Category: Auctions

'Now, for the Rubens estimated at £4-6m... do I hear £1m?'

February 23 2011

Image of 'Now, for the Rubens estimated at £4-6m... do I hear £1m?'

Picture: Sotheby's

Martin Bailey of the Art Newspaper has flagged up some astonishing developments in the case of the Rubens/notRubens portrait that was stopped for export in January.

I discussed earlier the difficulties the Reviewing Committee on the Export of Works of Art must have had when deciding whether to stop the painting being exported, given the uncertainty over the attribution. Now, however, the story has taken a bizarre twist. It reveals the immense power of the single acknowledged expert, and the potential pitfalls of submitting a painting to the Reviewing Committee.

The basic facts are; [more below]

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Lost Sickert to be Sold

February 21 2011

Image of Lost Sickert to be Sold

A previously unknown work by Walter Sickert will be auctioned in London on 9th March. Blind Beggar was found in Scotland. Bonham's estimate is £40-60,000. 

Baffling Price of the Week

February 18 2011

Image of Baffling Price of the Week

Picture: Sotheby's

This self-portrait by Thomas Struth was offered at Sotheby's earlier this week. It shows Struth looking at Durer's self-portrait in the Alte Pinakothek. The photo being sold was one of a run of ten.

There was some great blurb in the catalogue:

There are many ways to interpret these museum pictures—as an exploration of the relationship between painting and photography, as critical commentary on the invasion of cultural institutions by mass tourism, or even as a twist on appropriation art. But above all, they are a meditation on the function of centuries-old art in a secular world and how contemporary audiences engage with these masterpieces as a means of interacing [sic (I think)] with history. 

It made £421,250.

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Pictures that make you smile

February 17 2011

Image of Pictures that make you smile

Picture: Galerie Koller

This is a detail from 'Friede im Land (Aufe der Bastei)', or, 'Peace - On the Fortress', by Carl Spitzweg, painted in 1856. It is being offered at Koller on 1st April. The estimate is CHF500-800,000.

"Orgy of the rich!"

February 16 2011

 

Hats off to demonstrators from 'Arts Against the Cuts', who last night staged a daring demo in the middle of Sotheby's evening contemporary art sale. The bidders gave a generous round of applause at the end.

One of the protester's slogans was an ironic; 'I like my money on the wall'. Better than in the bank...

More here.

Improbably Strong Porter Lifts Warhol

February 16 2011

Image of Improbably Strong Porter Lifts Warhol

Picture: David Rose/Telegraph

Newspapers rarely like to print photos of 'flat art', and so some poor intern is often dragged in to put on the white gloves and told to 'hold' a painting.  

The Warhol seen here has just sold for £10.8m, way above its £3-5m estimate.

Bacon & Freud continue to rise

February 12 2011

Image of Bacon & Freud continue to rise

Picture: Sotheby's

A 1952 Lucian Freud self-portrait sold at Sotheby's last night for £3.28m, beating its £600-800,000 estimate. Well worth it I'd say. Francis Bacon's triptych of Freud sold for £23m, a price that comfortably beat the $3.8m for a comparable work that sold in New York in 2003.

The pictures were part of the private collection of the late George Kostalitz.

Rare Rockwell drawing sold

February 10 2011

Image of Rare Rockwell drawing sold

A fine drawing by Norman Rockwell called 'The Plumbers' was auctioned last night in Florida. Estimated at $35,000-$45,000, it sold for $120,000 hammer. More here.

Christie's Impressionist & Modern evening sale

February 10 2011

Totaled £61.8m.

Which is just below the £68.8m made by Sotheby's evening sale. The difference may be explained by a £7-10m Gauguin that failed to sell

Picasso - A Lecture

February 9 2011

Image of Picasso - A Lecture

Picture: Sotheby's

The lesson of the lecture is - if you have a Picasso, sell it now.

Last night, Picasso's 'La Lecture' (a portrait of one of his mistresses) sold well above its £12-18m estimate at £25.2m.

Its success demonstrates the incredible buoyancy of the modern art market at the moment. In 1996 the same picture had been offered at $6-8m, when it failed to sell. 

Impressionist, Modern & Contemporary sales on view

February 5 2011

Image of Impressionist, Modern & Contemporary sales on view

The atmosphere at Sotheby's and Christie's auction viewings of Impressionist & Modern art is very different to the Old Master sales I'm used to. The pictures are sparsely hung and strongly lit. Sharp-suited specialists slink silently between the high-rollers. Everyone whispers.

Of the two sales, I thought Sotheby's had the edge. But that's probably because I was drawn to the trio of Lucian Freuds, which was complimented by Francis Bacon's triptych portrait of Freud. The latter will surely beat its £7-9m estimate, in which case cue headlines saying 'Bringing home the Bacon'.

The picture I most liked was the tiny self-portrait by Lucien Freud. Painted in 1952, it is an intense work suffused with self-doubt. The estimate is £600,000-800,000, which in this market is probably rather low. 

