Previous Posts: May 2016

"disposed of long ago"

May 5 2016

Image of "disposed of long ago"

Picture: Isabella Stewart Gardiner Museum

In Apollo Magazine, James Ratcliffe of the Art Loss Register suggests that the priceless works stolen from the Isabella Stewart Gardiner Museum in 1990 (including a Vermeer, above) have probably been destroyed:

What has transpired in the case of these pictures perfectly demonstrates why, for the thieves or those now holding them, such artworks have no value. They are simply too well known, too recognisable, to be sold – and the mere possession of them will have become a millstone around someone’s neck. Who could possibly approach an auction house or dealer with Rembrandt’s Storm on the Sea of Galilee (1633) without expecting to feel the full force of the law within minutes? Indeed, who could even allow another person to catch a glimpse of the painting, when revealing its location might lead to a $5 million reward for the viewer, and a prison sentence for the holder – the length of which would doubtless reflect the scale of the search for the artworks?

Guffwatch (ctd.)

May 4 2016

Video: Sotheby's

Sotheby's new video series, 'Imagine the Conversation', is the guff gift that keeps on giving. Yesterday we had a 'curated dinner', today we have:

[...] eight decadent truffles inspired by art from our May Impressionist & Modern and Contemporary Art sales.

The chocolatier given the mission by Sotheby's, Katrina Markoff, talks of how she made a truffle Cy Twombly:

With the Cy Twombly piece, obviously very intense red drippy strokes, and we used beet red died chocolate to do strokes that were similar to that on the painting, those strokes give energy and movement, and fluidity to something that's quite static, like chocolate.

My favourite, though, is the Warhol truffle, 'inspired' by Sotheby's forthcoming $7m-$10m Warhol 'Fright Wig' self-portrait:

I imagine if you bite into it, it's empty.

Sotheby's aim with these videos is to draw in new buyers. But does associating a painting with a powdered truffle, an amuse bouche, make anyone want to fork out $10m for it? Isn't the whole point of marketing the more ephemeral end of the contemporary art market instead about creating an environment of nodding, po-faced seriousness, and engendering the sort of earnest conversation that helps elevate the status of one of thousands of prints into an apparently unique masterpiece. Who drops $10m on a joke? Or is the joke on us?

Update - you can buy the truffles here. $45 per box.

Update II - Marion Maneker kindly picked up on my post, and writes on Art Market Monitor:

Actually, the joke is on Sotheby’s who have violated one of the basic taboos of advertising and marketing by resorting to borrowed interest. That’s where you try to create excitement around a brand or product by associating it with something wholly unconnected.

In this case, Sotheby’s has gone a step further. The videos end up promoting the food products far more than they do the art.

Marion also writes that I'm 'no friend of Contemporary art', and I can well understand why my AHN rantings would give that impression. But I love art from all periods, and (secret!) actually have more contemporary art on my walls at home than Old Masters. It's the upper reaches of contemporary art market that I'm no friend of.

Update III - another reader writes:

I can only assume your culinary criticism is due to a surfeit of boarding school food!

Some transitory fun with food delights the senses: forget the bullshit.

To a foodie presentation is everything: inspiration from art and nature: soon recycled.

Unlike Hirst and Emin that stick around like bad smells!

So stick to your day-job and keep your anorak on!


May 3 2016

Video: Sotheby's

Regular readers will have seen some truly magnificent art guff over the past five years of Guffwatch. But I think in the video above we have finally reached a new nadir. Yes, Sotheby's has held a 'curated dinner':

Blurring the lines between art and cuisine, chef and performer Michael Cirino of A Razor, A Shiny Knife curated a dinner at Sotheby’s on 29 April like no other. Interpreting the dialogue between the Impressionist, Modern and Contemporary artists in our two-week Imagine the Conversation exhibition, Cirino prepared an haute cuisine meal with no shortage of surprises. Watch the video to delight in the art-inspired evening and visit our New York headquarters to see the exhibition for yourself.  

I have watched it three times, desperately hoping it was all a joke. It's not. People actually went to Sotheby's and took this stuff seriously, as they 'seguewayed' from an 'Impressionist starter' (a salad, because, like, the Impressionists worked outside) to their Warhol-inspired soup (it came out of a Campbells can, but held with white gloves, so that made it important). Christ.

That's it, game over. The modern art market has finally jumped the shark.

Update - Marion Maneker of The Art Market Monitor, tell us that Sotheby's also:

[...] tore up all the carpeting on the floors so the galleries would have bare concrete to make them hipper.

Update II - a reader writes:

How about an old master portraits dinner, with, say, a  Mytens starter, segwaying (if that is what one does) through a Rubens main course, and a Van Dyck pudding. Er bring it on.

Bosch at the Prado

May 3 2016

Video: Prado

The Bosch exhibition at the Nord Brabaants Museum runs till 8th May, and has been an extraordinary success. The show (mostly) then moves to the Prado, where it opens on 31st May. That's an impressive turnaround. The video above looks forward to the Prado's opening.


