Previous Posts: November 2016

Christie's 'Classic Week'

November 23 2016

Video: Christie's

I'm still getting used to the 'classic art' tag now favoured by Christie's, but I think it works.

Sotheby's new Chatsworth series

November 23 2016

Video: Sotheby's

This looks good - a new video series on Chatsworth and the history of its collections. Above is a trailer; the first part appears on 28th November. Its apparently presented by 'Hunstman', whoever he or she is.

Update - my bad; Huntsman is a venerable firm of tailors on London's Savile Row. 

New Hockney window at Westminster Abbey

November 23 2016

Image of New Hockney window at Westminster Abbey

Picture: Guardian

Exciting news that David Hockney is to design a new window at Westminser Abbey (at right in the photo) in honour of HM the Queen. More here

Tate archives

November 23 2016

Video: Tate

I've spent many happy hours in the Tate archive. Here's a good new video on some of the treasures you'll find there.

Early Irish art

November 23 2016

Image of Early Irish art

Picture: Irish Academic Press

I like this look of this new book on Irish art in the early modern period, available here

'Re-discovered' Kahlo

November 23 2016

Image of 'Re-discovered' Kahlo

Picture: Sotheby's

On twitter, Sotheby's tells us that the above Frida Kahlo was 're-discovered' just this summer. It sold yesterday for $1.8m. But the catalogue entry states that the picture was illustrated in Kahlo literature in 1998 and 2008. We have to work a lot harder for our re-discoveries in the Old Master world. 

Edinburgh's Smoking Maori Chieftainess

November 23 2016

Image of Edinburgh's Smoking Maori Chieftainess

Picture: Lyon & Turnbull

Another picture that caught my eye in tomorrow's Lyon & Turnbull sale was the above picture by J F Goldie, of a Maori chietaness called Te Hei smoking a pipe. The estimate is £50k-£80k. Yesterday in New Zealand another Goldie sold for NZ$265k, about £150k.

Update - it made £203k!

Rockwell vs Trump

November 23 2016

Image of Rockwell vs Trump

Picture: Huffington Post

There's a fascinating piece on Huffington Post, written by Norman Rockwell's granddaughter, Abigail. It seems an important picture was moved in the White House specifically for Donald Trump's meeting with Barack Obama:

A painting by Norman Rockwell was moved in the Oval Office for the first meeting between President Obama and Mr. Trump so it would hang over Mr. Trump’s shoulder. In the painting the torch of the Statue of Liberty is being repaired by five men, one of whom is an African-American. All of them are precariously roped to her flame.

Who moved the painting and why? It is clearly too small for that space; a larger landscape painting had hung there previously. Originally the Rockwell painting was displayed to the right of President Obama’s desk and the expansive window, over a Frederick Remington sculpture, The Bronco Buster.

What is the meaning of this gesture? Most of my grandfather Norman Rockwell’s paintings are about tolerance, unity and the inherent goodness and resilience of the human spirit. The reflection of that vision and the profound presence of Martin Luther King, Jr. in the bust below, by African-American sculptor Charles Alston, speak volumes without saying a word. Perhaps they are able to say what Obama could not in these circumstances of necessary protocol.

"Sold!" Christie's on the BBC

November 21 2016

Image of "Sold!" Christie's on the BBC

Picture: BBC

There's a new two-part series about Christie's on BBC2 (and iPlayer here). It's not the programme I'd have made, and has more than an air of informercial about it. Christie's will be pleased with the publicity. But it rolls along well enough, and there's some good characters (collector Adam Lindemann is always good value). I was glad to see fellow blogger Marion Maneker, of Art Market Monitor, equipping himself well - bravo!

Who should pay for the upkeep of Buckingham Palace?

November 21 2016

Image of Who should pay for the upkeep of Buckingham Palace?


There's been a hoo-ha here in the UK over news that an extra £36.9m is to be provided by the government to refurbish Buckingham Palace. The programme will last for next ten years, so the total will therefore be £369m. 

Many have expressed outrage that 'the Royals' are getting this extra cash. There's the inevitable petition, and of course some over the top online comments:

the richest woman in the country should not be given, or take handouts from the government whilst there's kids living in poverty, pensioners freezing to death and the country is on its knees. Remember the Romanovs?

The Labour party has said the Queen should 'do the decent thing' and pay for this herself - despite the fact that the Palace is not 'hers', and is almost exclusively used for public events throughout the year. 

I used to work at Buckingham Palace, many years ago, during one of their Summer openings. Even then it was obvious that behind the scenes (and sometimes in front too) the place was getting tired around the edges. The money is to be spent not on redecoration or luxury, but on humdrum things like re-wiring. It's essential maintenance, required to make sure the place doesn't burn down or fall down.

So I hope the government doesn't do a U-turn on this. Of course, we're only in this position because spending on general maintenance is never done with public buildings; we wait till it's about to collapse, and then panic. Another royal palace, Westminster, is a good example - that requires a refurbishment costing billions.

London Old Master catalogues online

November 21 2016

Image of London Old Master catalogues online

Picture: Bonhams

The December Old Master auction catalogues are online: Sotheby's evening sale here, day sale here; Christie's evening here, day here; and Bonhams here. There are many fine pictures, including a handsome newly re-discovered oil sketch by Constable at Bonhams (above, £200k-£300k). I've written a short preview of the sales for The Art Newspaper, and will post more thoughts on the offerings soon.

