 20th century, including Campendonk, Max Pechstein, Fernand Léger, Max Ernst and others. Most of the works were sold with now 60-year-old Beltracchi's story that they were part of the art collection of Cologne businessman Werner Jägers, who was the grandfather of the two female suspects in the case. Jägers was said to have bought the works from the renowned art dealer Alfred Flechtheim and hidden them on his estate in the Eifel Mountains of western Germany during the Nazi years. Schulte-Kellinghaus allegedly used a similar ruse, claiming the paintings, which were supposedly lost, originated from the collection of his grandfather, the master tailor Knops from Krefeld.

I've often heard it said that buying modern and contemporary art is a safer investment than old masters, because there are never any doubts over authenticity. But, alas, that's a load of old phooey. And it's practically impossible to fake an old master.

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