Zoom in on Claude

May 3 2011

Image of Zoom in on Claude

The new Claude Lorrain exhibition at the Louvre (closes July 18th) has a very good website, where you can zoom in on some of Claude's best works in great detail. Well worth a click.

Pasta la vista

May 3 2011

Image of Pasta la vista

Picture: EPA

Here's one for those of you who read this blog on your lunch break... Arnold Schwarzenegger is by Shu Yong, and has gone on display at Art Beijing 2011 this week. I suppose I should write something witty about his lack of genitalia, but I can't see the point. 

Dictator art - Syria edition

May 3 2011

Holburne to re-open soon

May 3 2011

Image of Holburne to re-open soon

Picture: The Guardian

The delightful Holburne Museum in Bath will re-open on May 14th after a £15m redevelopment. That's a great achievement in these austere times. More here.

'It's about masturbation'

May 3 2011

Image of 'It's about masturbation'

Picture: Sotheby's

Excitement is building ahead of Sotheby's 10th May sale of Jeff Koons' Pink Panther ($20-30m). Jeff says it's all 'about masturbation'.

Well worth a few minutes of your time is Sotheby's new video of Koons discussing the sculpture with Tobias Meyer. It opens with the statement that Koons is considered 'one of the most important artists of the 20th Century, together with Warhol and Picasso'. So that's above the likes of Klimt, Miro, Pollock, Rothko, Bacon, Freud etc. Will people watch this in fifty years time, and laugh?   

For an alternative - and much more entertaining - view, click here to see the great Robert Hughes interiew Koons. 

Where's Weiwei?

May 2 2011

Image of Where's Weiwei?

Picture: WNYC

With the artist absent having been detained by authorities in China, the unveiling of Ai Weiwei's first exhibition of public sculpture in New York, scheduled for Wednesday 3rd May, has been postponed. More here

Got any spare bricks?

May 2 2011

Image of Got any spare bricks?

Picture: Art Newspaper

The Art Newspaper has uncovered documents from Tate that cast new light on Carl Andre's controversial 1976 work Equivalent VIII (aka, the pile of bricks)Apparently there was a bit of a hunt for spare bricks - with a young Sandy Nairne despatched to get some. He didn't find any - but the Tate has since got their hands on a stash of five.

Sir Dennis Mahon & Prof. Richard Holmes

May 2 2011

Two sad obituaries to note for anyone interested in art and history; the collector and art historian Sir Dennis Mahon at the age of 100, and the soldier and historian Professor Richard Holmes at the age of 65.

Sir Dennis has bequeathed his magnificent collection of Italian baroque pictures to a number of museums, chiefly the National Gallery. He cannily leveraged his gifts on the promise of free entry to museums - and we have him to thank in part every time we go to the National Gallery gratis. 

Richard Holmes was best known for his TV programmes on, amongst others, Churchill, Wellington and Cromwell. In an age of dumbed-down, celebrity driven history on television, his programmes were like an oasis in a desert - informative, comprehensive, and also entertaining. I once asked him to give  talk at the Houses of Parliament for the All Party History Group. His performance was electrifying, as he told the assembled MPs, peers and ministers (the room was packed) that our presence in Afghanistan was, essentially, doomed to failure. He spoke with authority, for he had not only studied the history of foreign intervention in Afghanistan (what is the score now, Foreigners 0 - Afghans 6?), but had spent a great deal of time there, and was also Britain's most senior Territorial Army officer. The lecture was some years ago now, but I often think of it, for, sadly, it seems he is being proved right. 

Tracy Emin does the Royal Wedding

April 30 2011

Image of Tracy Emin does the Royal Wedding

In about seven seconds, by the look of it. Still, hats off to her and The Independent for originality. 

A marriage portrait?

April 29 2011

Image of A marriage portrait?

Picture: Royal Collection

Will the royal wedding be commemorated on canvas? Unlikely, if precedent is anything to go by. Weddings are difficult to paint, and until the 19th Century royal weddings were relatively low-key affairs, celebrated behind closed doors. You will struggle to find an oil painting of a royal wedding.

To any of my American readers who feel you're missing out on the Royal fun, above is a depiction of the wedding of George III - your last King - and Queen Charlotte, by Joshua Reynolds. More on the Royal Collection website here.

Royal Wedding Special!

April 29 2011

Image of Royal Wedding Special!

Here at Art History News we bring you all the art historical references to the big day. There's not many, to be honest with you, so bear with me...

The news has just been announced that Prince William will be given the title Duke of Cambridge. If William looks to his left when he comes out of Horse Guards and travels down Whitehall to Westminster Abbey he will see a bronze equestrian statue (above) of the last Duke of Cambridge, Prince George (1819-1904). The Duke was Commander in Chief of the British Army during Queen Victoria's reign - a role that William will one day assume.

The statue is by Adrian Jones, and was unveiled in 1907. Jones also made the four horsed Peace Quadriga atop the Wellington Arch at Hyde Park Corner. Read all about Jones here

One interesting thing to note about William's new title is what form the 'patent' will take. The patent is the document drawn up by the College of Arms and issued by the Queen to make William a Duke. Now, most peerages state specifically in the patent that they are to descend through the holder's 'heirs male' - ie., sons only. But amid all the talk of the laws of royal male primogeniture being changed to allow William and Kate's first child to be monarch - regardless of sex - will the patent to the dukedom of Cambridge be issued to 'heirs general', which will allow a girl to inherit the title? The wording may provide an intriguing glimpse into how the Queen sees the male primogeniture debate playing out... 

Wannabe a curator?

April 28 2011

Image of Wannabe a curator?

