March 6 2017

Video: Smartify

I haven't noticed the new Smartify app. which allows you to photo an actual painting in an art gallery, and then via imaging recognition software find out all about it. 

In The Guardian, Jonathan Jones is not impressed:

[...] in reality, Smartify and all similar attempts to provide instant on-screen art history, including those by museums themselves, just encourage people to gawp at phones instead of looking at paintings. As if we needed any more encouragement.

It seems like a great idea to me, and should help engage new audiences. For better or worse, things like smartphones are just too integral to people's way of living these days. It's better that museums and art lovers harness their potential rather than harrumph about it. In any case, it's really no different to going around with a guidebook.

Of course, the image-recongition software element sounds like the sort of thing that'll put people like me out of a job. 


March 2 2017

Image of Apologies...

Pictures: BG

... Sorry for the lack of posts, I'm on the move at the moment. Leeds first, then London to value a portrait of the Duke of Wellington (above). Since he was a relative (well, that's where I like to claim the nose comes from) I may have to declare an interest. The painting is by Lawrence, and the National Portrait Gallery are trying to buy it.

I dropped into the National Gallery to look at some pictures by Rubens this morning, and would believe it but every painting by him bar one is in storage. But the picture on show is his early and rarely seen Judgement of Paris (below) so I was glad to see that. I wonder if there has ever been a time when only one Rubens was on display at the National.

Tomorrow I'm heading to the North-East, then Wales.


3D printed copies - as good as the real thing?

March 1 2017

Image of 3D printed copies - as good as the real thing?

Picture: Guardian, Veronese’s Wedding at Cana, replicated by Factum Arte.

In The Guardian, Jonathan Jones says that 3D printed copies by the likes of Factum Arte (mentioned previously on AHN here) will transform the way we see art:

[...] the work of Factum Arte, a Madrid-based studio whose combination of digital analysis with assiduous craft is transforming the way we see art. I have been watching their work develop for nearly a decade. I am now convinced it is the most important thing happening in 21st-century art – because it can quite literally save civilisation.

The new kind of high-fidelity 3D reproduction being pioneered by Factum Arte is going to abolish the difference between past and present and make distance no obstacle to seeing any masterpiece. We are entering an age when museums can – this is no hyperbole – have their own perfect replicas of the Sistine Chapel, Titian’s Assumption in the Frari church from Venice, or Mantegna’s Camera degli Sposi from Mantua.

I've never seen one of Factum Arte's copies, so I must reserve judgement. But surely a copy's a copy, no matter how good it is? Nothing can replace the magic of an original. Once we accept that art is all about replication, rather than creation, and a tangible link to the time and person that created it, then we might as well pack up and go home. 

Louvre overwhelmed by Vermeer demand

March 1 2017

Image of Louvre overwhelmed by Vermeer demand

Picture: Tribune Du Lard

Art Market Monitor reports that the Louvre's ticket system has crashed, such is the demand for its new Vermeer show. I'm told it's quite crowded in the exhibition too. Seeing how closely hung the (mainly small) paintings are, I can't imagine it's an ideal picture-viewing experience.

Met director resigns

March 1 2017

Image of Met director resigns

Picture: New York Times

Thoms Campbell, the director of the Metropolitan Museum, has resigned after eight years in the post. In the New York Times, Robin Pogrebin sets out the backdrop to his departure:

The Met said that Mr. Campbell, 54, had made the decision to leave the job he had held for eight years. But the circumstances surrounding his departure point to his being forced out. As The New York Times reported extensively in an article in early February, Mr. Campbell’s financial decisions and expansion plans had been criticized by some trustees, curators and other staff members. During the last couple of years, despite the museum’s record attendance, much of his original agenda was rolled back because of the museum’s economic difficulties, including a soaring deficit.

There has been speculation for some time that he had been looking to return to the UK; it had even been suggested to me that he might have looked at the recent V&A vacancy (now taken by Tristram Hunt). The Times article suggests that the new interim CEO, Daniel Weiss, might be being lined up as a new Director. Other names mentioned include Michale Govan, director of LACMA, and Glenn Lowry, director of MOMA. It has also been suggested to me that Gary Tinterow, formerly at the Met and now director of the MFA Houston. 

