New Old Master dealers

March 5 2018

COLNAGHI - TEFAF 2017 from Colnaghi on Vimeo.

Video: Tefaf, Colnaghi's 2017 stand

In the FT, Gareth Harris discusses the next generation of Old Master dealers, the shining stars of whom are the new owners of Colnaghi,Jorge Coll and Nicolás Cortés:

Coll and Cortés made their names selling Spanish Golden Age sculpture and painting to an audience inspired by the groundbreaking National Gallery 2009-10 exhibition The Sacred Made Real. They understood the appeal to a contemporary audience of the strong images of Ribera, Zurburán and El Greco, and recognised that for younger collectors familiar with prices in the contemporary art market, these works looked remarkably good value.

Since taking over Colnaghi and expanding their repertoire they have continued, in Coll’s words, “to try to open the eyes of collectors”. They host events, including “The Price Is Right” dinners during Old Master sales, to demystify the market. Their Tefaf Maastricht stand is dramatically lit — “after all, many of these works were made for churches” — and last year sculptures were hung by fishing wire as if flying. Coll believes that, “It is the role of the dealer to create a completely different value from the auctions — through research, publication, new discoveries.”

But as well as appealing to the confirmed collector, Coll, who is on the board of trustees at Tefaf, is determined also to create a new generation of gallery-goers. He has set up the not-for-profit Colnaghi Foundation, to which the gallery has donated the entire Colnaghi archive. The Foundation publishes new scholarship and has also announced a series of masterclasses, in collaboration with the Wallace Collection, which were advertised by a video starring an ingénue in a pink mackintosh. They will be attended by a group of young paying individuals, drawn from an international short list of applications, but will also then be available to watch on their website.

“We want to create art lovers: whoever loves art will not be able to stop themselves collecting,” says Coll. “And loving art is about knowledge. It is not cash and carry. You have to make a journey.”

The Mona Lisa on tour?

March 5 2018

Image of The Mona Lisa on tour?

Picture: Louvre

Zut alors! The French Culture Minister has floated the idea of sending the Mona Lisa on a tour of France. More here

Leyster, the art dealing dog

March 5 2018

Image of Leyster, the art dealing dog

Picture: Peggy Stone 

I've been meaning to mention the wonderful children's books written by Peggy Stone, partner of the New York Old Master dealer Lawrence Steigrad, and a regular exhibitor at Tefaf in Maastricht. The stories are about a runaway husky who is found in New York, and named after the Dutch artist Judith Leyster. Two books have been published, with illustrations by Ena Hodzic, and the Deputy Editor has been enjoying them greatly. More here, and you can buy them here

Tefaf 2018

March 5 2018

Video: Galerie Antoine Laurentin

The great TEFAF fair opens in Maastricht this week. Exhibitors will now be putting the finishing touches to their stands, and preparing to undergo the nervous breakdown that is vetting. AHN wishes everyone taking part the best of luck; may you sell your entire inventory on the first day.

Above is a short video made by an exhibitor, Galerie Antoine Laurentin, which gives a brief preview of works they will be taking to the fair. I hope more exhibitors do this sort of thing in future; it's much more effective than sending out a press release.

That said, if anyone has anything exciting they'd like to share, send me some photos and I'll put it up. 

Cleaning Rembrandt, in public (ctd.)

March 5 2018

Video: Tefaf

I mentioned earlier this year a project at the MFA in Boston to clean a pair of Rembrandt portraits, in public. The project was funded by TEFAF, and above is their short film about the work.

Apologies (ctd.)

March 5 2018

Image of Apologies (ctd.)

Picture: BG

Goodness, I've been away for an age - many apologies. I've been on the road filming the new series of Britain's Lost Masterpieces, and when not doing that I've been shovelling snow. Happily, the Deputy Editor and I did find time to make an igloo. Here she is bravely being the first to enter. 

Now, I shall endeavour to catch up on all the news.

Apologies (ctd.)

