Previous Posts: November 2016

Waldemar on the Turner Prize

November 17 2016

Image of Waldemar on the Turner Prize

Picture: BBC

The great Waldemar has a new programme about the Turner Prize on BBC2 this Saturday, 10.10pm. More here

Who'll save £1.2m Hogarth?

November 17 2016

Image of Who'll save £1.2m Hogarth?

Picture: ACE/Guardian

The UK government has placed a temporary export bar on a £1.2m Hogarth painting, the Christening, which has been sold to an overseas buyer. A UK museum or private buyer has up to six months to make a matching offer. More here.

Landseer's 'Monarch of the Glen' to be sold (ctd.)

November 17 2016

Image of Landseer's 'Monarch of the Glen' to be sold (ctd.)

Picture: BBC

The sale of Landseer's famous 'Monarch of the Glen' at Christie's in December has been halted. It has now been offered to the National Galleries of Scotland for £4m. The upper estimate at Christie's, while not made public, was thought to have been £10m. The NGS has launched an appeal.

I can't quite understand what Diageo, who own the picture, are playing at. Either they need the money or they don't. They planned to sell it because it no longer served any purpose for the core business, they said. But then it transpired that there would be a PR price to pay if the picture ended up overseas. All of which was very predictable. And indeed I am told that senior voices within the company said as much before the decision was made. 

So now they've decided to withdraw the painting (one wonders if they've paid the usual hefty fees associated with this, I presume so), and offered the picture to the NGS for a bargain price. But the thing is Diageo still looks mean, and as having no regard for Scottish heritage. £4m is just over .13% of last year's total profits of £3billion. It's the sort of decision that only some soulless management person could make. They should either give it to the NGS outright or let it stay there on long term loan. 

Update - a reader writes:

Under the Cultural Gifts Scheme, Diageo can claim 20 % of the value of a gift as a tax deduction. On the reported valuation of £10 million for the Landseer, this would be £2 million. They have apparently decided to give away half of the remaining value, and asked the NGS to find the balance of £4 million. Under the CGS, this must happen in the current tax year, hence, presumably, the deadline of April for the fund-raising. 

Hockney's 'Woldgate Woods'

November 17 2016

Video: Sotheby's

Sotheby's are selling one of Hockney's late, large landscapes tonight. The estimate is $9m-$12m. I like these pictures, and loved the RA exhibition. There's something rather anaesthetising about the Sotheby's commentary in the video above.

Update - it made $11.7m

Sewell's National Gallery bequest

November 17 2016

Image of Sewell's National Gallery bequest

Picture: National Gallery

A bequest by the late Great Brian to the National Gallery was announced today. From the NG press release:

"As a child, there was not a major museum or art gallery in London I didn’t know, and the National Gallery was my favourite.” (Brian Sewell interviewed in The Daily Telegraph, June 2012)

The legendary Evening Standard art critic would often talk about the weekly visits he made to the National Gallery as a child imbuing him with his love of art, indeed he once quipped “I’m leaving my body to science, and if there’s anything left, they can burn it, mix the ashes with bird food and scatter them on the steps of the National Gallery.” (Mail on Sunday, April 2014)

Therefore it is fitting that a much-loved work from his private art collection will today (Thursday 17 November 2016) go on display in the National Gallery, presented as a gift to the Gallery following his death in September 2015.

Maternal Affection is a small (43.5 x 34.5 cm) oil on copper work from 1773 by the French artist Louis-Jean-François Lagrenée. It can be viewed in Room 33 from this morning, alongside works by fellow French painters such as Fragonard, Vernet, and Watteau.

The subject of Maternal Affection cannot be precisely identified.  It takes place in a loggia and shows a woman nursing a child, with another infant held towards her by one of her female companions.  Another woman is placing (or removing) bedding in the form of a pillow in or from a wooden crib. In this picture of quiet contentment Lagrenée has sought balance – balance in the colours of the costumes both of, and between, the individual figures, and balance in composition.  Maternal Affection is highly typical of the small-scale paintings that the artist made for private collectors. 

There are currently 11 paintings by Lagrenée in Great Britain:  seven at Stourhead (National Trust) and four at the Bowes Museum, Barnard Castle - therefore Maternal Affection is the only one by the artist on public display in a national collection. 

Eighteenth-century French paintings are sparsely represented in the Gallery, and this generous gift helps to extend our collection in this area. Maternal Affection also adds to our understanding of the reception of 17th-century Bolognese painting in 18th-century Europe - Lagrenée’s style was greatly influenced by his admiration of the great Bolognese painters of the previous century, in particular the work of Guido Reni. 

