Previous Posts: November 2012

Before 'n After (ctd.)

November 22 2012

Image of Before 'n After (ctd.)

Picture: BG/Philip Mould & Company

With apologies for my rubbish photos, allow me to share with you this nifty piece of restoration. When the above portrait of a boy in red came to us he was attributed to Zoffany, and in a rather muddy brown background. It was quite a surprise to find the original sky background beneath a layer of later over-paint. The over-paint was probably late 19th Century.

The picture is by Nathaniel Dance-Holland RA (1735-1811).

Things they wish they never said (ctd.)

November 22 2012

Image of Things they wish they never said (ctd.)

Picture: Forbes

Last week saw both Christie's and Sotheby's set big records for their modern and contemporary art sales. But the day before the sale, Forbes ran a piece on why the sales wouldn't do very well:

“The art market is a lot weaker,” explained Thomas Galbraith, head of analytics at artnet, who expects another lackluster week.  The problem is that the market is, as one commentator put it, “allergic” of second-tier works.  “People are taking less risk and going for works that are proven,” noted Galbraith, “the market is taking a step back, it’s a self-aware market.”

Oops. Meanwhile, on Reuters Felix Salmon has an interesting piece on the stirrings of a revolt in the contemporary art world:

The doyenne of art-market reporters, Sarah Thornton, has quit writing about the economics of art. She says there are a hundred reasons for doing so, including the fact that “tightknit cabals of dealers and speculative collectors count on the fact that you will report record prices without being able to reveal the collusion behind how they were achieved”, and that “it implies that money is the most important thing about art.”

Charlie Finch, too, smells the irrelevance of a world which has become irredeemably decadent in all the worst meanings of the word — to the point, this summer, at which he convinced himself that even the plutocrats would notice, and that the art market would be crashing hard, right about now. Obviously, that didn’t happen: it’s almost impossible to underestimate the obliviousness of the art-collecting elite, who are of course constantly surrounded by precisely the kind of courtiers — consultants, gallerists, even artists — who constantly tell them how perspicacious and important they are. Look no further than former commodity broker Jeff Koons, whose Tulips just sold for $33,682,500 at Christie’s: the last time I saw him he was in Davos, palling around with a Ukrainian oligarch, and generally solidifying his reputation among the people who really matter. Insofar, of course, that the people who really matter are the people you want to continue to funnel millions of dollars in your direction.

No, Charlie, the art market oligopoly system isn’t going anywhere: if anything, it’s more entrenched than ever. But the people without millions of dollars, the people who try to talk about art but find all conversations ultimately being about money — those people are, finally, getting fed up.

Like it or not, art and money have always gone together, and always will.

Elizabeth I goes to Moscow (ctd.)

November 22 2012

Image of Elizabeth I goes to Moscow (ctd.)

Picture: Kremlin Museum

The Kremlin Museum has kindly sent me some more photos of the Hampden portrait of Elizabeth I looking glorious in the current Tudors exhibition in Moscow. The picture was restored and sold by us some years ago. The exhibition will be on at the V&A in March.

New research programme at the Paul Mellon Centre

November 21 2012

The Paul Mellon Centre in London has published details of its new research programme:

The spring of 2013 will see the launch of an exciting new programme of research events at the Centre. 

Research seminars

The first of a seasonal series of five, fortnightly research seminars will be given by distinguished historians of British art and architecture. These research seminars, which will take place on Wednesday evenings, are intended to showcase original and stimulating research in all areas of British art and architectural history. They will take the form of hour-long talks, followed by questions and drinks, and are geared to scholars, curators, conservators, art-trade professionals and research students working on the history of British art. We are pleased to announce that the papers given in this first series of research seminars will be delivered by members of The Paul Mellon Centre’s Advisory Council.  

Research lunches

The spring programme of events will also include a series of five research lunches, geared to doctoral students and junior scholars working on the history of British art and architecture. These research lunches, which will normally take place on alternate Fridays, are intended to be informal events in which individual doctoral students and scholars will talk for half-an-hour about their projects, and engage in animated discussion with their peers. A sandwich lunch will be provided by the Centre on these occasions. We hope that this series, which we look forward to maintaining in the summer and autumn, will help foster a sense of community amongst PhD students and junior colleagues working in the field, and bring researchers from a wide range of institutions together in a collegial and friendly atmosphere. 

