Previous Posts: September 2011

'View from' No.3 - answer

September 5 2011

Image of 'View from' No.3 - answer

Picture: Musee du Chateau, Versailles

Well done to the many of you who correctly guessed Versailles - and to the four of you who very quickly honed it down to Pierre-Denis Martin's 1722 View of Versailles (Oil on Canvas 115 x 161 cm.)

I note enviously the lovely lack of queues in those days - when we went, there was about an hour long queue (at least) to buy a ticket, and then the same again to get in, so that the entire courtyard was one long snake of hot and disgruntled tourists. We went to Fontainebleau instead, which, if you're ever faced with the same dilemma, is much more interesting...

Old Agnews gallery reopens

September 5 2011

Image of Old Agnews gallery reopens

Picture: BG

Agnews sold their old Bond Street gallery some time ago, at the height of the London property boom. It was empty for a while, but is now re-opened as the fashion label Etro's flagship London shop. I had a nose around today during lunch. 

If there was an AHN prize for Commendable Good Taste, Mr Etro would get it. The rooms and galleries have been sympathetically restored, right down to the velvet wall coverings in the old green and purple colours. There's even a choice smattering of pictures, which I'm told come from Mr Etro's private collection. You wouldn't get that in Burberry. The main upstairs gallery is not yet open, but they say it will be soon. 

Etro's takeover of Agnews is symptomatic of a trend - fashion is slowly pushing out London's art and antiques dealers. Leading brands and trendy new labels are prepared to have loss-leading shops in London for the prestigious addresses. So they propel rents ever higher. Landlords love it - until the trendy new labels go bust and the shops have to be re-let. Mount Street in London's Mayfair used to be well known for its galleries and antiques shops - but is almost now exclusively fashion. 

Museums Association conference

September 5 2011

Image of Museums Association conference

Picture: Museums Association

Here's something I didn't know existed - a two day museum conference in Brighton, run by the Museum's Association. This year it's on 3-4 October. The MA says the theme of the conference is:

The fightback starts here:

For the past two years museums and galleries have battened down the hatches and tried to weather the storm of cuts. Redundancies have all had an impact on what museums can provide for the public they serve.

Tickets to the conference are £450 for full members, or £600 for non members. Ouch!

New acquisition in Scotland

September 5 2011

Image of New acquisition in Scotland

Picture: Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art

Here's a notable acquisition I missed while I was away. The Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art has bought the above watercolour, The Mysterious Garden, 1911, by Margaret Macdonald Mackintosh. It cost £230,000.

Deaccession foiled in Scotland

September 5 2011

Image of Deaccession foiled in Scotland

Picture: Lochaber News

Here's a rarity - a museum in Scotland has been forced to shelve plans for a deaccession after a public outcry. The West Highland Museum wanted to sell Letters and News at the Lochside, 1868, by Henry Tamworth Wells to fund a new extension. It was valued at up to £60,000. But local residents objected, and for now seem to have won. More details here

View from the Artist no.3

September 2 2011

Image of View from the Artist no.3


Time for another go I think. This one's a bit easier...

It's just for fun, but laudatory congratulations to the first correct answer.

That stolen 'Rubens' in Greece?

September 2 2011

Image of That stolen 'Rubens' in Greece?


Further to the story below, a reader has sent me an image of what he says is the painting recovered in Greece. He says it is a copy. If true, it means the villains were a bit dense...

Update: The villains were in fact spectacularly dense - for they originally stole two paintings - one of which was an undoubted Rubens. But they dropped it on the way out. 

Rant: Paris v London

September 2 2011

Image of Rant: Paris v London

Picture: BG

Above is a photo taken outside the National Gallery, London, yesterday. To the right, a not very talented busker is singing the same Cat Stevens song repeatedly, with an amplifier. In front of him a couple of drunks are leering at passersby. Behind, a variety of 'acts' try to entertain the tourists (one is a man dressed as Sherlock Holmes on stilts). To the left a police van patrols slowly up and down. Out of shot are the litter-strewn grass banks in front of the gallery (which at night become home to more drunks). 

It seems to me that the chaos in front of the Gallery diminishes its calming presence in London. The building and its contents often feel cowed by the loud 'events' and concerts which take place in Trafalgar Square almost every other day.

Or am I being a killjoy? Having just returned from Paris, I'm struck by how well its museums and cultural attractions are presented. You'd never see the above in front of the Louvre. When Boris Johnson first ran to be Mayor of London, I was asked to advise him on cultural policy. My one suggestion was that he should make London's cultural areas nicer places to be. London's theatreland, for example, is not a pleasant place to go in the evening. I know the National Gallery have also tried to do something about the noise in Trafalgar Squre. But it seems Boris isn't interested.

