Previous Posts: June 2013

Constable's 'Haywain' removed from view

June 28 2013

Image of Constable's 'Haywain' removed from view

Picture: National Gallery

A reader alerts me to the removal of Constable's Haywain from public display, this lunchtime, at the National Gallery. It appears there was an incident involving a sticker of some kind. Let's hope it's nothing too serious. More as I get it. 

Update - our witness tells us:

Was looking at the National's newly purchased Maulbertsch (not great) at around 1.00 when the (rarely seen) art handling team rushed passed with an empty trolley heading for the blocked off English room.  Minutes later they returned by the same route with The Haywain loaded up - I couldn't see clearly but there appeared to be a sticker showing the head of a child roughly where a load on the fording cart in the foreground would be.

Update II - the damage isn't serious. A photo was stuck to the picture by a Fathers for Justice protester. This is the second FforJ protest recently that has involved defacing paintings. Protesting dads everywhere, stop being so bloody daft. 

More apologies (and another plug)

June 27 2013

Image of More apologies (and another plug)

Picture: Philip Mould & Co.

...more woeful service at the moment I'm afraid. Blame the 12 hour days on the stand at Masterpiece and preparing for Master Paintings Week. So I may be quiet for a few days - sorry. In the meantime, here's an interesting, recently discovered self-portrait we're showing at Masterpiece. It's by Henry Wyatt, was painted in London in 1826, and was spotted by Philip Mould in a sale in the US, where it was called an unknown gent. A nice repatriation I think. More details here.

Update - more plugging! Here's a photo of our new selling exhibition, 'Sir Peter Lely and his Circle', at Philip Mould & Company, which I've just finished hanging. If you'd like to come, it's open every day till next Friday, as part of Master Paintings Week. We have eight Lelys below, of which four are previously unknown.


June 25 2013

Image of Guffwatch

Picture: Christie's

You and I might think that the above picture is just an 84 x 108 inch canvas covered with about twenty quid's worth of chewing gum. But this is not any ordinary gum. It has been chewed and stuck onto the canvas by Dan Colen (b.1979), and was sold this evening at Christie's, London, for £481,875. Suck on that, Wrigleys. 

Here's a vintage piece of breathless guff from the Christie's catalogue:

Playful and brazen, Untitled, 2010 is an energetic blend of the real world and the abstract. Scattering a multitude of brightly coloured chewed pieces of gum across a vast surface of a traditional canvas in an explosion of primary colour, Dan Colen creates a fascinatingly dense, intricate and animated abstract surface, transforming a ubiquitous object of the everyday into a vibrant monument of urban modernity. In a witty inversion of trompe l'oeil that embraces the possibilities created in a post-Pop era of modern art, Untitled instantly recalls the revolutionary drip paintings of Jackson Pollock, and the automatism common amongst many Surrealist and avant-garde American painters. Harnessing the gestural energy of a performance piece and tethering it to the expressive immediacy of abstraction, the artist demonstrates his mischievous ability to surprise and engage the viewer.

In case you missed it, here's an earlier post explaining how auction houses come up with this sort of thing.

And here's what Dan has to say about his gum paintings (for, yay, there is more than one) himself:

I started using the gum like paint. Certain canvases would have gum stretched from the center outward, creating 'hypnotic' spirals. I've also done a series of Bazooka Joe joke paintings, with the comics stuck to the gum. But most of the pieces are just about playing with the gum and building up layers until they finish themselves. They turn into a mess but remain beautiful (in my eyes)... I'm in a special, or at least particular, place right now that allows me to be very playful with my work... My conceptual development and working processes function differently without due dates-not for better or worse, just for a change of pace. Because of this situation these gum paintings were almost able to make themselves. I fell in love with them immediately'.

A Tweet from The Art Newspaper tells us that the gum painting was bought by dealer Larry Gagosian, who represents Colen: 

Gagosian keeps his artist in play - buys Dan Colen chewing gum piece for £400,000, low estimate

Always good to keep the prices up!

