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London Eye | Tom Flynn

London Eye: March 2014

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Written by TOM FLYNN, Auction Central News International   
Monday, 31 March 2014 14:20

This Chinese Yuan Dynasty dish, priced at $22 million, was one of the high points of the European Fine Art Fair in Maastricht, selling to a Chinese collector on the stand of Hong Kong dealers Littleton and Hennessy Asian Art. Image courtesy Littleton and Hennessy and TEFAF.

LONDON – A casual visitor wandering the broad, flower-adorned boulevards of the European Fine Art Fair (TEFAF) in Maastricht last week might reasonably have wondered how so many expensive, museum-quality works of art could possibly find buyers during the deepest recession Europe has seen in a generation. But many of those objects did sell. One partial explanation comes from a recent Forbes report on the world’s billionaires. The report found 1,645 billionaires in the world with an aggregate net worth of $6.4 trillion, up from $5.4 trillion a year ago, offering another reminder, if any were needed, that money makes money. Furthermore, the report revealed a record 268 new 10-figure fortunes, including 42 new women billionaires.

Such research is interesting enough, but while it would be wrong to assume that art buying at high-end art fairs is restricted to so-called Ultra High Net Worth Individuals (UHNWIs), there is no doubt that newly minted billionaires in the fast-developing economies of China, South America and the Middle East are having an impact on the art market. Indeed it was reportedly a Chinese buyer who paid one of the highest prices at the fair: $22 million for a Yuan Dynasty (1271-1368) blue and white porcelain dish decorated with a dragon chasing the flaming pearl. It was on the stand of Hong Kong dealers Littleton and Hennessy. (Fig. 1)

The TEFAF still feels like the classiest art fair in the world. Visitors this year were greeted by Alexander Calder’s 1969 monumental stabile, Janey WaneyAlexander Calder’s ‘Janey Waney’ on display at the European Fine Art Fair in Maastricht in March. Image Auction Central News. which, priced at $20 million by New York dealers Van de Weghe Fine Art, was surely aimed at the billionaire club revealed in the Forbes report.

Big-ticket prices are all very well, but what makes TEFAF so different from other fairs and so appealing to the casual visitor is its sense of inclusion. Unlike the proliferating contemporary art fairs that garner so much breathless media attention, the emphasis at the Maastricht fair is still on collecting and connoisseurship rather than pure financial speculation. It is by no means unusual to encounter an impromptu seminar into materials or techniques, such as the small group of people gathered on the stand of London dealer Sam Fogg where they were discussing the finer points of gilding and polychromy in early European devotional sculpture.Visitors at the European Fine Art Fair in Maastricht investigating the gilding on an early European sculpture on the stand of London dealer Sam Fogg. Image Auction Central News.

Even works by Damien Hirst looked entirely at home among the ancient works of art. We were struck by the atmospheric display of Hirst’s butterfly works and animal sculptures on the stand of Leeds and London dealers Tomasso Brothers.Damien Hirst’s ‘Black Sheep with Golden Horns’ (2009), priced at £2,250,000 ($3,750,000) on the stand of London dealers Tomasso Brothers Fine Art at the European Fine Art Fair in Maastricht. Image courtesy Tomasso Brothers. In the dramatic half-light of the stand, Hirst’s Styx, (2013), combining entomological specimens with Hammerite paint, might almost have been mistaken for a faience work by Bernard Palissy.Damien Hirst, ‘Styx,’ entomological specimens and Hammerite paint on canvas, priced at £200,000 ($332,750) with Tomasso Brothers at the TEFAF Fair. Image courtesy Tomasso Brothers. It was priced at £200,000 ($332,750) while The Dance, a pair of dangling animal skeletons cast in patinated silver and mounted on a four-legged stool, looked like Vesalius crossed with Marcel Duchamp.‘The Dance’ by Damien Hirst, a work in patinated silver priced at £1,750,000 ($2.9 million) with Tomasso Brothers at the TEFAF Fair. Image Auction Central News. Priced at £1,750,000 ($2.9 million), it offered a striking visual counterpoint to a display of four 18th-century Spanish polychrome horses by Juan Chaéz, priced at €350,000 ($482,350).Four Spanish horses in polychromed wood by Juan Chaéz, priced in the region of €350,000 ($482,350) for the set, on the stand of Tomasso Brothers at TEFAF. Image courtesy Tomasso Brothers.

Last year the London-based Fine Art Society enjoyed a constant buzz around its stand thanks to an innovative work by British couple Rob and Nick Carter that combined fine art with computer animation. This year they exhibited a new work by the duo titled Transforming Nude Painting, showing a nude sleeping in a Renaissance landscape based on the famous Sleeping Venus, a 1510 work by Venetian artist Giorgione. A new animated video work by British artists Rob and Nick Carter entitled ‘Transforming Nude Painting,’ based on a High Renaissance work by Giorgione, which was attracting curious onlookers at the stand of the Fine Art Society at the European Fine Art Fair. Image Auction Central News.

The Fine Art Society stand was constantly thronged with visitors clustered around the screen watching closely for the moment when the model, the memorably named Ivory Flame, made almost imperceptible movements. Her belly rose and fell with her breathing; her toe twitched; the background trees flickered in the breeze. We were on hand to witness Ivory open her eyes for a moment before falling back to sleep. The bewitching work, in an edition of 10, priced at £100,000 apiece, had sold out, perhaps demonstrating the enduring appeal of realism and verisimilitude in all its manifestations.

The trading performance of London furniture dealers Mallett has been under scrutiny by speculative market analysts for some time, but since their move to the stately premises of Ely House in Dover Street their fortunes seem to have markedly improved. Their stand at Maastricht looked particularly inviting.The stand of London fine furniture and works of art dealers Mallett at the European Fine Art Fair. Image Auction Central News. We strolled in to meet May Geolot who helpfully introduced us to two of their star objects – a superb pair of George II armchairs, formerly in the collection of the Spencer family of Althorp, and a Savonnerie woven wool six-panel screen after designs by Jean Baptiste Oudry.London dealers Mallett were offering this important pair of George II period armchairs in carved sabicu, known as the Spencer House Chairs. Originating from Althorp, the family home of the late Princess Diana, and attributed to John Gordon after designs by the famous architect and designer James ‘Athenian’ Stuart, they were priced at £1 million ($1,660,000). Image courtesy of Mallett.At the European Fine Art Fair London dealers Mallett were looking for a buyer for this important and rare set of six Louis XV Savonnerie panels, circa 1735, decorated with scenes from Aesop’s fables by the great French still life painter Jean Baptiste Oudry. Image courtesy of Mallett.

As the above references to the Renaissance-inspired animated painting and the Damien Hirst works make clear, the European Fine Art Fair is not aimed only at the super-rich; it is also entertaining and hugely educational. Visiting the fair later in the week has its benefits – one finds many dealers only too happy to chat and share their knowledge.

The British Antique Dealers (BADA) Fair in London the week after the Maastricht event might take a leaf out of the TEFAF book. By comparison with its Dutch counterpart it looks and feels decidedly old-fashioned and sedate. It was so quite when I visited I almost fell asleep. Quite how one could bring such an event kicking and screaming into the 21st century would be an interesting challenge for a creative young entrepreneur. That said, the dealers we spoke to when we visited had done some business and at the end of the day that’s all that counts. Furthermore, the 18,500 visitors represented a 5.7 percent increase on the 2013 fair so BADA must be doing something right. The fair also attracts its fair share of celebrities with this year’s luminaries including minor royals, premiership footballers, British film star Julie Christie, rock entrepreneur Bob Geldof, and super-collector Charles Saatchi with his new squeeze, the TV personality Trinny Woodall.

We also spotted Sotheby’s specialist furniture consultant Christopher Payne admiring a fine, elegant table by English Arts and Crafts designer Edward Barnsley on the stand of Holly Johnson Antiques of Macclesfield. Commissioned by the previous owner in the 1960s and made from a lovely, golden-hued black bean wood, it was priced at £16,750 ($28,000).The stand of Holly Johnson Antiques at the British Antique Dealers’ Fair in London, featuring a fine dining table dating from the early 1960s by the English Arts and Crafts-influenced designer Edward Barnsley (foreground), priced at £16,750 ($28,000). Image Auction Central News. It is not widely known that the Edward Barnsley Workshops survive in Froxfield, near Petersfield in Hampshire where they continue to create fine craftsman-built furniture. The exacting standards set by the late great Edward Barnsley (1900-1987) are still appreciated by a discerning clientele seeking unique pieces for specific locations. Give them a call and make a visit.The Edward Barnsley Workshop near Petersfield, Hampshire, where exquisite, craftsman-designed furniture is still made to the same exacting standards established by their illustrious founder. Image courtesy of Edward Barnsley Studios.The interior of the Edward Barnsley Studios in Froxfield, Hampshire, where the Arts and Crafts tradition of handmade furniture still thrives. Image courtesy Edward Barnsley Studios.

From a commercial perspective, one of many satisfactory outcomes at the BADA Fair was the successful sale by Sutcliffe Galleries of a recently rediscovered Orientalist oil on canvas by the 19th-century painter Jerry Barrett, titled Lady Mary Wortley Montague in Turkey. Lady Mary Montague seems to have done through her Turkish adventures what Emily Eden achieved on her Indian expeditions and the image captured her luxuriating in her Turkish finery. This oil on canvas titled ‘Lady Mary Wortley Montague in Turkey’ by Jerry Barrett (1824-1906) was among the highlights of the British Antique Dealers’ (BADA) Fair in Chelsea from March 19 to 25, where it sold at the asking price of £180,000 ($300,130) to a private UK buyer. Image courtesy of Sutcliffe Galleries. It sold to a UK private collector for £180,000 ($300,130), vindicating the comment by BADA Fair director Gillian Craig, who said: “The dealers have an increased confidence in the market, which could be seen in the exceptional quality of the stock that they brought to the fair and was reflected in the very strong sales this year.”

It seems that the familiar truism of the art and antiques market still holds firm: quality sells. A few billionaires on hand also helps.

Last Updated on Monday, 31 March 2014 15:16

London Eye: February 2014

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Written by TOM FLYNN, Auction Central News International   
Monday, 03 March 2014 16:33

Vistors pause for refreshment at one of the many coffee and champagne bars at the private view of ART14 London at the Olympia Grand Hall on Feb. 27. Image Auction Central News.

LONDON – There is a new kid on the art fair block and all the signs are that ART14 London may be reaching the parts that Frieze, thanks to its somewhat élitist exclusivity, cannot reach. Although in only its second year, ART14 London is already beginning to feel like a mature and confident event. There was a genuine sense of occasion at the VIP private view on Thursday, with professional footballers, A-List artists and celebrity chefs among those strolling beneath the great arched ceiling of the Olympia Grand Hall. Food, music and other forms of entertainment were high on the agenda this year in recognition that the modern fair visitor needs an occasional pause in the wall-to-wall contemporary art.

Art14 London hosted no fewer than 182 galleries from 42 countries, making it one of Europe’s largest contemporary art events, combining art with performance, music, fine dining and celebrity spotting. We came across artist Liliane Lijn performing one of her now famous poem game with a group of willing participants. London-based artist Liliane Lijn performs her Poem Game with visitors to ART14 London last week. Image Auction Central News.

Meanwhile, by way of contrast, there were more Rolls Royces parked outside than you could shake a stick at, confirming how contemporary art fairs have become an essential port of call for every self-respecting High Net Worth Individual in London. A line of Rolls Royces outside the VIP evening at Art14 London at Olympia. Image Auction Central News.

One might imagine that the exhausting preparations for such a mammoth event would leave its organizers on the verge of collapse, but ART14 London director Stephanie Dieckvoss was positively glowing and energized at the private view, stopping to chat to Auction Central News between a string of TV interviews.ART14 London fair director Stephanie Dieckvoss poses for Auction Central News in front of Chinese artist Zhao Zhao’s installation ‘Waterfall’ at the fair’s VIP evening on Feb. 27. Image Auction Central News.