February 19 2018

Sorry again for the lack of news - things are a little busy. I'm currently on a train south to London, finishing a piece for the FT's forthcoming Tefaf Maastricht supplement. Tomorrow I'm meeting the new arts minister, Michael Ellis MP, to discuss museum reproduction fees. And then on Wednesday I'm filming the first day of a new episode of Britain's Lost Masterpieces, at a top secret location. 

Will post when I can. In the meantime, celebrate with me the excellent news that the Finnish National Gallery has made all their images free to use. You can read the director's faultless logic here. British museum directors, pay special attention to this bit:

It seems to be a widely shared view, both here in Finland as well as in other countries, that  generous open data policies increase museums’ popularity and generate more visitors and more engaged audiences. Talking about a museum’s business policies, it’s worth considering thoroughly the transaction costs involved in licensing and distributing images, compared, for example, with selling products based on images of artworks and objects in the collections. I don’t recall hearing regrets from any museum that decided to execute a open data policy.

'Why collect?'

February 16 2018

Image of 'Why collect?'

Picture: Art Fund

The Art Fund has published an interesting report on the state of museum acquisitions in the UK, or rather the lack of them. It's written by the historian Sir David Cannadine, and is well worth reading, here. But it misses the goal a few times, and presents a more dire view of the situation than is justified. I'll write more about it soon.


February 16 2018

I'm writing a piece about private loans; what are the problems when collectors lend artworks to museums? Who gains, who loses - what risks should we be prepared to take? Are museums being used by unscrupulous colectors keen to legitimise their wares? Or are the opponents of loans killjoys who think every collector out there is a dastardly fraud? 

I'd love to hear your thoughts and tales. Thanks!

Putting the 'Royal' into the Royal Academy

February 15 2018

Image of Putting the 'Royal' into the Royal Academy

Picture: Royal Collection

I didn't know that every two years, the leadership of the Royal Academy goes to visit the Queen, to tell her about the health of the RA. On his blog, Charles Saumarez Smith almost tells us what happened:

We were after the new Peruvian and Italian ambassadors had presented their credentials (I was accidentally mistaken for the Italian ambassador even though she is a woman).   For us, the equerry was allowed to take off his sword and medals.   I know that I am not allowed to report on what was said, only that the Queen has a great number of paperweights on her desk.

NPG closes for fashion show

February 15 2018

Image of NPG closes for fashion show

Picture: NPG

I can't quite believe the news in Martin Bailey's story (in The Art Newspaper) that the National Portrait Gallery in London is closing for a whole day, so that a fashion company (Erdem) can host an event. As Martin writes, on a Monday in February, around 5,000 people would usually visit the gallery. That'll be a lot of disappointed people on the doorstep in St Martin's Place. 

The NPG say that they need the cash. That as a charity, needing to raise over 70% of their income themselves (ie, not from the government) they will need to exploit their premises for events. We are not told how much Erdem will be paying for the day (I have asked, but don't expect an answer - it'll probably be deemed 'commercially sensitive' information).

But a whole day? If the NPG's answer to difficult fundraising conditions is - close the whole place, then it is demonstrating a woeful lack of imagination, and a complete disregard for the people it serves. What is the National Portrait Gallery for? It's a public museum, with publicly owned art, funded over decades by public funds. It is our museum, not something that should be arbitrarily closed as a venue for hire. But these days (and here of course I'm going to mention image fees again) it appears the NPG is being run by a bunch of venture capitalists, desperate to squeeze as much money out of the asset they've just acquired. 

It's easy to see this as a thin end of the wedge moment. The NPG may say; 'this is a one-off'. But in reality it's unlikely to be. How corrosive will be the impact on those 5,000 people who will turn up, expecting the NPG to be open, only to be told that they can't go in, because someone else has got a bigger chequebook? How many others will hear of the news, and then not plan a visit to the NPG in future, in case it's arbitrarily closed? There is a risibly small notice about the closure on the NPG's 'visit' page (above), and nothing on their homepage. It's as if they're hoping nobody's going to notice. The whole thing is pathetic; an unprecedented low from a new generation of museum bureaucrats who have lost touch with what public museums should be for.

