Previous Posts: June 2020

Museums Reopening (ctd.)

June 30 2020

Posted by Adam Busiakiewicz:

Details have been released today that the National Gallery in London will be reopening from 8th July 2020. Even better news is that the London-leg of the Titian exhibition, which closed three days after opening in March, will be extended till 17 January 2021.

The BBC reports the following:

Visitors will be asked to follow one-way routes around the building, and to keep to 2m social distancing. The gallery said "higher efficiency filters" have been installed in the air-conditioning system to help the flow of fresh air. Face masks will be "recommended" for visitors.

It seems that free booked timeslots will be required, although no specific details are supplied.

The Wallace Collection have already announced that it will be reopening on 15th July (booking required). The Royal Academy will be opening from 9th July (facemasks required). The Tate Museums have expressed that they will wait until the 27th July to reopen all four museums. The British Museum is yet to release a reopening date.

Further afield, the MET in New York plans to reopen on 29 August; The Louvre in Paris will be reopening 6th July; and the Prado in Madrid reopened on 5th June.

Update This image of the three one-way routes available when the National Gallery reopens has been circulating online. Which one would you take?

The Future of Auctions?

June 30 2020

Image of The Future of Auctions?

Picture: Sotheby's

Posted by Adam Busiakiewicz:

Sotheby's held three gargantuan online sales yesterday evening. The prices achieved were equally enormous. The Contemporary Art Evening auction made $234.9m (inc. fees); The Impressionist and Modern Sale made $62.8m (inc. fees); and The Ginny Williams Collection Evening Sale made $65.5m (inc. fees).

The highlight of the three sales was Francis Bacon's Triptych Inspired by the Oresteia of Aeschylus which made $84.6m(inc. fees), the third highest price for the artist achieved at auction.

Equally impressive was the way in which these online auctions were broadcasted. Instead of have a virtual countdown, as many of the recent Old Master auctions have been handled, the auction house set up a live saleroom with video links to departments with phone bids around the world. This certainly brings back the excitement of a live physical auction, which can sometimes be lost in the online-only format.

The auction house's website explains further:

During these unprecedented times, Sotheby’s worked quickly to revolutionize its marquee auctions, continuing to present world-class artworks in safe, engaging and new ways. In a dynamic, multi-camera event live streamed around the world, Sotheby’s auctioneer Oliver Barker conducted the three evening auctions from Sotheby's London, interacting via video with colleagues bidding in real time in New York, London and Hong Kong. This historic auction capped off a season of digital innovation, as Sotheby’s introduced a suite of new online features that delivered the full auction experience.

Couple Reunited at the Mauritshuis

June 30 2020

Image of Couple Reunited at the Mauritshuis

Picture: Mauritshuis

Posted by Adam Busiakiewicz:

Wonderful news that a diptych of a betrothed couple has been reunited after a century apart.

Curator Ariane van Suchtelen had spent twenty years looking for the companion to the Mauritshuis's portrait of Elisabeth Bellinghausen by Bartholomäus Bruyn the Elder (1493-1555). The picture, dated to 1538/9, is actually on a long term loan from the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam. The companion portrait of Elisabeth's fiance, Jakob Omphalius, was separated from his wife-to-be around a hundred years ago.

Jakob's portrait appeared at auction in 2019 where it was purchased by the De Jonckheere gallery. A curator in Germany saw it and informed the Rijksmuseum, who then alerted the Mauritshuis to its reappearance. The Mauritshuis managed to raise the funds to buy it where the couple has finally been reunited.

The way both portraits correspond in terms of colouring and details is enchanting. Portraits of married couples were often, and sometimes still are, split up. This is especially the case when one of the pair are considered more 'commercially attractive' than the other. But this reunited pair really does make the case for how harmonious it can be when two pictures are presented together as they were originally intended.