In order to help us plan for these events, it is essential that all of those who intend coming to individual research seminars and research lunches email the Centre’s Events Co-ordinator, Ella Fleming, on efleming[at], at least two days in advance.

Full details of the seminars and research topics here.

Say no to the sale of Old Flo

November 21 2012

Image of Say no to the sale of Old Flo

Picture: Art Fund

What a contrast between two councils - in Glasgow, we see the city council joining forces with the National Galleries of Scotland to buy a 'Glasgow Boy' picture for £637k. But in Tower Hamlets, it's full steam ahead with the sale of Henry Moore's sculpture Draped Seated Woman, commonly known as Old Flo. The piece, which was bought by the London County Council at cost in 1962 for the new Stifford housing estate, will be sold at Christie's in February. The money raised will go into general council expenditure - so it's a deaccession of the worst kind. At the moment, the sculpture is at the Yorkshire sculpture park after the demolition of the estate. The Art Fund has launched a campaign to stop the sale.

Over on the Museum of London's website, curator Pat Hardy has helpfully set out the history of Old Flo's arrival in Tower Hamlets:

The LCC felt that such new estates should have works of art in them and they set about sourcing and buying artworks for these new spaces and also for schools and colleges. This was not for purely aesthetic reasons as they made clear ‘the Council has no authority to encourage art for art’s sake or to encourage national art except insofar as it benefits London art’. It was part of the policy to improve Londoners lives and living standards. The new Stifford Estate was a prestigious site and a suitably prestigious sculpture was therefore required to put in it. A work by Henry Moore, at that time an artist of international fame and prestige, must have seemed very appropriate   The LCC in 1962 therefore acquired Draped Seated Woman (Old Flo) and it was installed outside one of the tower blocks called Ewhurst Tower in the Stifford Estate in the spring of 1963. It remained there until the Stifford Estate was demolished in the late 1990s.

The Museum of London has offered to house the sculpture, but the mayor of Tower Hamlets, Lutfur Rahman, has spurned the suggestion, and says the sale must go ahead:

We are faced with a stark choice in these times of recession.

Meanwhile, a group of councillors has tabled a motion to stop the sale, to be discussed at the town hall on 28th November at 7.30pm. The meeting is open to the public.

Glasgow boy goes home

November 21 2012

Image of Glasgow boy goes home

Picture: ArtFund

Congratulations to Glasgow City Council and the National Galleries of Scotland for buying Sir James Guthrie's The Orchard. From the Art Fund website:

The unprecedented partnership of Glasgow City Council and the National Galleries of Scotland bought the work for £637,500 from an auction at Sotheby's in London. The purchase was made possible by grants from the National Heritage Memorial Fund and the Art Fund, who gave £423,358 and £62,983 respectively.

John Leighton, director general of the NGS, said: "Guthrie's In the Orchard is a key masterpiece in the story of Scottish art and, at a time when funding is obviously very scarce, it is entirely fitting NGS and Glasgow City Council should join forces to acquire this iconic work for the public.

"We are immensely grateful to the National Heritage Memorial Fund and the Art Fund for their rapid and very generous support, which has allowed us to move quickly to secure this extremely important work at auction."

It's rare for a UK museum to buy something at auction for such a large amount - so it's a great effort, especially if you consider that the NHMF had only 14 days notice to contribute their £423k:

Dame Jenny Abramsky, Chair of the NHMF, said: “This is wonderful news. Guthrie’s In the Orchard is universally acknowledged as one of the most powerful paintings of the Glasgow Boys Movement, which directed the course of modern art in 19th century Britain.  When news reached the National Heritage Memorial Fund just fourteen days ago that this seminal work was at risk, we were able to act extremely fast and pledge our support in record time to secure this important part of our heritage for future generations to enjoy.”

Well done and a large round of applause to everyone involved.

