Previous Posts: April 2011

Tracy Emin does the Royal Wedding

April 30 2011

Image of Tracy Emin does the Royal Wedding

In about seven seconds, by the look of it. Still, hats off to her and The Independent for originality. 

A marriage portrait?

April 29 2011

Image of A marriage portrait?

Picture: Royal Collection

Will the royal wedding be commemorated on canvas? Unlikely, if precedent is anything to go by. Weddings are difficult to paint, and until the 19th Century royal weddings were relatively low-key affairs, celebrated behind closed doors. You will struggle to find an oil painting of a royal wedding.

To any of my American readers who feel you're missing out on the Royal fun, above is a depiction of the wedding of George III - your last King - and Queen Charlotte, by Joshua Reynolds. More on the Royal Collection website here.

Royal Wedding Special!

April 29 2011

Image of Royal Wedding Special!

Here at Art History News we bring you all the art historical references to the big day. There's not many, to be honest with you, so bear with me...

The news has just been announced that Prince William will be given the title Duke of Cambridge. If William looks to his left when he comes out of Horse Guards and travels down Whitehall to Westminster Abbey he will see a bronze equestrian statue (above) of the last Duke of Cambridge, Prince George (1819-1904). The Duke was Commander in Chief of the British Army during Queen Victoria's reign - a role that William will one day assume.

The statue is by Adrian Jones, and was unveiled in 1907. Jones also made the four horsed Peace Quadriga atop the Wellington Arch at Hyde Park Corner. Read all about Jones here

One interesting thing to note about William's new title is what form the 'patent' will take. The patent is the document drawn up by the College of Arms and issued by the Queen to make William a Duke. Now, most peerages state specifically in the patent that they are to descend through the holder's 'heirs male' - ie., sons only. But amid all the talk of the laws of royal male primogeniture being changed to allow William and Kate's first child to be monarch - regardless of sex - will the patent to the dukedom of Cambridge be issued to 'heirs general', which will allow a girl to inherit the title? The wording may provide an intriguing glimpse into how the Queen sees the male primogeniture debate playing out... 

Wannabe a curator?

April 28 2011

Image of Wannabe a curator?

The Art Fund is to sponsor two trainee curatorships at the National Gallery. Apply here (by May 27th).

Art History Futures - Ivory Coast edition

April 28 2011

Image of Art History Futures - Ivory Coast edition

Picture: Stefan Meisel/BBC

In Ivory Coast, a number of artists have been painting scenes from the recent fighting around Abidjan. Pictured is Abdoulaye Diarrasouba, known as Aboudia. More on the BBC website here.

'Prices have climbed back dramatically'

April 27 2011

Image of 'Prices have climbed back dramatically'

Picture: Christie's (detail)

Sotheby's and Christie's have been unveiling highlights of their forthcoming June modern art auctions. Picasso leads the way, and with estimates that seem to be climbing ever higher. From Bloomberg:

Owners of valuable 20th-century trophies have become more confident about selling after record prices last year. Picasso’s 1932 Marie-Therese painting “Nude, Green Leaves and Bust” fetched $106.5 million -- the most for any artwork at auction -- at Christie’s, New York, in May 2010. A simpler portrait of her may fetch as much as $35 million at Sotheby’s New York in May.

“Prices have climbed back dramatically,” David Leiber, director of the New York-based gallery Sperone Westwater, said in an interview. “For the classic works, collectors like the spectacle of buying at auction.”

Can the frenzy possibly last? Perhaps, but as I said a while ago, if you want to be sure of banking a good price for your Picasso, I'd sell it now. On the other hand, if you have an Old Master, I'd keep it - is anything pre-1800 beginning to feel seriously under-valued?

The most engaging picture coming up in June (at Christie's) must be Picasso's Jeune Fille Endormie. It will surely beat its estimate of £9-12million - at least, I hope it does, for, thanks to an anonymous donor, the proceeds are going to medical research at the University of Sydney. 


