Previous Posts: March 2015

Fakes, fakes everywhere (ctd.)

March 20 2015

Image of Fakes, fakes everywhere (ctd.)

Picture: Der Spiegel

The convicted art forger, Wolfgang Beltracchi, has claimed he 'recently' saw one of his fakes in the Albertina, in Vienna. He refused to say which work it was. And for that reason, I don't believe him. Fakers do a lot of boasting like this. They seek critical attention for their artistic skills. Ultimately, that's why they get caught.

More here

Art that wastes away

March 20 2015

Image of Art that wastes away

Picture: Guardian

Further to the news that Van Gogh's pictures are gradually changing colour, Jonathan Jones in The Guardian looks at five other works that are gradually decaying. Some waste away faster than others, such as Damien Hirst's shark, which has already had to be replaced once.

At the same time, the new Wallace Collection exhibition on Joshua Reynolds looks at that artist's notorious use of dodgy pigments - his pictures sometimes faded dramatically within his lifetime. 

All of which makes me wonder - shouldn't art be classified as a 'wasting asset'? In other words, not subject to capital gains tax, in the same way that vintage wine is not taxed, even though it might go rocketing up in value? Spot the self interest here...

Introducing the 'Gainsborough bouquet'

March 20 2015

Image of Introducing the 'Gainsborough bouquet'

Picture: National Gallery

The National Gallery has a new range - art history themed floral bouquets. Above is the 'Gainsborough Bouquet', which is yours for £30, and is inspired by the National Gallery's Mrs & Mrs Andrews by Gainsborough. Says the NG's website:

Depicting the couple on the English countryside estate, the accentuated colours of the blue in Mrs Andrews dress and the stormy skies contrast with the fresh green of the fields. The colours are replicated in this splendid bouquet with deep blue Agapanthus and pale blue Eryngium against a perfect backdrop of fresh yellow Roses and wispy sprays of Solidaster.

View from the Artist - no.17

March 20 2015

Image of View from the Artist - no.17


Apologies for the lack of posts lately - I have been away on various missions. One was filming for series 4 of 'Fake or Fortune?'. Another was dealing with a (what I thought was) particularly nasty legal letter. But fear not, AHNers, I remain undaunted.

I hope to be back to the blog later today. But in the meantime, here's another 'View from...' Can you guess the location and artist?

No Google image cheating this time!

Update - it is Wollaton Hall by Jan Siberechts (Yale Center for British Art). Well done to those who got it right.

Update II - there are two versions of the painting: one at Yale, above, and also a variant without the large sky, which you can see hanging in the house in the old photo below.

Finaldi confirmed at last

March 18 2015

Gabriele Finaldi has at last been confirmed as the new National Gallery director. I'm out and about today, so can't post pictures or links (posting this from my phone) but there's an extensive press release on the NG's website. 

It has been some months* since I first broke the news of his impending appointment. I am not sure why the confirmation has taken so long. I'd begun to wonder if I'd made a blunder...

Anyway, many congratulations to Dr. Finaldi; I wish him the best of luck in his new post.

Update - Jonathan Jones in The Guardian has some advice for Dr. Finaldi, while Polly Toynbee, in the same paper, re-offers tired old warnings against restructuring the staff. On the same theme, Richard Dorment in The Telegraph has a more upbeat assessment:

One task I don’t envy him is dealing with what many perceive to be a culture of negativity and complaint among curatorial staff in a gallery that is, after all, amply staffed and reasonably well funded – at least by comparison to other national museums. Last month, Gallery staff also went on strike, twice, in a row over the privitisation of visitor services, with a further strike expected next week.

However, I presume that someone who has just been through a trial by fire such as the Spanish economy will be well prepared for what look like very difficult years ahead for our National Museums.

*January, in fact. You read it here first!

Fakes, fakes everywhere (ctd.)

March 17 2015

I saw yesterday, at a provincial auction house, a fake 18th Century drawing, purporting to be of a well-known literary figure. It had been fully catalogued as by the claimed artist (it was 'signed'), but had probably been made within the last few years or so, at the most. It had a cunningly vague label on the back, made using what appeared to be an old type writer. I think the intention was to fool the optimistic into thinking the drawing was an overlooked gem.

Normally I let these things go, but there appeared to be a number of drawings in the same sale that were labelled and framed in the same way, and made with a similarly dubious technique. So I informed the auction house staff, in the hope that anything that had come from the same source would be investigated further.