LA Police stumped by stolen 'Rembrandt'

September 2 2011

Image of LA Police stumped by stolen 'Rembrandt'

Picture: LA Times

Police in Los Angeles are refusing to hand back a stolen 'Rembrandt' drawing - because they cannot determine whether it is by Rembrandt or not. 'The Judgment' was stolen from the Ritz-Carlton, but then found in a church two days later. More details here

Stolen Rubens recovered in Athens sting

September 2 2011

Image of Stolen Rubens recovered in Athens sting

Picture: RKD

Police in Athens say they have recovered a lost Rubens. The picture was seized as villains tried to sell it to undercover police for EUR1m.

The police aren't saying what the picture is, officially. But press reports have linked it to a sketch of a Boar Hunt stolen from the Ghent Museum of Fine Arts in 2001. The museum has refused to comment. 

The only relevant image I can find is the above sketch, of a boar hunt, listed in the RKD as being at Ghent. But in the RKD database it is catalogued as 'After Rubens' - so it may not be that picture. 

If the villains had been a little sharper, they could have 'stolen' a Rubens Boar Hunt scene quite legitimately, just a few years ago. In 2005, The Calydonian Boar Hunt (1611/12) by Rubens was sold at auction in Paris as 'Follower of Rubens', with an estimate of just EUR10,000. It now belongs to the Getty Museum.  

More details when I get them...

Martin Luther King memorial unveiled

September 1 2011

Image of Martin Luther King memorial unveiled

Picture: Jacquelyn Martin/AP

A new memorial to Martin Luther King has been opened in Washington amid some controversy. The sculpture bears an inscription, saying:

'I was a drum major for justice, peace and righteousness.'

The only problem is, King never actually said that. It is a paraphrase of some remarks he once said when discussing his potential legacy. He said:

"Yes, if you want to say that I was a drum major, say that I was a drum major for justice. Say that I was a drum major for peace. I was a drum major for righteousness."

What was wrong with 'I have a dream'?

The sculpture is by the Chinese artist, Lei Yixin. I like it (see more photos here). But in its confrontational enormity, not to mention the solid trousers and jacket, it is eerily reminiscent of the portraits of Mao Tse Tung Yixin used to sculpt.

History of Art books out this week

September 1 2011

I hope to make this a regular feature. Out this week are:

  • The Louvre: All the Paintings, by Vincent Pomarede
  • Bernini: His life and his Rome, by Franco Mormando
  • Miraculous Bouquets: Flower and Fruit Paintings by Jan Van Huysum, by Anne T. Woollett
  • Pieter Bruegel, by Larry Silver
  • The Spanish Manner: Drawings from Ribera to Goya, by Jonathan Brown
  • Johan Zoffany RA: Society Observed, by Martin Postle
  • Artemisia Gentileschi: A Woman's History, Passion of an Artist, by Roberto Contini
  • Gauguin and Polynesia, by Suzanne Greub
  • Michelangelo: The Achievement of Fame, 1474-1534, by Michael Hirst
  • Gabriel Metsi: Life and Work, Catalogue Raisonne, by Adriaan Waiboer
  • Richard Parkes Bonnington: The Complete Drawings, by Patrick Noon
  • Facing Beauty: Painted Women and Cosmetic Art, by Aileen Ribeiro
  • Fragonard's Prgress of Love at the Frick Collection, by Colin Bailey

Apologies for the lack of links; if you want to buy, just cut & paste to Google the titles. If I've missed out yours, let me know!

German fake trial begins

September 1 2011

Image of German fake trial begins


The trial of a forgery gang whose works fooled major dealers and auction houses such as Lempertz and Christie's has begun in Germany. You can see some of their fakes here, including the truly awful 'Van Dongen', above. How did they ever succeed?

Update: A brief video report here.

New works by Leonard Foujita

September 1 2011

Image of New works by Leonard Foujita

Picture: Pola Museum of Art, Japan

A cache of newly discovered works by Leonard Foujita, the celebrated 20th Century Japanese artist, will go on display this month at the Pola Museum in Hakone, Japan. More here

Van Gogh goes to the Rockies

September 1 2011

Image of Van Gogh goes to the Rockies

Picture: Van Gogh Museum

The Denver Art Museum has announced a new Van Gogh exhibition, 'Becoming Van Gogh', to be held from October 2012-January 2013. More here

Another Bolton deaccessioning sale falters?

September 1 2011

Image of Another Bolton deaccessioning sale falters?

Picture: Bonhams

Last night, another of Bolton Council's 35 deaccessioned paintings went up for sale at Bonhams in Edinburgh. Sea Gulls and Sapphire Seas by Robert Gemmell Hutchison was estimated at £120-£180,000 - but sold for £120,000 including buyer's premium. This means that the bidding fell some way short of the lower estimate. The same thing happened with Bolton's Somnambulist by Millais earlier in the summer, also at Bonhams.

Was the estimate too high? Was it the right sale? An August general sale in Scotland is perhaps not the best time for a museum to be selling a highly prized picture. It seems quite a few pictures failed to sell. Still, the price was the second highest achieved at auction for a work by the artist. 

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