Previous Posts: January 2023

Job opportunities, New York

January 20 2023

Image of Job opportunities, New York

Picture: Christie's

Christie's Old Master department in New York is looking for two new people. First, a Specialist, which, says the application site:

[...] is a transactional business getter, responsible for bringing in business, selling both at auction and by private sale, and developing and managing client relationships internationally. They are also responsible for writing-up and researching auction lots at and around sale deadlines. This role requires a high level of expertise across the broad category of Old masters and excellent internal inter-personal skills with a willingness to share information and communicate proactively.

The salary range is $80k-$120k, and by the look of it, quite a few benefits too. 

The second is a Cataloguer:

Cataloguing, researching and note writing for lots in the New York Old Masters online Day and Live Evening sales, Private sales and Collections/House sales.

Salary range, $47k-$52k.

Meanwhile, the Metropolitan Museum in New York is looking for an Associate Curator in the European Paintings Department:

The Department of European Paintings seeks an ambitious, creative, forward-looking art historian specializing in Northern Renaissance paintings with a demonstrated interest in Italian painting, as well. In this role, the Assistant/Associate curator will be responsible for the research, display, study, growth, and care of this area of the European Paintings collection. The ideal candidate will be passionately interested in paintings and in shaping the department’s future for the next generation and in keeping to the Museum’s mission of public engagement and outreach by creating exhibitions, and studying and growing this area of the collection.

More details here. The salary range for this post is $72k-$95k. Which is somewhat more generous than the Assistant Curator role at the V&A in London which I posted yesterday, at £25k-£27k.  

If you're applying, good luck!

Have you seen this man?

January 20 2023

Image of Have you seen this man?

Picture: Codart

For an exhibition at the newly opened KMSKA in Atwerp, curator Nico van Hout is looking for the above picture by Brouwer, last seen at auction in Milan 2009. If it's yours, get in touch here

Job opportunity

January 19 2023

Image of Job opportunity

Picture: Ashmolean

Two new curatorial posts are available in the UK: Assistant Curator, Paintings and Drawings at the V&A (£25k-£27k): and Director of Collections at the Ashmolean (£73k). Good luck!

Brexit and the art market (ctd.)

January 19 2023

Image of Brexit and the art market (ctd.)

Picture: Masterpiece 

The Masterpiece fair, which was launched in 2010 and had become London's major summer fine art fair, has been cancelled. Brexit was explicitly cited as a reason. Increased costs in getting artworks into and out of the UK have fuelled an almost total collapse in the number of international galleries wanting to participate. Without them, the fair cannot operate, highlighting how dependent London's art market is on European trade and collectors. From the Antiques Trade Gazette:

In a statement Emanuel Kuhn, head of corporate communications at MCH Group, said: “Escalating costs and a decline in the number of international exhibitors mean that the event is not commercially viable this year.

“Brexit has certainly had an impact on the fair. The number of international galleries that applied for the 2023 edition has decreased by 86%.”

He said jewellers in particular have been affected by the UK government’s abolition of VAT refunds for international customers in 2020.

The closure leaves London without a major fair in the summer, since the Olympia fair has been cancelled too (Brexit cited as a reason). It's very sad to see London slowly losing its place as the capital of the European art market, and nobody in the government wanting to do anything about it. Or indeed the Opposition, since Labour now seems just as committed to Brexit as the Conservatives. Frieze Masters, in October, is still due to go ahead. Let's see if it does. 

Sleeper alert

January 19 2023

Image of Sleeper alert

Picture: ATG

The Antiques Trade Gazette has news of a trio of pictures which have recently raced away from their auction estimates, including the above previously unknown portrait by George Romney, from early in his career, about 1760. 'Mrs Daniel Wilson' made €33,000 against an estimate of €1500-€3000. More here

Lucas Cranach the Younger at Christie's

January 19 2023

Video: Christie's

Here's a video from Christie's Old Master specialist Jonquil O'Reilly, about a pair of portraits coming up for sale in the New York sales next week, 25th January (est $3m-$5m). The portraits are of Christian I of Saxony, and his sister, Marie of Saxony, who holds the 16th Century equivalent of a Barbie. It's a great video; if it was up to me, all Christie's and Sotheby's Old Master videos would be like this. You can see why I once tried to persuade the BBC to put Jonquil on the telly. 

Doig or didn't he? (ctd.)

January 19 2023

Image of Doig or didn't he? (ctd.)

Picture: New York Times

Long-time readers may remember a case from back in 2016, where the British artist was sued by a US dealer and collector over claims he was wrongfully disowning a work he had painted in his youth, while in prison. Doig was obliged to prove he hadn't been in jail, and hadn't painted the picture, and that it was in fact by someone entirely different, who had been in the jail at the time, called Peter Doige. Anyway, the case rumbled on and on, and finally Doig has been awarded $2.5m for his troubles. More here in The Art Newspaper

'Heroines of the Brush'

January 19 2023

Image of 'Heroines of the Brush'

Picture: Robert Simon Fine Art

The New York dealer Robert Simon has a new exhibition and catalogue of works entirely by women artists, from the Renaissance to the 20th Century, including a still-life by Fede Galizia (who, by the way, is responsible for the earliest signed and dated still-life in Italian art), and a Madonna & Child by Elisabetta Sirani (above). 