'Young Van Dyck' at the Prado

November 21 2012

Video: Prado Museum

The Prado looks to have pulled off a great triumph with their 'Young Van Dyck' exhibition - as this video* reveals, about a third of his output from his so-called 'first Antwerp period' has been assembled for the show; 50 paintings and 42 drawings. Wow... Congratulations to everyone involved.

I'm hoping to go next week.

*you may need to click the captions box, bottom right, to get English subtitles.


November 21 2012

Image of Plug

Picture: TAN

The NPG's re-identification of their portrait of Cardinal York (with a little help from AHN and I) has been covered by Gareth Harris in The Art Newspaper

The meanness of the Daily Mail

November 21 2012

Image of The meanness of the Daily Mail

Picture: Mail

To help me run this blog, I have a Google news alert for the word 'painting'. Top of the list today was this story in the Daily Mail, about the unfortunate lady at the centre of the Petraeus affair in the US. Marvel at its horridness. Personally, I think everyone should be encouraged to sit for their portrait.

18 months

November 21 2012

Image of 18 months

Picture: Guardian

That's how long it will take conservators at Tate Modern to repair the recent graffiti damage to Rothko's Black on Maroon. From the BBC:

Julia Nagle, a London-based independent paintings conservator, explained that repairing a painting such as Rothko's would be a lengthy process.

"Rothko is difficult in the sense that he painted using lots of different media, which narrows down the choice of solvents that can be safely used on his paintings," she told the BBC.

"Graffiti pens are made to work outdoors and survive rain and all kinds of things, so it's something that's quite noxious that has then gone right through the paint into the canvas below."

Meanwhile, the Polish pillock who did the damage is free on bail, having pleaded guilty to; 'criminal damage to property valued at over £5,000'.

The maximum penalty for this is ten years in jail. I don't mean to sound vindictive, but for the sake of unglazed art in galleries everywhere, this man needs to go down for a long time.

Hockney's riposte to the barbarians

November 21 2012

Image of Hockney's riposte to the barbarians

Picture: Guardian

With his beautifully observed sketch of the now vandalised 'totem' tree stump, David Hockney proves in one instant why he is (for me) the most adept, talented, communicative and relevant artist at work in Britain today. 

In The Guardian, Hockney said of the vandalism:

"It was just an unbelievably mean-spirited gesture," says Hockney as he creates a new sketch shown here.

The 75-year-old artist is convinced the stump was targeted because it had become possibly the most famous piece of dead wood in Britain after he portrayed it in several of his acclaimed landscapes of the countryside around his home in Bridlington. "It is something that has made me depressed. It was just a spite. There are loads of very mean things here now in Britain."

More details here.


November 21 2012

...for the lack of service yesterday - rather busy at the moment. Hope to return to posting later today.

Barbarians in Yorkshire

November 19 2012

Image of Barbarians in Yorkshire

Picture: Mail/Ross Parry

Vandals in Yorkshire have chopped up and defaced a tree trunk made famous by David Hockney's latest landscape paintings. More here.

Inside the new Prado's Van Dyck show

November 19 2012

"The Young Van Dyck" on Display at the Museo Del... by tvnportal

Video: DailyMotion

Does this cabbage turn you on? (ctd.)

November 19 2012

Image of Does this cabbage turn you on? (ctd.)

Picture: Christie's

Following our naughty cabbage story (below), a reader writes:

Couldn't agree more on being rather suspect of reading overly sexual meanings in pictures such as the Dou you posted this week. However, I think from time to time  my fellow countrymen painters did like to include a dubious prop or two, such as Abraham van den Tempel in this picture sold at Christie's Amsterdam this week [above]. The calabash in question could hardly be over-interpreted, in my view...


More fakery (ctd.)

November 19 2012

Video: Momentum Pictures

A reader writes:

With all these stories of dodgy art dealers selling fake paintings to unsuspecting art collectors, I wondered if you had heard that there is a new film that will be released this coming Wednesday (21 Nov), staring Colin Firth as an unscrupulous art dealer who recruits Cameron Diaz to sell a dodgy Monet painting to Alan Rickman? It's called 'Gambit' and the bus shelters of London are currently stuffed with adverts for it, as I discovered while driving round the south circular this afternoon!  Apparently it is a remake of a 60s film [with Michael Caine].

