Previous Posts: March 2016

Jetting into Maastricht

March 12 2016

Image of Jetting into Maastricht

Picture: Telegraaf

Apparently some 200 private jets have flown into Maastricht airport for the TEFAF opening. 

I'll be going next week, by car.

"Georges de La Tour" at the Prado

March 12 2016

Video: Prado

There's a new exhibition on at the Prado on the French 17th Century artist Georges de La Tour, of whom I've always been a fan. The show is on until 12th June this year. More here.

Van Gogh sunflowers to be cleaned?

March 12 2016

Image of Van Gogh sunflowers to be cleaned?

Picture: TAN/Van Gogh Museum

Martin Bailey in The Art Newspaper reports that the Van Gogh museum are considering cleaning their version of the Sunflowers. Martin, himself a well-respected Van Gogh scholar, tells us:

A key question that is being examined is whether the varnish of the Amsterdam painting could safely be removed. Van Gogh did not varnish his pictures, preferring a matt finish, and this coating was probably added in 1927, to help protect the surface. The varnish has aged since then, leaving a brownish tinge and dulling Van Gogh’s sparkling colours.

A further problem causing concern is the deterioration of Van Gogh’s chrome yellow pigments, which have darkened and become slightly greenish-brown. This is due to a photochemical reaction that takes place when chrome yellows are exposed to light. The effect on the Amsterdam picture is to make the flowers appear flatter than originally intended. Later tiny retouchings, also probably added in 1927, now appear more orange than Van Gogh’s original ochre-looking flowers. These retouches probably reflect the colour that was present nearly 90 years ago, revealing how the picture has changed since then.

€160m Rembrandt pair go on display

March 12 2016

Image of €160m Rembrandt pair go on display

Picture: via Art Daily

The pair of Rembrandt portraits (or Maerten Soolmans and his wife, Coppit) bought jointly by the Dutch and French governments for €160m have gone on display at the Louvre. The President of France and the Dutch King and Queen were there to see them. The pictures will be at the Louvre for three months, then the Rijksmuseum for three months, before a period in conservation. Then the rotation will be every 5 years, and later rising to a period of 8 years. The pictures cannot be loaned to any other institution. More here.

Sleeper alert! (ctd.)

March 12 2016

Image of Sleeper alert! (ctd.)

Pictures: AHN & Artnet

Remember the '19th Century Continental School, Portrait with Lady Fainting' that made $870,000 hammer in the US, against an estimate of $500-$800? It has gone on display for the first time at Maastricht. Galerie Talabardon et Gautier of Paris were the brave sleuths who spotted and bought the painting, which of course is by the young Rembrandt, and is one his five 'Senses' series, in this case 'Smell'. This is what it looks like now:

It has been bought by the well-known Rembrandt collector Tom Kaplan, for his Leiden Collection.

Kaplan's extraordinary collection of works by Rembrandt, as well as other Dutch masters such as Gerrit Dou, is testament to the fact that it's still possible to put together a collection of important works by the greatest Old Masters. 

By the way, keep your eyes peeled: the whereabouts of 'Taste' is unknown...

Mauritshuis acquires Savery still life

March 12 2016

Image of Mauritshuis acquires Savery still life

Picture: Colnaghi

One always has to be wary of first day sale announcements at art fairs, for it helps to take along a few sold pictures to unveil to the press and massed crowds. Red dots on a stand help build momentum. That said, things seem to have got off to a positive start at Maastricht this year, from what I've heard. Colnaghi announced the sale of the above 1615 Still Life of Flowers by Roeland Savery to the Mauritshuis for €6.5m. More here.

Portland Collection opens new gallery

March 12 2016

Video: Portland Collection/Harley Gallery

We often hear about museums closing here in the UK, but every now and then some exciting new ones open. The latest is a new gallery at Welbeck Abbey, which will put treasures from the Portland Collection on public display for the first time. The video above tells you about the new space, while this piece in The Guardian tells us more about the decision to create it:

From 20 March, the extensive art collection, which to date has simply adorned the walls of the family stately home, is to be opened up in its entirety to the public for the first time.

William Parente, grandson of the seventh Duke of Portland, said his family had taken a decision 15 years ago that this priceless art should no longer be locked away.

“We’d been very private for 50 years and we wanted to open things up. We knew there was this fantastic collection, I’d grown up with it, and we all felt a bit uncomfortable that we were the only ones who saw it,” said Parente.

He said it had been “crucial” that the artwork, of the sort rarely seen outside large London galleries, remained in the local area. By making the public gallery – funded by an endowment from the family – a permanent home for priceless works such as the Michelangelo sketch and five Van Dyck paintings, Parente said he hoped this small corner of Nottingham could grow into a cultural hub.

“Keeping the art in Nottinghamshire was the most important part of this project for us,” he said. “This was once a rich mining area that suffered terribly from the closing of the pits, and still hasn’t recovered. We’ve had the thick end of 30 years of misery, so we were desperate to contribute in any way we could to get things moving and we were keen to use the art as part of this.”

The Welbeck collection is full of Van Dycks, so obviously I can't wait to go.

What makes a painting valuable?

March 11 2016

Image of What makes a painting valuable?

Picture: Sotheby's/TAN

Well, cats for a start. There's no hard and fast rule about what makes an Old Master painting desirable, but I've had a go at explaining the various elements behind value here in The Art Newspaper.

£20m-£30m Rubens at Christie's

March 11 2016

Image of £20m-£30m Rubens at Christie's

Picture: Christie's/FT

The FT kindly asked me to write about Christie's latest stellar consignment, an early-ish Rubens of 'Lot and His Daughters'. You can read the article here.