Anne Dawson Damer

January 19 2023

Image of Anne Dawson Damer

Picture: Libson Yarker

London based dealers Lowell Libson and Jonny Yarker have a new catalogue out. It includes a rare bust by Anne Seymour Damer, of Caroline Campbell, above. They're currently exhibiting at the Winter Show at the Armoury in New York. More here

Sarah Miriam Peale

January 19 2023

Image of Sarah Miriam Peale

Picture: Christie's

There was an auction of 19th Century American pictures in the US today, among which a still life by Sarah Miriam Peale, 'considered [say Christie's] to be the first independent female professional artist in the United States', made $277,000, against an estimate of $40-$60k. The auction also saw a new record for a George Washington portrait by Charles Peale Polk, making $630,000 (est. $200k-$400k).

New York Old Master sales

January 16 2023

Video: Sotheby's

There are some fine pictures on offer at the New York Old Master sales. And not least because this year Christie's have moved their sales back to January to coincide with Sotheby's sales, having experimented with a Classic Week sale later in the Spring since 2016. (Very long-suffering readers may remember I wasn't convinced by the idea back then. Though, as is often the case these days, I'm embarrassed to see how I wrote about it). 

Sotheby's have their usual Old Master part I & II sales, but also two dedicated collection sales (both 26th Jan): the Fisch Davidson collection, and the Theiline Scheumann collection. Sotheby's David Pollack discusses the latter in the above video. David is good at these, they should let him do more. 

The Fisch Davidson sale includes the $25m-$35m Rubens of Salome and the head of John the Baptist, and a $4m-$6m Orazio Gentileschi of the Penitent Magdalene. It looks to me as if the entire sale has been guaranteed, at over $50m. If that guarantee has been underwritten by the auction house, and not a third party, itrepresents quite an investment by Sotheby's, as well as faith in the market; none of the estimates are what I would call 'enticing', they're all serious prices. The Rubens is labelled as a 'premium lot', which means if you want to bid on it, you have go through extra hoops to demonstrate you've got the cash.

In Sotheby's regular Old Master sale (26th Jan) they have a newly discovered late Titian, Ecce Homo, ($1.5m-$2m) which is unfinished and gives a great glimpse into Titian's technique towards the end of his life. If you're interested in the market for British art, there's two reassuringly expensive portraits to keep an eye on: a $200-$300k Peter Lely and a $400k-$600k Joshua Reynolds. By the way, it's 300 years since Reynolds was born. 

The picture I'd most covet at Sotheby's is their previously unknown study of an old man by Van Dyck (above, $2m-$3m). It's from early in Van Dyck's career, about 1618-20, and relates to his series of pictures of St Jerome, in particular an example at the Museum Boijmans van Beuningen in Rotterdam. Painted in oil on canvas, later laid onto panel, the study is an extraordinary example of Van Dyck's genius in handling oil paint, even at the age of 18, as well as his sensitivity to his subjects. In the finished picture of St Jerome, the same sitter appears with no less attention to detail, in terms of his age and the folds of his skin, but is nonetheless given the spiritual inner strength one would expect in such an important biblical figure. In the newly discovered study, however, we see merely an old man; dignified, yes, but pathetic too, as Van Dyck's brush explores unsparingly the details of his body. Incidentally, AHN has played a role in the emergence of this painting; over a decade ago, the painting's late owner, Albert Roberts, responded to an article I'd written on here about Van Dyck connoisseurship, and asked what I thought of his picture, which he'd bought in a minor auction for $600. I told him I thought it looked like a Van Dyck! And over the following years helped him get it established as such, including in an article in The Burlington Magazine by the Rev. Dr. Susan Barnes. 

Sotheby's has some great 18th Century pastels in their drawing sale, including a basket of apples by Liotard estimated at $1.2m-$1.8m.

At Christie's (25th Jan), there's a $2.5m-$3.5m) Pieter Brueghel the Younger, a previously unknown Christ crowned with Thorns by Leonardo's pupil Marco D'Oggiono, and an impressive pair of portraits by Goya at $15m-$20m. A lost landscape by Watteau which surfaced in Paris at auction as just 'Ecole Francaise', despite having belonged to the Wildensteins as a known Watteau (and looted by Nazis during the war) is estimated at $2.5m-$3.5m, and testament to how even well known paintings can lose their attribution. If you're after a potential bargain, keep an eye on their J. E. Safra collection sale, which includes works like this Turner of The Splugen Pass estimated at $1.5m-$2m, but all being offered without reserve. So you never know... For some reason, the catalogue for Christie's day/online sale of Old Masters has not yet been published. Sotheby's part II is here

Restoring the King Arthur tapestry

January 16 2023

Video: Met

At the Metropolitan Museum, they're restoring a series of c.1400 Netherlandish tapestries, the so-called 'Heroes' set. Some of them were once turned into curtains in the 19th Century, so they need some TLC. In the video above you can see the tapestries being cleaned, which involves hoses, and detergent. I sometimes wish we could clean paintings like that. Back in the day, I once read, they used to rub them (tapestries, not paintings) with breadcrumbs. More here

Parthenon Marbles (ctd.)