“Our exhibitors have been incredibly positive and enthusiastic this year,” Dieckvoss told London Eye. “Many more of them have built additional storage space into their stands so that they can replenish stock as works sell. That’s a real indicator of how optimistic and well-prepared everyone is this year. It’s very exciting and once you start to wander around you’ll quickly see how truly international it is, with galleries from across the globe, from Africa, Eastern Europe, Asia and South America.”

The strong Asian flavor was one of the most noticeable features of this year’s fair. Around 30 galleries from Taiwan, China and South Korea were exhibiting, but that was not the only sign of Asia’s growing influence in the contemporary art field. Many British and European mainland galleries were exhibiting work by Asian artists in acknowledgment of the burgeoning global demand. Shanghai dealer Pearl Lam in animated conversation with visitors to her enormous stand at ART14 London this week. Image Auction Central News.

London gallery Edel Assanti, for example, were showing interesting collage-based paintings by London-based artist Gordon Cheung who expressed delight that his work was getting such prominent international exposure. London-based artist Gordon Cheung with one of his large collage-based works on the stand of London dealers Edel Asanti at ART14 London. Image Auction Central News.He thinks ART14 London is now a top event at which to show, particularly since Frieze shifted its emphasis. “When they took the Modern Masters away from Frieze and gave them their own fair it was like draining the canal,” he told Auction Central News. “You used to come across stands showing Lucian Freud or Bacon. But then they removed them to Frieze Masters and it left all that contemporary art with nothing by way of contrast.”

There was no lack of contrast at ART14 London. Taiwanese and Korean galleries are now an important fixture of these London events and offer an opportunity for Western collectors to learn about what is selling in Taipei, Seoul and further afield. London art market student Eunhee Park was helping out on the stand of Arario Gallery of Seoul, which was showing at the fair for the first time. She said the gallery was optimistic about entering the European market. A similar message came from Hye Won Keum, director of SoSo Gallery in Gyeonggi-do, South Korea. She was showing delicate wall paintings by the Korean painter Park Kiwon and a group of interesting works by the painter, potter and jewelry designer Kim Eull, who is widely respected in his home country. Some of the works had survived a devastating fire and had been rescued and restored by the artist. Hye Won Keum, director of SoSo Gallery of South Korea, with beautiful paintings on paper by Korean artist Park Kiwon at ART14 London. It was Keum’s second year at the fair. Image Auction Central News.

London’s October Gallery has built an international reputation for showing innovative work by leading African artists and others from what they describe as the “Transvangarde.” Prominent on their stand was a bottle-top wall hanging by Ghanaian artist El Anatsui and a group of the signature petrol can masks by Romuald Hazoumé of the Republic of Benin. The celebrated Beninese artist Romuald Hazoumé (seated) on the stand of the October Gallery at ART14 London. Image Auction Central News. Hazoumé was also the creator of one of the fair’s most impressive large-scale installations, the cruelly punning Rat Singer: Second only to God! of 2013. This consisted of an enormous circle of petrol cans surrounding an up-ended boat, which provided a balcony for the eponymous "Ratzinger," a crooning rodent in dark glasses. Romuald Hazoumé’s installation entitled ‘Rat Singer: Second only to God!’ 2013, featuring a crooning rodent in dark glasses, presumably a dryly punning reference to the last Pope Benedict, Joseph Ratzinger. Image Auction Central News.

Art and antiques fairs are now proliferating across the globe and barely a month goes by in the UK without at least one fair opening somewhere in the capital or the provinces. Whether ART14 London will succeed in reinvigorating the London art fair scene remains to be seen since this is becoming a bewilderingly crowded field. However, the range of activities, the blend of educational and recreational diversions and the broad expertise of its international board of advisors promise it a bright future. Encouragingly, this fair seems to be about something different from today’s prevailing preoccupation with art as an asset class. This feels like a fair about collecting and keeping as opposed to collecting and flipping for a profit. We spotted the prominent millionaire collector Frank Cohen, often dubbed the "Saatchi of the North," deep in conversation on the stand of London-based Modern British dealers Austin Desmond. Renowned British contemporary art collector and patron Frank Cohen (center left) in conversation on the stand of London Modern British dealer Austin Desmond at ART14 London’s VIP evening on Feb. 27. Image Auction Central News.

Finally, one of the more interesting features of this year’s fair was the use by some artists of various forms of technology. One of the most memorable of these was the work of Chinese artist Yang Yongliang. Trained as a calligrapher with the famous master Yang Yang from Shanghai, Yang today fuses his skill as a brush painter with digital technologies. The result are intriguing works such as his The Day of Perpetual Night which was showing on the stand of Galerie Paris-Beijing. This animated four-panel photographic work combines the iconography of traditional Chinese landscape painting with modern urban imagery to create an amusing futuristic narrative of moving waterfalls, motorways and flying spaceships. Chinese artist Yang Yongliang’s ‘The Day of Perpetual Night,’ an animated photographic landscape combing painting, photography, print and video technologies, on the stand of Galerie-Paris-Beijing at ART14 London. Image Auction Central News. It was difficult to drag oneself away as new animated details continually emerged from the mountainous landscape.

So, what’s next on the London art fair merry-go-round? Well, the annual British Antique Dealers’ Association fair, the BADA Fair, takes place in Duke of York’s Square in the heart of Chelsea from March 19-25. Auction Central News will be there to test the temperature of this more traditional sector of the London art trade. Among the highlights is a fine and rare late-17th century South Indian or Ceylonese ebony armchair, provenanced to Longleat House in Wiltshire, which will be on the stand of Jermyn Street fine furniture dealers Harris Lyndsay. This late-17th century South Indian or Ceylonese ebony armchair will be on the stand of Jermyn Street fine furniture dealers Harris Lyndsay at the BADA Fair in Chelsea from March 19-25. Image courtesy Harris Lyndsay.



Last Updated on Monday, 03 March 2014 17:27

London Eye: January 2014

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Written by TOM FLYNN, Auction Central News International   
Thursday, 30 January 2014 14:35
‘Two Woodsmen,’ an oil on canvas by Modern British painter Ivon Hitchens, on exhibition at the Goldmark Gallery in Uppingham, Leicestershire from March 15. Image courtesy Goldmark Gallery. LONDON – Back in 2007, the market witnessed one of those occasional anomalies that only the art world seems capable of throwing up. Surrey auctioneer Chris Ewbank was consigned a tranche of material that the late artist Francis Bacon had discarded during the 1970s. The trash — old check stubs, torn photographs, dismembered canvases and other detritus — had been rescued from a dumpster outside Bacon’s studio by Mac Robertson, an electrician who had occasionally done jobs for him. Where Bacon saw muck, Robertson saw brass. The ensuing sale at Ewbank’s Woking saleroom in April 2007 sparked a feeding frenzy among Bacon relic-hunters that quickly demolished a low estimate of £30,000 to bring a total of £965,490. Entering the orbit of a successful artist can occasionally reap handsome dividends.

Unbeknownst to Robertson, some 20 years before he made the acquaintance of the champagne-swilling Bacon, a similarly fortuitous and more meaningful encounter had taken place between another artist and artisan deep in the Sussex countryside.

One winter’s day in 1956, Ted Floate, a humble forester and carpenter, had been working with a friend in a woods near Midhurst, sawing and stripping chestnut saplings to make stakes. When the two men headed off for lunch, they left their fire smoldering in readiness for their return. A short distance away, the artist Ivon Hitchens (1893-1979) looked out of his studio window and saw the smoke rising. Fearing the possibility that the fire might catch and endanger his own land and cottage, Hitchens ventured out with a kettle to douse the embers. It was then that Floate reappeared. This might have sparked a hostile standoff, but instead the two men quickly hit it off and soon after became firm friends.

The most immediate product of that initial meeting was the painting Two Woodsmen, which Hitchens presented to Floate shortly after. But arguably the most touching and comprehensive testimony to the friendship that evolved between the two men is the legacy of 10 paintings, several drawings and a watercolor that Hitchens bestowed on Floate over the ensuing years and which are about to come to market.

‘Fen Dyke, No. 3,’ an oil painting by Modern British artist Ivon Hitchens, which will be on display in a selling exhibition at the Goldmark Gallery in Uppingham, Leicestershire for three weeks from March 15. Image courtesy Goldmark Gallery. This untitled watercolor by Ivon Hitchens, presented to his friend Ted Floate, will be for sale with the Goldmark Gallery in Uppingham, Leicestershire from March 15. Image courtesy Goldmark Gallery.

Ivon Hitchens’ grandson, Simon Hitchens, a successful contemporary sculptor, told Auction Central News that while Floate was unquestionably a valuable assistant to his grandfather in stretching canvases and making frames, he was no mere “odd job man,” and sometimes even took an active role in the making of pictures. “Ted was the quintessence of the strong, masculine, country artisan type and much more than just a handyman and a woodsman. He was a fine carpenter and got to know Ivon’s working methods and techniques intimately over the years.” Furthermore, it seems that later in his life Hitchens even trusted Floate to take up the brush. “He would occasionally, under Ivan’s close supervision, apply paint to canvas,” says Simon Hitchens. “It was a most interesting and affectionate friendship.”

Floate, now 85, has consigned the paintings and drawings to the Goldmark Gallery in Uppingham, Leicestershire, where they will go on display in a selling exhibition for three weeks March 15. The collection is expected to realize around £1 million.

An oil on canvas by Ivon Hitchens, etitled ‘Plantation Drive,’ on display at the Goldmark Gallery, Leicestershire from March 15. Image courtesy Goldmark Gallery.

Hitchens’ work remains a stalwart market performer in the Modern British category. Good examples of his landscapes in oils regularly fetch five-figure sums, but fine, fresh-to-market examples can soar. His Mill and a Pool of 1960 fetched £242,500 ($390,910) at Christie’s in London last November, which augurs well for the Floate consignment. Of particular interest to collectors will be the drawings, some of which are wonderfully spontaneous figure studies of Floate and his family. Jay Goldmark of the Goldmark Gallery says, “We consider ourselves fortunate to be able to show works that were chosen specifically by Hitchens to be given to a close friend and are now coming to the market for the first time."

A drawing by Ivon Hitchens, a gift to his friend Ted Floate, which will be for sale from the Goldmark Gallery in Uppingham from March 15. Image courtesy Goldmark Gallery. This figure drawing by Ivon Hitchens of his friend Ted Floate wielding an ax will be on display at the Goldmark Gallery’s selling exhibition of Hitchens’ recently discovered works. Image courtesy of the Goldmark Gallery.

Hitchens was among the Modern British painters whose work was also in rich supply at the recent London Art Fair in Islington. This year’s event felt more spacious and better designed than previous years and on the day we visited there was plenty of activity in both the main hall and the adjacent special exhibitions. The fair was also lent a little added prestige by a special installation: “Barbara Hepworth and the development of British Modernism,” curated by Frances Guy, head of collection and exhibitions at the Hepworth gallery in Wakefield, Yorkshire.

The stand of the Fold Gallery at the London Art Fair in Islington. This year’s fair saw record visitor numbers, with 30,694 people visiting over the five days. Image Auction Central News.

The organizers of the London Art Fair cite its visitor statistics (30,694 this year against the previous record of 25,020 in 2012) as evidence of its steadily growing popularity. But the number of bodies through the turnstiles (many of them arriving on complimentary tickets) does not necessarily make for a commercially successful fair. We hear much these days about the so-called “event-driven” marketplace and how fairs are usurping the traditional gallery format as the optimum way to do business. That may be true, but fair exhibitors continue to struggle with rising stand costs.

London interior design and decorative antiques dealer Josephine Ryan was among the happier traders we spoke to at the recent Decorative Antiques and Textile Fair in Battersea Park last week. She had sold an interesting and rare 19th-century judge’s chair for £5,000 ($8,250) on the opening day of the fair, but said things were still rather slow.

London-based decorative interiors dealer Josephine Ryan at the recent Decorative Antiques and Textiles Fair in Battersea Park. Image Auction Central News.