Update - dealer Mark Mitchell writes, on his blog:

If this piece could bear the weight of the interpretation given it in the catalogue, it would surely not be necessary for the artist’s dealer to purchase it, presumably in order to keep its putative value circling high above the clouds of taste, sense and comprehension.  If not a dealer, do you buy such a thing for its aesthetic charm, its intellectual content, its capacity to make you re-see the world, or its spiritual uplift?  Do you buy it for its ironic comment on the consumer-driven society which hatched it (and on which it surfs), or for its expression of the contemporary, fragmented zeitgeist? Is it actually applied, rather than fine, art – like a wall-hanging – chosen to fit an interior by its unique blend of tone and colour?  Is it a self-portrait of the artist, modelled from spit and shaded with DNA, capable of regenerating him at some point in the scientific future?  What of truth, beauty and the human condition would post-apocalyptic man gain from this canvas if he dug it from an archaeological pit in a thousand years’ time, and how would he differentiate it from the floor tiles or rags of curtain in the pit?

Archaeologists of the future! If you have indeed been misfortunate enough to dig up this masticated square of nothingness, do not judge us all by such vapid mistaste - let this blog be evidence that some of us. indeed probably most of us, would rather have had the floor tiles and rags of curtain.

'Should this woman be on a banknote?'

June 25 2013

Image of 'Should this woman be on a banknote?'

Picture: BBC News

Asks the BBC, wondering if Jane Austen qualifies to be on the £10 note. And well she might, but not in the form of the above portrait, for, as regular readers will know, it isn't Jane

Jstor's free access programme

June 25 2013

Image of Jstor's free access programme


Last year I mentioned Jstor's new free access programme. To date, they have just announced, more than one million articles have been read through the Register and Read programme. More here

Fancy a trip to Vienna?

June 24 2013

Image of Fancy a trip to Vienna?

Picture: via

Then why not go on the art historical guided tour to end all guided tours, with Ben Street, who is a lecturer at, amongst other places, Tate Britain and the National Gallery. In November and December this year, he's running tours that will:

[...] coincide with the first ever museum show there of Lucian Freud. The show, the last to be curated in collaboration with the artist (who died in 2011), features ‘Freud’s Freuds’ – the artist’s favourites from his own body of work. The exhibition will be displayed within the Old Master galleries of the Kunsthistorisches Museum, one of the world’s greatest collections of western painting, featuring masterpieces by Raphael, Caravaggio, Vermeer, Breughel, Titian, Rubens and Velazquez, many of whom were direct influences on Freud’s work. We will see these works first hand, and will meet with Jasper Sharp, the curator of the exhibition, who will give us an exclusive introduction to the show and an insight into working with Freud and putting together a major museum show.

We will also visit some of the other treasures the city has to offer, including the museum’s Kunstkammer (hundreds of unusual, intriguing and often bizarre objects collected by the Hapsburgs, which has just gone on display after ten years of restoration), the Secession (featuring Gustav Klimt’s famous Beethoven Frieze), the MUMOK Museum of Modern Art, the world’s best collection of Egon Schiele and Gustav Klimt at the Leopold Museum, and a major exhibition of Matisse and Fauvism at the Albertina, featuring some of the best known works from that period. Oh, and the occasional smaller gallery along the way. Along with stops for coffee, Sachertorte and Wienerschnitzel in Vienna’s famous coffee houses.

You pay your own way for travel and accomodation, and the guided bit is £250.

'Art everywhere' (ctd.)

June 24 2013

Image of 'Art everywhere' (ctd.)

Picture: Shipley Art Gallery

Oh dear - the shortlist for the 'Art Everywhere' scheme I mentioned earlier (where the nation's 'favourite masterpieces' are put on posters around the country) has been revealed - and it's weak. The shortlist was drawn up by:

An A-Team of art lovers including Bob and Roberta Smith, Richard Reed, Art Fund Director Stephen Deuchar and Tate Britain Director Penelope Curtis...

If so, then why is Van Dyck's entry on this list is represented by... a copy (above, from Shipley Art Gallery)? If the images of 'famous British art' on the billboards are just going to be weak copies, isn't the whole exercise a waste of time? If they need a rights-free, and genuine, Van Dyck image, then I'm sure I could sort them out with one. After all, 'Bad Art Everywhere' doesn't really do it for me.

You can see the original Van Dyck here.

Lowry at Tate

June 24 2013

Video: Telegraph

Here's the Telegraph's art critic Richard Dorment and Tate's Helen Little on the new Lowry exhibition at Tate Britain, which opens on the 26th. Dorment comes away unconvinced that Lowry is 'in any way' a great artist. 

Update - a reader writes:

'Without Lowry we would lack an account in paint of the British working class,' says Helen Little. Time for a major William Roberts retrospective, methinks.