There are a growing number of fakes out there like this; trivial enough to appear to be innocuous, and not of any interest to the police - but real enough to make someone shifty some serious money. Caveat emptor...

Update - the drawing was withdrawn.

€150m Rembrandt pair

March 17 2015

Image of €150m Rembrandt pair

Picture: via Tribune de l'Art, Portrait de Marten Soolmans

Didier Rykner reports on Tribune de l'Art that a pair of full-length Rembrandts are being sold by a branch of the Rothschild family in France. The French authorities have apparently agreed to their export from France. A resumé of the story is in English on Art Market Monitor.

Update - a reader writes:

M. Rykner is absolutely right to be outraged at the granting of an export permit — not simply artistically, because these are a pair of Rembrandts, but because the French authorities are clearly violating the rule of law: their own law which, as M. Rykner says, must surely require this pair of paintings be designated a “national treasure”.  Then, and only then, the question arises of whether or not the paintings can be afforded by the state; if not, they might be exported.  But for the authorities to argue that these paintings are not a “national treasure”, motivated by financial grounds, is unlawful, untruthful, and apparently an underhanded attempt to obscure their financial cowardice —  or if it is truly financial “prudence”, if this national treasure can’t be afforded, say so, face up, honestly, don’t try to hide behind a false refusal to designate them properly.

Update II - another reader adds:

The French rules on 'national treasures' are very similar to those of the British government on the Waverley criteria, viz. a strictly impartial judgement on whether a work of art fulfils certain criteria of pre-eminence. In both cases, they should be completely irrespective of whether a national institution can afford to buy the work of art in question.  In failing to object to the export of the Rothschild Rembrandts, the Director of the Louvre has signally failed to observe the spirit (and probably the letter) of the legislation, and [is in danger of laying] himself open to charges of incompetence or corruption.

In addition, it is extremely unfortunate that the European Commission has no effective mechanism for protecting European heritage, which might enable it to supersede national governments in this, as in so many other areas of policy.

Frieze Masters - not so good for Old Masters?

March 17 2015

Image of Frieze Masters - not so good for Old Masters?

Picture: Frieze Masters

There's an interesting snippet in Colin Gleadell's Telegraph report from TEFAF in Maastricht:

[...] several Old Master dealers at Tefaf are saying they will not be returning to Frieze Masters this October.

I've heard the same from a number of dealers. But it's worth noting that, relatively, it is still a fair in its infancy. These things need time to establish themselves. I think the concept is good, but there are flaws in the way it is being implemented.

Everybody out! (ctd.)

March 17 2015

Image of Everybody out! (ctd.)

Picture: Museums Association

Yet another strike at the National Gallery, from Tuesday 24th March to Saturday 28th March. The PCS Union really seem to think that they can strike their way to victory on this one. But of course the repeated strikes only serve to persuade National Gallery trustees that they are right to press ahead with their reforms.

The latest strike is also partly in support of Socialist Workers Party member Candy Udwin (above, addressing a recent solidarity for Greece rally held in front of the Gallery), who was suspended by the Gallery a few weeks ago.

Socialist Worker reports:

Bosses suspended PCS union rep Candy Udwin on the eve of the strike in an attempt to undermine the action.

But it’s made workers more determined to fight back. 

Candy addressed a public meeting attended by some 100 supporters including PCS general secretary Mark Serwotka and left wing Labour MP John McDonnell in parliament on Tuesday of last week. [...]

Serwotka said that workers could win, and that gallery bosses’ attacks on Candy were “trumped up charges of the worst order”.

Guardian newspaper columnist Polly Toynbee said, “I think you will win. I have had a bigger response from readers to this than many other issues.”

Support is pouring in for Candy from trade unionists and campaigners—with thousands signing a petition calling for her reinstatement.

Workers at the Ritzy cinema and the Dulwich Picture Gallery were among those at the public rally in parliament, as were artists Bob and Roberta Smith.

Workers are having pictures taken with “Reinstate Candy” posters to demonstrate their support.

Members of the firefighters’ FBU union posed with the signs at their recall conference last week. 

And Candy was warmly received when she spoke at a rally in London last Sunday in solidarity with Greece. [...]

As Candy said, “The nationwide solidarity makes us believe we can win. 

“But it should also give everyone heart to see how much backing there is for anyone who stands up against privatisation, cuts and the austerity policies of this government.”

As many of us suspected all along, I don't think there can be much doubt that the National Gallery has become part of a wider Union campaign against the government.