From a visitor perspective, the Decorative Antiques and Textiles Fair remains one of the capital’s most enjoyable events to attend, such is the wide variety of material on offer and the generally welcoming and helpful attitude of the exhibitors. It is not every day that one comes across whale bones from Greenland, but seven of them, decoratively displayed, were among the objects brought to the fair by Dutch dealer Gaby van Hagen who was asking £165 ($272) each or £1,000 ($1,650) for the set of seven.

The stand of Dutch dealer Gaby van Hagen at the Decorative Antiques and Textiles Fair in Battersea Park on Jan. 24. Image Auction Central News. This set of seven whale bones from Greenland were for sale on the stand of Dutch dealer Gaby van Hagen at the Decorative Antiques and Textiles Fair in Battersea Park, priced at £165 ($272) each or £1,000 ($1,650) for the seven. Image Auction Central News.

With stand rentals at £340 ($560) per square meter and marketing at £145 ($240) plus VAT, (and electricity extra), some exhibitors don’t get much change from £6,000 ($9,900) for a stand. One would need a few significant sales to make a fair like this a viable venture. Brighton dealer Alex MacArthur was hoping to sell at least one of his 1925-mounted panther skeletons at £15,000 ($24,760). Enclosed in ebonized Victoria and Albert Museum display cases, they lent a striking ambience to his stand.

The stand of Brighton dealer Alex MacArthur at the Decorative Antiques and Textiles Fair in Battersea Park included two 1925-mounted panther skeletons in cases. Image Auction Central News.

And so to a forthcoming fair that is certainly the most prestigious in the annual European fairs calendar. The European Fine Art Fair (TEFAF) in Maastricht remains the “must-attend” event for museum directors and collectors the world over for only here can one see at close quarters quite so many true museum-quality objects, all of which are for sale. Moreover, while exhibitors at TEFAF are there to do serious business (some claim to do a significant percentage of their annual turnover during the 10 days of the fair) most of them also seem to appreciate that not everyone can afford to buy at the top end of the market and so are happy to share their knowledge.

While aesthetic pleasure is a important aspect of the TEFAF experience, the question of authenticity is also central to the fair’s success and global prestige. One person who is acutely aware of the importance of authenticity is London specialist sculpture dealer Robert Bowman.

London specialist sculpture dealer Robert Bowman, who this year celebrates 20 years as chair of the sculpture-vetting committee at the European Fine Art Fair in Maastricht. Image courtesy of Robert Bowman.

This year Bowman celebrates 20 years as chair of TEFAF’s sculpture-vetting committee, which seeks to ensure that every object exhibited at the fair is exactly what it claims to be. Nowhere is this more critical than in the realm of bronzes and particularly the work of Auguste Rodin (1840-1917), which is among Bowman’s main areas of expertise. This year his gallery moves to the Modern section of the fair where he will be exhibiting a range of work by the great pioneering French sculptor.

‘Iris, Study with Head,’ by Auguste Rodin (1840-1917), signed ‘A.Rodin’ and numbered 7. Inscribed Susse Fondeurs, Paris. ©Musée Rodin 1971. On the stand of London dealer Robert Bowman at the European Fine Art Fair in Maastricht from March 14-23. Image courtesy Robert Bowman. ‘The Choiseul Danaide,’ 1907, Auguste Rodin
(1840-1917) Petit modèle, Version Type III. Inscribed ‘A.Rodin’ on the back of the naturalised base and stamped on the interior ‘A.Rodin.’ Conceived 1885, cast circa 1907. On the stand of London dealer Robert Bowman at the European Fine Art Fair in Maastricht. Image courtesy Robert Bowman.

The Bowman stand at Maastricht will offer a preview of the forthcoming Rodin exhibition at their London Duke Street gallery in May, which will showcase what the gallery describes as “the best Rodin works to have come on the market in recent years.” Bowman is among those dealers who are responding to the growing global trend toward seeing art principally as a blue-chip asset class in which to invest. International art, he says, is now “a universal currency.”

Finally, it is always encouraging to see the art trade taking an innovative approach to the web, particularly given the resistance expressed toward it in the early dot-com period of 2000. Fine period furniture dealer W.R. Harvey & Co. of Witney, Oxfordshire has launched a new website that allows visitors to see the objects in period room settings on a slide-show, which can be paused for deeper investigation into the details of each piece.

This rare 18th-century oak and holly-inlaid bureau with its original fixtures and fittings is for sale on the newly revamped website of W.R. Harvey (Antiques) Ltd. of Witney, Oxfordshire where it is priced £4,250 ($7,025). Image courtesy of W.R.Harvey (Antiques) Ltd.

“We have tried as far as possible to eliminate the time-wasting clicks and page-scrolling that often irritate viewers,” said director David Harvey. “Now buyers can purchase online with confidence using Sage Pay and the website also features a selection of fresh stock that has been waiting for the launch.” Visit their website at their new dotcom address —

Last Updated on Monday, 03 March 2014 16:52

London Eye: December 2013

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Written by TOM FLYNN, Auction Central News International   
Tuesday, 31 December 2013 09:52

Sir Alfred Gilbert’s famous Eros statue in Piccadilly Circus enclosed in a snow-glove as part of the Christmas festivities. Image Auction Central News.

LONDON — Happy New Year from London.

Imagine arriving at Piccadilly Circus a few days before Christmas to find Alfred Gilbert’s statue of Eros — one of the city’s most iconic landmarks — standing amid wreaths of falling snowflakes. I mean, how romantic can London get at Christmas time? But hold on … sadly we have to report that it was not real snow falling around the monument but the artificial kind, for the statue had been temporarily enclosed within a snow-globe to simulate the white Christmas we all dream about, but which never seems to happen on this wet and windy isle.

We can never be sure of a white Christmas but there is no doubt that the year ahead will bring more stormy weather thanks to the earth’s changing ecology. The ecology of the art market is also changing. We have reported here before on the imminent eviction of the art trade from venerable Cork Street, the row of galleries and small dealerships that stretches from the Royal Academy at its southern end to New Bond Street in the north. It is one of London’s longest established art streets, the first galleries opening there in the 1930s.London’s Cork Street, poised to undergo a transformation as more and more art galleries are forced to move away by rising rents. Image Auction Central News.

Peggy Guggenheim launched her first London venture, Guggenheim Jeune, in Cork Street, as did Freddy Mayor, founder of the Mayor Gallery. The street was originally populated mainly by tailoring businesses, commonly known as “the rag trade.” Its contemporary equivalent — up-market fashion labels — have recently come to dominate neighboring New Bond Street and Old Bond Street, two other historically important centers of the art trade (Sotheby's has been located on New Bond Street since 1917).Increasingly the art trade zone around New Bond Street is being occupied by high fashion brands at the expense of art galleries and dealerships. Image Auction Central News. As the fashion brands have moved in, so the rents have risen in Cork Street and environs, increasingly squeezing out the galleries that gave the area its art trade ambience.

Just before Christmas, the Mayor Gallery threw a party to bid farewell to the premises it has occupied since the 1930s before it moves in the new year to a smaller upstairs location further up the street. Unsurprisingly, given its decades-long pedigree as a crucible of irreverent surrealist fun and games, the Mayor was packed to the gunnels with ageing bohemians keen to bid the gallery a lachrymose and bibulous Christmas farewell.Night owls at the Mayor Gallery’s valedictory Christmas party in early December, ahead of its move from the Cork Street premises it has occupied since the 1930s. Image Auction Central News.Arty party animals assemble at the Mayor Gallery to bid farewell to its old premises. Image Auction Central News.

New York party animal and trans-Atlantic art world commentator Anthony Haden-Guest was on hand to read his “noir poetry,” at times forced to scream to be heard above the din, Anthony Haden Guest, long-time habitué of the London and New York demi-monde, reads his ‘noir verse’ at the Mayor Gallery’s farewell Christmas party. Image Auction Central News. while British underground artist, musician and curator Richard Strange provided a two-man rock band and grungy video projection to embroider the evening’s art-punk mayhem. Whether it was Strange himself languishing in the gallery window clad in a silver mermaid outfit was not revealed, but it was very much in the spirit of a London trade refusing to go down without a stylish flourish. A Surrealist slumbering silver mermaid greeted guests to the Mayor Gallery’s Christmas party. Image Auction Central News.

That this brief flash of quintessentially English art world eccentricity represents the end of an era is beyond doubt. Certainly Cork Street will not be the same without the Mayor. Its forced departure from the premises it has occupied since the era of Peggy Guggenheim offers further proof, if any were needed, that corporate business gives not a fig for the cultural traditions that have given London its unique edge over other world cities.

Happily it was not all gloomy news for London art market real estate at the end of 2013. Bonhams recently opened their stunning new auction rooms just two doors up from Christie’s new private dealing gallery on New Bond Street, demonstrating that the fashion brands have not yet entirely squeezed out the art market. Bonhams grand new premises in New Bond Street, almost next door to Christie’s new private dealing gallery. Image Auction Central News.How times have changed, though. Back in the 19th century you could pull up your horse and cart outside Bonhams Auction Rooms, but you’d have difficulty doing that today. In the 19th century you could park your horse and cart outside Bonhams London auction rooms. Image by kind permission of Bonhams. It will be interesting to see whether the spacious new light-filled galleries bring improved market share to Bonhams as they continue to challenge the dominance of the “big two” — Christie’s and Sotheby’s — in 2014.

Bonhams is, of course, a in the vintage transport market, having sold the world’s most valuable motor car — the Fangio 1954 Mercedes-Benz W196R Formula 1 single-seater
— for £19,601,500 ($32.4 million) at the 2013 Goodwood Festival of Speed Auction back in July. They at least have that specialist expertise that neither Christie’s nor Sotheby’s can match.

Meanwhile, for regional auctioneers Hartley’s it was a rather more down-to-earth mode of transport that provided an interesting moment at their December auction in Ilkley, West Yorkshire. So, if you are wondering how much a penny farthing — or, more properly, an “Ordinary Bicycle” — is worth at auction these days, we can report that the “Rational National” brand version offered at Hartleys pedaled its way up to a respectable £1,300 ($2,150). This ‘penny farthing’ bicycle fetched £1,300 ($2,150) at Hartleys’ December sale in Ilkley West Yorkshire. Image courtesy of Hartleys.

One or two other items at the Ilkley sale are also worth mentioning, including a surprise in the ceramics section and more extraordinary prices for the painter known as “Braaq.”

Damage is never an easy thing to account for when appraising an object’s commercial potential. It all depends on rarity and whether restoration is viable. Take, for example, the mid-1930s Lenci pottery figure known as “Nella.”A 1930s Lenci figure, ‘Nella,’ which despite damage fetched £2,500 (£4,135) at Hartleys’ auction rooms in Ilkley in December. Image courtesy of Hartleys.Hartley’s was careful in estimating this at £200-£300 for the figure’s vulnerable outstretched fingers had sustained some damage and there were chips to the foot and ankle.This damage to the Lenci ‘Nella’ figure did not deter bidders at Hartleys’ sale in December. Image courtesy of Hartleys. Back in 2011, Christie’s sold an example of Nella at their South Kensington “Interiors” sale where, despite some “restoration and damages,” it fetched £4,000 ($6,488), while Bonhams sold one at their Los Angeles rooms in October 2013 for $4,000 (£2,422). Given these precedents, Hartley’s hammer price of £2,500 (£4,135) seemed about right.

The furniture section included a Victorian mahogany extending dining table with enough leaves to make it as long as the M1 motorway. Even the extending mechanism itself looked like a section of the Hadron Collider.Victorian engineering at its best. The mechanism of an extending dining table offered at Hartleys in West Yorkshire. Image courtesy of Hartleys. Tables this long can either fly or fall flat, depending on whether the right people are present on sale day. In the event a cautious estimate of £1,000-£1,500 was replaced by a hammer price of £6,000 ($9,925), a perfectly fair outcome given the number of diners it will accommodate. The Victorian extending dining table that made £6,000 ($9,925) at Hartleys in West Yorkshire. Image courtesy of Hartleys.