Archbishop of Canterbury Encourages Rethink of White Jesus

June 29 2020

Image of Archbishop of Canterbury Encourages Rethink of White Jesus

Picture: Canterbury Cathedral via. The Church Times

Posted by Adam Busiakiewicz:

Justin Welby the Archbishop of Canterbury, the Church of England's most senior Bishop, caused controversy last week by suggesting that there should be a rethink of the portrayal of Jesus as white. It has been suggested that this might include the removal of paintings and sculpture contained in Churches that depict Jesus as a such. The Church of England owns half of all of Britain's Grade I listed buildings and a significant collection of historic artworks. His statements were made as part of a larger piece which explained that the Church would be reviewing historic monuments to slave traders with an eye for removal.

Press reports have quoted the Archbishop's interview on BBC Radio 4's Today programme:

Asked if there had to be rethink on the white image of Jesus, Welby said: “Yes of course it does, this sense that God was white … You go into churches [around the world] and you don’t see a white Jesus. 

“You see a black Jesus, a Chinese Jesus, a Middle-Eastern Jesus – which is of course the most accurate – you see a Fijian Jesus.”

Most crucially, it seems that Welby did not go as far as suggesting that all historic depictions should be removed:

“Jesus is portrayed in as many ways as there are cultures, languages and understandings. And I don’t think that throwing out everything we’ve got in the past is the way to do it but I do think saying: ‘That’s not the Jesus who exists, that’s not who we worship,’ it is a reminder of the universality of the God who became fully human.”

Is it time to question the term 'Old Master'?

June 29 2020

Image of Is it time to question the term 'Old Master'?

Picture: The Guardian

Posted by Adam Busiakiewicz:

The Guardian published a story this weekend highlighting that some galleries and museums are increasingly uneasy about using the term 'Old Master'.

The article published a quote from a political magazine Shout Out UK, the self-ascribed 'voice of the next generation', who claim the term contains a “uncomfortable combination of hierarchical, racial and sexist connotations”.

The article includes many voices from the artworld arguing both for and against. Amongst them, the head of Tate Modern Frances Morris expressed:

“I think we should question its use and what it tells us. I would like to see it replaced by something else,”

On the other hand, Victoria Siddall, Global Director of the Frieze art fairs, advocates an expansion of the term rather than its abolition. Siddall highlighted the likes of artist Artemisia Gentileschi as a prime example of an indisputable 'Old Master'.

Attention is also drawn to the upcoming exhibition Women Modern Masters at The Scottish Gallery in Edinburgh, a venture specifically designed to challenge the term. So too is an upcoming exhibition at the Wallace Collection Forgotten Masters, drawing attention to overlooked artists commissioned by the officials of the East India Company.

The auction houses are already ahead of the game in regard to finding suitable replacements. Christie's have been emphasising the term 'Classic' instead of 'Old Master' for many years now.

For what it's worth, I would rather spend my time researching and bringing more female artists back into the light than get too caught up with the imperfect nature of categories. Later this year I'll be finishing off my doctoral thesis which will draw attention to a completely forgotten yet highly accomplished Victorian lady artist and interior designer. I look forward to sharing more in due course.

Christie's Merging Imp / Mod Departments

June 29 2020

Posted by Adam Busiakiewicz:

News broke last week that the auction house Christie's will be merging its Impressionist and Post-War and Contemporary Art departments. This 'hybrid' sector will be known as '20/21', short for 20th / 21st century art.

The auction house has cited a few reasons for the shake-up. By far the most interesting reason is the following:

“Our clients don’t think in categories anymore,” [Christie's CEO Guillaume Cerutti] said. “It’s not only about restructuring and reorganizing, it’s because we truly believe there is a continuum in these three parts. I believe that contemporary art has roots in the beginning of the 20th century and that without Monet and Duchamp, we would not be able to understand today’s contemporary art.”

Press reports have also drawn attention to the tough economic conditions experienced by the auction house which may result in job losses. Also cited is the growing dominance of Post-war and Contemporary Art and the 'shrinking' Impressionist market.

It is considered by some to be rather old fashioned to think of art in categories these days. In this respect, perhaps the auction house are following the demands of the market. However imperfect the categorisation system may be, it is surprising that an auction house is risking loosing expertise built over many decades in such a crucial specialist department. Such valuable knowledge is so easily lost and can prove crucial in determining areas such as attribution, skilled forgeries and murky provenance issues.