April 27 2011

Image of Puntastic

Picture: Christie's

Sub-editors reached for the puns when Christie's announced that a Francis Bacon triptych self-portrait would be one of the highlights of their 11th May contemporary art sale in New York. Here's two of my favourites:

'Triptych set to bring home the Bacon' - ABC

'Demand for Bacon Sizzles' - The Irish Independent

In the catalogue, the picture is marked 'estimate on request', which is auction-speak for 'if you have to ask the price, you can't afford it'. The picture has been guaranteed to sell by Christie's, with a figure of $20m being mentioned.

Caravaggio in Kentucky

April 27 2011

Image of Caravaggio in Kentucky

Caravaggio's 1595 'The Fortune Teller' is to be loaned to the Speed Art Museum in Kentucky, from 18th May to 5th June. The painting is being lent by the Capitoline Museums in Rome. More here

V&A's Constables cleaned

April 26 2011

Image of V&A's Constables cleaned

Picture: V&A

From Martin Bailey in The Art Newspaper:

Constable's iconic oil sketches for The Hay Wain and The Leaping Horse have been cleaned for the first time since they came to the Victoria and Albert Museum (V&A) in 1862. They are currently on show at Stuttgart's Staatsgalerie (until 3 July), as part of a touring exhibition that travels to America next year.

Full story here.

China and art - the next bubble?

April 26 2011

Image of China and art - the next bubble?

Picture: The Atlantic

Derek Thompson in The Atlantic asks if China's phenomenal spending in the art market is taking the form of a bubble, and finds a potential answer from Vikram Mansharamani, author of Boombustology - Spotting Financial Bubbles Before they Burst:

Once again, China has surpassed the United States in a key economic number. No, it's not GDP. It's art. In four years, China has zoomed past us from the world's fourth-biggest fine art scene to the world's largest auction market for art.


In the last 20 years, Sotheby's mostly stable stock has experienced four sharp peaks. In the late 1980s, Japan had been "the center of gravity" in the international art market. But its economy imploded, sending Sotheby's stock reeling. Ten years later, the Internet bubble drove another auction boom among Silicon Valley newbies, and the bubble burst again. Ten years later, we watched the same film play out. This year could be deja vu, all over again ... all over again. 

The graph they use is a little silly - you could draw the same conclusions from a vast array of stocks that went up when the economy was booming and went down when it wasn't.

There may well be a bubble in China at the moment, judging by the government's increasingly desperate attempts to bring prices under control. But it doesn't take many people to make a bull market in the art world (witness the pre-Raphaelite boom in the 1990s), and I reckon there are enough new Chinese millionaires to keep prices rising for a while yet. 

Looking for Lowry

April 26 2011

Image of Looking for Lowry

Sir Ian McKellen's excellent documentary of Lowry is available here for another month or so. If you can't deal with the slow loading speed and adverts, order the DVD here

'Interdit de photographier'

April 26 2011

The debate on photography in museums continues - in France. The Musée D'Orsay has banned it altogether. But the Fédération Française des Sociétés d'Amis de Musées has passed a motion saying it should be permitted everywhere. I agree with Les Amis. More here

I recently mentioned the Royal Collection's most excellent decision to allow photography in the Queen's Gallery.  

Happy Easter everybody

April 24 2011

Image of Happy Easter everybody

Picture: Gainsborough's House. 'The Descent from the Cross' by Thomas Gainsborough, after Sir Peter Paul Rubens.

Have a nice holiday. Normal blogging again on Tuesday.

Austrian Klimt restituted

April 23 2011

Image of Austrian Klimt restituted

Picture: Salzburg Museum der Moderne Kunst

The regional government of Salzburg has announced the restitution of Gustav Klimt's Litzlburg am Attersee. It was acquired in 1941. From Bloomberg:

The 1915 picture belonged to Amalie Redlich until she was deported to Poland in 1941 and murdered. The Gestapo cleared her apartment after her forced departure. The painting will now return to her grandson and heir, Georges Jorisch, Salzburg said.

