Previous Posts: October 2022

£8m for Lowry's Going to the Match?

October 7 2022

Image of £8m for Lowry's Going to the Match?

Picture: Christie's

Christie's will sell on 19th October L S Lowry's Going to the Match, with an estimate of £5m-£8m. It's being sold by The Professional Footballer's Association Charity, The Player's Foundation, which bought it in 1999 at Sotheby's. The Foundation seem to be having a financial crisis, but what's interesting is that a charity should have bought the painting in the first place. It has recently been warned by the Charities Commission over mismanagement. But if it makes its estimate, they'll have done quite well on their investment - it went for £1.75m back in 1999. More here, and bid here.

Vandalism in the Vatican Museum

October 7 2022

Video: Rome Reports

A man denied an audience with the Pope took his anger out on two ancient statues in the Vatican Museum, smashing them on the floor. More here.

Where should the Queen's statue go?

October 7 2022

There's been much debate over whether a statue of the Queen should be placed on the 'fourth plinth' in Trafalgar Square. It was long being kept vacant for her statue by the powers that be, but some say the revolving programme of contemporary art works being displayed there has become such a success, it should remain.

The Burlington Magazine, in its latest editorial, suggests that the understanding is the Queen's statue will be an equestrian one, given her love of horses. It therefore argues that Trafalgar Square isn't quite right for the Queen since it will be in the company of other equestrian statues of George IV and Charles I, who are hardly happy royal precedents. The Magazine suggests instead a new spot, in St James' park, overlooking the Mall:

Queen Elizabeth is unlikely to have desired either aesthetic or geographical novelty for her monument, so an equestrian statue in St James’s Park, perhaps facing her parents on the far side of the Mall, would be appropriate, especially as it would evoke memories of the Queen’s appearance on her favourite horse, the black mare Burmese, riding down the Mall for Trooping the Colour on her official birthday. There are at least two precedents for exactly such a statue – in the Queen Elizabeth Gardens, Saskatchewan, by Susan Velder (2005) – Burmese was a gift from Canada – and another by Caroline Wallace, a monument due to be erected later this year at the Royal Military Academy, Sandhurst. It is a great pity that when the Mall was laid out to encompass both Admiralty Arch, which commemorates Edward VII, and the memorial to Queen Victoria in front of Buckingham Palace, nobody thought that this grand processional road might be developed as a via sacra of royal monuments, but since one strength of a monarchy is that it looks to the long term, it is perhaps not too late.

I think this is a good idea. I had always thought the Queen should go on the Fourth Plinth, partly because I assumed it was her wish. I've also not been a huge fan of the rotating contemporary works, which, really, could be displayed anywhere. It's great to have contemporary works in Trafalgar Square, but to the exclusion of a statue of our longest serving monarch? The plinth's purpose, whether we like it or not, is for a commemorative statue; it is a place of history, and we should think not of what we think about the merits of having a statue of the Queen there, but how it will look like in two or three hundred years time. On the other hand, there's no escaping the fact that Trafalgar Square is really quite grim these days, between the pigeons, the buskers, and the traffic. So I think I'm inclined to agree, something surrounded by trees and nearer the Mall would be better. What do you think?

More discussion here in The Times.

Update - a reader makes this excellent suggestion:

There is a third option. Earmark it instead for a future statue of Charles III. What more fitting backstop could there be for his memorial than the Sainsbury Wing?

The king was also a trustee of the NG for a while.

Liz Truss on the Parthenon Marbles

October 7 2022

Image of Liz Truss on the Parthenon Marbles

Picture: BG

The UK's new prime minister, who has not had the best start, was asked in an interview whether she supports any attempt by the British Museum to come to 'a deal' (as Chair George Osborne said) with the Greek government. She replied; 'I don't support that'. Which is further than even fag-waving classicist Boris Johnson went when he was Prime Minister; he stuck to the formula simply that it was a matter for the British Museum. Any deal between the BM and the Greek government was always contingent on the issue not become caught up in a political culture war. So I hope Truss hasn't undone the political space to do a deal which has been carefully built up by both sides over the last year or so.

In other UK government news, we have a new Arts Minister, The Rt Hon Stuart Andrew. He replaces Lord Parkinson of Whitley Bay, who was replaced by Truss just ten days short of a year in the post (and who I thought was doing a fine job). Andrew is the sixth Arts Minister in five years.

Lucian Freud, New Perspectives

October 7 2022

Video: National Gallery

Here's Paloma Alarcó, Chief Curator of Modern Painting at the Museo Nacional Thyssen-Bornemisza, discussing three paintings from the Thyssen which are featured in the new National Gallery exhibition. The show has got good reviews, including five stars from Jonathan Jones in The Guardian, and 'never a dull brushstroke from Jackie Wullschläger in the FT.

New Sainsbury Wing designs (ctd.)

October 3 2022

Image of New Sainsbury Wing designs (ctd.)

Picture: AHN reader

A reader alerts me to the fact that the Sainsbury Wing at the National Gallery is now closed. It will re-open in 2025, which means it will be closed for the National's bicentenary celebrations in 2024. I was under the impression that redesigning of the wing (a £35m project) was a central part of the 'NG200' plans.

Meanwhile, in The Burlington Magazine, the architectural historian Otto Saumarez Smith has written a letter urging the Gallery to reconsider aspects of the redesign, in particular the ground floor entrance. You can read the text of his letter here.

There's one line in Otto's letter which is interesting; 'The NG ... is already nearly back to pre-pandemic levels of visitors...' I've seen this line repeated by the Gallery itself - iin fact Otto says it came from the Gallery. It is this pressure on visitor numbers which is the central justification for rebuilding the Sainsbury Wing entrance.

However, it is not quite right, or in fact nearly right. According to the government's most recent national museum visitor survey (to June this year), the National Gallery is still about 50% down on visitors from pre-pandemic levels. There is as yet no detailed analysis of what makes up this change, but we knew before the pandemic that about 70% of the National Gallery's visitors were from overseas. This demographic has changed dramatically post-Covid and post-Brexit. So it must be right to wonder if the central assumption on which the NG is rebuilding its entrance - that it will soon be overwhelmed with visitors - is in fact correct. You can download the visitor data here.

Meanwhile, the architecture critic Hugh Pearman has written a new piece for The Art Newspaper, echoing some of Otto's concerns. In particular, he disagrees with the plans to make the Sainsbury Wing entrance the main entrance for the whole Gallery:

In my view this unbalances the whole composition of the National Gallery. William Wilkins’s 1838 building is very far from great—it wrecked his reputation when built—but at least it put its presently closed-off entrance in a central portico. In the early 2000s East Wing building programme, the Getty entrance was added at pavement level to the right of the portico, leading to the Annenberg Court within. Another entrance was mooted to the left, but this was never done. I would urge the gallery to scrap the Selldorf plans and return to the drawing board—this time with a much improved central entrance as the brief. Then let the Sainsbury Wing return to being the subsidiary entrance/exit it was designed to be. But if the gallery continues to insist that its main entrance should be at the far western end of the main complex, then only the most minimal and respectful alterations to Venturi and Scott Brown’s unique building should be allowed.

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