Canaletto - Spot the Difference

June 29 2020

Image of Canaletto - Spot the Difference

Picture: The Art Newspaper

Posted by Adam Busiakiewicz:

Contemporary artist José Manuel Ballester has collaborated with the Pinacoteca de Brera in order to raise funds for the museum's reopening. The work (left) took inspiration from his previous series entitled 'Concealed Spaces', which reimagined famous works of art devoid of their figures. In this case he has edited out the figures in Canaletto's View of the Basin of San Marco from the Punta della Dogana held in the museum's collection.

In an interview published in The Art Newspaper the artist explained:

“I’m glad the works can be useful in a circumstance like the current one, although they weren’t created for that purpose,” Ballester says. “One of the virtues of this series is the versatility of interpretations.”

He also hopes the Concealed Spaces work will change people’s perspectives, “so that we can see what is hidden, what is in the background and learn to see the invisible,” Ballester says. “Just as we cannot see this virus except through its symptoms or through medical tests, art can help us visualise aspects of life that would otherwise not be possible.”

The Dealer's Eye Results

June 25 2020

Image of The Dealer's Eye Results

Picture: Sotheby's

Posted by Adam Busiakiewicz:

The Dealer's Eye sales at Sotheby's ended today after 7 days worth of online bidding.

The results are a mixed bag. The London leg of the sale made £1.03m with roughly 48% of lots sold, and the New York leg of the sale made $1.78m with roughly 57% of lots sold.

Several impressive results were achieved, including a landscape by Caspar Wolf that made $250,000 over $100k-$150K; a bird of prey by Carstian Luyckx that made $100,000 over $25-$35k; a picture by Hendrick van Cleve III that made $93,750 over $50k-$70k; a religious picture by Luigi Garzi that made $50,000 over $20k-$30k; a Turner sketch that made £25,000 over £12k-£18k. This extremely fine John Robert Cozens, a picture that might not immediately be considered the most commercial image, made a respectable £150,000. I can't for the life of me understand why this lovely unfinished self-portrait by John Hamilton Mortimer failed to sell.

Overall, these two sales represented a very bold and brave experiment that was worth pursuing during the uncertain times that we are in.

The artworks and dealers involved are all of the highest calibre. It may therefore be a little surprising why the sale didn't do better. Why was this? Firstly, the art market tends to react well to pictures that are considered 'fresh onto the market'. This is particularly the case where incorrectly catalogued 'sleepers' are involved. It is therefore sometimes difficult to shake off the idea that such collaborations represent 'stock-sales', however fine the pictures might be. Many collectors may well have encountered these pictures at several fairs too.

The estimates overall seemed reasonable, yet, it is clear from previous online sales that works that bear the lowest estimates always manage to tempt lots of bidders. No one can resist a good bargain, even in the world of old masters it seems.

One interpretation might be that dealers are struggling during these unprecedented times and auction houses far less so. Let's hope that both manage to survive intact after the worst of the virus crisis is over.

CFP: Blackness, Immobility, and Visibility in Europe (1600-1800)

June 25 2020

Image of CFP: Blackness, Immobility, and Visibility in Europe (1600-1800)

Picture: Journal18

Posted by Adam Busiakiewicz:

Journal18, a journal of eighteenth-century art and culture, have published a call for papers in order to create a rather fascinating online resource 'chronicling the representation and regulation of black bodies in Europe, c.1600-1800'.

Interested participants are invited to submit artworks (submitted either as copyright-free digital images or as hyperlinks) that correspond to this theme. The submitted pieces will then be woven into a large digital timeline for researchers, educators and students.

The above painting, posted on the journal's Twitter page, is Hyacinthe Rigaud's Portrait of a Black Archer (c.1697) in Musée des Beaux-Arts de Dunkerque.

University of Edinburgh are Hiring!

June 25 2020

Posted by Adam Busiakiewicz:

The University of Edinburgh are looking for a Lecturer in Pre-Modern Art (c.500 CE - 1500 CE).