Saving Italy

June 23 2013

Video: Monuments Men Foundation

Robert Edsel, the author of Monuments Men (now being made into a film by George Clooney), has a new book out, Saving Italy. Looks like fun, and another useful reminder of just how close we came to losing vast chunks of western art history during the war.

They don't do restitution in Russia

June 23 2013

Image of They don't do restitution in Russia

Picture: Wikipedia

German Chancellor Angela Merkel was forced to abandon plans to open a new exhibition in Moscow, after the Russian government found out that she was going to use the occasion to ask for the return of a star exhibit. The Eberswalde Hoard of gold objects was taken by the Soviets from Berlin in 1945, as war loot, and, like thousands of similar objects, has never been handed back. 

Can I just say...

June 23 2013

...on the basis of this-is-my-blog-and-I'll-rant-if-I-want-to, that Microsoft's new Windows 8 is utterly, head-bangingly useless, and should be avoided at all costs.

Photography at the NPG?

June 23 2013

Image of Photography at the NPG?

Picture: BG

I was cheered to see, on Newsnight on Friday, that the director of the National Portrait Gallery, Sandy Nairne, seemed to indicate that photography might be allowed in the National Portrait Gallery. Sandy's view was, like mine, that being allowed to take photos (if done quietly and considerately) meant that people engaged with the art on display more, not less, and that allowing people to share images would be good for the gallery.

Others, however, feel that allowing photography stops people looking 'properly' at paintings, and that we should compel them to look at art in a certain, traditional way. 

That said, I was sorry to hear of this reader's experience of the Queen's Gallery, where they do allow photography:

Went to the excellent exhibition at the Queen’s Gallery yesterday and, very efficiently, the warders asked me to put my mobile on silent while in there: I liked this as it suggested there would be a suitable atmosphere for concentration and it was also, of course, a mark of consideration for other visitors.   How wrong I was!  I can honestly say that I have never been to show where there were more unnecessary distractions. 

Aside from the commentaries on audio guides providing a distant background noise through headsets, many people had downloaded the app for their phones and spent most of their time standing in front of works searching through and reading the content rather than looking – I think there may have been audio content on this as well to add to the sound effects.  Then there were the cameras – all seemed to have electronic shutter noises as these were going off constantly.  Not to mention the fact that the happy snappers seemed to spend a great deal of time lining up their shots – I watched one gentleman carefully scan a case – and just the case - for minutes before quickly taking a photo (loudly) of an object and then walk off.

What made all this worse was the, otherwise, silence of the tomb atmosphere – as I was with friends, we seemed to be disturbing the company by actually have discussions in front of objects.

Shock! The Great Brian likes something

June 23 2013

Image of Shock! The Great Brian likes something

Picture: Evening Standard

Brian Sewell liked the new 'Crisis of Brilliance 1908-22' exhibition at Dulwich Picture Gallery so much that he began his review with the word 'wow'. 

Fret not, however, for he was back on usual disapproving form with scathing reviews of two exhibitions at the National Gallery; the Michael Landy saints thingy, and the display of early additions to the Barber Collection.


June 21 2013

Image of Apologies...

Picture: BG

For the woeful lack of posts yesterday and today. We're in the thick of preparing for the Masterpiece fair, so it's a little busy at the moment. 

Update: we hung most of the stand yesterday (above) which, as a frustrated curator, is something I always enjoy. Star of the show at the front will be a rarely seen miniature by Nicholas Hilliard, whilst inside we'll have works by the likes of Augustus John, Sir Joshua Reynolds, and Cornelius Johnson. And they're all for sale! We've also got some exciting discoveries, but I'll save these for later. Regular readers may be able to guess who one of them is by...

The fair opens on Thursday. If you would like a ticket, let me know (how's that for service?)

'Finding Van Dyck'

June 19 2013

Image of 'Finding Van Dyck'

Picture: Philip Mould & Co.

If you want to know all about how to tell the difference between a real Van Dyck and a copy, or indeed a studio work, then the catalogue for our 2011 Van Dyck exhibition is now online

Update - a reader writes:

I like your blog and your wit

I have nothing against an internet catalogue, but why publish an e-catalogue for your new exhibition "Rediscovering Van Dyck" if nearly half of the photographs when you browse it online are missing due to copyright problems?