January 15 2023

Image of Parthenon Marbles (ctd.)

Picture: BG

It looks like the Parthenon Marbles are staying at the British Museum. There was some suggestion last year that the British Museum would effectively return the Marbles to Athens, after the BM began negotiations and talked of a 'Parthenon Partnership' with Greece. But in the last few days, the Greek Prime Minister has said there won't be such a deal, stressing that Greece cannot accept the BM retaining ownership of the Marbles. 

On the face of it, it might look as if negotiations collapsed because the Greeks won't accept even formal title remaining with the BM, even if the Marbles themselves were to remain in Athens. But it seems clear from details that have emerged on the British side that what was being offered to Athens was far from anything like a long-term loan. First, there was a well-sourced report in Bloomberg that the BM was offering only 'a proportion of the Marbles sent to Athens on rotation over several years'. Then the UK Culture Secretary went on the airwaves not once but twice to say that in her view, and George Osborne's view, the Marbles 'belong here in the UK'. If you were the Greek government, given the domestic sensitivities in Greece over the Marbles, there's no way you'd concede the fundamental question of title in return for a partial loan over only some years. That would leave the British Museum looking like winners, and settle the issue forever, with not much left for Greece.

If you wanted to be cynical about it, you might think that was what the British Museum and/or the UK government knew would happen all along, but now at least it looks as if they have tried to be generous with the Greeks. Meanwhile, the British Museum continues to hide behind the 'we can't deaccession the Marbles because it's against the law' formula, without ever having the courage to request that the law be changed (as other UK museums have done). It's all very predictable really. 

There's a good summary of where we are from Tom Seymour here in The Art Newspaper

Van Gogh claims

January 15 2023

Image of Van Gogh claims

Picture: TAN

Two separate claims have been made against owners of Van Goghs, including a version of his Sunflowers. Martin Bailey has more in The Art Newspaper here

Restoring Piero della Francesca's 'Nativity'

January 15 2023

Video: National Gallery

I've been meaning to write about the National Gallery's restoration of Piero della Francesca's Nativity. The picture's meaning had become somewhat lost under the usual combination of dirt and old varnish, but also thanks to some unfortunate old restoration, which involved shaving down the centre of the panel, to make it fit better. Now, a new filet of wood has been inserted into the centre and retouched to reincorporate it into the original, which means that details like the angel's eyes and Christ's hands now have their proper form. More crucially, some previously very obvious areas of damage, including the heads of two shepherds on the right, have been restored, and are no longer as distracting as they were. There was some rather unfortunate criticism of the quality of the restoration in the press, but when I went to see it just recently, I was extremely impressed. Restoring panel paintings is always difficult, because getting the texture right can be a great challenge. In this case, when I looked at the picture in various reflected lights, I couldn't see where the restoration began and ended. In the video above, Jill Dunkerton explains what she and colleagues at the NG did to the picture, for which they all deserve special praise. More here

New Burlington Magazine

January 15 2023

Image of New Burlington Magazine

Picture: Burlington

The January edition of the Burlington Magazine is all about Bronzino. Including, some new analysis of Art Gallery of New South Wales's version of Bronzino's Portrait of Cosimo I de Medici in armour, which appears to show it is the prime version. 

Can NFTs make a comeback?

January 15 2023

Image of Can NFTs make a comeback?

Picture: Christie's

...ask Jane Morris in Apollo Magazine. You and I know the answer to this is of course no. At least, not back to the crazy heights of Beeple's $69m 'Everydays' at Christie's. But the article is worth reading, if only for this take from someone at Christie's:

But it’s a positive in the long run if it results in fewer people buying for pure investment.

I doubt that's what they say in the accounting department at Christie's, where, as far as I can see, there are no upcoming NFT auctions. Nor at Sotheby's. 

By the way, I had a look for the promised 'virtual museum' which was touted by the poor sods who paid $69m for Beeple's jpeg. It still seems not to exist. Their earlier iteration of an online museum for Beeple, called B.20, is still available to visit, and still rubbish. 

New Artemisia for MFA Boston

January 15 2023

Image of New Artemisia for MFA Boston

Picture: MFA Boston

A small oil on copper of the Christ Child Sleeping by Artemisia Gentileschi has been acquired by the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. It looks (from the catalogue entry) like it was bought privately through Christie's, from a collector who bought it in France in 2015. Back then, the auction estimate was EUR15-20k. As a signed and certainly attributable, it must now be very valuable. There's more of these small on copper examples out there, so keep your eyes peeled. 

Hogarth at St Barts' hospital

January 15 2023

Image of Hogarth at St Barts' hospital

Picture: Guardian

William Hogarth's large wall paintings at St Bart's hospital in London are to be restored, as part of a £5m lottery grant. From what I've seen of Hogarth's large-scale works, they tend not to be a success; let's see if a bit of TLC can improve them. More here

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