The salary on offer is £41,526 - £49,553 per annum. A PhD is also a prerequisite of the role.

Applications close 23rd July 2020.

Good luck if you're applying!

Stockholm Museum to Restitute Painting to Poland

June 24 2020

Image of Stockholm Museum to Restitute Painting to Poland

Picture: The Art Newspaper

Posted by Adam Busiakiewicz:

The Art Newspaper has reported that the National Museum in Stockholm will restitute a stolen painting to a museum in Poland.

The picture, attributed to the School of Cranach depicting The Lamentation of Christ (with a donor family by the looks of it), had gone missing from a Polish museum between 1945-46. The painting was purchased by the Swedish museum in good faith at auction in 1970. Recent provenance research has traced the picture's history and it will now be returned to the Muzeum Narodowe in Warsaw.

The Ashmolean is Hiring!

June 24 2020

Image of The Ashmolean is Hiring!

Picture: The Ashmolean

Posted by Adam Busiakiewicz:

The Ashmolean Museum in Oxford is looking for a Research Assistant. The post will be based in the Department of Western Art and be connected with the upcoming exhibition The Colour Revolution: Turner to Whistler.

The 24 month contract comes with a salary of between £32,817 - £40,322 per annum. Closing date for applications is 20 July 2020.

Good luck if you're applying!

Facebook Bans Antiquities Trade

June 24 2020

Image of Facebook Bans Antiquities Trade

Picture: BBC

Posted by Adam Busiakiewicz:

The BBC reports that social media giant Facebook has banned all trade in ancient artefacts on its platforms. This follows a successful campaign exposing how looted antiquities from war-torn zones of the Middle East have been experiencing a boom in trade online. 

Specifically, the ban includes any content that:

encourages or attempts to buy, sell or trade historical artefacts or attempts to solicit historical artefacts.

This seems to be trying to deal specifically in the realms of antiquities, which has been haunted by such problems for a long time. Let's hope these new rules don't eventually spill over the world of fine art and antiques. It is remarkable how popular buying through the Facebook-owned platform Instagram has become.

Brighton Pavilion and Museum Looking for CEO

June 23 2020

Image of Brighton Pavilion and Museum Looking for CEO

Picture: Brighton Pavilion and Museum Trust

Posted by Adam Busiakiewicz:

The Royal Pavilion and Museum Trust in Brighton is looking to hire a new CEO. It seems this position is tied into a larger scheme to restructure the entire Brighton Museums trust from a council-run museum into an independent sustainable charity. The salary on offer is £90k + depending on experience.

Applications end on 26 June 2020.

Good luck if you're applying!

Museums Reopening

June 23 2020

Image of Museums Reopening

Picture: @yjaegle

Posted by Adam Busiakiewicz:

The British Government is preparing to give the go ahead for museums to reopen next month. This will presumably happen as of the 4th July, which some here have dubbed 'Super Saturday'. It seems that social distancing will be enforced although there are rumours that restrictions might soon be relaxed in this regard too.

I spotted this photograph on Twitter this morning (posted by @yjaegle) showing the labyrinth constructed in the Louvre to manage the socially distanced visitor flow in front of the Mona Lisa. Very few renaissance masters were capable of conjuring such visions of man-made hell, but, it seems that this is the price art lovers will have to pay for now.

Dodgy Restoration Strikes Again!

June 23 2020

Image of Dodgy Restoration Strikes Again!

Picture: The Guardian

Posted by Adam Busiakiewicz:

News broke last night of another botched painting restoration incident in Spain. This time, a copy after Murillo's Immaculate Conception was left in a disfigured state after a private collector paid €1,200 to a furniture restorer to have the work cleaned. (Note - the image on the left is the original on which this copy was based, the two on the right show the two attempts at 'restoration'.)

This comes only a few years after the so-called 'Monkey-Christ' incident in Borja, north-eastern Spain. Art professionals in the country have called for new regulations to stop this from happening again.

