Previous Posts: May 2011

Turner Prize shortlist

May 5 2011

The Turner Prize 2011 shortlist has been announced. The four artists are Karla Black, Martin Boyce, George Shaw, and Hilary Lloyd (above).

The latter, according Tate's notice:

'combines still and moving images, sound and the three dimensional forms of AV playback equipment [translation: a telly] to portray the urban environment.'

More images on the BBC here, and The Sun's take here.

Sotheby's Impressionist & Modern $170m sale

May 4 2011

Image of Sotheby's Impressionist & Modern $170m sale

Picture: Sotheby's

The headline figures may look spectacular, but there were some interesting prices. The front cover lot, Picasso's Femme Lisant (above), was estimated at $25-35m, but sold for $21.3m including buyer's premium. That means the hammer price was significantly lower than expected (pre-sale estimates do not include premiums), and that the reserve must have been dramatically lowered just before the sale.

Does this mean that a) Sotheby's over-estimated the picture in the first place? or b) the Picasso market has peaked? I think the answer is a). Increasingly, auctioneers are having to place punchy estimates just to get pictures consigned in the first place, and then hope for a single bidder who'll buy at the reserve. 

Watch a sleeper sell

May 4 2011


Here's a fascinating video of a potential sleeper being sold at auction in Paris. The painting, titled Cinq Personnages de la Comedie Italienne, was catalogued as 'circle of Watteau', with an estimate of EUR 40-60,000. It sold for EUR 1m, excluding buyer's premium. 

Here is the original cataloguing. The central figure related to a drawing by Antoine Watteau, but there was also speculation it could be by Jean-Baptiste Pater. Doubtless it'll surface again, and I'll put news of it here if it does. 

Osama in art

May 4 2011

Image of Osama in art

Picture: Jesse Lenze, 'Marilyn and Monsters'

Is it too early to look at Osama bin Laden's role in art? They've already started over at GlobalGrind:

Osama bin Laden is dead. Yet he will live in art, history and on the Internet forever as a celebrity subject of Photoshop wizards, stencil graffiti artists, sculptors, graphic designers, armchair and profession historians, T-shirt hawkers and painters with something to sell or say about war, terror and the cult of worship.  

That's not a bad thing, it  just might get annoying after a while.

Fantin-Latour and the Impressionists

May 4 2011

Image of Fantin-Latour and the Impressionists

Picture: Bowes Museum

Richard Dorment gives a thumbs up to the Bowes Museum's new exhibition. Closes 9th October.

Zoom in on Claude

May 3 2011

Image of Zoom in on Claude

The new Claude Lorrain exhibition at the Louvre (closes July 18th) has a very good website, where you can zoom in on some of Claude's best works in great detail. Well worth a click.

Pasta la vista

May 3 2011

Image of Pasta la vista

Picture: EPA

Here's one for those of you who read this blog on your lunch break... Arnold Schwarzenegger is by Shu Yong, and has gone on display at Art Beijing 2011 this week. I suppose I should write something witty about his lack of genitalia, but I can't see the point. 

Dictator art - Syria edition

May 3 2011

Holburne to re-open soon

May 3 2011

Image of Holburne to re-open soon

Picture: The Guardian

The delightful Holburne Museum in Bath will re-open on May 14th after a £15m redevelopment. That's a great achievement in these austere times. More here.

'It's about masturbation'

May 3 2011

Image of 'It's about masturbation'

Picture: Sotheby's

Excitement is building ahead of Sotheby's 10th May sale of Jeff Koons' Pink Panther ($20-30m). Jeff says it's all 'about masturbation'.

Well worth a few minutes of your time is Sotheby's new video of Koons discussing the sculpture with Tobias Meyer. It opens with the statement that Koons is considered 'one of the most important artists of the 20th Century, together with Warhol and Picasso'. So that's above the likes of Klimt, Miro, Pollock, Rothko, Bacon, Freud etc. Will people watch this in fifty years time, and laugh?   

For an alternative - and much more entertaining - view, click here to see the great Robert Hughes interiew Koons. 

Where's Weiwei?

May 2 2011

Image of Where's Weiwei?

Picture: WNYC

With the artist absent having been detained by authorities in China, the unveiling of Ai Weiwei's first exhibition of public sculpture in New York, scheduled for Wednesday 3rd May, has been postponed. More here

Got any spare bricks?

May 2 2011

Image of Got any spare bricks?

Picture: Art Newspaper

The Art Newspaper has uncovered documents from Tate that cast new light on Carl Andre's controversial 1976 work Equivalent VIII (aka, the pile of bricks)Apparently there was a bit of a hunt for spare bricks - with a young Sandy Nairne despatched to get some. He didn't find any - but the Tate has since got their hands on a stash of five.

Sir Dennis Mahon & Prof. Richard Holmes

May 2 2011

Two sad obituaries to note for anyone interested in art and history; the collector and art historian Sir Dennis Mahon at the age of 100, and the soldier and historian Professor Richard Holmes at the age of 65.

Sir Dennis has bequeathed his magnificent collection of Italian baroque pictures to a number of museums, chiefly the National Gallery. He cannily leveraged his gifts on the promise of free entry to museums - and we have him to thank in part every time we go to the National Gallery gratis. 

Richard Holmes was best known for his TV programmes on, amongst others, Churchill, Wellington and Cromwell. In an age of dumbed-down, celebrity driven history on television, his programmes were like an oasis in a desert - informative, comprehensive, and also entertaining. I once asked him to give  talk at the Houses of Parliament for the All Party History Group. His performance was electrifying, as he told the assembled MPs, peers and ministers (the room was packed) that our presence in Afghanistan was, essentially, doomed to failure. He spoke with authority, for he had not only studied the history of foreign intervention in Afghanistan (what is the score now, Foreigners 0 - Afghans 6?), but had spent a great deal of time there, and was also Britain's most senior Territorial Army officer. The lecture was some years ago now, but I often think of it, for, sadly, it seems he is being proved right. 

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