Previous Posts: May 2011

No more reckless de-accessioning in NY

May 18 2011

A potentially important development in New York state. From the Wall Street Journal:

Important museum pieces will be protected under rules adopted by the New York state Board of Regents. The Regents approved new rules that would restrict the sale of museum pieces as facilities face continued hard fiscal times.

The rules would require proceeds from sales to be used for acquisitions and would also seek to keep museum relics and pieces in the public domain even if a museum shuts down.

Former Assemblyman Richard Brodsky of Westchester says the rules will prohibit important cultural pieces being sold to private collectors in order to pay for operating expenses.

Meanwhile, in Scotland

May 18 2011

Image of Meanwhile, in Scotland

Picture: NMS

Interesting to note the contrasting fortunes of two museums in Scotland. According to The Scotsman:

  • The National Museum of Scotland has blitzed its public appeal target, raising £13.6m. This total included £1m from 'reclusive tycoon' Dr Walter Scott, and £2m bequeathed by Adele Stewart, a spinster. National Museums Scotland had already raised £17.8m from the Heritage Lottery Fund, and £16m from the Scottish Executive Government. 
  • The National Galleries of Scotland, however, have not fared so well. The campaign to raise £7.5m for the refurbishment of the Scottish National Portrait Gallery fell short, and a £2m bail-out from the Scottish Government was needed. 

Does the discrepancy mean the Scots are philistines? I doubt it, since both projects essentially revolved around the telling of Scottish history. Perhaps it just came down to the quality of the appeals. 

Gainsborough's House

May 18 2011

Image of Gainsborough's House

Some very sad news about Gainsborough's House in Sudbury. The museum, Gainsborough's birthplace, is apparently facing a funding crisis. Diane Perkins, the excellent Director, has been made redundant. 

Who will run it now? It has always suffered slightly from an identity crisis, being not quite devoted to Gainsborough, whilst trying to be a contemporary art space for the region. Perhaps the trustees should use this opportunity to shift the focus of Gainsborough's House to a proper 'centre of excellence' for the study of Gainsborough and, say, the Norwich School. A tie up with the Paul Mellon Centre perhaps?

The Arts Minister who paints

May 18 2011

Image of The Arts Minister who paints

Picture: Irish Times

Jimmy Deeniham, Minister for Arts in Ireland, gets his paints out for charity.

'A' for effort.

Now then Mr. Vaizey, show us what you can do.

Discovering the Lake District 1750-1820

May 17 2011

Image of Discovering the Lake District 1750-1820

Picture: Wordsworth Trust

An exhibition (till 21st June 2011) at the Wordsworth Trust looks at how artists depicted the Lake District between 1750-1820. Worth the trip just to see Wright of Derby's exquisite depiction of Ullswater (detail, above). Jenny Uglow's review here

11m views on You Tube

May 17 2011

Women In Art from Philip Scott Johnson on Vimeo.

That makes it the most popular history of art video on You Tube. Above is a better quality version on Vimeo. It's compiled by Philip Scott Johson, a very clever fellow. Test yourself on the artists, and check your score here.

New York Old Master sales

May 17 2011

Image of New York Old Master sales

Picture: Sotheby's

The catalogues for Sotheby's and Christie's June sales are now online. Included (at Sotheby's) is this rather fine sketch by the genius Thomas Lawrence at $40-60,000. 

Ever heard of Jasper Cropsey?

May 17 2011

Image of Ever heard of Jasper Cropsey?

Picture: New York Times

If you've got a pair of seemingly innocuous 19thC American landscapes you think are worth a few hundred dollars max, as the owner of the above did, then swot up on him quick. The pair made $840,000 in New York State last Sunday.

More here.


May 17 2011

Image of Guff-watch

Picture: Christie's

Jonathan Jones on Andy Warhol's 1963 Self-Portrait, recently sold for $38.4m:

It is beautiful – one of his best works. Its cool blue hues lure the eye amid columns of newsprint and pictures in media reports of the sale. It looks spiritual, somehow – at once a piece of popular culture and something more private. The four photos he has used show him hiding behind dark glasses and trying out different poses that all seem a bit churlish, awkward, evasive. It is a self-portrait by someone who either does not want to look at himself, or does not want to truly show himself to others. And what makes it so powerful is the self-knowing explicitness with which it communicates this diffidence and unease.

Tracey Emin - Still a Tory

May 17 2011

Image of Tracey Emin - Still a Tory

Picture: Anita Zabludowicz

There's been an interesting media response to Tracey Emin's retrospective at the Hayward, and her promotion of it. The Guardian, normally Eminista No.1, finds itself in a pickle over her unabashed Toryism. She says that the 'Tories are the only hope for the arts':

There's no money, the country is bankrupt so the arts is going to be bottom of the list on everyone's agenda except that the Tories have an amazing arts minister in Ed Vaizey who is particularly protective and defensive of the arts.

Also the arts cuts, they are less than they were eight years ago with the Labour government. In the present climate its amazing that there's any money for the arts at all.

And remember, Tory people are massive collectors of the arts. For a lot of my friends, who think I'm crazy voting for the Tories - I want to know who buys their work? Who are the biggest philanthropists? I promise you, it's not Labour voters.

The Guardian arts cuts blog, normally the first to condemn any hint of cut-advocacy, merely asks meekly - 'Is she right?' The answer, I'm afraid, is a most emphatic yes.

Curiously enough, Emin was lunching with Vaizey at the very moment he heard he was going to be Culture Minister - as pictured above. That's way cooler than being summoned to No.10, don't you think?

Meanwhile, The Telegraph headlines her review with a predictably grumpy: "Tracey Emin is a minor talent for art but a mega-magnet for publicity" - but, perhaps mindful of her Tory charms, dares to conlude that her exhibition might actually be worth visiting...