Oils on canvas by the late Yorkshire oil painter Brian Shields (1951-1997), better known as Braaq, continue to command high prices at Hartleys. The firm sold no fewer than 23 works by the artist in 2013 alone. This sale featured six Braaq lots, including two that suggest something of his debt to now critically acclaimed “stick-men” painter L.S. Lowry and the great Netherlandish painter of winter scenes, Pieter Brueghel the Elder. The two highest prices were for Figures Approaching a Frozen Lake, Industrial Town in the Distance,This oil on canvas, ‘Figures Approaching a Frozen Lake, Industrial Town in the Distance,’ by the late Brian Shields (Braaq), realized £16,500 ($27,290) at Hartleys in West Yorkshire in December. Image courtesy of Hartleys.which realized £16,500 ($27,290), and Snowscape with Figures in a Park, which made £14,000 ($23,150). ‘Snowscape with Figures in a Park,’ by Brian Shields (Braaq) which made £14,000 ($23,150) at Hartleys’ December auction in Ilkley, Yorkshire. Image courtesy of Hartleys.

So, what will 2014 hold for the London and UK art market? One thing is for sure; Cork Street may be declining, but the “event-driven” art market is thriving and so we can be sure to see more art and antiques fairs. Business kicks off in January with the Mayfair Antiques & Fine Art Fair from Thursday, Jan. 9, to Sunday, Jan. 12, at the London Marriott Hotel in Grosvenor Square, where 45 specialist dealers will offer a range of material across the four days, while at the end of the month the Petersfield Antiques Fair takes place at the Hampshire town’s Festival Hall, from Jan. 31 to Feb. 2. Art dealer Graham Bentley will be showing a number of lithographs by Sir William Nicholson (1872-1949), who specialized in wood-engraving and illustration. This archery-themed lithograph by Sir William Nicholson, who won an Olympic gold medal for his sport-related art at the 1926 Olympics in Amsterdam, will be on view at the Petersfield Antiques Fair from Jan. 31 to Feb. 2. Image courtesy art dealer Graham Bentley and Petersfield Fair.

Interestingly, Nicholson has the distinction of being Britain’s only known artist to win an Olympic gold medal, having competed in the 1928 Olympic Games in Amsterdam at a time when the Games included a section devoted to sport-related art.

Olympics will not, however, be top of mind in the UK this year, for 2014 is World Cup soccer year. Over to Brazil!

Last Updated on Tuesday, 31 December 2013 11:14

London Eye: November 2013

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Written by TOM FLYNN, Auction Central News International   
Tuesday, 03 December 2013 14:15
Mark Poltimore, chairman of Sotheby’s Russia, conducts proceedings at Sotheby’s sale of important Russian Art in London on Nov. 25. Image Auction Central News

LONDON – Back in the dot-com boom period of 2000-2003, the staid and conservative world of fine art auctioneering looked with something of a jaundiced eye on the new-fangled Internet and the so-called World Wide Web. Few indeed were those who recognized the potential of new technology to radically alter the commercial landscape of the traditional art market. While most auctioneers battened down the hatches and hoped it would all go away, a few plucky individuals took a risk, jumped ship from their secure posts in the world of bricks and mortar and joined one of the new Internet start-ups. Sadly, few of those early pioneering businesses survived the subsequent financial meltdown, but by effectively taking one for the team they thus paved the way for the world we now inhabit in which Internet bidding is playing an increasingly prominent role.

Mark Poltimore, current chairman of Sotheby’s Russia, was one of the brave souls who a dozen years ago packed his gavel and set off for the sunlit uplands of Internet auctioneering. In doing so he gained perhaps a deeper insight into Internet auction technology than less adventurous colleagues in the art market. That experience may have been in the back of his mind as he mounted the rostrum at Sotheby’s in London on Monday evening to conduct a sale of Russian art.

Halfway through the evening, he brought the hammer down on Lot 19 – a painting of a seated nude by Nikolai Fechin (1881-1955) – one of a number of lots that had been deaccessioned by the Palm Springs Art Museum. ‘The largest internet bid I’ve ever taken,’ said Sotheby’s Mark Poltimore as he sold Nikolai Fechin’s ‘Nude’ for £1,258,500 ($2.06 million) at Sotheby’s Russian sale in London on Nov. 25. Image courtesy of Sotheby’s. Simply titled Nude, the work had been estimated at £500,000-£700,000 ($800,000-$1,120,000) but a steady battle between the room, the telephones and a particularly determined bidder on the Internet eventually drove the hammer up to £1,258,500 ($2.06 million).

“That was one of the largest internet bids I’ve ever taken,” pronounced Lord Poltimore from the rostrum. The significance of those throwaway words in the context of his earlier experience with the now long-defunct would have been lost on a saleroom packed with members of the Russian nouveau riche.

Fechin’s Nude was a welcome highpoint in a sale that had been deprived of much of its promised blue-chip action by the fact that the two star lots had been sold by private treaty prior to the auction. Petr Petrovich Konchalovsky’s enormous Family Portrait in the Artist’s Studio, and Robert Rafaelovich Falk’s Man in a Bowler Hat (Portrait of Yakov Kagan-Shabshai), both dated from 1917 and were prominently hung in the center of the salesroom. Petr Petrovich Konchalovsky’s monumental ‘Family Portrait in the Artist’s Studio,’ and Robert Rafaelovich Falk’s ‘Man in a Bowler Hat (Portrait of Yakov Kagan-Shabshai),’ hanging at Sotheby’s on Monday Nov. 25. Both lots were sold by private treaty prior to the auction. Image Auction Central News. Drawing heavily on the prevailing painterly language of postimpressionism, both works reportedly sold to London-based Russian billionaire oligarch Pyotr Aven, chairman of the Alfa Banking Group. Sotheby’s declined to confirm the prices, but Russian trade sources at the sale told Auction Central News that the prices were £4.75 million ($7,775,000) for Family Portrait and £6.1 million ($10 million) for Man in a Bowler Hat.

Robert Rafaelovich Falk’s ‘Man in a Bowler Hat (Portrait of Yakov Kagan-Shabshai),’ sold by private treaty, reportedly to Russian billionaire oligarch Pyotr Aven, for an unconfirmed £6.1 million ($10 million) before Sotheby’s Russian art sale on Nov. 25. Image courtesy of Sotheby’s.

The highest price of Sotheby’s Russian week was the £2,210,500 ($3.6 million) paid by a first-time Russian buyer for a magnificent pair of Russian Imperial porcelain vases, while Christie’s hit an even higher price the following day when they sold Ilya Mashkov’s (1881-1944) canvas titled The Bathers for £4,114,500 ($6,665,490).

This pair of Russian Imperial porcelain vases fetched £2,210,500 ($3.6 million), the highest price of Sotheby’s Russian art week in London. Image courtesy of Sotheby’s. Ilya Mashkov’s ‘The Bathers,’ which sold for £4,114,500 ($6,665,490) the highest price of Christie’s Russian art week in London on Nov. 26. Image courtesy of Christie’s.

There are said to be around 500,000 Russians domicile in London — hence the capital’s new sobriquet “Moscow-on-Thames.” Certainly the high-spending Russian and Eastern European contingent were in evidence for the Russian sales. If the London auction sales confirmed their taste for art, we know rather less of their taste in music, but it is a fair bet that the majority of them would be familiar with the output of one Robert Zimmerman, known to most of the world as Bob Dylan. One had only to wander across the street from Sotheby’s to the Halcyon Gallery to witness Dylan’s most recent project and it had nothing to do with music. Halcyon Gallery in New Bond Street, where Bob Dylan’s exhibition of welded iron sculpture titled ‘Mood Swings’ is currently on display. Image Auction Central News. “Mood Swings” is a huge exhibition devoted to Dylan’s sculpture in iron and steel. The recently opened Halcyon Gallery is a vast building but Dylan seems to have had no trouble filling its many rooms with his elaborate screens and wall panels composed of welded chains, bolts, springs and clamps.

Bob Dylan’s welded iron sculptures on display at London’s Halcyon Gallery, just opposite Sotheby’s in New Bond Street. Image Auction Central News.

“I’ve been around iron all my life ever since I was a kid,” says Dylan in a wall panel in the exhibition. “I was born and raised in iron ore country where you breathe it and smell it every day. And I’ve always worked with it one way or another.” His sculptural activities may come as a surprise to the legions of fans who have listened to Bob’s music through the decades, many of whom will now be wondering how he ever found time in his busy writing, recording and touring schedule to brandish a welding torch (Monday write, Tuesday weld?).

Dylan’s sculpture is a derivative take on the work of the modernist sculptor David Smith, and lacks the visual poetry and sense of composition that established Smith’s reputation as a great American master. Unlike Smith’s muscular constructions made from discarded engineering components, these Halcyon works seem to have been made from preordered parts that have the shiny, box-fresh quality of off-the-peg interior design.

‘Mood Swings,’ an exhibition of singer Bob Dylan’s iron sculpture at Halcyon Gallery in New Bond Street, until Jan. 25. Image Auction Central News.

Dylan’s sculptures may have been inspired by visual artists of far greater renown but at least he is not being accused of plagiarism. Damien Hirst, on the other hand, is once again in the news for allegedly drawing a little too much on the work of another artist. Hirst’s recent photo shoot for GQ magazine features pop diva Rihanna as Medusa crowned with snakes with a python around her neck. Now artist Jim Starr is claiming that the image seems strangely similar to one of his own works which, coincidentally, had appeared in a Dreweatts auction catalog adjacent to one of Hirst’s works. Approached by the London Evening Standard newspaper, Hirst’s dealers, the fashionable White Cube gallery, declined to comment.

Happily no such brouhaha surrounds the work of London-based Anglo-Indian artist Natasha Kumar, whose Indian-inspired paintings, prints and drawings are winning her a broad collecting base around the world. Her recent exhibition at the Royal Geographical Society in Exhibition Road, a mere stone’s throw from the great Asian collections of the Victoria and Albert Museum, has won her even more admirers. This work by Natasha Kumar was recently on display at the Royal Geographical Society in South Kensington and will be on show at the Asia House Christmas Fair at 63 New Cavendish St. on Dec. 6-8. Image courtesy Natasha Kumar. ‘On the Ganges, Sunrise,’ by British artist and printmaker Natasha Kumar, which will be among works on display at the Asia House Christmas Fair at 63 New Cavendish St. on Dec. 6-8. Image courtesy Natasha Kumar. The exhibition featured paintings and drawings based on her travels in Rajasthan and were complemented by outdoor sculptures in polished stone by British artist Paul Vanstone.

“It is always a real joy to be part of the Royal Geographical Society,” Kumar told Auction Central News. “This is our second Kumar and Vanstone exhibition in the Pavilion Gallery. The glorious building has surprising spaces with wonderful lawned gardens that back onto the Royal Albert Hall. Paul's large torso works and his heads in pure black and pure white marble look amazing here.” British sculptor Paul Vanstone’s polished stone torsos on display the Royal Geographical Society in Kensington. Image courtesy Paul Vanstone and the Royal Geographical Society. Kumar’s works will be on show at the Asia House Christmas Fair at 63 New Cavendish Street on Dec. 6-8.