The exhibition was in 2011. All the photos were of course published in the original printed catalogue. This sold out promptly, and we felt that it might be useful to put the catalogue online. However, although we had paid handsomely for the right to reproduce photos in the printed catalogue, many institutions wanted an eye-waterginly high additional fee for publishing online, even in low resolution. Some refused altogether. So there are some gaps. Quick Googling will take you to the images in question (which shows how daft much of this rights and permission businesss is.)

'It's deeper than you think'

June 19 2013

Video: ICA

'Keep your Timber Limber' is the title of a new exhibition at the Institute of Contemporary Arts in London, which opens today. It includes 'F****d by Numbers', a drawing of a giant penis by Judith Bernstein, which, she says in the above video, is 'deeper than you think', and a profound reflection on the Iraq war.

Curator Sarah McCrory says of the exhibits, including Bernstein's:

One common aspect [...] is a high level of technical skill - these are artists who often confounded critics of their subject matter unable to condemn their technique.

So you can't dislike 'F****d by Numbers', because it is so exquisitely drawn.

Mauritshuis at the Frick

June 19 2013

Image of Mauritshuis at the Frick

Picture: Mauritshuis

Double plus fun in New York this autumn. From the Frick Collection:

This fall and winter, The Frick Collection will be the final venue of an American tour of paintings from the Royal Picture Gallery Mauritshuis, The Hague. This prestigious Dutch museum, which has not lent a large body of works from its holdings in nearly thirty years, is undergoing an extensive two-year renovation that makes this opportunity possible. Vermeer, Rembrandt, and Hals: Masterpieces of Dutch Painting from the Mauritshuis will be on view in New York from October 22, 2013, through January 19, 2014. Among the paintings featured are the famous Girl with a Pearl Earring by Johannes Vermeer and The Goldfinch by Carel Fabritius, neither of which will have been seen by American audiences in ten years. The exhibition in New York-- which will be accompanied by a catalogue and a series of public programs and select evening hours-- is coordinated by Margaret Iacono, Assistant Curator at the Frick.  The works were selected by Edwin Buijsen, Head of Collections at the Mauritshuis and former Frick Deputy Director and Peter Jay Sharp Chief Curator Colin B. Bailey.

Annoyingly, it looks like the exhibition closes just as I'll be heading out for the January Old Master sales. 

Art Basel

June 19 2013

Video: Vernissage TV

If you didn't make it to this year's Art Basel, the world's leading contemporary art fair, here's what you missed. Or possibly didn't. 

Who was Frank Holl?

June 19 2013

Video: Watts Gallery

Answer, one of the many good late Victorian painters you've probably never heard of. Now, the Watts Gallery in Surrey is hosting an exhibition of his work, the first for over 100 years. A review in The Guardian says:

When the last major exhibition of the work of Frank Holl was held, his paintings were shown beside those of JMW Turner and both were described as "deceased masters of the British School".

As it turned out, that exhibition at the Royal Academy in 1889, the year after the artist worked himself to death at the age of 43, was almost the last the world heard of Holl – until this week, when Watts Gallery in Surrey attempts to drag him back into the light.

The collapse of Holl's reputation was swift and spectacular. Soon after his death in July 1888 of heart failure, a memorial fund was set up with the intention of buying a major work for the national collection and building an imposing monument in St Paul's Cathedral. The appeal was abandoned after just six months when only £600 had been collected – though it did pay for a modest memorial at St Paul's, with a fine portrait bust by Alfred Gilbert.

What is a "Museum Price"?

June 18 2013

Image of What is a "Museum Price"?

Pic: Christies

Here at our gallery it means a super low discount price! But does it mean something very different for auction houses? 

A reader reminds me that two of the pictures on offer in the forthcoming Old Master sales, the Jan Steen and the Vernet, were, as tax exempted items of cultural interest, formally made available to UK museums some months before being sent to auction. Each picture was listed at what now transpires to be the upper estimate: the Steen [above] was being marketed to museums at a 'guide price' of £10m, and is now estimated by Christie's at £7-10m (and I'll eat my trousers if it gets much beyond the low estimate), while the Vernet was on offer at £5m, which is the high end of Sotheby's estimate of £3-5m.

As the Arts Council warned any museums interested in the pictures:

The practice of the auction houses is usually to pitch this at their high auction estimate or, sometimes, even higher.

Update: my earlier version of this story got the estimate for the Steen wrong - apologies!

Update II: as my fellow dealer Johnny Van Haeften often says; 'with dealers the price can only ever come down - but at auction it only goes up'.

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