Did Velazquez's slave paint these?

February 28 2017

Image of Did Velazquez's slave paint these?

Picture: Metropolitan Museum

In his Art Newspaper review of a new show on Velazquez portraits at the Met, Prof. Jonathan Brown wonders if the above picutres are in fact by the artist's slave, Juan de Pareja. Pareja began to works as Velazquez's assistant in 1631. He was granted his freedom in 1650.

Brown's review contains this superb line, which I shall commit to memory:

Nothing is more subjective than the attribution of a painting and nothing is more essential than the debate over authorship. 

Job Opportunity!

February 28 2017

Image of Job Opportunity!

Ppicture: Rembrandthuis

The wonderful Rembrandthuist is looking for a new Head Curator. Deadline 5th March. Salary up to €66k. More here

Polish Dutch & Flemish Old Masters

February 28 2017

Image of Polish Dutch & Flemish Old Masters

Picture: mnw.art.pl

The Codart website alerts us to a new online offering from the National Museum of Warsaw, with good high resolution digital photos. Browse here.

Job opportunity!

February 28 2017

Image of Job opportunity!

Picture: DiscoverSLU

The Microsoft founder, Paul G. Allen, is looking for a new director of his art collection. More here

£10,000 Sistine chapel book

February 28 2017

Image of £10,000 Sistine chapel book

Picture: Guardian

Expensive art books are all the rage these days. A new book of the Sistine Chapel is being marketed at £10,000. The three volume set used 270,000 digital photos, and claim to show a 99.9% accuracy. More here

Old Master workout

February 28 2017

Image of Old Master workout

Picture: Star Telegram

The Metropolitan Museum has introduced a 'Museum Workout'; it's 45 minutes long, and is done before opening time. There's music from the Bee Gees and everything. Excellent. More here.

Somewhere, a conservator is worrying about humidity levels.

The Oscar winning curator

February 28 2017

Image of The Oscar winning curator

Picture: Telegraph

There's an interesting profile of the Ashmolean curator Jon Whiteley in The Telegraph, which tells me something I didn't know at all; at the age of 11 he won an Oscar. In the 1950s he was a child star. More here.

New Apollo

February 28 2017

Image of New Apollo

Picture: Apollo

The latest edition of Apollo magazine includes my review of Philip Hook's new book on art dealers, 'Rogue's Gallery'.

The problem with art fairs

February 28 2017

Image of The problem with art fairs

Picture: Masterpiece

In The Art Newspaper, former art fair director Cornell Dewitt looks at how fairs need to evolve if they're to keep ahead of the competition:

While fairs as we know them are draining the energy, creativity and budgets of galleries and artists that participate in them, practical solutions exist. For example, allowing galleries to alternate their annual commitment to fairs without losing their spot would address the overall “fair-tigue” syndrome that galleries and visitors face, by allowing more galleries of the appropriate calibre to participate, offering more diversity to visitors, and relieving some of the financial pressures that many galleries feel to repeat their participation every year in every fair.

Other options for fairs include downscaling—or, at least, scaling back of ambition—for some regional art fairs; greater integration with digital and other platforms; and extending their reach both physically and temporally. Pulse new year-round engagement plan Pulse360, the Art Basel Cities programme, London’s Condo gallery-sharing concept, and city­wide Gallery Week-style events are all examples of alternative models capable of expanding the art fair experience in art-positive ways.

I've done my share of fairs (Grosvenor House, Palm Beach, Masterpiece) and always found them enjoyable. It's always fun talking to new people about pictures. But from a commercial point of view they're difficult propositions. First, the basic costs themselves (for your stand, marketing) are steep, then you can easily spend the same again designing and decorating the stand. A decent stand at Masterpiece in London doesn't leave you much change from £75,000. That's a lot of money to be sure of making within a fortnight. 