Julian Opie on the Old Masters

March 15 2015

Image of Julian Opie on the Old Masters

Pictures: NPG, self-portrait by Julian Opie, 'Julian with T-shirt'. Below, Philip Mould Ltd.

There was a fascinating article in the Sunday Times recently by Julian Opie, talking about his love of Old Masters, why he collects them, and how they inform his own art. It's rare to hear contemporary artists talking about their predecessors with such flair and insight.

Here, with his permission, is the full piece, which is well worth reading:

I am not a historian, a critic or a writer. I am a fan, an artist myself and I suppose a collector. I collect a lot of different kinds of art, contemporary, ancient, Japanese and 17th and 18th century European. I get interested in things because they seem to jump out at me. It can be because the thing relates to what I am making or  because it shows me what I could make. The object can be from anywhere and from any time, I recently bought a painting on buffalo hide by mid 19th C Pawnee Native Americans.

Having noticed British painting some years back I moved from the early 17th Century forwards and eventually arrived at Reynolds, Gainsborough, Romney and Ramsay. They were the giants of the late 18th Century each with their own style and particular brilliance. All artists learn from previous art and refer to previous art. I may be high up on that particular scale. 

Walking down Dover street in Mayfair my wife and I spotted a small, dark painting leaning against the wall in my favourite Old Master gallery. Sometimes I see an art work and the day seems to stop. Other things, normal things are forgotten and there is only the fact of looking at the thing. I love the feeling, of being totally focused and engaged and enthusiastic. Other paintings remain paintings but I seem to enter the space of some works. I don't care really when the work was made or by whom. I don't care what or who it is of. Well, I do read about the period and learn all I can finding out about other artists in the process. I want to stare at the artwork and if possible to have it. After some negotiations ( the painting was reserved by someone else) I bought Mr Bradyll [above] and have looked at it almost every day since then. It is particularly vivid as it’s painted thickly and fast on a wooden board and thus has faded less than much of Reynold’s work.

I had always admired Reynolds even as a student when I only knew of him in a general sense as an old master. There is a melancholic and gentle quality to his work. The slightly deathly mood ( enhanced by the tendency of his skin colours to fade to pale) is offset by a vivid, powerful sense of presence. Like many 18th Century works the compositions are elegant and balanced and there is a piercing sincerity and fresh energy and optimism to the paintings. 

These days we usually see good paintings in museums and museums tend to focus on the interesting and the grand. It's hard for them to write about yet another portrait of an aristocrat done in oil paint. There are thousands of them, all the same set size and although I can tell a lot of them apart they look remarkably similar on the surface. In the case of Reynolds this bias is a shame. His best works are the workaday portraits commissioned to be hung in people's homes. There is an energetic modesty and sense of sureness and purpose to these works. Reynolds helped to set up and then directed the first public English gallery where artists could exhibit their work, the Royal Academy. This was part of a whole move away from artist as commissioned portraitist, the end of a golden age and the end of my interest in English painting really. The mythological later works of Reynolds are pompous and stiff and dated but a huge number of his hundreds of commissioned portraits are still glowingly intense and alive. 

Like most British portrait painters Reynolds came from the tradition of Dutch portraiture introduced by Van Dyke, Cornelius Johnson and others in the early 17th Century. Reynolds travelled to Italy to learn from earlier Italian late Renaissance painters like Raphael and Titian. He then applied the techniques and compositions to his busy London studio practice. Daily sessions of portrait sittings undertaken to order. Paintings then often sent by cart to drapery painters such as the brilliant Van Aken who did all the top artist’s drapery. For a set price and at a set size you could have a head or a three quarter length or a fabulous full length portrait. You could get more than one copy. It was a service and artists knew what their job was. 

Reynolds experimented and borrowed and imitated. He played with props and poses and above all lighting and painting technique. Dappled light and shadows falling across complicated drapery gave glamour and depth and life. He often used gracious garden settings or exciting wild skies as backdrops as did his contemporaries, to add a sense of depth, place, narrative and an almost cinematic realism. Towards the end of his career these became somewhat overblown or sentimental with young girls hugging smiling sheep and young men dashing through arcadian woods with bows and arrows - by this stage I have lost interest.

A lot of emphasis is often put on the fame or glamour of the sitter and although there can be amusing stories to be told and although the whole complex system of portraiture, wealth, propaganda, society and patronage is important it’s not really what interests me.I do like to know about the role of art and artists and understand the changing way in which artists can work and exhibit but in the end I love to gaze at paintings and see what they do to my eyes and mind. Art can open up the past and bring you directly into the minds and views of other periods almost like time travel. 

