Previous Posts: September 2016

Who'll buy £30m Pontormo portrait? (ctd.)

September 6 2016

Image of Who'll buy £30m Pontormo portrait? (ctd.)

Picture: DCMS

Martin Bailey in The Art Newspaper reports that the National Gallery is currelntly trying to buy the £30m export-stopped Portrait of a Young Man in a Red Cap by Pontormo. The painting was subject to an export bar earlier this year after it was suddenly sold to an overseas buyer - despite being on the walls of the National Gallery, where it was on loan. Such goings on are rightly frowned upon.

Making matters more complicated in this instance, and also more frown-able, is the fact that the owners of the painting paid the inheritance tax that was due on the picture at the point of the sale. Under the UK government's Acceptance in Lieu scheme, inheritance tax can be foregone if a museum decides to intercept an exported painting and attempt to buy it. So in the case of the Pontormo, the price to a UK museum would have been substantially less (one imagines 40% less) than the full £30m sale price. It was suspected that the owner's decision to pay the tax was done deliberately, to make life more difficult for any UK museum wanting to 'save' the picture, and thus to help expedite the sale to the overseas buyer by making it more likely that the painting would not be export-barred.

Therefore, the National Gallery is in discussions with the government about rescinding the inheritance tax already paid - so that the Gallery can still buy the painting at the discounted price. Obviously, it would be good in this case if a deal can be reached. And it would set a useful precedent for the future.

The painting was only re-discovered in 2008, by the great art sleuth and Renaissance scholar Francis Russell of Christie's. Bailey reports that it belongs to the Earls of Caledon.

Recreating John Constable's 'Haywain'

September 6 2016

Image of Recreating John Constable's 'Haywain'

Picture: ITV News

Two artists from New Zealand have travelled to Flatford Mill in Suffolk to try and recreate John Constable's 'Haywain'. You can see the results here. While we must award them an A for effort, the fact that the horse drawn cart wasn't able to actually enter the water (too muddy, they said) makes the whole thing seem something of a waste of time.

Job Opportunity!

September 6 2016

Image of Job Opportunity!

Picture: Guardian

Martin Roth has resigned as director of the V&A after five years. Reports yesterday said the move was in response to the UK's Brexit vote. Today, it was claimed by the chairman of the V&A that it was down to family reasons. 

'Britain's Lost Masterpieces'

September 2 2016

Image of 'Britain's Lost Masterpieces'

Picture: BG

There's been a last-minute scheduling change - my new series, 'Britain's Lost Masterpieces', will now start on Wednesday 28th September on BBC4. This is welcome news, as it gives us a little more time to finish the series, which is still being made.

Today my co-presenter, Jacky Klein, and I recorded the voiceover for programme 1. It takes about an hour or so, and you sit in a little booth (above) with a microphone and two screens. You watch the relevant clip, then when a little red light comes on, you read from the script. The trick is not to be too distracted by the shocking sight of seeing your mug on the telly, and somehow get the words out.

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