The picture has never been exhibited, and has been in the same collection since the 19th Century. Yet another picture to challenge the myth of 'supply' in the Old Master market. Well done Christie's for securing the lot. It's in the most exceptional condition - I saw it on Wednesday.


'Fake or Fortune?'

March 10 2016

Image of 'Fake or Fortune?'

Picture: Philip Mould & Co.

Apologies for the lack of action today. I've been in charge of the 'Fake or Fortune?' laptop again.

Come and hear me talk! (ctd.)

March 9 2016

Image of Come and hear me talk! (ctd.)

Picture: Eventbrite

I'll be moderating an evening of talks and debate at the Mall Galleries in London on Thursday 14th April at 6.30pm about Scottish Art. What is it, where does it come from - is there in fact such a thing as 'Scottish Art'? Speakers include the broadcaster and author Andrew Marr, Alice Strang (curator of modern art at the Scottish National Galleries), and Lachlan Goudie, the artist and broadcaster whose recent BBC series on Scottish art wowed us all. The Mall Galleries are also hosting an exhibition of works by Lachlan's father, Alexander. And of course, there'll be free booze. Tickets are available here.

Update - the event suddenly sold out yesterday, thanks everyone for your interest!

Come and hear me talk!

March 9 2016

Image of Come and hear me talk!

Picture: Earl of Wemyss/Gosford Estates

I'll be giving a talk at the Scottish National Galleries in Edinburgh on 4th April at 6.30pm on 'The True Face of Bonnie Prince Charlie'. It'll be all about the discovery of the above portrait of Charles Edward Stuart by Allan Ramsay, and how the Prince's iconography has changed as a result. I'm told that, somehow, over 150 people have already been persuaded to come, but doubtless this is due to the free glass of wine on offer. There are still some tickets left; more details here.


March 8 2016


Telly beckons for most of this week, I'm afraid, so apologies for the lack of action here...

"The Guerilla Girls"

March 7 2016

Video: CBS

I've only just come across The Guerilla Girls, who are (according to their website):

[...] feminist masked avengers in the tradition of anonymous do-gooders like Robin Hood, Wonder Woman and Batman. How do we expose sexism, racism and corruption in politics, art, film and pop culture? With facts, humor and outrageous visuals.

Here is one of their posters:

Earlier this year the Girls featured on a US talk show with Stephen Colbert (above), where they made many sound points, especially about the state of the contemporary art world. They argue that it reflects merely the needs and desires of mega-rich, male collectors - which of course is true. Of course, t'was ever thus, and by coincidence I touch on this point with regard to Old Masters in a new piece for The Art Newspaper. (It's not online, and you'll have to buy the print edition to read it.) 

While I'm not one for earnestly trying to correct any past male bias in art history (we are where we are), I like the Guerilla Girls' view that we should see the history of art as more of a history of power. But in a sense all history is that.

Update - my Art Newspaper piece is now online, here.

TEFAF 2016

March 7 2016

Video: TEFAF

TEFAF Maastricht opens this week, on Friday (with a preview on Thursday), and runs till Sunday 20th March. I'll be going for a nose around on Wednesday, well after all the canapé chasers have departed. Good luck to those exhibiting!

'The Renaissance Unchained'

March 7 2016

Video: BBC

The final part of the Great Waldemar's 'Renaissance Unchained' goes out tonight on BBC4 at 9pm; well worth watching.

Breughel's 'Birdtrap' at Dorotheum in April

March 7 2016

Video: Dorotheum

I like to keep an eye on auction house's social media efforts, so it's good to see that Dorotheum (Austria's pre-eminent auctioneers) are making videos now. The above looks at a Pieter Brueghel the Younger 'Birdtrap' on offer in their April Old Master sale. We learn the astonishing fact that there are apparently 46 versoins of this scene by the artist. 

No estimate is given in the video, alas. (Dorotheum folks, estimates are essential in videos like this!).

Update - a reader writes:

Brueghel estimate in the video on the label on the wall, bottom right €700-900k estimate.  Not clear I grant you!

The state of the Old Master market

March 6 2016

Image of The state of the Old Master market

Picture: Sotheby's/Getty

The Art Newspaper kindly asked me for my take on the state of the Old Master market, and you can read my piece either in the latest (excellent) print edition, or online here.


"Van Dyck" at the Frick

March 6 2016

Video: The Frick Collection

I greatly enjoyed the new Van Dyck exhibition athe Frick Collection in New York, 'Van Dyck, the Anatomy of Portraiture'. I will write in more depth about the show and the exhibits, but in the meantime, here is my review in The Financial Times

The show is open now, till 5th June. There is a superb catalogue available here.

"Botticelli Reimagined" at the V&A

March 6 2016

Video: V&A

Both Laura Freeman in The Spectator and Jackie Wullschlager in the FT were left scratching their heads at the V&A's new Botticelli Reimagined exhibition, which (as is the way these days) insists on mixing up anything vaguely old with hastily assembled dross from the world of contemporary art, presumably out of a fear that people are only interested in art that is 'new'.

Says Freeman:

It’s an oddly back-to-front exhibition. We begin with the art of the past few decades, move on to the rediscovery of Botticelli in the 19th century, and end in 15th-century Florence with the artist and his workshop. Co-curator Ana Debenedetti explains that the intention was to begin with the two most famous images and ‘peel back the layers of history’ to show how Botticelli has been made and remade. [...] It is counterintuitive and maddening to the visitor.

Happily, says Wullschlager, the old stuff knocks the new out of the park:

Vanquished by the power and sincerity of Old Master painting, the imaginatively bankrupt phantoms of conceptual art take flight, like the little devils scurrying away beneath the jewelled colours, verdant pastoral and giant Virgin in the foreground of Botticelli’s archaic, mesmerising “Mystic Nativity”. 

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