Of course, a large element of the cost of any fair is the venue, or rather the lack of them. In London there's simply no large-scale purpose built venue in a central location in which a decent art fair can be held. So they have to build a small town in the gardens of Chelsea Hospital, in the case of Masterpiece (and they do an amazing job). In New York there's a similar problem in the Armouries - a good size spece, but really too small for an ambitious art fair. In Maastricht, space is not an issue with the excellent venue there, and thanks to the collective way the fair is run, costs are much cheaper. But here other issues come into play, such as the arcane politics associated with a fair run and ruled by dealers; good luck getting in if you're not a member of 'the club'.

UK Museum bid for £11m Bellotto?

February 24 2017

Image of UK Museum bid for £11m Bellotto?

Picture: DCMS

A 'second deferral period' has been triggered in the export licence process for Bernardo Bellotto's 'View of Konigstein from the North' (above). This means that a UK buyer, most likely an institution, is making a serious bid to raise the £11m asking price. The new deadline to raise the funds is 17th August.

Bellotto was commissioned to paint five large-scale pictures of the Konigstein Fortress by Augustus III of Poland. Two - the above picture and also 'View of Konigstein from the South' - were in a UK private collection which in 2014 notified the government of their intention to sell them. I am not sure what has happened to the 'South' picture. But the good news is that the £11m asking price for 'North' will include at least 40% 'off', as the pictures were conditionally exempt from inheritance tax.

Happy Birthday ArtUk!

February 24 2017

Image of Happy Birthday ArtUk!

Picture: ArtUK

The fabulous ArtUK website is one year old today. They now have 213,905 pictures online - all available for free, and without any cost to the UK taxpayer; rummage here.

Will Leonardo's 'Salvator Mundi' be sold?

February 24 2017

Image of Will Leonardo's 'Salvator Mundi' be sold?

Picture: Robert Simon Fine Art

Bloomberg reports that the Russian collector Dmitry Rybolovlev has begun to sell some significant works from his collection, some of them at hefty losses. Thre works sold so far, including a Gauguin, have been sold for a reported loss of in excess of $100m. It has been speculated that some of the sales might be connected to his lawsuit against his former dealer or adviser, Yves Bouvier, who he is suing for over-charging commission. Rybolovlev was not an active Old Master buyer, but one of his star purchases was the newly discovered Leonardo, Salvator Mundi. More here

New Getty online Palmyra project

February 24 2017

Image of New Getty online Palmyra project

Picture: Getty

The Getty museum has devoted its first online exhibition to Palmyra. More here and here

New theory on Constable's rainbow

February 23 2017

Video: EADT

A meteorologist has suggested that the dramatic rainbow in Constable's 'Salisbury Cathedral from the Meadow' may have been added by the artist after the death of his close friend, John Fisher. Reports the East Anglian Daily Times:

John Constable’s close friend John Fisher died on the afternoon of August 25, 1832 – but the original painting was first exhibited in 1831.

Professor Thornes’ findings explain how a re-assessment of the solar geometry of the painting, and Constable’s understanding of contemporary rainbow theory, suggest that the rainbow was added in at a later date as a homage to Mr Fisher.

The end of the rainbow can even be seen to rest on Mr Fisher’s house, where Constable stayed during his visits to Salisbury.

Mr Thornes said: “Constable was a great believer that painting is a science, something that should be pursued with the aim of understanding the laws of nature.

“This approach is clearly applied to the clouds and weather in his works, but it was not the case with all of his depictions of rainbows.

“Unlike clouds, rainbows are seen much less frequently in his work and were therefore often more mysterious in their symbolic function.”

New acquisitions at the Rubenshuis

February 23 2017

Image of New acquisitions at the Rubenshuis

Picture: Standard.be

Regular readers will know that I'm a great fan of the Rubenshuis museum, and indeed Antwerp in general. I find it so exciting to walk in the footsteps, houses, and even studios of the artists I most admire. Did you know that the houses where Van Dyck and Jordaens were born are almost in the same street? There must have been something in the water... Anyway, I was glad to see in De Standaard that the Rubenshuis has been donated two new works, one is a self-portrait by Jordaens, thought perhaps to be a studio work (above left), and another is an Apostle St Matthew by Van Dyck. The self-portrait will be alongside another likeness of Jordaens in the museum, where he is playing the bagpipes

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