The Art Fund is to sponsor two trainee curatorships at the National Gallery. Apply here (by May 27th).

Art History Futures - Ivory Coast edition

April 28 2011

Image of Art History Futures - Ivory Coast edition

Picture: Stefan Meisel/BBC

In Ivory Coast, a number of artists have been painting scenes from the recent fighting around Abidjan. Pictured is Abdoulaye Diarrasouba, known as Aboudia. More on the BBC website here.

Painting Van Gogh by numbers

April 28 2011

Image of Painting Van Gogh by numbers

Picture: MSNBC

Here's an interesting series of photos from Dafen art village in China, where most of the world's fakes are made. From MSNBC:

A combination picture shows the half-hour process of painter Zhao Xiaoyong working on a Van Gogh self-portrait in his gallery at Dafen Oil Painting Village in Shenzhen, south China's Guangdong province April 24, 2011. Zhao said he has sold more than 70,000 pieces of Van Gogh's paintings, with the price ranging from 200 to 1,500 yuan ($30-$230) a piece. Dafen village, a suburb in Shenzhen, is believed to be the largest mass producer of oil paintings in the world. Artists here manufacture some 60 percent of the total global trade volume, according to China Daily. Thousands of artists and dealers rent shops or exterior walls on buildings to display and sell oil paintings, but they will soon need to find other places as the local government has pledged to ban the practice in an effort to brush up its image before the upcoming Universiade, local media reported.

'Prices have climbed back dramatically'

April 27 2011

Image of 'Prices have climbed back dramatically'

Picture: Christie's (detail)

Sotheby's and Christie's have been unveiling highlights of their forthcoming June modern art auctions. Picasso leads the way, and with estimates that seem to be climbing ever higher. From Bloomberg:

Owners of valuable 20th-century trophies have become more confident about selling after record prices last year. Picasso’s 1932 Marie-Therese painting “Nude, Green Leaves and Bust” fetched $106.5 million -- the most for any artwork at auction -- at Christie’s, New York, in May 2010. A simpler portrait of her may fetch as much as $35 million at Sotheby’s New York in May.

“Prices have climbed back dramatically,” David Leiber, director of the New York-based gallery Sperone Westwater, said in an interview. “For the classic works, collectors like the spectacle of buying at auction.”

Can the frenzy possibly last? Perhaps, but as I said a while ago, if you want to be sure of banking a good price for your Picasso, I'd sell it now. On the other hand, if you have an Old Master, I'd keep it - is anything pre-1800 beginning to feel seriously under-valued?

The most engaging picture coming up in June (at Christie's) must be Picasso's Jeune Fille Endormie. It will surely beat its estimate of £9-12million - at least, I hope it does, for, thanks to an anonymous donor, the proceeds are going to medical research at the University of Sydney. 


April 27 2011

Image of Puntastic

Picture: Christie's

Sub-editors reached for the puns when Christie's announced that a Francis Bacon triptych self-portrait would be one of the highlights of their 11th May contemporary art sale in New York. Here's two of my favourites:

'Triptych set to bring home the Bacon' - ABC

'Demand for Bacon Sizzles' - The Irish Independent

In the catalogue, the picture is marked 'estimate on request', which is auction-speak for 'if you have to ask the price, you can't afford it'. The picture has been guaranteed to sell by Christie's, with a figure of $20m being mentioned.

Caravaggio in Kentucky

April 27 2011

Image of Caravaggio in Kentucky

Caravaggio's 1595 'The Fortune Teller' is to be loaned to the Speed Art Museum in Kentucky, from 18th May to 5th June. The painting is being lent by the Capitoline Museums in Rome. More here

V&A's Constables cleaned

April 26 2011

Image of V&A's Constables cleaned

Picture: V&A

From Martin Bailey in The Art Newspaper:

Constable's iconic oil sketches for The Hay Wain and The Leaping Horse have been cleaned for the first time since they came to the Victoria and Albert Museum (V&A) in 1862. They are currently on show at Stuttgart's Staatsgalerie (until 3 July), as part of a touring exhibition that travels to America next year.

Full story here.

China and art - the next bubble?

April 26 2011

Image of China and art - the next bubble?

Picture: The Atlantic

Derek Thompson in The Atlantic asks if China's phenomenal spending in the art market is taking the form of a bubble, and finds a potential answer from Vikram Mansharamani, author of Boombustology - Spotting Financial Bubbles Before they Burst:

Once again, China has surpassed the United States in a key economic number. No, it's not GDP. It's art. In four years, China has zoomed past us from the world's fourth-biggest fine art scene to the world's largest auction market for art.


In the last 20 years, Sotheby's mostly stable stock has experienced four sharp peaks. In the late 1980s, Japan had been "the center of gravity" in the international art market. But its economy imploded, sending Sotheby's stock reeling. Ten years later, the Internet bubble drove another auction boom among Silicon Valley newbies, and the bubble burst again. Ten years later, we watched the same film play out. This year could be deja vu, all over again ... all over again. 

The graph they use is a little silly - you could draw the same conclusions from a vast array of stocks that went up when the economy was booming and went down when it wasn't.

There may well be a bubble in China at the moment, judging by the government's increasingly desperate attempts to bring prices under control. But it doesn't take many people to make a bull market in the art world (witness the pre-Raphaelite boom in the 1990s), and I reckon there are enough new Chinese millionaires to keep prices rising for a while yet. 

Looking for Lowry

April 26 2011

Image of Looking for Lowry

Sir Ian McKellen's excellent documentary of Lowry is available here for another month or so. If you can't deal with the slow loading speed and adverts, order the DVD here

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