Personally, I think this story might be a little overblown. Firstly, the articles do not present an image of the private collector's painting before restoration. As any art historian knows, copies can dramatically vary in quality. Some copies manage to capture the spirit of the original, yet some can make figures and faces appear like taxidermy. The conservation and restoration of a bad copy might have only accentuated the poor quality of the painting. As you old saying goes, you can't polish a (you know what).

Update - There are some images floating around on the internet purporting to show the painting before restoration. It's difficult to tell whether these show the same painting. The canvas and finishing on the 'restored' pictures suggests that the 'copy' might not have been as old or as valuable as the reports suggest.

Facelifts at the Mauritshuis

June 22 2020

Image of Facelifts at the Mauritshuis

Picture: Mauritshuis, The Hague

Posted by Adam Busiakiewicz:

Have you begun organising your 2021 diary yet? If so, this upcoming exhibition at the Mauritshuis should definitely be pencilled in.

Facelifts & make-overs is the upcoming Mauritshuis exhibition dedicated to showcasing the conservation projects undertaken by the museum's inhouse team of conservators. 

As the website explains;

In Facelifts and Makeovers the most intriguing restorations of the past twenty years will be unveiled, including paintings by Rembrandt, Vermeer, Hals, Steen and Rubens, but also by some lesser-known artists such as Cornelis de Heem and Jacob Ochtervelt. Restoring centuries-old paintings appeals to the imagination. What does it involve? What can we learn from conservation treatment? What do paintings look like ‘before’ and ‘after’? And what have been the most surprising findings?

The exhibition has been postponed due to the current crisis and will run from 7 October 2021 - 9 January 2022.

Europe's Oldest Wooden Statue ?

June 22 2020

Posted by Adam Busiakiewicz:

ArtDaily has reported that an eight foot tall wooden crucifix known as 'Volto Santo de Lucca' might be Europe's oldest surviving wooden statue.

The sculpture had previously been thought by scholars to date to the 12th century. This was based on stylistic grounds, assuming the piece may have been a copy of a much older original. New carbon dating undertaken in Florence, taken from several areas of the work, suggests that the wood dates:

“to the end of the seventh century and the middle of the ninth,”

Accompanying photos suggest to me that the statue must have had several makeovers during the past few centuries.

Degas Copies Thomas Lawrence

June 22 2020

Image of Degas Copies Thomas Lawrence

Picture: Hampel Auctions

Posted by Adam Busiakiewicz:

A copy of Thomas Lawrence's Miss Murray by Edgar Degas (1834-1917) is coming up for sale in Munich next month. Lawrence's original, which is now at Kenwood House, was created between 1824-26 and is a superb piece of painting. The flowers which she holds had always struck me as being entirely proto-impressionistic. As a painter of ballerinas, I can understand why Degas must have been drawn to this image.

Degas's picture carries an estimate of €420,000 - €500,000. The same work sold at Sotheby's as recently as last year where it made £200,000 (inc. fees).

Christie's Results

June 22 2020

Image of Christie's Results

Picture: Christie's

Posted by Adam Busiakiewicz:

Christie's recent online old master paintings sale in NY made $2.95m (including fees) with approximately 69.7% of lots sold.*

This is marginally more that the $2.89m Sotheby's made the previous week although 12.6% down on lots sold.

A few of the most impressive results (all prices inc. fees): a limoges plaque by either Jean or Joseph Limousin made $225,000 over $30k-$50k, a sixteenth century Netherlandish School Head of Christ made $162,500 over $15k-$20k, a rather dark Jacob de Backer made $399,000 over $80k-120k (pictured).

In a previous post I highlighted a beautiful Fragonard portrait of a child that Christie's had up for private sale with an asking price of $125,000. The same picture was included in the sale and made $50,000.

It was this painting of a man holding a recorder that intrigued me the most. Catalogued as 'French School' it seems likely to be some sort of forgotten self-portrait. I showed it to a learned recorder player last week who informed me that the gentleman probably wasn't a genuine player due to the fact his hands are the wrong way around. 

* - This is an approximate number, as Christie's remove unsold lots from their website. 97 out of 139 lots are shown as sold.

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