Previous Posts: September 2011

New book on forger Van Meegeren published

September 16 2011


The Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen in Holland has published a new book on the master forger Han Van Meegeren. In the 1930s and 40s he fooled leading museums and collectors (including Goering) into thinking his fakes were by Vermeer, and other Dutch Golden Age painters. Above is a little film by the museum on Van Meegeren, which is worth a click.

The book's final chapter describes how Van Meegeren managed to fool so many experts. But the thing is - he is still fooling experts. Some of you may remember that I recently helped uncover another Van Meegeren fake, in the Courtauld Institute. They, and others, believed it was in fact a genuine 17th Century work...

Dealer charged with selling forged Monets, Van Goghs...

September 16 2011

Image of Dealer charged with selling forged Monets, Van Goghs...

Picture: LA Times

A US art dealer has been charged with defrauding a collector out of millions of dollars by selling him fakes. The police allege Matthew Taylor (above) operated a cunning forgery operation:

Taylor allegedly sold the collector more than 100 paintings -- including works that he falsely claimed were by artists such as Claude Monet, Vincent van Gogh, Jackson Pollock and Mark Rothko -- for a total of more than $2 million, according to prosecutors.

The indictment charges that Taylor altered paintings from unknown artists to make them appear to be the products of famous artists, and then sold the bogus artwork to the victim at higher prices than their actual worth.

Taylor allegedly put forged signatures on the paintings and painted over or concealed names of the actual artists. The indictment also alleges that Taylor attached labels that falsely represented that the artworks were once part of prestigious collections at famous museums, including the Museum of Modern Art in New York and the Guggenheim Museum.

It's much safer to buy an Old Master...

$25,000 Reward

September 16 2011

Image of $25,000 Reward

Picture: Art Market Monitor

For the above Renoir, Madeleine Leaning on her Elbow with Flowers in her Hair, 1918, stolen from a private collection in Texas on 8th September. 

Love art, and have too much time on your hands?

September 16 2011

Image of Love art, and have too much time on your hands?

Picture: Digi-6

Then photoshop your cat into famous Old Masters.

Portrait painting - the future?

September 15 2011

Image of Portrait painting - the future?


Here's a novel approach to portraiture - paint the actual person, then photograph them. I suppose it's better than painting a photograph - which is what most people seem to do these days. 

More examples, by the artist Alexa Meade, here

Take a virtual tour of the National Gallery

September 15 2011

Image of Take a virtual tour of the National Gallery

Picture: National Gallery, London

This is cool, a virtual tour of 18 rooms at the National Gallery. You can zoom in on the pictures (a bit) and bring up information about each one. 

I wish the Gallery was always that empty (at least when I go). 

Stupid thing to do if you're bored at work: select room 36 on the floorplan (the rotunda) and spin around really fast, up and down.

The Top 10 Scariest Paintings?

September 15 2011

Image of The Top 10 Scariest Paintings?

Picture: National Museum, Stockholm

Listverse has a run down of ghoulish pictures. Gericault's Severed Heads, above, is no.6.

'Achtung, Spitfeuer!'

September 15 2011

Image of 'Achtung, Spitfeuer!'

Picture: Imperial War Museum

Did you know that today is 'Battle of Britain Day'? It marks the end of Hitler's attempt to destroy the Royal Air Force in 1940, as a precursor to invasion.

Above is Paul Nash's Battle of Britain, one of the more important works of art from the Second World War. The picture is one of favourite war pictures, and fits perfectly the description given by Kenneth Clarke, when describing the purpose of keeping an artistic record between 1939-45:

What did it look like? they will ask in 1981, and no amount of description or documentation will answer them. Nor will big, formal compositions like the battle pictures which hang in palaces; and even photographs, which tell us so much, will leave out the colour and peculiar feeling of events in these extraordinary years. Only the artist with his heightened powers of perception can recognise which elements in a scene can be pickled for posterity in the magical essence of style.

The single picture exhibition

September 15 2011

Image of The single picture exhibition

Picture: The Art Newspaper

In these straitened times, museums are increasingly mounting single picture exhibitions. And why not? If you're a charging museum, borrowing one blockbuster masterpiece is a good way of drawing in the crowds - and extra revenue. Judith H. Dobrzynski examines the phenomenon in The Art Newspaper:

Creative use of smaller budgets for exhibitions is one driving force behind this trend. The directors we spoke to said that loan fees, design, insurance and transport costs for a single work are minuscule compared to a big thematic or an in-depth show for a single artist. Marketing tends to be the main expense, leaving museums in control of spending as much or as little as their budget allows.

Directors cite other virtues of single-work shows: they encourage people to really look, rather than move on after a few seconds to the next thing on the gallery walls. “We use them to teach how to experience a great work of art and see why it is a masterpiece,” said Brian Ferriso, the director of the Portland Art Museum. In 2009, when Ferriso arranged to bring Raphael’s La Velata, 1514-15, to Oregon from the Palatine Gallery, “people sat for ten to 20 minutes looking, and often they’d come back after going through our Renaissance galleries,” he said. Last year Portland borrowed Thomas Moran’s vast canvas Shoshone Falls on the Snake River, 1990, from the Gilcrease Museum in Tulsa, Oklahoma.

How well do you know your Degas?

September 15 2011

Image of How well do you know your Degas?

Picture: RMN (Musee d'Orsay)

Take the Degas quiz here

Prince Albert on display

September 15 2011

No, not that, the man, Prince Albert of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha, Queen Victoria's husband. A new exhibition dedicated to the life of the Prince Consort has opened in Germany

Dictator Art - General Franco edition

September 14 2011

Image of Dictator Art - General Franco edition

Picture: Telegraph

Did you know that Franco could paint? I didn't. Mark Hudson in The Telegraph gives an over-view of his pictures, and tries, for the sake of an alluring headline, to compare his art with Hitler's.