The amazing sense of presence in the best of the artists of this time was a pinnacle of a shared purpose and set of techniques. Now we have no idea what we are supposed to be doing as artists, which is a freedom and of course confusing. Reynolds holds all this richness at the end of the golden Age of Enlightenment in late 18th Century London just before most British art fell into the sentimentality, corruption and slick academic tedium of the 19th C.

Disclaimer: I sold Julian the Reynolds he refers to, when I used to work for Philip Mould. And I'm lucky enough to own something of Julian's too, a French landscape. It is one of my favourite pictures.

Update - I meant to say that, as Julian hints above, the reason the Reynolds portrait works so well is because it is in really excellent condition. Just imagine how different our perception of Reynolds would be if all his pictures had survived in such good state.

'hopelessly excessive'

March 15 2015

Image of 'hopelessly excessive'

Picture: Guardian

I got a lot of grief from some in the contemporary art world when I expressed amazement at the prices currently achieved (in the Financial Times) by some artists. So it's interesting to hear similar thoughts from none other than Gerhard Richter, who calls todays prices 'hopelessly excessive'. The Guardian reports:

Gerhard Richter, the world-famous German painter, has expressed his incredulity at the astronomical sums paid for his works, calling the art market “hopelessly excessive” and saying that prices are rarely a reflection on quality.

Richter, 83, told the German daily Die Zeit he had watched the outcome of a recent auction at Sotheby’s in London with horror after an anonymous buyer paid £30.4m (€41m, $46.5m) for his 1986 oil-on-canvas, Abstraktes Bild.

We artists get next to nothing from such an auction. Except for a small morsel, all the profit goes to the seller

“The records keep being broken and every time my initial reaction is one of horror even if it’s actually welcome news. But there is something really shocking about the amount,” Richter said.

He said he believed people who paid so much money for his paintings were foolish and foresaw that prices for his art would crash “when the art market corrects itself”, as he was convinced it would.

Seen as the leader of the New European Painting movement which emerged in the second half of the 20th century, Richter made a name for himself with “photo-paintings” that replicate photographs and are then “blurred” with a squeegee or a brush.

The price paid for Abstraktes Bild amounted to a staggering 5,000-fold increase on the price he had originally sold it for, he said.

He told the weekly newspaper that he understood as much about the art market as he did “about Chinese or physics”, and said contrary to a common perception he hardly benefited at all from such sales.

“We artists get next to nothing from such an auction. Except for a small morsel, all the profit goes to the seller,” he said.

Note to Old Master dealers

March 15 2015

There was a piece in The Art Newspaper recently about the state of the Old Master market, and in particular the place of dealers within it. I was quoted as giving some dealers a bit of a bash, for continuing to practice art dealing as it used to be done 30 or 40 years ago, and wondering why business wasn't so good any more. I stand by the bash.

The trouble is, a number of dealers have got in touch to express surprise at what I said. So I just want to make a few things clear. 

Here's the relevant part of the TAN piece:

The British art historian, broadcaster and former dealer Bendor Grosvenor strongly disagrees that the Old Master market is in retreat. He puts the blame for its supposed decline on the dealers and the ease with which collectors can access prices online. “The old retail-style operation, which is how many of the ‘established’ dealers began, is finished,” he says. Dealers can no longer buy a work at auction, then turn around and sell it with a nice mark-up. “Within 30 seconds, a potential buyer can walk out of your gallery and find out what you paid for a picture and often won’t come back,” he says. “The new collectors—for they indeed exist—aren’t going into those upstairs galleries you have to press a buzzer to get into, or visiting faraway Maastricht or browsing dealers’ websites to buy art any more. Like it or not, to these collectors, direct buying at auction offers an excitement and a belief that what one is buying is good value, and very few dealers can compete with that.”

First, I haven't totally given up the dealing thing. More on that soon. 

Second, I don't blame 'the dealers' for the supposed decline. Instead, I criticise some dealers for damning the market unnecessarily. My comments to TAN were actually given in support of the Old Master market, after I had been cheesed off by some long-standing dealers cotinually saying the market was dead. It isn't, and I was trying to say that dealers should adapt to the needs of newer collectors, who, whether we like it or not, prefer to buy at auction. 

