Previous Posts: May 2017

Selling Michelangelo...

May 23 2017

Image of Selling Michelangelo...

Picture: via TAN

In The Art Newspaper, Martin Bailey reports that the Royal Academy considered selling its famous tondo by Michelangelo for £6m. More here

How not to buy art

May 23 2017

Image of How not to buy art

Picture: Guardian

There's a curious article in The Guardian about buying contemporary art for investment. It reads like a PR pitch from an online art gallery (they feature in the piece) and gave the following advice on how to search for 'works that could triple in value':

When visiting a degree show Ryan [of online art gallery New Blood Art] recommends talking to art tutors (make an appointment in advance) and suggests having a coffee with the artists themselves to try and gauge their long-term commitment.


Investment experts say modern art is an effective hedge against inflation – returns tend to be better at times when prices in the economy are rising, which is the case now. 

Remember, AHN says never buy art as an investment (it's very rarely a good one, in the short term), and only buy something if you actually like it. And if you want to determine an 'artist's commitment, buy them more than a coffee.

Dafoe to play Van Gogh

May 23 2017

Image of Dafoe to play Van Gogh

Picture: Wikipedia

The actor Willem Dafoe will play Van Gogh in a new film; more here

Waldemar at the Venice Biennale

May 23 2017

Image of Waldemar at the Venice Biennale

Picture: The Times

He's not overly impressed:

Multifacetedness is a Biennale theme this year. Hardly anybody makes art in a straightforward manner. The French have a pavilion devoted to music, in which you can watch a squad of assorted instrumentalists recording one of those unlistenable records that have become an art-world speciality. The Danes, in what I hereby nominate as the worst contribution to the entire Biennale, incarcerate you in a black room for 30 minutes, where you listen to the rantings of Kirstine Roepstorff, instructing you to imagine you are a seed growing under the ground. I tried to leave after a couple of minutes, but they wouldn’t let me. Seeds, it seems, no longer enjoy any basic human rights.

More here

Restitution news (ctd.)

May 23 2017

Image of Restitution news (ctd.)

Picture: TAN

A painting by Pissarro from the Gurlitt collection has been restituted to the heirs of a French collector - it was looted by the Nazis in 1942. It's only the fourth painting in Gurlitt's trove to be restituted, but there are thought to be another 150 works (out of 1200) that are known to have been looted. More from Catherine Hickley here in The Art Newspaper.

Canaletto at the Royal Collection

May 23 2017

Image of Canaletto at the Royal Collection

Picture: National Trust

The Royal Collection's new Canaletto show looks like another excellent exhibition - Ben Luke in the Evening Standard gives it four stars out of five. 

Incidentally, the portrait of Caneletto above is by an unknown artist, and belongs to the National Trust at Anglesey Abbey. It's small, and on panel, but looks rather Hogarthian in the characterisation, don't you think?

Picasso swap shop

May 23 2017

Image of Picasso swap shop

Picture: Rex Features via The Times

The Times reports that in the 1960s, Franco's Spanish government offered the US government its choice of any Velasquez they liked in return for Picasso's Guernica. Picasso's masterpiece was at that time on display in the US, the artist having stipulated that it could only return to Spain once democracy had returned. More here.  

Bull fighting with Picasso

May 23 2017

Image of Bull fighting with Picasso

Picture: Spectator

Picasso loved bullfighting; in the Spectator, his biographer Sir John Richardson recounts going to a fight with him:

‘I frequently went to bullfights with Picasso,’ Sir John Richardson remarked, quite casually, as he showed me around the exhibition Picasso: Minotaurs and Matadors, which he was installing at the Gagosian Gallery, Grosvenor Hill. He mentioned this by way of explaining why a large and splendid linocut was inscribed to him by the artist: ‘à mon cher ami.’

They saw many fights together in the 1950s, either in Nîmes or Arles. Picasso took these occasions seriously. ‘If the fight was going well he was silent, concentrating totally. What he couldn’t stand was people talking. He would sigh and say, “Oh, I wish they’d shut up.” All around him people were shrieking if something went wrong, but he was absolutely cool as can be.’

Incidentally, Sir John's grandfather was born in the reign of George III - isn't that amazing?

Leonardo's mother identified

May 23 2017

Image of Leonardo's mother identified

Picture: via Wikipedia

New research by Martin Kemp and Giuseppe Pallanti has revealed that Leonardo da Vinci's mother was Caterina di Meo Lippi, a poor orphan who was just 15 when she was seduced by Leonardo's father. More here

Is contemporary art to blame for Trump?

