Stubbs to break £20m barrier?

April 6 2011

Image of Stubbs to break £20m barrier?

Auction news from Christie's this morning; George Stubbs' masterpiece Gimcrack on Newmarket Heath, with a Trainer, Stable-Lad and a Jockey (1765) will be offered for sale on 5th July, with a lower estimate of £20m. This follows Sotheby's sale of Stubbs' Brood Mare and Foals in December 2010 for just over £10m, which set a new auction record for the artist by some margin. 

Both prices suggest that Whistlejacket, bought by the National Gallery in 1998 for £15.75m, was a bit of a bargain. 

Only paintings by Turner, Pontormo, Rubens and Rembrandt have previously made more than £20m at auction. 

Happy Birthday, Mr President

April 5 2011

Image of Happy Birthday, Mr President

A painting by Gerrit van Honthorst that belonged to James Madison has been restored in time to hang back in its original place in his home, Montpelier, in time for the 4th President's 260th birthday. More here.

Manet at the Musee D'Orsay

April 5 2011

Image of Manet at the Musee D'Orsay

Picture: AFP

Manet - the Man who Invented Modern Art, opened today at the Musee D'Orsay in Paris. 140 works, including 84 paintings, closes July 3rd. Richard Dorment gives it 4 stars, and even a video. 

Worth jumping on the Eurostar.

Largest known Mughal portrait sells for £1.42m

April 5 2011

Image of Largest known Mughal portrait sells for £1.42m

Picture: Bonhams

More evidence that the art market is looking East - the largest known Mughal portrait (197x128.5 cm), of Emperor Jahangir, sold today at Bonhams for £1.42m (inc. premium). 

The estimate was £40-60,000.

Ai Weiwei arrest

April 5 2011

Jonathan Jones, in the Guardian, makes the comparison with Michelangelo, and others:

Will Ai Weiwei be a Courbet or a Michelangelo? While the Communard painter was ruined by his political enemies, Michelangelo was spared and allowed to carry on working and enjoying his success after the defeat of the Florentine rebellion – he really was too big to hurt. We have to hope that, once it feels it has made its ugly, bullying point, the state will release Ai Weiwei and his fame will continue to protect him. Whatever happens, he is that rare thing: the artist as moral and political hero.

Iran v. The Louvre

April 4 2011

Image of Iran v. The Louvre

Picture: British Museum

Iran has announced it is severing links with the Louvre over the museum's refusal to lend Persian artefacts to the country.

I wonder if the Louvre's hesitancy has anything to do with the spat between Iran and the British Museum in February 2010 over the loan of the Cyrus Cylinder (above). Then, Iran broke off relations after the BM hesitated on the deal. The loan did go ahead, but when the Cylinder arrived in Iran, a prominent newspaper suggested it should not be returned. Subsequently the Iranians asked for the loan to be extended for another three months, which was agreed.

The Cylinder is now due to stay in Tehran till April 15th. One to watch...

Re-joining Monet's Water Lilies

April 4 2011

Image of Re-joining Monet's Water Lilies

Picture: Kansas City Star

One of Monet's Water Lily triptychs has been reunited for the first time in thirty years at the Nelson-Atkins Museum in Kansas. The three individual panels belong to the St. Louis Art Museum, the Cleveland Museum of Art and the Nelson-Atkins. More here

Better glaze that Gauguin...

April 4 2011

Image of Better glaze that Gauguin...

Picture: BBC

A picture by Gauguin on loan to the National Gallery of Art in Washington has been attacked during an exhibition.

Susan Burns pounded Two Tahitian Women and tried to rip it from a gallery wall on Friday, officials said. The 1899 painting, which depicts two women's bare breasts, was behind a plastic cover and was unharmed. She was charged with attempted theft and destruction of property and is being held pending a mental evaluation.

Restoring Gainsborough's Grave

April 4 2011

Image of Restoring Gainsborough's Grave

Graves aren't really my thing, but here's a deserving cause: Gainsborough's grave in St Anne's, Kew is seriously in need of restoration. The sum needed is £15,000. Here's a rather wobbly but charming video on the project.

A number of you kindly responded to my plug for the Anne Boleyn restoration fund - and if anyone wants to spread the word about this, the friends of St Anne's would be most grateful.

If you're so minded, cheques should be sent to:

'The Friends of St. Anne’s Church, Kew', The Treasurer, The Friends’, C/O The Parish Office, St. Anne’s Church, Kew Green, Richmond, Surrey TW9 3AA

Eisenhower speech on saving art in WW2 found

April 1 2011

Image of Eisenhower speech on saving art in WW2 found

Picture: AP

'Ike' was no orator, but this newly discovered speech is well worth a listen. It relates Eisenhower's rationale behind his decision to help save the thousands of works of art looted by the Nazis. 

We've been researching the work of Ike's 'Monuments Men' (those who helped find the stolen art) for our new BBC1 series, Fake or Fortune. We all have a lot to thank them, and Eisenhower, for.

Art history relief?

April 1 2011

From the Art Newspaper:

The visual arts survived the Arts Council England (ACE) cuts better than most sectors, including theatre, music and dance. Visual arts organisations funded by ACE will overall actually receive a 2% increase in their grants from 2010/11 to 2014/15, although once inflation is taken into account this represents a 7% fall in real terms.

Looking for Eworth

April 1 2011

Image of Looking for Eworth

Here's an interesting article by Hope Walker on what is thought to be Hans Eworth's only known drawing. Trouble is, nobody knows where it is. If you do, pray tell...

This one is Not an April Fool

April 1 2011

Image of This one is Not an April Fool

If you're in Pennsylvania this weekend, you can go to the Tattoo and Arts gathering at 'Inkin the Valley', and get your favourite painting tattooed somewhere special. Nice.