May 3 2016

Image of Berlin

Picture: BG

Berlin is a melancholy city. In the centre, the 'mitte', bulletholes pepper most of the pre-war buildings. Those that are unmarked are newly built recreations, as the city aims to recapture its mid-19th Century glory, before Nazism and Cold War division wrecked it. In places, efforts have been made to cover the bulletholes with cement, but over time the fillings have discoloured, and now serve only to draw more attention to these tangible reminders of times past. In most other cities, such uncomfortable echoes of suffering - and let's face it, guilt - might have been erased. But Berlin itself, the whole city, is a memorial, and all the more moving for it.

For Britons used to seeing the war as a heroic moment, something we constantly revisit with endless books and films, and even still laugh at in programmes like 'Dad's Army', understanding how Berliners can live daily with such frank reminders of the war, and its destructive end, is not easy. Would the weight of history not feel oppressive? But Berlin teaches us that while places and buildings can retain the physical scars of war, people and life must move on. Remembrance and pride are one thing, reveling in the war, as we have tended as victors to do in Britain, is quite another. Berlin is best understood as a place of reconciliation and hope. Where once there was total destruction and despair, unity and peace can prosper. Berlin is a not a melancholy city. It is a glorious city.

Update - perhaps you can tell I'm not voting for Brexit...


May 1 2016

Image of Achtung!

Picture: BG

I'm in Berlin for 'Fake or Fortune?' so I'm afraid there won't be any news here for a couple of days.

I can report, however, that the Gemaldegalerie is a jewel among museums. The galleries, which from the outside look like a 1980s regional airport, are harmoniously laid out, with each picture given plenty of space and lit (it seemed to me) entirely with daylight. There are two rooms bursting with Rembrandts (even if some of them are wrongly downgraded to 'Umkries', or 'circle of'). I highly recommend a visit. 

The galleries were also almost entirely empty, which astonished me. I know Berlin is an under-populated city, and that the Gemaldegalerie is a little distance away from the city centre - but if an equivalent collection was in an other major European capital it would be packed. Don't they like Old Masters in Berlin? 

The emptiness of the galleries can be a little deceptive, however, for if you idly lean into a picture for a closer look - thus crossing the inlaid metal line on the floor (above) - a sharp 'Achtung!' is instantly delivered by a magically appearing guard. The invisible barrier is at least two feet away from the pictures, the majority of which are glazed, and seemed a little excessive to me. It makes life awkward if you wear glasses. I spent much of the time looking through my binoculars, about two metres back.

Perhaps the picture I most enjoyed peering into was Jan van Eyck's extraordinary (and tiny) Madonna in the Church, painted in 1440. I don't think I've seen a more atmospheric piece of painting, in terms of conveying a sense of light, space, and even sound - the expansive, echoing hush of a large 15th Century church. How amazing that the artist who invented painting in oil more or less perfected it first time around. And how galling for everyone that followed.

By the way, eat before you go to the Gemaldegalerie; the cafe is pretty woeful, and doesn't take credit cards. There's not much else nearby.

Update - there are no large pictures in the Gemaldegalerie; the large pictures were stored seperately from the smaller pictures, and sadly the bunker where they were stored was engulged by fire shortly after the war ended.

Update II - a reader writes:

I agree entirely about the Gemaldergalerie. I went last May. The Museum Island galleries are also world class ; the Bode museum, with its fire damaged statues in the entrance, has great mediaeval church art;  the Altes national gallery building is a great Karl Frederich Schinkel  monument in itself. Neither were heaving when I was there.

Update III - another reader adds:

Some comments regarding the Berlin Gemaldegallerie: 

The issue here is one of greater dimensions, since it involves not only buildings but also the environmental setting of the Kulturforum. Berlin’s Department for City Planning and Development aptly describes the situation on its German website as “challenging”, and concedes that „Architectural reality still fails to meet expectations generally evoked by the term Kulturforum.” While there are concrete plans to re-develop the Kulturforum, Berliners will most likely be stuck with the Gemaldegallerie for the foreseeable future.

Ironically, the Gemaldegallerie’s management refers to its building as “reminiscent of Schinkel’s Altes Museum” – an odd comparison and the visitor numbers prove it. According to the Gemaldegallerie’s website, “gallery rooms [are] arranged in ‘classical’ proportions around a generous lobby (“Wanderhalle”), a place for tranquility and contemplation featuring a well installation by Walter de Maria”. Personally, re-entering the (usually deserted) lobby with its ‘well installation’ after viewing pieces in the impressive collection is at best a frightening experience.

Update IV - If you've note been to gallery before, fear not, for a reader writes:

Gemäldegalerie — note that most of the interior is available on Google Street View (I found this on the Google Earth app) — altho weirdly it does not appear to allow navigating directly from one room to the next.  The biggest surprise for me was seeing the mysterious "1 B" selections circled below, which to my great surprise move vertically between floors!

Notice to "Internet Explorer" Users

You are seeing this notice because you are using Internet Explorer 6.0 (or older version). IE6 is now a deprecated browser which this website no longer supports. To view the Art History News website, you can easily do so by downloading one of the following, freely available browsers:

Once you have upgraded your browser, you can return to this page using the new application, whereupon this notice will have been replaced by the full website and its content.