More fakery alleged in New York

November 16 2012

Image of More fakery alleged in New York

Picture: TAN

Here's a really nasty case of contemporary art fakery colliding with dodgy business ethics. The above 'Mark Rothko' was sold to Eleanor and Domenico De Sole in 2004 for $8.3m by the now-closed but previously world-famous Knoedler Gallery in New York. Knoedler had bought the work in $950,000 from Glafira Rosales in 2003, who claimed to be the agent of a mysterious 'Mr X' selling his collection of previously unknown Pollocks, Rothkos, de Koonings, and so on.

Rosaeles is currently under investigation by the FBI for selling fakes. Knoedler recently settled another case of a 'Jackson Pollock' sold by them for $17m in 2007, which the gallery had also bought from Rosales, and which has been proved to be a fake. You can see where this is going...

Having heard of the dubious practices at Knoedler, the De Soles are now suing former Knoedler President, Ann Freedman, claiming that their Rothko is also fake. So far so obvious. But Freedman's defence is, outrageously, that if the 'Rothko' is a fake then it isn't her fault, but that of the De Soles' for buying it. The De Soles' were, the defence goes, foolish to rely on any Knoedler statement of authenticity, and anyway, since this was all in 2004 it is outside the statute of limitations. In other words, go hang. 

It also transpires that one of the experts Knoedler said they consulted on the painting denies that he ever examined it. Laura Gilbert in The Art Newspaper has more details:

According to Knoedler and Freedman's motion to dismiss: “In the end, [the] plaintiffs seek to blame Knoedler and Freedman when it was plaintiffs and their art advisor… who acted recklessly: they purchased a multimillion dollar painting without asking a single expert for an opinion considering its authenticity (including any of the experts Knoedler and Freedman said had 'viewed' the work), [and] without seeing a single document reflecting the provenance (which they knew could not be entirely and indisputably verified by Knoedler)… ”

The De Soles argue they could not have known the facts of a fraud until they learned that the London hedgefunder Pierre Lagrange sued Knoedler and Freedman in December 2011, alleging that the gallery sold him a fake Jackson Pollock. The De Soles then hired a forensic expert to examine their painting who concluded that the “materials and techniques… are inconsistent and irreconcilable with the claims that Untitled was painted by Mark Rothko.” 

As a dealer, I find the Knoedler defence deeply unsettling. Here's hoping the De Soles win their case...

Behold - the young Van Dyck

November 16 2012

Image of Behold - the young Van Dyck

Picture: Prado/Gemäldegalerie der Akademie der bildenen Künste, Vienna

Christmas has come early for this Van Dyck anorak, with the apparent news that Van Dyck's earliest Self-Portrait (above, c.1615) has been cleaned.

I say apparent, because I don't know quite when it happened - but the image on the Prado's website for their forthcoming 'Young Van Dyck' exhibition shows the picture looking very different to all previous illustrations of the picture. So I presume it has been cleaned for the exhibition. Before, the picture was hard to interpret thanks to what looked like ingrained dirt and old varnish remaining in the impasto (see below, and here), and, from the photos at least, was a trifle underwhelming. Now, however, the picture looks as wonderfully fresh and spontaneous as you'd expect a youthful Van Dyck self-portrait to look. It's completely fantastic.

The exhibition opens on 20th November, till 3rd March 2013.

Incidentally, please note how different this undoubted self-portrait is to the Portrait of Van Dyck by Rubens at the Rubenshuis (below) of about the same date, which has lately (and most curiously, in my view) been attributed to Van Dyck. I see for now that the Rubenshuis website still identifies the picture as by Rubens, which is a relief. You can see a high-res image of the Rubens here for comparison with the Prado picture.

More on that lost 'n found Renoir

November 16 2012

Image of More on that lost 'n found Renoir

Picture: Washington Post. Susan Helen Adler, niece of Saidie Adler May, poses outside the Baltimore Museum of Art. On her T-shirt is a photo of the stolen Renoir.