Hitler was a competent, if mediocre semi-professional who had hoped for a career in art, Franco a naive amateur, who took to painting as therapy.

But both choose subjects associated with well-established genres exemplifying an order, with which they identify, but which remains comfortingly outside their own experience.

Hitler’s pallid watercolours favoured grandiose buildings, pictured in an ultra-conservative style in which their massive forms remain constrained and distant. Franco’s art is at its most distinctive in hunting scenes, a genre associated with philistine masculinity – art for grandees of the past who didn’t like art.

Atkinson Grimshaw exhibition comes to London

September 14 2011

Image of Atkinson Grimshaw exhibition comes to London

Picture: Ferens Art Gallery, 'Princes Dock, Hull', 1887.

John Atkinson Grimshaw: Painter of Moonlight opens at the Guildhall Art Gallery in London on 19th September, and closes on 15th January. See a slideshow of selected works here

Museums & Economic Impact

September 14 2011

UK museums take note - the Met Museum in New York has issued a zippy press release detailing how much revenue they help generate for the City. 

For example, their four most recent exhibitions, including the Alexander McQueen show:

'...generated $908 million in spending by regional, national, and international tourists to New York, according to a visitor survey the Museum released today. Using the industry standard for calculating tax revenue impact, the study found that the direct tax benefit to the City and State from out-of-town visitors to the Museum totaled some $90.8 million.'

A similar set of figures after the National Gallery's forthcoming Leonardo exhibition would help make the case for arts funding in the UK.

de Kooning retrospective in New York

September 14 2011

Image of de Kooning retrospective in New York

Picture: New York Times

A major new exhibition on the career of Willem de Kooning opens at the Museum of Modern Art in New York on 18th Sept. The New York Times has interviewed the curator of the show, John Elderfield (above), who has made wide use of photographs of de Kooning at work. Discussing his later career, when de Kooning was suffering from the onset of dementia, he says:

“People later talked about how de Kooning was not in control of what he was doing, but it was clear from these photographs that he was,” Mr. Elderfield said. “The kind of continuous revision that happened to these pictures has very much de Kooning’s signature to it.”

These late, often haunting canvases — sparer than the sensual and colorfully theatrical work he created when he was at the height of his powers — have often been debated, because it is hard to know how much he painted himself and how much was done by studio assistants.

“When you think of artists today like Damien Hirst and Jeff Koons, who have armies of assistants virtually creating their work, does it really matter?” Mr. Elderfield said. “I don’t think it does. In de Kooning’s case, we know his hand is in all his work.”

New Gainsborough landscape exhibition in Bath

September 14 2011

Image of New Gainsborough landscape exhibition in Bath

Picture: National Gallery of Scotland, Thomas Gainsborough, 'Landscape with a Distant Village'.

Here's something to look forward to - an exhibition of Gainsborough's landscapes. The exhibition opens at the Holborne Museum in Bath on 24th September and closes on 22nd January. It will be, says the Holburne, 'the first exhibition in fifty years  devoted solely to his landscape paintings and drawings'.

The exhibition will then move to Compton Verney from 11th February to 10th June 2012. It has been sponsored by the British art dealer Lowell Libson.

'Degas and the Ballet'

September 13 2011

Image of 'Degas and the Ballet'

Picture: Royal Academy

The Royal Academy's new Degas exhibition, Degas and the Ballet: Picturing Movement, opens on 17th September. You can see an audio slideshow preview here (it's well worth a click).

Ahead of the exhibition, The Telegraph has a nice selection of Degas' quotes on dance, including: 

"They call me the painter of dancers.They don't understand that the dancer has been for me a pretext for painting pretty fabrics and for rendering movement."

"My women are simple, honest creatures who are concerned with nothing beyond their physical occupations ... it is as if you were looking through a keyhole."

New Rembrandt exhibition in US

September 13 2011

Image of New Rembrandt exhibition in US

Picture: Rembrandt and workshop (?), 'Portrait of a Man reading', oil on canvas, The Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute, Williamstown

An exhibition of Rembrandts in American public and private collections will open on 30th October at the North Carolina Museum of Art (closes 22nd Jan). The show will then move to the Cleveland Museum of Art and the Minneapolis Institute of Arts.

Rembrandt in America will be the largest collection of Rembrandt paintings ever presented in a US exhibition. Full details here

The art market and the double-dip

September 13 2011

Image of The art market and the double-dip

Image: Google Finance. Graph: Sotheby's share price over the last 6 months.

The Art Newspaper has an interesting piece on how the art market might fare if the impending 'double-dip' recession is a bad 'un. TAN also relates that Sotheby's has cut back investment in Europe in favour of expansion in... you guessed it - China.

Fears are growing about the potential impact of this summer’s renewed global economic turmoil on the art market. The 2008 financial crisis sharply hit art sales across all sectors, but the market bounced back quicker than many others, particularly for blue-chip works. At issue now are two ­diverging premises: that art is a luxury brand, as sensitive to stock markets as high-end fashion and first-class flights (this is the view of those looking at the art market from the outside); or that it represents a safe investment, sought after in troubled times much like gold and the Swiss franc (the view of those with more vested interests).

The evidence from my little piece of the art market is that a double-dip won't severely disrupt things. If most people have survived the last three years reasonably well, then you'd presume they are good enough at their business to see out another downturn. It's the triple-dip I'm worried about... 

'One of the best American painters ever, period.'

September 13 2011

Image of 'One of the best American painters ever, period.'

Picture: jsonline

The Milwaukee Art Museum has acquired the above portrait, Alice Hooper, c.1763, by John Singleton Copley for $3.5m. Full details here

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