Finally, the Daily Mail manages to combine two favourite targets in one - contemporary art and the BBC - by having a go at John Humphrys for his (I thought very good) interview with Emin. The Today interview is well worth a click - listen to it here. There's a slideshow too. 

Theatrical Portrait Collections

May 16 2011

Image of Theatrical Portrait Collections

Understanding British Portraits are organising a visit to London collections of theatrical portraits, including the Garrick Club and the Handel House Museum. 20th July, book here if you fancy it. 

National Gallery talks

May 16 2011

The Sainsbury Wing at the National Gallery in London is 20 years old. As part of the celebrations, the National is putting on a series of talks. They are to be held on Thursdays, 1–1.45pm, Sainsbury Wing Theatre, Free Admission.

  • 2 June 2011; The Italian Renaissance Altarpiece: From Polyptych to Pala. Join Professor David Ekserdjian to consider the consequences of the move from altarpieces constructed of multiple panels (polyptychs) to those created on a single panel (known by the Italian term pala).
  • 9 June 2011; Heaven on Earth: The Construction of Vision in the 15th-Century Altarpieces of the Sainsbury Wing. Join Dr Alison Wright to see how altarpieces can help us to understand how Renaissance painting expressed the relationship between the earthly and the heavenly.
  • 16 June 2011; The Rediscovery of Botticelli and Piero della Francesca. National Gallery Director Dr Nicholas Penny will explore how the reputations and appeal of these artists enjoyed a major revival in the 19th century, and take a closer look at their works in the collection
  • 30 June 2011; Transformations of the Altarpiece in Victorian Britain: Burne-Jones and Others. Elizabeth Prettejohn will examine what happened to the altarpiece in the Victorian era, demonstrating how artists such as Leighton, Rossetti and Burne-Jones developed new innovations for this artistic form.

The Cult of Leonardo

May 16 2011

Image of The Cult of Leonardo

Picture: AFP/Getty Images

Stephen Bayley has a good piece in the Telegraph on the cult of Leonardo: 

More than any other artist, Leonardo has a cult following. He is not merely a figure of prodigal creativity, he is a source of myths, legends, untruths, half-truths and baffling conspiracies, the inspiration for an ocean of pseudo-science and mumbo-jumbo. 

He also refers to the latest Leonardo fantasy, the attempt to dig up 'Mona Lisa', above. 

Van Dyck & Rubens in Amsterdam

May 13 2011

Image of Van Dyck & Rubens in Amsterdam

Picture: Hermitage

This is worth a trip - an exhibition of some of the Hermitage's best works by Rubens, Van Dyck & Jordaens, at Hermitage Amsterdam. It runs from 17th September - 16th March. Included amongst the 75 paintings and 20 drawings will be Rubens' c.1614 Venus and Adonis.

People of Wales!

May 13 2011

Go back to bed! I shall not be addressing you at 8.30 am today, as advertised below. I've just been told (7am) that the item is to be 'stood down', so I guess Ivan Mcquisten (the editor of the Antiques Trade Gazzette, with whom I was to be on) and I needn't have got up extra early. Thanks BBC Radio Wales! Just as I was beginning to dream of the big time: Hollywood was next, I could feel it.

People of Wales!

May 12 2011

Image of People of Wales!

I shall be addressing you tomorrow morning, at about 8.30am, on BBC Radio Wales. I have been asked - quite why I don't know - to talk about investing in art. 

To sell or not to sell?

May 12 2011

Image of To sell or not to sell?

Here's a quick report on Tuesday's conference on deaccessioning at the National Gallery. The event was organised by Farrers. The conference was overall a success. The arguments for and against were well covered. One or two of the speakers went on for too long (one for far too long).

Simon Jenkins, the patron saint of common sense, spoke passionately for. He decried the acres of art left in storage in London whilst numerous National Trust properties (of which he is chairman) had bare walls. Nicholas Penny, director of the National Gallery, argued against, from the specific point of view of the National: as the national collection, it had inevitably to be the repository of some bad art, as well as the best. The duds were part of the collection's history. Gary Tintorow of the Metropolitan Museum demonstrated the benefits of relentless 'trading up' - selling the bad to buy better - but also highlighted the American approach to not being obsessed with keeping everything. How all the British curators in the audience must have envied his ability to regularly buy masterpieces at auction.

I was on at the end of the day to give the view of the art trade. But since this can be summed up in one word - yippee - I mentioned my plan to have an informal advisory committee of experts to help regional curators decide what to sell, what to keep, and how to prevent mistakes. I am optimistic that we will be able to establish something - and it is needed urgently, for like it or not, deaccessioning is already with us.

The speakers had a posh dinner at the Athenaeum Club, which was jolly. There was some talk of a new Culture Secretary, following the rumours that Jeremy Hunt might have to replace the perpetually ineffective Andrew Lansley. 


May 12 2011

Image of Happiness three Van Dycks arriving in one day (for our forthcoming loan exhibition, 'Finding Van Dyck'). The catalogue is finished, the pictures are arriving... touch wood, everything is on plan for our opening on 15th June. 

Heads, no body

May 12 2011


Ai Wei Wei's absence is felt at the opening of his fantastic new installation of Zodiac heads at Somerset House. 

25% off*

May 12 2011

Image of 25% off*

Picture: Sotheby's

*at least.

Jeff Koons' Pink Panther didn't live up to the hype at Sotheby's. The estimate was $20-30m, but it sold to one bidder for $16.8m with premium. This means the hammer went down at $15m. Sotheby's had an irrevocable bid going into the sale.

Still, that's a hefty price, and it was a clever move to lower the reserve by 25% - a failure to sell would have been disastrous. 

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