Previous Posts: February 2017

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


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


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

New Prado director

February 23 2017

Image of New Prado director

Picture: TAN

Congratulations to Miguel Falomir, who will be the new director of the Prado. More here.

Virtual Reality Surrealism

February 23 2017

Video: Sotheby's

Well how about this - Sotheby's have created virtual reality headsets for people to explore surrealist paintings by the likes of Dali. The video above (obviously only in 2D) allows you to move around the landscape. More here in The Telegraph.

Rare French royal lions discovered by Christie's

February 23 2017

Image of Rare French royal lions discovered by Christie's

Picture: Christie's

Sharp-eyed experts at Christie's sculpture department have identified two highly important lions commissioned for the tomb of Charles V of France. The two lions are by André Beauneveu (circa 1335–1402), and date from from 1364–66. Says the Christie's press release:

Originally executed to form part of the tomb of King Charles V of France at the Abbey of St. Denis, they were brought from France in 1802 by the English aristocrat Sir Thomas Neave (1761–1848), and have remained in the same collection ever since. Known to scholars only from an engraving of the 18th century, the emergence of these lions represents a remarkable re-discovery. Celebrating the art of medieval Europe, while simultaneously representing technical brilliance, the lions’ superlative quality means that they are worthy of any major museum or private collection.

Donald Johnston, Christie’s UK, International Head of Sculpture: ‘It is extraordinarily rare to offer any medieval work of art with such a fully documented provenance. The fact that this marble group was executed by one of the most important sculptors of the period and is part of an important royal commission makes it even more remarkable. The discovery of these lions in a private English collection is wonderful news for collectors and scholars who previously thought they had been lost during the French Revolution.’

Documents show that Beauneveu was commissioned by the young King Charles V shortly after coming to the throne to execute four family tombs, including the King’s own. One of the most important sculptors of late medieval Europe, Beauneveu took two years to complete the task after which he left the employ of the French crown, spending time in Flanders and – possibly – England, before ending his career at the court of Charles’s brother, Jean, duc de Berry. The tombs in Paris were dismantled by the revolutionary government in 1793 and today only the three male effigies survive. The effigy of Charles V, lacking the lions which had rested at his feet, was restored to the Abbey of St. Denis, Paris, where it remains today.

There's no estimate yet, but the lions will be in Christie's 'exceptional sale' in July.

Update - the price on the Arts Council notification of intention to sell page is £5m.

New galleries at the National

February 23 2017

Image of New galleries at the National

Picture: NG

Exciting news - the National Gallery in London is to open its first new gallery in 26 years. 'Gallery B' will, says the NG press release:

[...] add an additional 200 square metres of display space to the main Wilkins Building and opens up the ground floor. This creates a direct public route from the Portico Entrance on Trafalgar Square through to the Pigott Education Centre Entrance on Orange Street (at the rear of the Gallery).

For the first time, visitors can now explore all of the Ground Floor Galleries and progress up to the Main Floor whilst enjoying a continuous viewing experience.

It is intended that these now interconnected galleries will host a wide range of education programme activities along with special displays and exhibitions. The launch of Gallery B also marks the daily opening of Gallery A, previously open every Wednesday afternoon and one Sunday per month.

Gallery B opens with 'Rubens and Rembrandt', a special display of paintings by the Flemish artist Rubens hung opposite works by his Dutch counterpart, Rembrandt, creating a dynamic visual dialogue between these two great 17th-century masters. The innovative hang demonstrates the potential of this new gallery space for exceptional displays that offer different ways of exploring the National Gallery Collection.

Update - a reader writes:

This is not a new gallery at all, just a space which has not been used as one for several years – though I’ve  never understood why. 

Contrary the claim in the Press Release, all the spaces on the currently designated Level 0 were interconnected: accessing Galley A from the staircase in the Orange Street entrance, one move through the “new” Gallery B to the cruciform galleries C, D, F and G.  There was a spiral staircase in the centre of Gallery E taking one to the main floor.

I should also point out that the Gallery has held loan exhibitions in these spaces – the last was of 17thc Venetian Painting in late 1979.

'Michelangelo & Sebastiano'

February 22 2017

Video: National Gallery

A trailer for the National Gallery's latest exhibition.

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