One to keep an eye on...

January 29 2011

Image of One to keep an eye on...

Picture: Sotheby's

Sotheby's minor Old Master sale in New York was full of hidden treats. One of the pictures I liked was this Mengs self-portrait, a replica of that in the Uffizi. It was catalogued (with a rather blurry photo) as 'Circle of Mengs', but was well painted, and could certainly stand being 'Studio'. Indeed, the author of the Mengs catalogue raisonne thought it might have been painted by Mengs himself, in parts.

It made $25,000. I hope to see it again, cleaned.

Judging the Last Judgement

January 27 2011

Image of Judging the Last Judgement

Picture: Doyles

One of the pictures that caught my eye in New York was a grisaille of a Last Judgement 'attributed to Frans Francken' at Doyles. Beautifully painted, but with some losses, it was estimated at just $2-4,000. 

Not mentioned in the catalogue was the apparent Salander O'Reilly Gallery provenance, according to a sticker on the back. It was perhaps this unfortunate recent market history (Mr Salander is currently in jail) which led the picture to make just $3,750.

Which is puzzling, because when it came up at auction some years earlier, at Sotheby's, it made £35,000. 

Just One Bidder

January 27 2011

Image of Just One Bidder

Picture: Sotheby's

The New York Times reports that there was just one bidder for the epic Titian sold by Sotheby's in New York on Thursday. Still, they managed to set an auction record for a work by Titian. 

More interesting, perhaps, was the fierce struggle to secure Perino del Vaga's Holy Family with the Infant John the Baptist. At the beginning of the bidding someone in the room shouted out increments of $100,000, to the delight of auctioneer Henry Wyndham. The picture was bought by the Met in New York. The museum's Chairman of European Paintings, Keith Christiansen, said, "the minute I saw this painting, I nearly keeled over."

Lot 403: An English 'bubonic' country scene.

January 26 2011

Image of Lot 403: An English 'bubonic' country scene.

...or should that be 'bucolic'?

See for yourself at May Auctioneers, 28th January

From Sleeper to Museum Wall

January 24 2011

Image of From Sleeper to Museum Wall

I was interested to see this fine portrait of a gentleman by Quentin Metsys in the Metropolitan Museum in New York on Sunday. Not so long ago it had appeared in an auction in Switzerland with a very low estimate and called something like 'Flemish School' (I can't remember exactly). 

I had it eagerly flagged up, but the picture was withdrawn from the sale. It then reappeared at Christie's in London correctly described and with an estimate of £700,000 - £1m. Now, it hangs happily reunited (on loan) with its pendant, which has belonged to the Met since 1931.  

The New York viewings

January 23 2011

Here are some of the pictures I liked and didn’t like in the Christie’s and Sotheby’s sales. Generally a good offering, with Sotheby’s having the better pick of the two. If you have queries about anything else, please get in touch.

In catalogue order, pictures I liked were;

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Off to New York...

January 22 2011

Image of Off to New York...

6.30 am. BA aren't on strike. My excellent colleague Sara has swung me an upgrade. All is well. 

I'll post some thoughts on the sales tomorrow.

'Lost Rubens' faces Export Ban

January 18 2011

Image of 'Lost Rubens' faces Export Ban

Picture: Sotheby's.

A portrait believed to be by Rubens has been stopped for export by the government's Reviewing Committee. The picture was offered at Sotheby's in December 2009 with an estimate of £4-6m, but failed to sell and is now priced at £1m.

The 'striking portrait of a very real, although unidentified, woman', according to the Committee's Chairman Lord Inglewood, must have presented the panel with a tricky dilemma. The so-called Waverley Criteria, by which a picture is judged to be of national importance, are;

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This is not just a photo of some shoes...

January 15 2011

Image of This is not just a photo of some shoes...

Picture: Christie's

I'm fascinated by the language used by dealers and auctioneers to describe contemporary art, particularly when it's on sale with a hefty price tag.

Here's a good example from Christie's Spring 2011 'Highlights' magazine, describing a photograph by Andreas Gursky, 'Untitled V' (colour-print, no.2 of 6, estimate £800,000-£1,200,000):

Gleaming with spiritual beauty, the monumental scale and pure aesthetics of Andres Gursky's Untitled V makes this work one of the most powerful and arresting images. Based on the interioir of a luxury goods store, the work is a triumphal examination of consumer culture and the nature of global trade. Its strong architectural lines, muted, meditative lighting and row of sports shoes displayed like sparkling religious icons produces an almost sacred experience... The cool, crisp lines punctuated only by the brightly coloured footwear, are testimony to the enduring influence and Minimalism and to the work of Donald Judd in particular, whose transformation of what Peter Galassi has called 'the solemn majesty of infinite progression (...) into the aesthetic repetitions of the assembly line and the display case' has a particular significance here. 

Much more in the catalogue here.

 

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