And finally, and most importantly, the key word in the final sentence in the TAN piece is 'belief'. But even that slightly misinterprets what I said. Here's the quote I actually gave for the article:

Buying at auction is now seen so differently; it’s exciting, it’s almost cool, and it’s perceived as being good value (though there’s much to be said about that aspect of it). The thing is, it’s a process very few dealers can compete against.

So I'm sorry to my colleagues in the art world if they got the impression from TAN that I was damning them all. That's not what I meant.

For what it's worth, here's the entirety of my email to TAN, from which the quotes were taken:

The market is changing, there’s no doubt about that, as indeed is taste. Taste changes all the time. But I’d wager most of the dealers you spoke to are those who aren’t aware of how the business is changing too. 

Put simply, the old retail-style operation, which is how many of the 'established’ dealers began, is bust, kaput, finished. Even in the last ten/fifteen years or so you could get away with buying a picture at Christie’s, then walking over the road to your gallery in St James or whatever snippy part of Manhattan Old Master dealers occupy, and stick in the window with mark up. But that doesn’t work any more. Now, within thirty seconds, a potential buyer can walk out of your gallery and find out what you paid for a picture. And usually, once they’ve figured out your margin, they don’t walk back… 

But still dealers keep the same gallery spaces, go to the same fairs, market themselves in the same way, and wonder what the hell happened to all their clients, and why there are no new ones. 

The ‘new’ collectors (for they indeed exist) aren’t going to go into those upstairs galleries you have to press a buzzer to get into, or those fairs in faraway Maastricht, or browse dealer’s often pretty rubbish websites, to buy art anymore. Their whole manner of buying stuff – any stuff – is very different. 

I suppose it’s true that, when it comes to the auction houses, it’s a case of ‘they would say that, wouldn’t they?’ [in regard to the auction houses saying that, in contrast to some dealers' reports, the Old Master market was actually doing very well] But there’s no denying that the auction houses have taken a sizeable, and growing chunk of the clientele that used to go to, or would be expected to go to, dealers. Buying at auction is now seen so differently; it’s exciting, it’s almost cool, and it’s perceived as being good value (though there’s much to be said about that aspect of it). The thing is, it’s a process very few dealers can compete against.  

And someone new is buying art from the auction houses. That Chinese collector who bought a Vermeer last year for £6m exists, I saw him. As I suppose does the one who paid millions for a Rembrandt, and who are the people buying Stubbs for close on £20m? They exist too. And you’ve only to look at the market for pre-Raphaelites to see how a sector of the art market can be transformed by just a handful of collectors competing for works. 

If it were the case the nobody was visiting the Louvre, or the National Gallery in London, neither of which contain much modern or contemporary art, then I’d believe people when they say ‘nobody’s interested in Old Masters’ any more. But people are queuing to get into those galleries as never before. 

There is a way of selling even middle market pictures successfully, and (thought this sounds a boast) I know how to do it. I know others that can do it too. It’s true, there’s not many of them. Often, it’s all a question of context and presentation – you’d be amazed at how few people can genuinely make an Old Master painting interesting or exciting. Then there’s the whole other question of expertise, and who collectors are willing to trust (these days, mainly the auction houses).

Brueghel discoveries

March 13 2015

Image of Brueghel discoveries

Picture: Hampel

At Hampel Auctions in Germany they have an extraordinary record of offering apparently previously unknown works by members of the Brueghel family, which come to sale in remarkably good condition - in fact, almost as good as new. Here's the latest

$10m Van Gogh drawing unveiled at TEFAF

March 13 2015

Image of $10m Van Gogh drawing unveiled at TEFAF

Picture: Guardian/Dickinson

A newly authenticated drawing by Van Gogh has gone on display at The European Fine Art Fair (TEFAF) at Maastricht, with a price tag of around $10m. The work is being offered by Simon Dickinson. Reports Dalya Alberge in The Guardian:

A landscape by Vincent van Gogh is to be exhibited for the first time in more than 100 years following the discovery of crucial evidence that firmly traces back its history directly to the artist.

The significance of two handwritten numbers scribbled almost imperceptibly on the back had been overlooked until now. They have been found to correspond precisely with those on two separate lists of Van Gogh’s works drawn up by Johanna, wife of the artist’s brother, Theo.

Johanna, who was widowed in 1891 – months after Vincent’s death – singlehandedly generated interest in his art. She brought it to the attention of critics and dealers, organising exhibitions, although she obviously could never have envisaged the millions that his works would fetch today.