Turning Deaccessioning into Art

April 1 2011

Image of Turning Deaccessioning into Art

Next month, I shall be taking part in a conference at the National Gallery on whether major galleries should begin deaccessioning. However, one gallery has jumped the gun: Tate has announced a collaboration with a Turner Prize contender to create an interactive deaccessioning exhibit.

Store/Sell/Destroy No.4 promises to take Michael Landy’s Art Bin concept to a whole new level. A number of low-value, damaged, and less popular paintings will be deaccessioned and shredded, and rewoven into a giant quilt. The stuffing will be made of pulped frames. 

The artist, Korean performance interpretive specialist Ei Pri Fuh, will then sleep under the quilt for the duration of the exhibition. In order to make the installation participative, both Fuh and Tate are hoping that the quilt will be large enough to allow visitors to sleep under it too, subject to a health and safety assessment.

Fuh’s agent said;

Store/Sell/Destroy No.4 will be a commentary on accessioning, deaccessioning and reaccessioning through the creation of a temporal cacophony of orchestrated multi-linear collisions between spatially and historically remote works, set within a rich inheritance of reductive aesthetics. 

Fuh said:

I hope it will be warm.

At the end of the exhibition, the quilt will be sold to benefit Tate’s acquisition fund. 

Update 2.4.11: This was a joke.

Gauguin bust for sale

March 31 2011

Image of Gauguin bust for sale

Picture: Sotheby's

A rare wooden bust by Gauguin will be offered by Sotheby's on May 3rd in New York for $10-15 million.

Van Gogh's 'weave maps'

March 31 2011

Image of Van Gogh's 'weave maps'

An electrical engineering professor, Richard Johnson Jr., has developed an algorithmic programme to help authenticate Van Gogh paintings. The programme analyses the 'weave maps' of Van Gogh's canvasses. Johnson, who has been working at the Van Gogh Museum in the Netherlands, said;

'This is pretty extraordinary... What's happening is some doubted paintings are being authenticated, and some that had been placed at a funny date are now being moved.'

More here.

Church of England sells Zurburans for £15m

March 31 2011

Image of Church of England sells Zurburans for £15m

The Church of England has sold its series of paintings by Francisco Zurburan to a financier for £15 million. The twelve pictures have been at Auckland Castle, home to the Bishop of Durham, since 1756, and represent Jacob and his twelve sons (the 13th painting, Benjamin, is by Arthur Pond).

The financier, Jonathan Ruffer, has decided to immediately give the paintings back so that they can remain at Auckland Castle in perpetuity. This is quite an amazing gift. Read the Spectator's interview with him here. See more of the pictures here.

The happy ending should not, however, blind us to the fact that the Church of England Commissioners are prepared to sell off some of the most important parts of our national heritage. Have the Commissioners got the balance right between protecting the Church's heritage, and continuing the Church's mission?

PS - the paintings cost Bishop Trevor £124 in 1756. Clever Trevor.

Arts cuts - deja vu

March 31 2011

Image of Arts cuts - deja vu

Above is a Canadian cartoonist's take on arts cuts in British Columbia.

And, as I always like taking the 'long view' of events, here's Woodrow Wyatt's critique of an earlier Conservative government's cuts, in 1952:

Nothing like this has ever happened before in our history. Never before have so many museums and art galleries been compelled by any Government to impose restrictions on the public. And all this in order to save 84 people on the staff and £30,000 a year. When these announcements were made, there were, naturally, tremendous protests from those interested in the presevation of our culture. The Financial Secretary to the Treasury sought to justify these cuts in the House on 25th June by a very peculiar method of argument. He said that all museums and art galleries, taken together, had 59 more on their staffs today than they had before the war, and he went on to say that they had 277,000 square feet less of galleries to look after, because of losses due to enemy action, and that therefore there was no need whatever for them to have closed down any part of their premises.

The Financial Secretary looks at our heritage, our traditions and culture as a matter of arithmetic, and no doubt this Government would try to assess the artistic value of the Elgin Marbles by weight. In that case, there would be very little hope—if there are to be further cuts—for Magna Carta, because, although it is a very important document, it does not weigh very much.

New evidence on the 'Sanders Portrait'

March 30 2011

Image of New evidence on the 'Sanders Portrait'

Staff at the University of Guelph in Canada have published new evidence they say reinforces the claim of the 'Sanders Portrait' to show Shakespeare. 

The evidence is in the form of what is thought to be a direct link between the present owner, Lloyd Sullivan, and either William or John Sanders, who at some point may have acted with Shakespeare. More here, and the detailed genealogy here. If you really think the portrait is of Shakespeare, you can buy it here.

I'm a firm believer in the c.1610 Chandos portrait - so I still have trouble believing that the much younger 'Sanders' sitter, of 1603, is the same man. I also don't see that the Sanders sitter is 39, as he would have to be if the portrait was Shakespeare.

Restoring Matisse's 'Joy of Life'

March 30 2011

Image of Restoring Matisse's 'Joy of Life'

Picture: The Barnes Foundation, Philadelphia.

Following the recent analysis of Van Gogh's faded sunflowers, scientists are now examining a 1906 work by Matisse, The Joy of Life.

Like Van Gogh, Matisse used a range of bright yellow pigments invented in the industrial revolution. These are now slowly fading, but by a combination of conservation and the right lighting levels it is hoped the process can be checked. 

Once the painting is in its own gallery in Philadelphia, the museum may use lights of a specific wavelength to minimize further oxidation [said Jennifer Mass, the scientist leading the project]. In the future, some chemical treatments might be considered to reverse the color changes, but that would be considered an invasive treatment and would be undertaken only with extreme care, she said.

"I think Matisse is not getting a fair deal at the moment," Mass said. "What art historians are looking at is not his original vision."

More here.

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