Christopher Riopelle, National Gallery Curator of Post-1800 Paintings and Acting Curator of 18-century French painting said: “The painting is a beautifully preserved oil on copper of exquisite refinement which allows the National Gallery for the first time to show the work of an artist who was hugely admired by the most discriminating connoisseurs and collectors of contemporary French art, both French and foreign, in the final decades of the 18th century

National Gallery Director, Dr Gabriele Finaldi said ”Brian Sewell had a profound love for the National Gallery as well as a connoisseur's passion for lesser known masters, so it is especially pleasing that Lagrenée's beautiful and refined Maternal Affection which he owned has come to the Gallery as a gift from his estate.”

Maternal Affection can now be seen in Room 33 of the National Gallery hanging alongside other French 18th-century paintings by artists such as Boucher, Vigée Le Brun, Boilly, Nattier, Detroy, and Vernet.

Update - a reader writes:

I was really happy to see that Brian Sewell did bequeath a painting to the National Gallery.  After the sale of his collection at Christies recently, I thought that he had left them nothing despite his affection for the place. But “Maternal Affection” 1773, by Louis Lagrenee looks a beautiful example of the kind of French 18th Century painting that the NG would never usually acquire---so a fitting tribute to Mr. Sewell’s taste and his eye! 

Tump's fake Renoir

November 17 2016

Image of Tump's fake Renoir

Picture: Mail Online

A Daily Mail inspection of Trump's New York apartment reveals that his wife, Melania, has in her office a copy of Renoir's La Loge. The original is in the Courtauld.


November 17 2016

Image of Apologies

Picture: BG

I'm sorry for the lack of blogging lately, I've been in London cramming in various meetings. First I was at the BBC. Then I went to Windsor to look at some picture files in the Royal Collection; x-rays of a Van Dyck. (By chance I also had a brief audience with the Queen, in the form of her portrait by Lucien Freud, the one The Sun declared to be 'A Travesty Your Majesty' when it was unveiled. As a portrait of the Queen it really tells us hardly anything. It's a far better portrait of Freud.) Then I had a fruitful session at my restorer's in London, where we summoned up the courage to tackle an old layer of overpaint on the background of a head study by Van Dyck. In the photo above you can see some of the swabs. Finally I had some meetings about the ongoing fake Old Master scandal; more on that soon.

I need to file a piece for The Art Newspaper today, then I'll post some articles here later.

'Am I Rembrandt?'

November 14 2016

Video: Dulwich Picture Gallery

There's an interesting new mini-exhibition at the Dulwich Picture Gallery, looking at what is and is not 'a Rembrandt'. (Or rather, 'Rembraaandt' as it's pronounced here).

Curatorial pay (ctd.)

November 14 2016

Image of Curatorial pay (ctd.)

Picture: TAN

AHN likes to keep a sharp eye on curatorial salaries in the UK; they are in many cases worryingly low. I was interested to see The Art Newspaper drawing parallels between curatorial pay grades and those tasked with museum communication in this digital age:

A recent ad for the new communications director post at the Victoria and Albert Museum in London specified that candidates “make best use of existing and emerging social media channels”. The estimated salary for the role is £100,000—around double that of a senior curator at the museum’s planned outpost in east London, advertised last year with a pay band of £36,546 to £54,561.  

The Apollo Awards

November 14 2016

Image of The Apollo Awards

Picture: Palazzo Pitti, via Apollo, Van Dyck's portrait of Cardinal Bentivoglio

The Apollo Magazine Awards shortlist have been announced. There's a bounty of Old Masters in their 'acquisition of the year' category. And the excellent Frick show on Van Dyck's portraiture is in the exhibition category.

Re-discovered Ensor to be sold

November 14 2016

Image of Re-discovered Ensor to be sold

Picture: Artinfo/Sotheby's

A previously unknown work by James Ensor has been identified by Sotheby's and will be sold by them in Paris in December, with an estimate of €1m-€1.5m. More here on Blouin Artinfo. 

Sleeper Alert!

November 14 2016

Image of Sleeper Alert!

Picture: Karl und Faber

The above small 'Florentine School' painting at Karl und Faber auction house in Germany, estimated at €3k-€4k, made €375k last week. The name Filippino Lippi has been suggested, and indeed the cataloguing of the picture on the auction house website has subsequently been amended to say that. Here's a comparable picture in the North Carolina Museum of Art.

'Portrait of the Artist' - review

November 14 2016

Image of 'Portrait of the Artist' - review

Picture: BG

Here's my Financial Times review of the new Royal Collection exhibition, Portrait of the Artist. It's a great show, well worth a visit.

Other reviewers seem to like it too (though most of these are behind a paywall): here's The Times, Telegraph, Evening Standard, Sunday Times. You may need to register to see my FT piece, but the free article allowance there is generous.