More here

Cowdray collection to be sold

April 21 2011

Image of Cowdray collection to be sold

Picture: Daily Mail

Another aristocratic art collection bites the dust - this time that of the Viscounts Cowdray. The house, Cowdray Park, has been on the market for a while (asking price £25m), and now the pictures are going too, at Christie's. The highlight will be a full-length Gainsborough of Miss Read (above the piano), with an estimate of £6m.

It's all part of a process of 'rationalisation', apparently. Lord Cowdray describes the house as a 'noose around his neck.' Nice noose.

Pastel exhibition at the Met

April 21 2011

Image of Pastel exhibition at the Met

Picture: Metropolitan Museum. Viscount Boyle by Rosalba

Here's a rarity - an exhibition of 18th Century pastels at the Metropolitan Museum, New York. The Met says:

Pastel Portraits: Images of 18th-Century Europe—on view at The Metropolitan Museum of Art beginning May 17, 2011—will feature about 40 pastels from the collections of the Metropolitan Museum and other museums, and from private collections in Boston and New York. At the core of the exhibition will be a group of French works, and the Italian, Swiss, German, and English schools will also represented.

Closes August 14th.

The Leonardo loan...

April 21 2011 definitely on. After months of indecision, Poland's ministry of culture has agreed that the picture can travel to London, Berlin and Madrid. Some conservationists had argued against the loan, but the picture's owner, Count Czartoryski, had appealed for it to go ahead. The picture has been in the possession of the Czartoryski family since the late 18th Century. 

Finding Van Dyck

April 20 2011

Image of Finding Van Dyck

Picture: Philip Mould Ltd

I try to avoid plugs on this website, but here's a shameless one; at Philip Mould Ltd this summer we'll be having a loan exhibition called 'Finding Van Dyck: newly discovered and rarely seen works by Van Dyck and his followers.' It runs from 15th June - 13th July.

In a nutshell, the exhibition will look at why paintings lose their attributions and identities, becoming in the process art history's orphans. We'll explain the steps involved in finding these lost pictures, and demonstrate how, for example, you can tell the difference between a Van Dyck and a copy. Above are four portraits of Van Dyck. Pat yourself on the back if you can guess which one is by him.

I'll post more details nearer the time. A catalogue will be available. 

Hockney sale at Bonhams

April 20 2011

Image of Hockney sale at Bonhams

Picture: Bonhams

The top price today was £66,000 for An Image of Celia, above. One of the other anticipated works, George, Blanche, Celia, Albert and Percy, didn't sell (est. £15-20,000).


April 20 2011

Image of Superlative-itis

Picture: Sotheby's

How many hyperbolic superlatives can you fit into an opening paragraph? In their catalogue entry, Sotheby's goes for the record over Jeff Koons' $20-30m Pink Panther:

Representing the highest tier of Jeff Koons' artistic achievement, Pink Panther from 1988 is immediately identifiable as a masterpiece not only of the artist's historic canon, but also of the epoch of recent Contemporary Art. It conflates the classic themes that define Jeff Koons' output - materiality and artificiality, eroticism and naivety, popular culture and rarefied elitism – and is, quite simply, the model expression of one of the most innovative and influential artists of our times. The elite edition of three plus one artist's proof is immensely illustrious: one version is housed in the Museum of Modern Art, New York and another resides in the Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago. Following the spectacular successes of major exhibitions at Versailles; Neue Nationalgalerie, Berlin; the Metropolitan Museum of Art; the Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago; and the Serpentine Gallery, London in the past two years alone, Jeff Koons' critical reputation today is virtually unmatched. As one of the salient works from a period of astounding development within his career, Pink Panther is a sculpture of enduring art historical significance, and its appearance at auction affords an exceedingly rare opportunity.

Someone should write a Google Translate programme for this sort of thing. 

Compare the above with Sotheby's more restrained and readable opening paragraph for their catalogue entry for Titian's Sacra Conversazione, which holds the auction record for a work by Titian at $16.8m: [More below]

Read More

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