Le Moulin d’Alphonse Daudet à Fontvieille, which depicts vivid green grapevines leading up to a windmill with broken wings in the distance, is a work on paper that he created with graphite, reed pen and ink and watercolour shortly after he reached Arles, in the south of France.

If you're also exhibiting at TEFAF, good luck!

Reynolds exhibition at the Wallace Collection

March 13 2015

Image of Reynolds exhibition at the Wallace Collection

Picture: Wallace Collection

There's what looks like a great new exhibition at the Wallace Collection on Joshua Reynolds. The approach is refreshingly old-fashioned, for it looks at what Reynolds did, and how he did it:

This exhibition offers a snapshot of Joshua Reynolds’s creative process, and reveals discoveries made during a four-year research project into the outstanding collection of his works at the Wallace Collection. We have selected not only significant portraits but lesser known ‘fancy pictures’ and a rare history painting, all of which will be shown side by side. Among the works on display will be famous pictures such as Nelly O’Brien, Mrs Abington as Miss Prue and Reynolds’s own Self Portrait Shading the Eyes.

By focusing on the themes of experimentation and innovation, we trace Reynolds’s working practice in two ways: on the material level, through his use of pigments and media; and on a conceptual level, through his development of composition and narrative.  What emerges is a vision of Reynolds as a pioneering painter, highly original in his approaches to pictorial composition. This drive to innovation is exemplified in his ambitious allusions to the great masters of the past, such as Titian and Rembrandt and his obsessive tendency to rework and revise his images as he painted.

The exhibition is co-curated by Mark Hallett, who recently published a fine book on Reynolds. Reviews here in The Guardian and The Independent

Selfie sticks banned

March 13 2015

Image of Selfie sticks banned

Picture: Brooklyn Museum

There's been a lot of hoo ha in the press about museums 'banning' selfie sticks. The National Gallery in London was the latest to impose a ban. A broadcaster asked me, as an advocate of allowing photography in museums, to go on the news saying selfie-sticks should be permitted. But obviously they should not be allowed at all, just as you're not allowed to wander around museums waving an umbrella in the air. This story is about plain old common sense, nothing else. 

€100k Michelangelo ransom

March 13 2015

Image of €100k Michelangelo ransom

Picture: (this is not the stolen letter)

Two letters by Michelangelo which were stolen from the Vatican archive in 1997 have re-surfaced, with the Vatican receiving a €100k ransom demand. More here

Brian: The Return

March 12 2015

Image of Brian: The Return

Picture: Times

Good news - the Great Brian is back writing once more. Here he is on fine form on the British Museum's latest exhibition on the ancient greeks. 


March 12 2015

Video: NBC San Diego

In San Diego, a fellow claiming to have a 'newly discovered' Jackson Pollock for sale at $160m invited the local news affiliate to his hotel room for a bit of publicity (above). The picture was apparently donated to a thrift store by the artist many years ago (sounds similar to the plot of that play, Bakersfield Mist). The mystery owners have had the picture 'authenticated' by... a computer programme, which said that there was a '93% chance' it was by Pollock.

More here.

Caveat emptor...

Update - here's the sales brochure. The picture is described as 'Pollock.. .style'

'Salvator Mundi' at heart of art fraud case?

March 11 2015

Image of 'Salvator Mundi' at heart of art fraud case?

Picture: Robert Simon Fine Art/Tim Nighswander

I learn via Marion Maneker's Art Market Monitor that the newly discovered Leonardo 'Salvator Mundi' (above) is at the centre of an art fraud case that is causing consternation among the contemporary set.

Pepper everything you read here with the word 'allegedly', but the story is this: Yves Bouvier (who runs and owns a series of 'freeports' around the world where art can be stored without incurring various taxes) has been accussed of fraud by the Russian collector Dmitri Rybolovlev; M. Bouvier was apparently meant to be buying works for Mr. Rybolovlev for a fixed 2% commission; but Mr Rybolovlev was none too pleased to discover that he had apparently been paying far more for some pictures than he had been led to believe was necessary.

One of the pictures in question is the Salvator Mundi. Le Temps in Switzerland reports that Mr Rybolovlev paid $127.5m, but read elsewhere that the painting had been sold through Sotheby's private treaty department in New York for '$75m-$80m'.

Until now, there has been no confirmation about Salvator Mundi buyer's identity.* It's great to know, amidst all the hand-wringing about the dying Old Master market (as most recently discussed here in The Art Newspaper), that Russian oligarchs are buying Leonardos... 

* boast: AHN was the first to report that the painting had been sold.

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