Previous Posts: June 2018

'The RA - a Chronicle'

June 5 2018

Video: Paul Mellon Centre

It's non-stop coverage of the Royal Academy at the moment, which is celebrating its 250th anniversary. At the beginning of the year we had the stupendous Charles I show. Last month we had the triumphant opening of their new buildings in Burlington Gardens (I went to see the new display of works from the RA collection and mighty fine it is too.) And this week the annual Summer Exhibition opens, curated - if that's the right word - by Grayson Perry. In case you missed it there was a documentary on the BBC all about the RA's history and how it operates today, available here. It's all a fine reflection on the energetic leadership of the RA's team, including the Chief Executive, Charles Saumarez Smith. In his more then ten years at the RA, Charles has transformed an organisation that was in danger of not only losing its way, but losing all relevance. In The Sunday Times last week, Richard Brooks said it was high time Charles was given a knighthood. AHN agrees!

Anyway, the point of this post is to make you aware of the latest exciting RA development; a new website charting the history of the Summer Exhibition. It has been put together by the Paul Mellon Centre in London. Chronicle 250 is a comprehensive database of of every exhibition held since 1769, with scans of the catalogues, and essays by art historians. It's well worth a look, and for many researchers will be indispensable.

It's also a great demonstration of the possibilities offered by digital art history. Not so long ago, this kind of overview of the RA summer show would have been a book, which would necessariliy have been limited in what it could contain (certainly no scans of all 250 years of catalogues) and stuck in stone, so to speak, once it was published. The new site can be constantly updated, a living work of scholarship.

Of course, digital art history has its limitations too. I'm told that the Paul Mellon Centre's bill for image fees was eye watering. Because their image licensing model is based on 20th Century realities (ie, book publishing) most insitutions view online publications as either cash cows, or something which must be 'controlled', usually by the imposition of licenses that limit the number of years an image can be used online. This is because in the old days, insitutions could issue licenses based on print runs. But in the online age, if something is online, it's reach is limitless. So they impose time restrictions instead. It's all very pointless. And it's really only because a few charities like the PMC have deep pockets that projects like the RA Chronicle are able to happen. Imagine how much richer digital art history would be if image fees weren't the barrier to scholarship that they have become. 

Art history sexism (ctd.)

June 5 2018

Image of Art history sexism (ctd.)

Picture: The Times

Regular readers will know that AHN has long taken a dim view of auction houses making their younger female employees pose in front of objects for press shoots. For examples of the practice, see here and my favourite here. And for a first hand account of what it's like to be asked to do it, see here.

But now, a victory - in yesterday's Times, David Sanderson reported that both Sotheby's and Christie's have decided to stop using 'art girls':

“We are moving with the times,” Sotheby’s said when questioned about the unusual publicity tactic.

Excellent news. I just have to get UK museums to abolish image fees, and then my work is done.

But wait - what's this?! The Tate gallery didn't get the memo. Here's a page from today's Times, promoting a new exhibition at Tate on paintings from World War One:

Come on Tate - take your lead from Sotheby's, and move with the times!

Update - a reader upbraids me:

It’s not sexist – and ageist – to assume that the young person included in the shot is not the relevant specialist, or in the case of a museum publicity shot, the relevant curator?  It sure is.

Although, in this case I'm fairly sure it isn't. And it's usually fairly evident, both in the posing and the captioning, when a specialist or curator is being photographed. 

A Derick Baegert for Dallas

June 3 2018

Image of A Derick Baegert for Dallas

Picture: Dallas Museum of Art 

In 2013 the Dallas Museum of Art was given a $17m endowment to buy works made prior to the 18th Century. Five years later, the museum has made its first major purchase with the money, a large Descent from the Cross by the late German Gothic painter Derick Baegert (around 1440-1509). More here in The Art Newspaper. 

Walk through a Jan Brueghel

June 3 2018

Video: Sotheby's

Sotheby's have done one of their whizzy videos, walking through a picture by Jan Brueghel the Elder (Est. £2.5m-£3.5m). I love these videos. I think the fact that works by the likes of the Brueghel family and Hieronymous Bosch have consistently performed well in the Old Master market over the last decade or so, is because - in their exquisite and engaging details - they lend themselves perfectly to close looking in the digital age. They're full of wonder, which translates well onto a screen. 

Van Dedem collection at Sotheby's

June 3 2018

Video: Sotheby's

Sotheby's has the collection of the late Baron Willem van Dedem for sale in their July London Old Master sales. George Gordon tells us about the pictures in the video above. Van Dedem was for many years the chairman of Tefaf, the great Old Master fair in Maastricht.

Boilly in London

June 3 2018

Image of Boilly in London

Picture: via The Guardian

I've always liked the French artist Louis-Léopold Boilly, so I'm glad to see that the National Gallery will put on the first UK exhibition of his work next year (in February). The paintings to be shown - including the above - come from the collection of the late Harry Hyams. More here


Might Caravaggio's 'Nativity' be found?

June 3 2018

Image of Might Caravaggio's 'Nativity' be found?

Picture: Guardian

It's unlikely, but there's been some excitement in the news at reports that an aged mobster has told Italian police the painting was offered to a Swiss art dealer after it was stolen in 1969. Reports The Guardian:

The new lead on the whereabouts of the 17th-century painting – a depiction of the newborn Christ on a bed of straw, painted in the chiaroscuro technique – came from a former mobster-turned-informant, who revealed to Italian investigators that it had once been held by Gaetano Badalamenti, a Sicilian “boss of bosses” who was known as one of the ringleaders of an infamous heroin trafficking network in the US called the Pizza Operation.

Investigators announced this week that Gaetano Grado, the mafia informant, said Badalamenti had been put in touch with an art dealer in Switzerland after obtaining the work – also known as The Adoration – from another mafia boss.

Never trust a Swiss art dealer.

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.