Asian works also featured in the recent Antiques for Everyone Fair at the National Exhibition Centre in Birmingham in early November. One of the fair’s most interesting and successful components was a ‘Young Guns’ section devoted to dealers under 40 years of age. The Young Guns pavilion at the Antiques for Everyone Fair at the National Exhibition Centre in Birmingham in early November where organizers reported a ‘genuine improvement’ in trading conditions. Image courtesy Antiques For Everyone Fair. “It’s been a thrill to bring my eclectic stock to such a popular and well-known fair and do such good business,” said George Johnson, who trades as Lady Kentmores, an antiques shop in Callandar, Perthsire. Among the more encouraging sales at the fair was a Llanrwst oak dresser, circa 1730, offered by Melody Antiques of Chester, (Fig. 14) which sold for around £8,000 ($13,000), a Guanyin female figure in wood and gesso, that sold for £800 on the stand of antiquities specialist A.B.Antico, (Fig. 15) and a late 19th century equestrian oil on canvas titled Colonel Arthur Hill with his Favourite Hunter, by Benjamin Cam Norton, dated 1873, sold by Blackbrook Gallery, Leicestershire for £5,950. (Fig. 16)

This Llanrwst oak dresser, circa 1730, was sold by Melody Antiques of Chester for £8,000 ($13,000) at the Antiques for Everyone Fair in early November. Image courtesy Antiques For Everyone Fair. A Guanyin female figure in wood and gesso that sold for £800 on the stand of A.B. Antico at the Antiques for Everyone Fair in November. Image courtesy Antiques For Everyone Fair. A late nineteenth century oil on canvas, ‘Colonel Arthur Hill with his Favourite Hunter,’ by Benjamin Cam Norton, 1873, sold by Blackbrook Gallery, Leicestershire, for £5,950 at the Antiques For Everyone Fair at the NEC in November. Image courtesy Antiques For Everyone Fair.

The fair’s organizer, Dan Leyland, said afterwards: “It’s been particularly pleasing to welcome the support of the Young Guns and to see so many of our new and returning dealers report good business. The market genuinely appears to be improving. We’ve welcomed more exhibitors than for some years, and the prospects for 2014 look most promising.”

Given the prominence of Scottish dealers at the fair, one wonders what impact the forthcoming referendum on Scottish independence might have on Caledonian representation at future events of this kind. Only time will tell.

Last Updated on Tuesday, 03 December 2013 15:28

London Eye: October 2013

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Written by TOM FLYNN, Auction Central News International   
Friday, 01 November 2013 14:22
The PAD marquee in Berkeley Square—The Pavilion of Art & Design during London’s Frieze week. Image: Auction Central News. LONDON – One or two events in London this October offered a telling indicator of how the art market here has changed almost beyond recognition in a very short space of time. The extent to which the enormous, sprawling Frieze art fair and its recent offshoot, Frieze Masters, now dominate the autumn London art calendar is perhaps not surprising given the inexorable growth of contemporary art as an alternative investment target for High Net Worth Individuals (HNWIs). This year, Frieze deepened still further the seemingly irreversible marriage of culture and finance by adding fashion designer Alexander McQueen to its list of prestige sponsors that already includes Deutsche Bank.

So much for commerce, but rather more surprising is how the Frieze brand continues to bewitch the general public given the fairs’ staggeringly high entrance fees. The apparent willingness of the average punter to fork out the £50 fee to get access to both Frieze tents is surely evidence that the new "event-driven" art market is as much about entertainment and fantasy window-shopping as it is about the big-ticket art investments that only privileged HNWIs can afford. That said, the fact that in a single month London can absorb both the Frieze fairs plus the prestigious PAD (the Pavilion of Art and Design) in Berkeley Square, which hosted a further 50 high-end dealers, testifies to just how much wealth is now concentrated in the capital.

Not everyone sees the rise of Frieze as a positive development, however. British artist John Keane, the UK’s official Gulf War artist in 1994, complained that Frieze’s exclusivity hinders other artists’ opportunities. "While Frieze is going on it is hard for anyone else to be seen," he told The Guardian newspaper. "All the newspapers cover the same shows and you tend to see the same artists' names coming up at the Tate, Hayward and Whitechapel galleries."

London Eye might take issue with that assessment, however. We patrolled the smaller “off-piste” London art galleries during Frieze week and found lots of shows brimming with activity and enthusiasm. The Josh Lilley Gallery in Riding House Street shows work by a carefully selected group of artists of a very high caliber. When we visited the gallery’s recent exhibition of work by Italian-born, Berlin-based artist Benedetto Pietromarchi there was an exciting buzz in the air A young gallery crowd assemble at the Josh Lilley Gallery in Fitzrovia for the exhibition of work by Benedetto Pietromarchi during Frieze week. Image: Auction Central News. . Unlike so many of the blue-chip contemporary artists one encounters at Frieze, Pietromarchi is classically trained and thus is an accomplished draughtsman, ceramicist and sculptor who makes all his own work. His exhibition comprised beautifully modeled ceramic birds of prey perched on pipes and cylinders, juxtaposed with handmade, polychrome-glazed ductwork fragments that might have been retrieved from the seabed, all encrusted with suggestions of marine flora and fauna. This was magical, hugely original work of the kind that can only emerge from a fertile imagination harnessed to exquisite craft skills.

Berlin-based artist Benedetto Pietromarchi at his exhibition at London’s Josh Lilley Gallery. Image: Auction Central News. A ceramic work by talented Italian sculptor Benedetto Pietromarchi at the up-and-coming Josh Lilley Gallery in London’s funky Fitzrovia district during Frieze week. Image: Auction Central News.

Directly opposite the Josh Lilley Gallery, the T.J. Boulting Gallery was showing an astonishing installation of life-size sculptures of cattle modeled in clay by British artist Stephanie Quayle. British artist Stephanie Quayle with her clay cattle installation at the T.J. Boulting Gallery during London’s Frieze week. Image: Auction Central News. Quayle, who lives on a farm on the Isle of Man, has an intimate knowledge of the livestock with which she spends her working days. This enables her to bring an extraordinary expressive realism to her figures. She had several tons of clay delivered to the gallery and modeled the cattle on site, the finished work having a robust surface texture alive with evidence of the artist’s hand. A detail of the life-size installation of clay cattle by Isle of Man-based sculptor Stephanie Quayle at the T.J. Boulting Gallery. Image: Auction Central News. In an adjoining room other works explored the deep primal connections between man and beast, giving rise to the exhibition’s title—“Lion Man.” The gallery was packed when we visited, proving that Frieze cannot suck all the air out of the city.

After seeing these thrilling, handmade shows in the funky heartland of Fitzrovia it was hard not to look with something of a jaundiced eye on “Candy,” a joint exhibition of work by Damien Hirst and Felix Gonzalez-Torres over at the Blain Southern Gallery just round the corner from Sotheby’s main saleroom. Piles of sweets by the late artist Feliz Gonzales-Torres share gallery space with abstract canvases by Damien Hirst at the ‘Candy’ show staged by London dealers Blain Southern to coincide with Frieze week in October. Image: Auction Central News. The show tried to promote some sort of correspondence between the late Cuban-born American sculptor and the erstwhile enfant terrible of British art. If anything it offered another emphatic reminder that Hirst can neither paint nor sculpt. All his most celebrated animal, spot and butterfly works were made by anonymous artists who were paid to fabricate the stuff on his behalf. Thus the juxtaposition at this recent London show of his infantile abstract canvases with Gonzales-Torres’s now famous heaps of wrapped candy came over not as an intellectually stimulating fusion of disparate creative practices but rather as a desperate attempt to capitalize on the fact that London during Frieze week is teeming with people with more money than critical sense.

The brains behind the Blain Southern “Candy” show—London dealers Harry Blain and Graham Southern—were once the founding proprietors of the Haunch of Venison contemporary art gallery just up the road in New Bond Street. That gallery grew out of a marriage of Blains and the celebrated Anthony d’Offay Gallery and became so successful that it was eventually acquired by Christie’s auction house, who saw it as an opportunity to grow their private treaty interests. The most recent example of the morphing of Christie’s into dealers also came during Frieze month when they launched their new Christie’s Mayfair private treaty business at what was originally the Haunch of Venison premises at 103 New Bond Street. ( Christie’s Mayfair—the auction house’s new private dealership gallery in London’s New Bond Street where the ‘When Britain Went Pop!’ exhibition was launched during Frieze week. Image: Auction Central News.

The inaugural exhibition—“When Britain Went Pop!”—was a collaboration between Christie’s and leading London dealers Waddington Custot Galleries. Waddington Gallery founder Leslie Waddington had been a pivotal figure in the promotion of Pop Art in Britain in the 1950s and 1960s and this exhibition grew out of his friendship and association with Christie’s director Hugues Joffre. Arguably one of the most comprehensive surveys of a movement which, despite many misconceptions, was actually born in Britain rather than in America, the show included numerous seminal works by David Hockney, Richard Hamilton, Eduardo Paolozzi, Peter Blake and many of their contemporaries.

Apart from the marvelous catalog, the most notable thing about the “When Britain Went Pop!” exhibition was the sheer number of works accumulated over the years by the dealers involved. We asked where the works came from and were told that many of the canvases and sculptures originate from Waddington Custot’s inventory and have not been seen in public for decades. A major downside, however, was the lack of precise information and the overcrowded hang. An interior view of the comprehensive survey exhibition of early British Pop Art launched at Christie’s Mayfair in conjunction with Waddington Custot Galleries. Image: Auction Central News. ‘When Britain Went Pop!’—a major survey of early British Pop Art, created by Christie’s Mayfair in collaboration with Waddington Custot Galleries in London’s New Bond Street in October. Image: Auction Central News. The title labels had been stuck in random clusters to the extreme edges of the walls making it difficult to see which works they referred to. Nevertheless, it was remarkable to see such an important show assembled not by a public gallery like the Tate, but by the trade—auction houses and dealers working in collaboration.

If the dominance of art fairs and the transfiguration of auctioneers into dealers were not enough to make a case for a changing art world landscape, we could add the ever more prominent role of the emerging economies in the London scene. Barely a month passes without another show popping up to cater for the thousands of Chinese, Brazilian, Middle Eastern or Russian collectors either just visiting London or already domicile in the city. Increasingly many of the city’s major real estate projects are being bought up by overseas investors seeking a bricks-and-mortar foothold in one of the world’s leading centers of unbridled wealth generation. And they need works of art to hang in these homes and offices.

There are now estimated to be around 500,000 Russians living in London, a statistic that doubtless has not gone unnoticed by the Willow Gallery in Duke Street. They have teamed up with Amsterdam-based icon dealers Jan Morsink Ikonen to launch an exhibition of Russian icons to coincide with Russian art week in London, Nov. 23-29. This highly specialist field ought to chime with London’s wealthy Russian community since the Russian art market, like the Chinese art market, is driven by a combination of new money and a desire to regain their nation’s dispersed cultural heritage. The Willow Gallery exhibition includes some wonderful hieratic imagery such as the Christ Enthroned as a High Priest This Russian icon titled ‘Mother of God Tichvinskaya,’ Moscow, dating from the second half of the 16th century, from the collection of Jan Morsink, Amsterdam, will be on display at the Willow Gallery, 40, Duke Street, for Russian Art Week, Nov. 23- 29. Image courtesy Willow Gallery and Jan Morsink. and the gentle Mother of God Tichvinskaya ‘Christ Enthroned as High Priest,’ Russia, Kostroma region, mid-17th century, from the Jan Morsink collection, will be on view at the Willow Gallery from Nov. 23 to 29. Image courtesy Willow Gallery and Jan Morsink.

Last Updated on Friday, 01 November 2013 15:43

London Eye: September 2013

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Written by TOM FLYNN, Auction Central News International   
Thursday, 03 October 2013 10:43

The LAPADA Art and Antiques Fair marquee in London’s Berkeley Square was the place to be, kicking off the autumn fair season in the capital. Image: Auction Central News.

“This is busier and more lively than the private view evening at the Masterpiece Fair,” a London-based Russian art consultant told Auction Central News as she strolled around the 2013 LAPADA Fair marquee in Berkeley Square on Sept. 27.

The fair’s location in one of Mayfair’s prettier squares makes it a great place to stop for lunch. The view from the first-floor restaurant at the LAPADA Fair in Berkeley Square. Image: Auction Central News. However, you need to keep your wits about you when walking around inside the fair if you don’t want to bump into a tree.Nature and culture: a mature tree is no impediment to the enjoyment of the LAPADA Fair. Like the fair, you just walk around it. Image: Auction Central News. Happily the British trade is made of stern stuff and won’t let little things like tree trunks or recessions get in their way.

A “busy” fair does not necessarily mean business is being done, however. Seasoned fairgoers can generally tell within an hour of walking around one of these events whether people are buying or just looking. The real picture emerges only when you start talking to the trade.

