Previous Posts: April 2012

That forgetful auctioneer

April 2 2012

Following my tale of frustration last week, a reader writes:

I think you should name and shame!

While another writes:

I do tho sometimes feel sorry for auctioneers and think I could well do the same in their place.

'Painting spots was very dull'

April 2 2012

Image of 'Painting spots was very dull'

Picture: Andrew Testa/Newsweek

One of Damien Hirst's former assistants, Rachel Swainston, tells it straight:

Painting spots was very dull. There's not a lot you can say about them. The canvases would arrive; they'd be stretched and pinned. Damien would specify spot size and we would mark them up and draw them. Then we'd have a massive delivery of household paints, which we'd mix into smaller pots of whatever colours we needed. We'd have hundreds of colours: no two were ever the same. A six-foot square canvas with spots four inches apart would take about a week. Every painting was sold.

It was quite simple really. With the spot paintings: it was, just a formula. Damian didn't need to have much input. Most of the time, there were two of us, although it would depend on how quickly he wanted them churned out. We were just the small fry. I came out of Goldsmiths [University] thinking I can't do anything, so I did these. Although they were all hand-painted, meaning each one is imperfect, there is no individual quality to the painting.

Gardner theft - a new lead?

April 2 2012

Image of Gardner theft - a new lead?

Picture: DailyStar, AP

From the Lebanon (Connecticut, US) Daily Star:

It remains the largest art heist in history, a brazen robbery in which two thieves disguised as police officers walked into Boston’s Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum, disabled two guards and stole masterworks worth more than half a billion dollars.

The 1990 robbery and the recovery of the paintings have puzzled investigators for more than two decades.

Now federal authorities appear to be pinning some hope of solving the mystery on Robert Gentile, a 75-year-old reputed mobster who is jailed in a drug case.

The FBI believes Gentile “had some involvement in connection with stolen property” related to the art heist, said assistant U.S. attorney John Durham in Hartford federal court. Durham said FBI agents have had unproductive discussions with Gentile about the theft, but didn’t elaborate on his allegations.

Gentile’s attorney, A. Ryan McGuigan, called the notion preposterous. He said Gentile has lived with his wife in the same small house in a Hartford suburb for 50 years and has no idea what prosecutors are talking about.

“He doesn’t know anything about art, he’s never been to an art gallery in his life,” McGuigan said in an interview. He “couldn’t tell a Rembrandt from an Elvis painting.”

New name for Tate Britain

April 1 2012

On Friday, I went to a fascinating symposium at Tate Britain on recent discoveries made by technical analysis of paintings. I particularly enjoyed the discussion on whether Van Dyck rubbed his canvasses with garlic, as De Mayerne's manuscript claims - answer, probably not.

But my most interesting discovery of the day was what is going on behind the scenes at Tate Britain. Apparently the museum is to be rebranded. In the current 'Migrations' exhibition, new director Penelope Curtis describes the gallery's name as 'troubling'. So 'Tate Britain - Home to British Art from 1500 to the Present Day' is out. (This should not come as too much of a surprise, given that under the new curatorial regime the museum's dateline officially starts in 1550.) Names being suggested include: 'T8 GB'; 'Tate Not So Modern'; and, 'Tate Britain (mostly, but with some foreign artists too)'.


A reader writes:

The Tate should revert to its original nomenclature: The National Gallery of British Art (used in the press at its inception, if not officially). As Sir Henry Tate merely endowed the building and not the foundation (indeed for most of its life the acquisition budget came from the Chantrey bequest), the Millbank site should be called the Tate building, whilst the institution could be 'The National Gallery of British Art', a name which would underline the institutions supposed central purpose.

Incidentally, have you seen the heart-breaking plans for ruining the central rotunda, by inserting a staircase? Whilst the general idea of reopening the first floor galleries is an excellent one, the destruction of Sidney Smith's wonderful Guarini-esque  dome seems extremely short-sighted. The plan will spoil the flow of the 1890s building into the wonderful Duveen galleries (which I agree with your excellent suggestion, should be hung with paintings). The space under the dome is actually quite small and its destruction will, in more enlightened times when the visitor numbers recover, lead to serious congestion.

Another writes:

I thought "what?", then "Ahhh, it's an April Fool thingy" and then almost as quickly the corrosive doubt...

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