The photo above shows Rubens' portrait of Van Dyck. It's a fine picture, but almost more interesting for what it isn't. The gaze is not direct, there isn't any obvious sign Van Dyck is a painter, nor that they were friends or colleagues. It's subtler than that, and all the more powerful for it. Standing in front of it is, for a fan of both Rubens and Van Dyck, really quite profound - you don't often get to see a confluence of so much creative genius in one picture. I didn't have space to mention the picture in the FT piece, and instead focused on the self-portrait element of the show. Interestingly, for a long time Rubens' portrait of Van Dyck was wrongly thought to be a self-portrait. It's far less emphatic than Van Dyck's self-portraits though, and, in terms of determining what Van Dyck was really like, perhaps a useful contrast to them. 

David Bowie's Tintoretto

November 11 2016

Image of David Bowie's Tintoretto

Picture: Sotheby's

As the Art Market Monitor reports, the Bowie Collection evening sale at Sotheby's did well, with all of the 47 lots sold and bringing in a total of £24.3m. I was glad to see that his Tintoretto, above, sold for £191,000 against an estimate of £100,000-£150,000.

'The Fighting Temeraire'

November 11 2016

Image of 'The Fighting Temeraire'

Picture: National Gallery

There was an excellent discussion about the Fighting Temeraire on BBC Radio 4's 'In Our Time' yesterday. Well worth listening to. 

It was mentioned that Turner might not have actually ever seen the scene he depicts, the towing up the Thames of the Temeraire for scrapping on 5/6 September 1838. In fact, as a reader reminds me, we know Turner can't have seen it, as he was in the South of France at the time, near Nice. Some of the products of that tour can be seen in the current Turner Contemporary show, J M W Turner, Adventures in Colour.

Mixing old and new

November 11 2016

Video: Christie's

I'm glad to see Christie's making the effort to break down barriers between classic art (as we must now call it) and contemporary art. 

Waldemar on Abstract Expressionism

November 11 2016

Video: ZCZ Films

Here's the great Waldemar on the Royal Academy's new Abstract Expressionism show. Terrific - well worth a click.

Restituted Constable to be sold

November 10 2016

Image of Restituted Constable to be sold

Picture: TAN

A paintng by Constable acquired by the Tate in 1962 has been restituted to the heirs of a Hungarian baron. It will be offered for sale at Christie's in London in December with an estimate of £500k-£800k. Tate fought hard against the restitution for a number of years. 


November 9 2016

Image of Trumperica

Picture: The Met, detail of Rubens' c.1613 'Atalanta & Meleager'

Well would you believe it; President Trump. Rubens, above, foresaw him over 400 years ago. And AHN called it for him back in September - but takes no satisfaction in that now. We have no choice but to wish him the best - though many may reserve the right to fear the worst. Good luck America; over here in the UK we'll be with you, as we always are.

Update - Marion Maneker wonders what a Trump presidency might mean for the art market. It's too early to say, he notes, but; 

But in the first reckonings of what might affect the art market, there are at least two important issues worth acknowledging. The first is that global instability and doubt will tend to accelerate the process of money going into alternative stores of value. In plain english, there’s good reason to believe buyers will continue to shift cash into art and jewels instead of financial instruments like treasury bonds or, even, equities.

The second issue is a macroeconomic shift toward inflation. Low interest rates have been presumed to continue indefinitely. But already some of Trump’s likely advisors are calling for aggressive action on interest rates and other policy moves that will make inflation a priority over other goals. Economists further point to Trump’s signature immigration stance and the potential for a large stimulus package as signs that inflation will likely pick up as labor markets tighten from the effects. Trade restrictions too will also drive inflationary pressures.

Neither of these trends is necessarily bad for the art market, especially in the context of a political regime that is unlikely to raise taxes. The wealthiest sector of the global economy will continue to accumulate more cash than it can consume or productively invest. That money will seek a safe haven, especially if inflation erodes its value as cash or other investment yields don’t keep pace with inflation.

"Van Gogh never did a blue blob"

November 8 2016

Image of "Van Gogh never did a blue blob"

Picture: New York Post

A US writer has claimed that one of Van Gogh's most famous pictures, 'Wheat Field with Cypresses' (Metropolitan Museum) in fact a fake. Says the New York Post:

James Grundvig’s new book, “Breaking van Gogh,” claims the painting titled Wheat Field with Cypresses was really made in the late 1800s by Emile Schuffenecker, “a third-level impressionist painter” and suspected forger.

Look carefully at the canvas in Gallery 822 on the Met’s second floor, and you can see some of the signs of a forgery, Grundvig says.

One is a discordant blob of blue paint on the mountain in the background. “That is not the kind of mistake van Gogh would make,” said Grundvig. “The blue blob is very egregious. Van Gogh never did a blue blob.”

The Met has gamely played along and pointed out all the evidence in favour of the picture, including the fact that it is painted on the same bolt of canvas as many of his other pictures. 

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