“It’s not easy, but we’ve sold things,” said Edenbridge furniture dealer Lennox Cato, who appears regularly on the BBC’s Antiques Roadshow.Edenbridge fine furniture dealer and BBC 'Antiques Roadshow' specialist Lennox Cato at the LAPADA Fair this week. Image: Auction Central News. “The wealth is out there but rich people tend to lack confidence and the recession is still biting.” This makes it tough for dealers who need to cover the increasingly high cost of stand rentals at these events: “You won’t get much change from £20,000-£25,000 ($32,250-$40,350) and then you’ve got to make something for yourself,” said Cato. Among the pieces he was hoping to sell was a fine and rare Regency rosewood cylindrical bookcase priced at £23,000 ($37,100).This Regency rosewood cylindrical bookcase was for sale with Edenbridge dealer Lennox Cato at the LAPADA Fair, priced at £23,000 ($37,100). Image: Auction Central News.

Specialist glass dealer Mark West was reasonably upbeat. He showed us a beautiful Bohemian ruby overlay glass vase engraved with a view of the Crystal Palace Great Exhibition, priced at £4,400 ($7,100). How much business was he doing? “Put it like this,” he said. “We’ve got fewer things now than when the fair opened two days ago.”

Versatile dealer and decorator Peter Woodward of The Blanchard Collective in Wiltshire was showing a wide range of paintings and affordable works of art and was optimistic about the atmosphere and the interest shown during the first two days.Alison Davey of ‘Signed and Designed’ in Chipping Camden, whose decorative ceramics were finding favour with buyers at the LAPADA Fair. Image: Auction Central News. “It’s been good,” he said. “I do the Decorative Fair in Battersea, but this is the first time I’ve done LAPADA and I’ve sold a few things.” A similar response came from Gloucestershire decorative arts dealer Alison Davey of Signed and Designed in Chipping Camden.Fine art dealer Peter Woodward of The Blanchard Collective in Wiltshire took time out at the LAPADA Fair to chat to Auction Central News. Image: Auction Central News. She was showing a fabulous array of Della Robbia pottery, William de Morgan and Royal Lancastrian luster wares, some temptingly affordable Martin Brothers tiles, and new works by talented contemporary ceramicist Heidi Warr. “It’s been worthwhile,” she concluded.

The overriding message from the LAPADA event was that until the recession lifts business is likely to be slow, however, much money there might be in leafy Mayfair.

Autumn is a fine time to be in the capital. After some fantasy antique shopping at the LAPADA Fair, Auction Central News grabbed a ‘Boris bike’ and cycled over to Hyde Park to check out the new Serpentine Sackler Pavilion by superstar architect Zaha Hadid, her first major commission in the UK. The new Serpentine Sackler Pavilion in Hyde Park by superstar architect Zaha Hadid, her first major commission in the UK, which opened to the public this week. Image: Auction Central News. It’s a very pretty building that sits beautifully in the surrounding landscape. Whether its bijou dimensions will be sufficient to accommodate the crowds that are sure to flock to it remains to be seen.

London’s many parks are now the go-to locations for the art trade. Hot on the heels of the LAPADA Fair in Berkeley Square Park comes the Autumn Decorative Fair in Battersea Park from Oct. 1-6. No sooner will that come down when Frieze and Frieze Masters, the two blockbuster events in the London fairs calendar, will go up in Regents Park. The fact that London can sustain so many fairs of this kind says something about the art market’s relative immunity from the broader economic downturn. However, this makes it all the more critical for dealers to source the right kind of material to show.

London-based specialist dealer in Indian works of art and textiles, Francesca Galloway, seems particularly adept at this. At the forthcoming Frieze Masters fair from Oct. 17-20 she will be offering a selection of Indian miniatures of uncommon rarity and quality. The works originate from “a princely collection” of 22 Mughal miniatures assembled by a nobleman from the collections of four of the most important collectors of Indian painting. Galloway will unveil a selection at Frieze Masters and then show the collection in its entirety at Asian Art week in London in November. Typical of the kind of work on offer is a Mughal miniature, circa 1570-80, showing a keeper trying to restrain an elephant.A Mughal miniature, circa 1570-80, showing a keeper trying to restrain an elephant, which will be on the stand of London specialist Indian works of art dealer Francesca Galloway at Frieze Masters, Oct. 17-20. Image courtesy of Francesca Galloway. Also on the stand will be a 19th-century Mughal-style princely howdah or ceremonial seat from Northeast India, veneered with carved ivory and with silver mounts.This 19th century Mughal-style princely howdah, or ceremonial seat, from Northeast India, veneered with carved ivory and with silver mounts will be shown on the stand of Francesca Galloway at Frieze Masters. Image courtesy of Francesca Galloway. According to Galloway, “Whereas several years ago the
 market for howdahs was predominantly
 museum-based, more collectors of
 Indian art than ever are keen to add howdahs to their collections of royal artifacts, and this piece is exceptionally rare.”

This coming week is Islamic week at the main London salerooms where even more fine Indian works of art will be up for sale. Auction Central News will be present to take the pulse of that burgeoning market. Meanwhile in the regions, Duke’s, the Dorchester auctioneers, will be offering a selection of vintage clothing and accessories on Oct. 15. The sale will include collectible handbags such as a navy blue Hermès Kelly bag with its original lock and key, estimated at £800-1,600 ($1,300-£2,500);Duke’s, the Dorchester auction house, will be holding a sale of vintage clothing and accessories on Oct. 15 to include this Hermès Kelly bag with its original lock and key. It is estimated at £800-£1,600 ($1,300-$2,500). Image courtesy of Duke’s. a tan-colored Hermès Constance bag forecast at £1,500-£3,000 ($2,400-$4,800),A Hermès Constance bag, forecast to bring £1,500-£3,000 ($2,400-$4,800) at Duke’s in Dorchester on Oct. 15. Image courtesy of Duke’s. and a Patricia Lester full-length pleated dress which, if the presale estimate is right, could be yours for £100-£200 ($160-$320).This Patricia Lester full-length pleated dress is expected to fetch £100-£200 ($160-$320) at Duke’s in Dorchester on Oct. 15. Image courtesy of Duke’s.

Finally, our main focus on London fairs is not intended to ignore interesting things happening on the regional circuit. So a brief word about the Esher Hall Antiques and Fine Art Fair taking place at Sandown Racecourse from Oct. 11-13. Described by its organizers as “an elegant, boutique-style vetted fair” and “a haven for interior decorators and collectors” you’ll find everything from Swedish furniture to fragments of fallen meteorites. A meteorite shower is not the sort of thing that a traditional barometer is capable of forecasting, or at any rate not the handsome Regency example being offered at the Esher Hall fair by Ottery Antiques, which is priced at £8,250 ($13,300).Ottery Antiques have priced this Regency clock barometer at £8,250 ($13,300) and will offer it at Esher Hall Antiques and Fine Art Fair at Sandown Racecourse from Oct. 11-13. Image courtesy of Ottery Antiques. Meanwhile, you’d need to be concentrating before sitting down on the Italian buffalo horn chair circa 1920-30, for sale with Galerie Arabesque at £2,800 ($4,500).A buffalo horn chair, Italian, circa 1920-30, for sale with Galerie Arabesque at £2,800 ($4,500) at Esher Hall Antiques and Fine Art Fair at Sandown Racecourse from Oct. 11-13. Image courtesy of Galerie Arabesque. Not a chair to back into after a few drinks!

In our next installment toward the end of October we will be reporting on the prestigious Frieze Masters, so watch this space.

Last Updated on Thursday, 03 October 2013 12:06

London Eye: August 2013

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Written by TOM FLYNN, Auction Central News International   
Tuesday, 03 September 2013 14:17

Eduardo Alvarino of Scotland, who was among the many dealers reporting encouraging levels of business at this summer’s Antiques for Everyone Fair at the NEC in Birmingham. Image courtesy of Clarion Events and the NEC.

LONDON – One of the most reliable indicators of the popularity of an exhibition, art fair or other public event, is the length of the queue that forms waiting for the doors to open. The recent David Bowie exhibition at the Victoria and Albert Museum had crowds snaking down the Cromwell Road every morning throughout the exhibition’s run. The queues assembling every morning during the recent David Bowie exhibition at London’s Victoria and Albert Museum testified not only to the Thin White Duke’s global following but also to London’s popularity as a tourist destination. Image: Auction Central News. No doubt similar scenes will greet the show as it proceeds on its world tour, taking in Toronto (September to November), Sao Paolo (January to April 2014), Chicago (September 2014 to January 2015), Paris (March to May 2015) and Groningen in the Netherlands (December 2015 to March 2016).

The V&A queues were significantly boosted by the huge influx of overseas visitors to London this summer, which has been attributed to the success of the London 2012 Olympics, although this year’s unusually fine weather must have helped too. Whether this will continue into October when Frieze Fair mania once again grips the capital remains to be seen, but meanwhile it is not only London that has been basking in the warm glow of increased tourist revenue.

This year’s Antiques for Everyone Fair at the National Exhibition Centre in Birmingham also enjoyed what you might call the OVE—Overseas Visitor Effect—with organizers Clarion Events reporting that, “Crowds of eager visitors, including American, Chinese and French buyers, thronged the NEC concourse on the opening morning.” The crowds awaiting the opening of the recent Antiques For Everyone Fair at the National Exhibition Centre in Birmingham were significantly swelled by overseas buyers, according to Clarion Events, the fair’s organizers. Image courtesy of Clarion Events and the NEC.

Those providing joyful reports of booming business included antique glass specialist Jeanette Hayhurst from Tetbury, who spoke of “my best fair ever,” Arts and Crafts dealer James Strang of Glasgow, who said, “I’ve sold my two best pieces of furniture in the first hour,” and Steve Sly of Lyndhurst, who described the event as, “Our most successful fair for some time.” Another Scotland-based dealer, Eduardo Alvarino, endorsed these views, having made encouraging sales to customers old and new. His beaming grin for the cameras provided ample evidence of how pleased he was with the week’s business.

Such positive dispatches ought to be music to everyone’s ears given the gloomy mood of the last two or three years of a recession-dampened market. The auction circuit seems equally encouraging judging from by recent results from around the regions.

They say that valuation is an inexact science and few art market professionals would disagree. One of the most rewarding things for a regional auctioneer is to see the estimate he or she has carefully placed on a lot prior to the sale roundly demolished when the object comes under the hammer, even if it occasionally causes some embarrassment. If the disparity between forecast and final price is glaringly vast then a few delicate, postsale PR maneuvers might be required to deflect heat-seeking journalists. But on the upside, a bigger hammer means a bigger buyer’s premium. Furthermore, if an object turns up, the exact like of which the auctioneer has never seen before and no equivalent of which can be found in the historical price databases, then at least he or she will be ahead of the curve next time.

Something akin to this situation seems to have occurred at Tennants’ recent auction of collectible vintage textiles in Leyburn, North Yorkshire. The object in question was a late 19th-century red and white-striped “Bible Quilt” embroidered all over with images of animals and religious verses.This late 19th century ‘Bible Quilt,’ embroidered in red and white with animals and religious verse, possibly by John and Wm Carriss, completed on 'June 15th 1892', recently fetched £3,000 ($4,650) at Tennants in North Yorkshire. Image courtesy of Tennants. The image shown here gives some idea of the vernacular charm of this example of English domestic embroidery. It included the timeless exhortation to “Follow Righteousness, Faith, Hope, Charity, Peace,” (an apt inscription in the anniversary year of Martin Luther King’s famous speech). ‘Follow Righteousness, Faith, Hope, Charity, Peace,’ a detail of the embroidered ‘Bible Quilt’ that beat an estimate of £400-600 to make £3,000 ($4.560) at Tennants in Yorkshire. Image courtesy of Tennants.But how to value such a thing? Surely the best explanation for why some objects leap clear of their estimate is that the market is always drawn to the unique and the remarkable. Thus few would have been surprised when a tentative estimate of £400-600 gave way to a hammer price of £3,000 ($4,650).