May 19 2017

Image of Is contemporary art to blame for Trump?

Picture: via Time

Yes, says Alex Melamid in Time, citing work by the likes of Warhol and Koons:

Whatever the intelligentsia nurtures and celebrates in our galleries and academic journals is bound to flow eventually into the nation’s cinemas, through its ballot boxes and toward the swamp of Washington, D.C. The last few months have proven that Trump is not out to drain that swamp. He is its progeny, and we on the left — the artists, the people of culture — have done our part in creating the conditions for him to thrive.

Alas, even AHN finds this argument unconvincing, but nice try.

Van Gogh lookalikes (ctd.)

May 19 2017

Image of Van Gogh lookalikes (ctd.)

Picture: via ABC

The rise of the hipster has led to a boom in Van Gogh lookalikes. The latest, Matt Butterworth in Australia, has been allowing visitors to a Van Gogh exhibition in the National Gallery of Victoria to a pose for a Van Gogh selfie, to great acclaim. More here

Prado Titian cleaned

May 19 2017

Image of Prado Titian cleaned

Picture: Museo Prado

The Prado has cleaned one of its major Titians, Philip II offering the Infante Don Ferdinando to Victory. The online catalogue still shows the pre-cleaning photo, but you can zoom in on a before and after image here

A proper hang

May 19 2017

Image of A proper hang

Picture: Museo Prado

I came across this photo of the Prado back in the days; when getting pictures out of storage and on display was considered more important than having oceans of space around a painting. Bring back proper picture hanging!

'The Battle for Basquiat'

May 19 2017

Video: Sotheby's

A painting by Basquiat made $110m dollars last night at Sotheby's in New York. The hammer was seconds away from falling at $68m, then a fierce battle commenced. AHN looks forward to commenting on Basquiat values in about 20 years time. 

Venice Biennale

May 19 2017

Video: Sotheby's

It's the Venice Biennale again. Above is a short video by Tim Marlow on the highlights, and here is The Art Newspaper's Biennale app, which will guide you around what to see. As a flashback, here and here is a BBC programme I made on the Biennale with Alistair Sooke in 2014. 


May 18 2017

I'm sorry for the radio silence at the moment; I'm rather tied up with some TV work, and glad to be able to tell you that it's for another series of Britain's Lost Masterpieces. More soon!

Two for the price of one (ctd.)

May 16 2017

Image of Two for the price of one (ctd.)

Picture: Washington Post

Conservators at the National Gallery of Art in Washington have discovered that a lost portrait (of a woman playing a piano) lies beneath the above 'Ruth and a Boaz' by Frederic Bazille. Since Bazille died at the age of 28, leaving only about 60 paintings, identifying another is quite a coup - even if we can never really see it. More here

Still life cleaning at the Bowes Museum

May 16 2017

Video: Bowes Museum

It's good to see the Bowes Museum putting these conservation videos online, showing the cleaning of a Flemish still life from the circle of Peter Aertsen. More here.

The Bowes also has a good blog, listing all sorts of discoveries and stories, here. AHN applauds such openness and engagement. 

Ashmolean acquires Dobson portrait

May 16 2017

Image of Ashmolean acquires Dobson portrait

Picture: Oxford Times

The Ashmolean Museum in Oxford has acquired the above sensational portrait by William Dobson. It has been allocated to the museum through the UK government's Acceptance in Lieu tax scheme. An additional grant of £90k has been provided by the Heritage Lottery Fund to help promote the painting. The painting was:

commissioned by John Russell in the winter of 1645–6, [and] is a unique artefact of the English Civil War. It shows a meeting between three Royalist commanders who were then based in Oxford, home to the royal court in exile. The group in the painting are Prince Rupert (the King’s nephew), Colonel William Legge (Governor of Oxford) and Colonel John Russell (commander of the prince’s elite Blue Coats).

You can read more about the picture here. The unveiling was done by a characted playing Elias Ashmole (below), to celebrate the fact that this year is his 400th birthday.

Hermitage's Dutch masterpieces return to Amsterdam

May 11 2017

Image of Hermitage's Dutch masterpieces return to Amsterdam


This looks like a good show; in October this year, 63 Dutch Old Masters from the Hermitage collection in St Petersburg will go on display at the Hermitage Amsterdam. There will be six Rembrandts, including his c.1631 Portrait of a Scholar (above). More here

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