That Renoir bought in a flea market for just $7, and which turned out to have been stolen from the Baltimore Museum of Art, has renewed tensions between the museum and the family of the collector who donated the picture to the museum, Saidie Adler May. From The Washington Post:

The relatives said they believe that the museum has not always safeguarded their family’s donations. Until late October, the descendants didn’t know that art donated by May’s sister, Blanche Adler, a prominent BMA donor, also had been stolen from the museum. They also complained that the museum does not display enough of May’s art.

Museum officials said the thefts happened a long time ago, and security has been beefed up considerably since. They noted that the museum can show off only so much from one family’s collection, and that May’s mix of classical and Egyptian works, Renaissance textiles, 20th-century European paintings, and even a Jackson Pollock, was given with no strings attached.

National Gallery exhibitions 2013

November 16 2012

Image of National Gallery exhibitions 2013

Picture: National Gallery/Scala

Newly announced treats next year include:


27 February – 19 May 2013, Supported by The Joseph F McCrindle Foundation, Sainsbury Wing, Admission charge

Federico Barocci (1535–1612) is celebrated as one of the most talented artists of late 16th-century Italy. Fascinated by the human form, he fused charm and compositional harmony with an unparalleled sensitivity to colour.

Thanks to the cooperation of the Soprintendenze delle Marche, the exhibition will showcase Barocci’s most spectacular Marchigian altarpieces, including his famous Entombment from Senigallia [above]

and Last Supper from Urbino Cathedral – never before seen outside Italy. In total, 16 of his most important altarpieces and devotional paintings and five of his finest portraits will be on display alongside their preparatory drawings and oil sketches.

Barocci was an incessant and even obsessive draughtsman, preparing every composition with prolific studies in every conceivable medium. Drawing from life and inspired by the people and animals that surrounded him, his works are characterised by a warmth and humanity that transform his religious subjects into themes with which all can identify.




26 June – 8 September 2013, Sainsbury Wing, Admission free

This exhibition explores the concept of music as a pastime of the elite in the northern Netherlands during the 17th century. 

Vermeer and Music: Love and Leisure in the Dutch Golden Age will bring together for the first time the National Gallery’s two paintings by Vermeer, Young Woman Standing at a Virginal and Young Woman Seated at a Virginal, and Vermeer’s Guitar Player, on exceptional loan from the Iveagh Bequest, Kenwood House. The exhibition aims to enhance viewers’ appreciation of these beautiful and evocative paintings by Vermeer and his contemporaries by juxtaposing them with musical instruments and songbooks of the period. Visitors will be able to compare 17th-century virginals, guitars, lutes and other instruments with their painted representations to judge the accuracy of representation and what liberties the painter might have taken to enhance the visual or symbolic appeal of his work.  In 17th- century Dutch paintings, music often figured as a metaphor for harmony, a symbol of transience or, depending on the type of music being performed, an indicator of one’s education and position in society. Musical instruments and songbooks were also included as attributes in elegant portraits to suggest that the sitter was accomplished in this area.



9 October 2013 – 12 January 2014, Sainsbury Wing, Admission charge

The Portrait in Vienna 1867–1918 is the first exhibition to explore Viennese portraiture during the Austro-Hungarian Empire, showing both the continuity and the rupture between the Biedermeier and imperial traditions of the 19th century and the innovations of avant-garde artists such as Gustav Klimt, Egon Schiele, Richard Gerstl and Oskar Kokoschka in the years around 1900. The period is widely regarded as the time when the avant-garde overthrew the academy.

The exhibition explores how portraiture came to be closely identified with the distinctive flourishing of modern art in Vienna during its famed fin-de-siècle years. It is divided into six sections: Biedermeier-Modern (the rediscovery around 1900 of early 19th-century portraits of the Alt-Wien bourgeoisie); Modern Family/Modern Child; The Artist; Modern Men/Modern Women; Love and Loss (the use of the portrait to declare love and commemorate the dead); and Finish and Failure (unfinished works abandoned by frustrated artists, or rejected by outraged sitters).


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