Now over to Duke’s in Dorchester where a sale of ceramics and works of in August gave rise to a not dissimilar example of the estimate/price equation. The sale featured a most unusual Meissen porcelain scent bottle modeled as a monk carrying a basket of fruit and a goose. So far so conventional, one might assume, but a closer look revealed a woman concealed beneath a sheaf of wheat on the monk’s back, her pink shoes sticking out at the bottom. A curious Meissen porcelain scent flask in the form of a monk with a woman hiding in a wheat sheaf on his back, which made £700 ($1,080) at Duke’s in Dorchester in August. Image courtesy of Duke’s.The Meissen factory began making these in the 1720s and this may have dated from around 1750. It had been estimated at just £80-160, perhaps to take account of a couple of chips to the base, but once again so quirkily amusing was its theme that the competition eventually drove the hammer up to £700 ($1,080). What on earth was the cheeky monk doing? Smuggling her into the monastery, or spiriting her out?

An equally fascinating object at the same sale, and perhaps just as challenging to estimate with any great accuracy, was a Malines alabaster plaque, probably 16th century, depicting Jonah and the Whale. A Malines alabaster panel depicting Jonah and the Whale, possibly 16th century, which fetched £2,600 ($4,025) against an estimate of £300-500 at Duke’s in Dorchester in August. Image courtesy of Duke’s.The low relief scene had the hapless Old Testament prophet writhing in front of the whale’s gaping mouth, although whether it showed him prior to being swallowed or having just been regurgitated was not entirely clear. These early Flemish alabaster carvings do come under the hammer from time to time but they are uniquely crafted objects and as such not always easy to estimate. Duke’s went for a conservative forecast of £300-500, doubtless influenced by some damage (a section appeared to be missing from the lower left quadrant), but the market deemed it rare and antiquarian enough to warrant a winning bid of £2,600 ($4,025).

Duke’s sale also offered yet another reminder of how Asian works of art continue to beat forecast, even when they are as familiar as Cantonese bowls—a staple commodity on the provincial circuit. American collectors sometimes refer to these wares as "rose medallion," and good examples are always in demand. This one was forecast at £200-400, but was hammered down for £1,000 ($1,550). A Cantonese bowl, Qing Dynasty, that made £1,000 ($1,550) against an estimate of £200-400 at Duke’s in Dorchester in August. Image courtesy of Duke’s. Chinese mainland collectors have not yet tuned into these wares with any enthusiasm but they remain very enthusiastic about traditional brush paintings—a highly specialist area of the market. The brush painting that came up here, executed in watercolor and body color on silk, showing figures in procession through a mountain landscape, and offered together with another scroll painting of a bird perched on prunus, beat an estimate of £100-200 to command £2,400 ($3,715).

From brush paintings to yet more brushes with celebrity. The public fascination with Diana, Princess of Wales shows no signs of abating, a full 15 years after her death. The forthcoming movie biopic based on her life seems certain to inform a younger generation of her enduring mystique. Meanwhile, at the International Fine Art and Antique Dealers Show in New York in October, London dealers Apter Frederick will be offering American collectors an opportunity to acquire a piece of furniture provenanced to Princess Diana (Spencer’s) family. Anyone with $850,000 (£550,000) to spend will have a chance to acquire the 1st Earl Spencer’s carved fustic and satinwood sofa, circa 1758-65. This carved fustic and satinwood sofa, circa 1758-65, will be on the stand of London furniture dealers Apter Frederick at the International Fine Art and Antique Dealers Show in New York from Oct. 25 to 31, where it will be priced at $850,000 (£550,000). Image courtesy Apter Frederick.Who knows? Perhaps Princess Diana sat on it from time to time?

And finally, looking ahead, Chorley’s the Gloucestershire auctioneers, have been given instructions to offer a particularly fine example of an early Victorian doll’s house at their sale of collectible toys, dolls and games in November. This fine early Victorian doll’s house is to be sold by Gloucestershire auctioneers Chorley’s in November where it will be estimated at £10,000-15,000 ($15,500-$23,245). Image courtesy of Chorley’s. Beautifully decked out with traditional furnishings, it will carry an estimate of £10,000-15,000 ($15,500-$23,245). We will check back in later in the year to view the difference between estimate and hammer price.



Last Updated on Tuesday, 03 September 2013 14:45

London Eye: July 2013

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Written by TOM FLYNN, Auction Central News International   
Wednesday, 31 July 2013 14:01
London-based Raku Sile, curator of the exhibition of recent work by Ethiopian painter Wosene Kosrof at the Gallery of African Art in Cork Street. Image: Auction Central News. LONDON - London is constantly abuzz with industry chatter about ‘emerging markets’ and how the global art economy is undergoing deep structural change thanks to unprecedented wealth generation in the so-called ‘BRIC’ nations of Brazil, Russia, India and China. The impact of these changes is keenly felt here, for London, despite the booming growth of Beijing, is still a major hub of international art commerce.

However, while the London trade is absorbing the seismic vibrations in the global art market, the UK’s regional auction houses, with a few notable exceptions, seem happy to continue as though nothing is happening. At least that was the impression one took from an event staged by the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) at its grand Parliament Square premises last week. Representatives from a number of China’s leading fine art auction houses had been invited to London to present their businesses to their UK counterparts. Sadly, hardly any UK regional auction houses bothered to make the trip to London to welcome them. This seemed like something of a missed opportunity given that the RICS initiative — arranged in partnership with the School of African and Oriental Studies (SOAS) of London University — was a constructive attempt to forge deeper ties with China and to promote best practice in the disciplines of fine art appraisal.

Members of the Chinese Auctioneers Association presenting to their UK counterparts at the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors in London on July 24. Image: Auction Central News.

The RICS’s effort to deepen Sino-British auctioneering relations nevertheless proved an eye-opening event. One of the most interesting presentations was given by the deputy director of Beijing’s Poly International Auction Co., Ltd. Ken Creighton, Director of Professional Standards at the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS), welcomes Chinese fine art auctioneers to London at the RICS’s recent reception to promote best practice in the industry.   The Chinese government-controlled Poly International is now the third largest auction house in the world, with reported sales in 2012 of €732 million ($971m) according to the TEFAF Annual Art Market Report (although that figure was half the 2011 total of €1.4 billion). Auction Central News asked the Poly representative whether the firm would ever emerge as an autonomous entity free of party control. The question elicited wide smiles and a courteously evasive response.

Other presentations drew attention to the sort of eye-watering hammer prices that are becoming the norm at high-ticket auctions in China. The Poly representative told of the 436.8 million RMB ($71.2m) that changed hands for a calligraphic scroll by Huang Tingjian – the sort of price normally associated with blue-chip artists like Picasso or Warhol -- and this after just 20 years of fine art auctions in China. The pace of growth has been head-spinningly rapid.

It is not beyond the bounds of probability that a UK auction house might one day uncover a similarly important object languishing in a British private collection. Closer relations between UK auction houses and their Chinese counterparts might help in the processes of appraisal and dispersal. While most UK auction houses now use the internet to expand their buyer-side client base, relatively few seem to be reaching out to grow their influence among collectors and art businesses further afield. A notable exception is the new enterprise known as ‘Triple A’ (the Association of Accredited Auctioneers), which recently made forays into China with its inaugural auction of UK-sourced European antiques and fine art. Triple-A’s helmsman, Woking-based auctioneer Chris Ewbank, told Auction Central News that a second venture is now in the pipeline, once again in partnership with Chinese internet firm EpaiLive. Surrey auctioneer Chris Ewbank of 'Triple A' and Dr QiQi Jiang, founder of China’s EpaiLive internet company. The Triple A/EpaiLive alliance is now planning its second collaborative venture into the booming Chinese art market. Image courtesy of the Association of Accredited Auctioneers. We will watch those developments with interest.

On the subject of emerging economies, when will Africa step forward to assert itself on the global art market stage? Tentative signs are already emerging in London that interest in African art — and particularly African contemporary art — is growing. A few days ago, collectors and enthusiasts assembled for the private view of an exhibition of works by Ethiopian painter Wosene Kosrof (born 1950) to mark the official launch of The Gallery of African Art in London’s famous Cork Street.

Ethiopian painter Wosene Kosrof, whose first London solo exhibition in 10 years opened at the Gallery of African Art in Cork Street on July 25. Image courtesy the Gallery of African Art.

Curated by young London-based curator Raku Sile, the show was the artist’s first solo show in London for more than 10 years and offered a chance to see his recent works inspired by dynamic calligraphic motifs drawn from his native tongue of Amharic. Visitors remarked on his vibrant use of colour and bold, gestural compositions. Among those attending were London-based music DJ and active community worker Jerry Nicholas and his friends, who expressed enthusiasm for Kosrof’s approach and indeed for the broader social aspects of the London gallery scene. “Evenings like this bring together people from diverse backgrounds,” said Mr Nicholas. “Look around you! Everybody is smiling and enjoying themselves!” Champagne, it must be said, is the perfect ice-breaking accompaniment when viewing contemporary art.

London music DJ Jerry Nicholas (center) with friends Gary Samuels (left) and Makonnen Wodajeneh at the inaugural exhibition of works by Wosene Kosrof at the Gallery of African Art in Cork Street on 25 July. Image: Auction Central News.

One suspects the champagne was also flowing at Bonhams’ auction of classic cars at the annual Goodwood Festival of Speed earlier this month. The most glamorous lot on offer was a very smart, bright blue Ferrari 330GT 2+2 Coupé sports car, which carried an estimate of £180,000-£220,00 ($275,000-$335,500), chiefly on account of the celebrity of one of its former owners — Beatle John Lennon.

This Ferrari 330GT 2+2 Coupe sports car, once owned by Beatle John Lennon, fetched £359,900 ($543,750) at Bonhams’ sale of classic cars at the Goodwood Festival of Speed on July 12. Image courtesy of Bonhams. It is said that following the success of their UK and US chart-topping single ‘Ticket to Ride’ the Fab Four’s fame and fortune was such that the swankier motor car brands assembled outside Lennon’s Surrey home with their latest models in the hope of snagging a major celebrity endorsement. Ferrari were the lucky winners when Lennon — who had only just passed his driving test — came out and selected the Ferrari, then priced at £6,500. At the time, that was an expensive ticket to ride. It appeared at Bonhams’ Goodwood sale complete with a folder of documents testifying to its provenance and restoration history – a crucial detail that powered the bidding up to a winning £359,900 ($543,750).

On the gallery front, interest in sculpture of all periods has exploded in London in recent years, perhaps because it represents a solid, material store of value for investors, but also because London is particularly rich in sculptural talent. The buoyancy of the market has prompted specialist London sculpture dealer Robert Bowman to open a smart new gallery in Duke Street, St James’s. Bowman has forged a significant international reputation for his expertise in the work of Rodin and Modernists like Henry Moore, but he is also among the most active promoters of contemporary artists such as Helaine Blumenfeld. Now he has turned his attention to the acclaimed Bavarian-born British sculptor Johannes von Stumm, a former president of the Royal British Society of Sculptors.

Bowman’s one-man solo exhibition of works by von Stumm, which opens at the Duke Street gallery on September 19 (until November 8), will showcase von Stumm’s remarkable ability to elegantly combine glass, steel, granite and wood in a single work. Having mastered all the craft disciplines required to blow glass, carve wood and stone, and weld steel, von Stumm’s works are beautifully compact essays in the compatibility of seemingly incompatible materials. The exhibition at Bowman’s new gallery will deservedly bring von Stumm’s work to the attention of a much wider constituency of sculpture collectors.

'Sphere,' a work in wood, steel, glass and granite, by the Bavarian-born British sculptor Johannes von Stumm, whose first solo exhibition with London dealer Robert Bowman opens at Bowman’s new Duke Street gallery on September 19. Image courtesy Robert Bowman. This work, titled 'Six,' by the British sculptor Johannes von Stumm, will be on exhibition at the artist’s first solo exhibition at Robert Bowman’s new Duke Street gallery on September 19. Image courtesy Robert Bowman.