Of course my usual service for AHN readers applies - if want me to look at anything just ask.

This is still not Shakespeare (ctd.) (ctd.)

November 21 2016

Image of This is still not Shakespeare (ctd.) (ctd.)

Picture: BG

Back in 2013, when I was just getting started on the whole 'this is not Shakespeare' thing, I harrumphed about a pub in Victoria using the wrong portrait.

Passing it the other day I was glad to see that the local pigeons agree with me.

Sotheby's latest guarantee gamble

November 21 2016

Image of Sotheby's latest guarantee gamble

Picture: Art Market Monitor

Marion Maneker has a good overview of Sotheby's handling of the $100m Ames collection of modern art, which was the auction houses's first big guarantee deal in the sector since their £50m acquisition of Art Agency Partners. Maneker reports that the Ames deal paid off, but it's risky stuff of course, and he was puzzled by an increasing use of razzmatazz for these major auctions:

Sotheby’s continues to inexplicably try to enhance the drama of its evening sale of Contemporary art by bathing the room in ballroom blue lights and running a video introduction to the event. The effort is inexplicable because last night’s saleroom was remarkably sparse with several empty sections of seats and a number of bidders seated in farther back than one might like to get the “excitement” going.

Art history ads (ctd.)

November 21 2016

Video: Domino's Pizza

Domino's has used some famous Old Masters in their latest advertising campaign. Say what you like about modern art, but Rothko doesn't sell pizzas.

New curator post at the National Trust

November 21 2016

Image of New curator post at the National Trust

Picture: National Trust

The National Trust is looking for a new Director of Curation and Experience. The idea, and I think it's a good one, is to elevate a curatorial voice to the board level of the Trust. The job description is full of the usual buzzwords about 'interpretation', but I was reassured to see that one of the criteria is; you will be recognised as an expert'. I hope this means an expert in actual historical objects, rather than beanbags.

The salary is £120,000. Closing date 1st December. More details here.

Fitzwilliam frame appeal

November 21 2016

Video: Fitzwilliam Museum

The Fitzwilliam Museum is hoping to raise the final £70,000 of a £345,000 target to secure an extremely rare 1690s frame. The frame, as discussed by director Tim KNox in the video above, celebrated two important naval victories by Adrmieal Russel during the Nine Years War. More details here, and on the Frame Blog here.  

Re-discovered Copley in Edinburgh

November 21 2016

Image of Re-discovered Copley in Edinburgh

Picture: Lyon & Turnbull

Lyon & Turnbull here in Edinburgh is my 'local' auction house. It's premises are a rather glorious 18th Century chapel. This week they'll be auctioning a previously unknown portrait thought to be by John Singleton Copley, the American artist who came to practice in England in 1774. Long called 'Copley', it appears to have escaped the attention of the Copley literature until now, and is therefore catalogued rather cautiously as 'attributed to Copley'. I saw the picture last week, and though I'm no Copley expert I think it is most likely by him. There's a related picture in the US (the sitter served in Fraser's Highlanders during the American Revolution) which was also called Copley. The estimate is rather enticing, at £20k-£30k. More here.

Update - it fetched only £23k. Some doubts about that 'attributed to'?

David Bowie's Tintoretto (ctd.)

November 20 2016

Image of David Bowie's Tintoretto (ctd.)

Picture: Sotheby's

A happy update to my report on the Tintoretto sold from the David Bowie collection - it will now be going on long-term loan to the Rubenshuis museum in Antwerp. Rubens made many copies after Tintoretto.

Van Gogh's lost sketchbook?

November 20 2016

Video: CBC

The publication of an apparently 'lost' sketchbook by Van Gogh - available for sale here in facsimile - has caused a dispute amongst Van Gogh scholars. The book, never before recorded was supposedly discovered in the same area in France, Arles, where Van Gogh left it shortly before he died. It has been in a cupboard more or less ever since, the owners being unaware of what it was. In the video above we see Bogomila Welsh-Ovcharov, the Canadian art historian and Van Gogh specialist, say why she is convinced they are by Van Gogh. She is supported by others who have written on Van Gogh, including Ronald Pickvance.

But here is a strong and confident take down by the Van Gogh museum, who have rejected the attribution of the drawings, and say the whole thing is a clever fake. Intriguingly, the museum refers to "various owners of drawings from the album", which implies the album has been sold to multiple parties, presumably as a speculation. 

I'm no Van Gogh expert by any stretch, so can't begin to comment on the authenticity. Except to say that I find some of the portraits to be quite modern in their characterisation. 

Nicholas II portrait found behind Lenin

November 20 2016

Video: Russia Today

After the Russian Revolution, artist Vladislav Izmailovich was tasked with painting many portraits of Lenin. When conservators recently repaired one of his works, at the St. Petersburg’s Stieglitz Art and Industry Academy, they discovered that in one case he had re-used a portrait of Nicholas II. The Lenin portrait was not painted directly over Nicholas, but on the reverse of the canvas. The Nicholas portrait was covered up, but only with 'washable paint', and thus able to be removed decades later in a different political climate. Comrade Izmailovich, AHN salutes you!

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