Update - I also can't believe the trustees agreed to this. What were you thinking?


February 12 2018

Sorry for the lack of news - it's half term!

Fate of Van Dyck's mistress revealed at last

February 7 2018

Image of Fate of Van Dyck's mistress revealed at last

Pictures: BG and Fondation Custodia (below)

In this month's Burlington Magazine you can read an extraordinary piece of scholarly sleuthing, on the life of Margaret Lemon, best known as Van Dyck's mistress. Until now, little has been known of her life, and nothing of her fate after Van Dyck's death. But the historian Hilary Maddicott has discovered not only that she committed suicide in 1642 (in Oxford, after the death in battle of one her lovers), but that she was well known for cross-dressing. This now explains the curious miniature of her by Samuel Cooper, below. 

The other piece of good news is that the Burlington Magazine has decided to make Hilary's article free to download for a week, here. Well worth a click! (Also, if enough of us click, it might persuade the Burlington to do this more often.)

KMSKA closed until 2020

February 7 2018

Image of KMSKA closed until 2020

Picture: via Flickr

Your annual reminder that, when renovating a museum, it's a bad idea to close the entire place; another delay has been announced to the re-opening of the KMSKA in Antwerp. It will now remain closed until 2020. It has been shut since 2011, and was due to re-open last year, then that was put back to 2019. More here

Sotheby's NY Old Master sales (ctd.)

February 7 2018

Video: Sotheby's

I've been meaning to report on the success of Sotheby's Old Master sales in New York. The total for the week was $82.5m, more than double the same series of sales made last year. The totals were at, or exceeded, the higher estimates. I know AHNers will be tired of me saying 'the Old Master market isn't dead', so I won't go on about some of the soaraway lots (except to point you to the above video of a fine portrait of the Prince of Orange by Van Dyck, which made $2.4m). But I think it may now be time to say, 'the Old Master market is alive and kicking'. More on the results here

'Rubens: Power of Transformation' at the Staedel (ctd.)

February 7 2018

Image of 'Rubens: Power of Transformation' at the Staedel (ctd.)

Picture: Staedel Museum

The new Rubens exhibition in Frankfurt I mentioned earlier is now open. But if you can't go, there's an excellent online site about the show, called a 'digitorial'. I hope more museums do this.

ArtUK podcast

February 7 2018

Audio: ArtUK

Here's a new podcast series from ArtUK. This one includes the team behing Tabloid Art History

'Civilisations' on the BBC

February 7 2018

Video: BBC

Here's a trailer for the new BBC2 series, Civilisations, which looks set to be the arts TV event of the decade. It'll be on in the Spring.

Update - there's an app too.

Update II - I'm afraid BBC trailers don't work when embedded on some browsers such as Chrome. So if you're seeing a blank space above, that's why.

'The Paston Treasure'

February 5 2018

Video: Yale Center for British Art

Here's a great new video on the mysterious 17th Century British still life painting by an anonymous artist called 'The Paston Treasure'. The picture will be on display until May 27th at the Yale Center for British Art in New Haven in the US, as part of a new exhibition. More here

'Libson Yarker Ltd'

February 5 2018

Image of 'Libson Yarker Ltd'

Picture: Libson Yarker Ltd

I'm late to the news that the esteemed British art dealer Lowell Libson (above right) has entered into a new partnership with his colleague Jonny Yarker. Lowell has been in the business for decades, but Jonny started working for him just five years ago. Jonny is one of the sharpest scholars on British art of his generation - in fact, there's a touch of the Kenneth Clark about him - and I always expected him to go back into museum or academic life. But interestingly he has chosen to commit to 'the trade'. Good for him. It's often where the most rewarding, and exciting, art historical research takes place.

And good for Lowell too. Some eponymous dealers grow too fond of having only their name over the door. Often, they rely on a good researcher or colleague, but prefer to keep that person in their place, or even the shadows. A threatened ego can lead to the fiercest resentment. In the long term, these businesses atrophy, because there is nobody in the next generation to take them on. The most successful dealers - like Lowell - understand this. But there are very few of them.  

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