An opportunity to marvel at a more historical aspect of the glassblower’s art can be found at London’s Courtauld Gallery until October 14. The fourth display in the gallery’s ‘Illuminating Objects’ program is devoted to two supreme examples of filigree glass, a technique that originated in the thirteenth century and which is traditionally associated with the Venetian island of Murano, but which migrated to northern Europe in the sixteenth century. The exquisite ‘façon de Venise’ goblet on display may have been made in Antwerp or Amsterdam in the sixteenth century, while the spiral ‘air-twist’ wine glass is typical of the sort of fashionable drinking glass made in Georgian England.  This mold-blown, filigree glass goblet, either Venetian or Venetian style, perhaps made in Amsterdam or Antwerp, circa 1550-1625, is on display at the Courtauld Gallery’s 'Illuminating Objects' exhibition until October 14. Image courtesy Courtauld Gallery, (Samuel Courtauld Trust: Gambier Parry Bequest, 1966). An English lead glass wine glass with opaque filigree air-twist, probably London, circa 1770, which can be seen at the Courtauld Gallery’s 'Illuminating Objects' exhibition until October 14. Image courtesy Courtauld Gallery, (Samuel Courtauld Trust: Wilfred Buckley Bequest, 1934). Those lovely air-twist wines used to be a staple commodity at regional UK auction rooms but are now very rare and thus highly collectible.

One of the most encouraging aspects of the Courtauld display is that it was researched by an intern. It is often said that the London art world is now run by interns, but when the results are as imaginative and educational as this it says a great deal about the value of internships when the student in question puts her mind to it. Victoria Druce, the clever intern who put the Courtauld’s tightly-focused exhibition together, is currently completing an MSc in Science Communication at Imperial College, London, having trained as a chemist. She is interested in the materials involved in the making of glass and the various changes in glass composition from country to country. The Courtauld display will encourage close examination of these two precious examples of the glassmaker’s art. The glasses will be exhibited alongside the Courtauld Gallery’s collection of eighteenth-century century British and Italian paintings and English silver. Bravo, Victoria Druce.

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Last Updated on Tuesday, 03 September 2013 14:28

London Eye: June 2013

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Written by TOM FLYNN, Auction Central News International   
Monday, 01 July 2013 14:55

The 'Twist Piano', which was attracting admiring eyes — and ears — on the stand of Based Upon, an innovative London-based contemporary design atelier, at the Masterpiece fair. Image courtesy Masterpiece Fair.

It is June in London and, as on every other day in what is now nostalgically referred to here as summer, it is raining. This is not appreciated by the thousands of overseas visitors flocking to the capital to enjoy its numerous tourist attractions. But for those heading to the Masterpiece Fair, held in an enormous architectural marquee in the grounds of the Royal Hospital in fashionable Chelsea, it is a good excuse for spending a few hours gazing at museum-quality works of art, Maserati motor cars, Riva power boats, and other high-ticket luxury goods. Luxury goods such as Riva powerboats were among the star attractions at the prestigious Masterpiece Fair in London. Image courtesy Masterpiece Fair.This year the entrance to the fair was lent added impact by pair of enormous candelabra made from empty blue champagne bottles by French-born sculptor Joana Vasconcelos. A pair of enormous candelabra made from champagne bottles by Joana Vasconcelos lent some drama to the entrance to the main entrance to the Masterpiece Fair in Chelsea. Image by Auction Central News. The work was part of a “sculpture walk” that was one of the least successful aspects of the event, the works being rather clumsily situated and poorly promoted.

Masterpiece is a modest version of Maastricht's much grander European Fine Art Fair (TEFAF), but is nevertheless one of the most important events in the London art and antiques calendar. It is difficult to get an accurate picture of how successful these fairs are each year since dealers understandably tend to put a positive spin on how much business they are doing, even if they are doing none at all. The best way to judge the viability of a fine art fair is whether it survives in the longer term. Masterpiece is now in its fourth year, which would suggest that the model works. However, the word among exhibitors was that around 40 major dealers had elected not to appear this year, perhaps as a result of the significant increase in stand rents. The organizers therefore had to work hard to find newcomer replacements.

One dealer in European polychrome sculpture who was appearing for the second time described the stand fees as "shockingly expensive," while another firm specializing in Russian works of art chose not to come at all this year. Their representative told Auction Central News: "Last year's stand rental of £50,000 has been increased to £65,000 this year, which we cannot afford." Others keep coming, however, despite not doing any business. Mayfair-based 19th-century picture dealers Stair Sainty were appearing for the third year, but director Stair Sainty said, "We are virgins. In three years we have yet to make a sale at this fair." He was hoping to find a buyer for an important work by Delaroche, Les Enfants d'Edouard,This important work by Paul Delaroche, ‘Les Enfants d'Edouard,’ a version of the famous painting in the Wallace Collection, was on the stand of London dealers Stair Sainty at Masterpiece. Image courtesy of Stair Sainty. familiar from the larger version in the Wallace Collection known as The Princes in the Tower.

Some business was, however, being done. Philip Mould, London's specialist dealer in Old Master portraits, sold an important Nicholas Hilliard miniature, known as The Cholmondely Hilliard, a portrait of An Unknown Woman of the Tudor Court, for £200,000 ($304,250), while London sculpture dealer Robert Bowman sold two works by Modern British sculptor Kenneth Armitage and a 1982 Henry Moore, Head of Horse, for £35,000 ($53,250).

Peter Osborne of Bruton Street-based Modern British dealers Osborne Samuel also spoke positively. "You have to bring the right things to a fair like this. You need to bring masterpieces to Masterpiece if you want to do well." He claimed to have sold classic works by Modern British sculptors Lynn Chadwick and Henry Moore and a major work by Frank Auerbach. The Fine Art Society sold a large sculpted granite head by Emily Young, which was the centerpiece of the fair's champagne-bar piazza. The price was £120,000 ($182,500). An impressive carved granite head by Emily Young, presented by the Fine Art Society at the Masterpiece fair, which sold for £120,000 ($182,500). Image by Auction Central News.

These results are surely a slightly more reliable index of the value of a fair like Masterpiece than the celebrity factor, which, predictably perhaps, grabs all the media headlines. Sarah Jessica Parker, Uma Thurman and former Roxy Music crooner Bryan Ferry were among the luminaries present at the glitzy preview evening, although whether Ferry chose to sing a few tunes to the accompaniment of the Twist Piano on the stand of London contemporary design atelier, Based Upon, remains unconfirmed. The piano, which was played by a gifted young pianist throughout the fair, was one of the star attractions, providing a relaxing and eye-catching diversion for visitors.

With the right forward planning, events like Masterpiece can be a launch pad for more ambitious partnerships. Auction Central News was present for the evening party staged by the Fine Art Asia Fair in the Hong Kong Pavilion stand.The Hong Kong Pavilion at the Masterpiece Fair, aiming to build productive relationships between Asian and Western businesses. Image courtesy of the Hong Kong Pavilion. The event brought together a number of Hong-Kong based contemporary art and design businesses to create a display aiming to promote a partnership between Masterpiece and the Fine Art Asia Fair 2013, which takes place in October.

Works on display at the Pavilion included some exquisite sculptural objects in Canadian maple and bronze by architect designer Chi Wing Lo (born 1954), brush paintings by Lue Shou Kwan (1919-1975) and contemporary sculpted metal garments by acclaimed Hong Kong artist Man Fung-Yi (born 1968).A work in Canadian maple and oxidized bronze by Hong Kong based architect designer Chi Wing at the Hong Pavilion at Masterpiece 2013. Image courtesy of Hong Kong Pavilion.Calvin Hui, co-chairman and director of Fine Art Asia, told Auction Central News: "We aim to build a strong partnership with Masterpiece London to expand the opportunities to promote galleries in both Asia and Europe and will be hosting a European Pavilion at Fine Art Asia in October in order to reciprocate this evening's event." The long-term goal is to encourage Asian collectors to engage with "Western museum-quality fine art in order to take collecting in Asia to the next level," said Hui. Calvin Hui, co-chairman and director of the Fine Art Asia Fair, sponsors of the Hong Kong Pavilion at Masterpiece, London 2013. Hui seeks to foster strong ties between the Fine Art Asia Fair and Masterpiece. Image courtesy Hong Kong Pavilion.

The connection between the London and Asian art markets was reinforced elsewhere this month with the announcement that London's leading dealers in Asian art, Eskenazi Ltd., have appointed Sara Wong as a director of the company. Sarah Wong, who has just been appointed a director of Eskenazi Ltd., the leading London-based dealers in Asian art. Image courtesy of Eskenazi Ltd. Wong's career should be an encouragement to any aspiring graduate seeking to succeed in the highly competitive art market. An Oxford graduate in English Literature with a master's degree in Chinese Studies from Harvard University, she joined Eskenazi in 1993 as a gallery assistant before moving to New York to work for Christie's, eventually becoming vice president and specialist in the Asian art department. She returned to Eskenazi in 1999 and has now risen to the role of full director.

Turning to the London European fine art scene, this week saw the unveiling of another major sculpture by acclaimed British artist Helaine Blumenfeld, now widely recognized as the most significant sculptor of her generation. Blumenfeld's works are in important public and private collections around the world, but the UK has recently been catching on to the appeal of her extraordinary large-scale works in marble, which are fabricated by a team of skilled artisans in Pietrasanta, Tuscany to Blumenfeld's designs. The latest work to find a London home is her 4-meter-high Spirit of Life,Cambridge-based sculptor Helaine Blumenfeld, sitting beside her 2007 work titled ‘Spirit of Life,’ recently installed on a plinth near the Dorchester Hotel in Park Lane. Image courtesy of Helaine Blumenfeld and Robert Bowman Ltd., London. made in the Studio Sem workshops in Pietrasanta in 2007. The piece stands on a plinth opposite the famous Dorchester Hotel in Park Lane, which is expected to be seen by an average of 700,000 people per day, although quite how those statistics were computed has not been revealed.

Finally, a notable event in the world of painting this month was the announcement that London-born painter Thomas Newbolt has been awarded first prize in the 2013 Ruth Borchard Self-Portrait competition.A self-portrait by Thomas Newbolt, which has just won first prize in the prestigious annual Ruth Borchard Self-Portrait Competition. It will be on display at Kings Place, London until September. Image courtesy Ruth Borchard Foundation. The artist's subtly expressive and searching image won out against 120 shortlisted works from over 1,000 competition entrants and can be seen on the walls of Kings Place in Kings Cross until Sept. 22.



Last Updated on Monday, 01 July 2013 16:05

London Eye: May 2013

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Written by TOM FLYNN, Auction Central News International   
Wednesday, 29 May 2013 15:27

A George IV silver-gilt ceremonial trowel, used by the Lord Mayor of London to lay the first stone on the City side of the new London Bridge in 1828. It is expected to fetch £5,000-7,000 ($7,500-10,500) at the inaugural online sale to be held by on June 6. Image courtesy The Auction Room.

LONDON – It would be reasonable to assume that the last thing you would need when building an online auction room is a bricklayer’s trowel. After all, bricks and mortar are so last year, are they not? But if the trowel is of the George IV silver-gilt variety and for sale with an estimated value of around £5,000-7,000 ($7,500-10,500), then it might be just the ticket to get your new online business off the ground, so to speak.

It is entirely appropriate, then, that the ceremonial trowel coming under the hammer of the new, London-based, exclusively online auction business — The Auction Room (dot com) — on June 6 is engraved with the arms of the City of London. The new auction venture is the brainchild of former Sotheby’s specialists George Bailey and Lucinda Blythe who are hoping to succeed where others have failed. They may have timed it just right.

The London art research firm Art Tactic recently conducted a report into the use of technology in the art market in association with Hiscox insurers. It revealed a significant surge in the take-up of e-commerce platforms by private collectors in recent years, which bodes well for start-ups like The Auction Room. Bailey told Auction Central News that even if this week's inaugural sales get off to an uncertain start, the venture will grow in time.

"If you look at the big contemporary art sales in New York recently, it's clear that the middle price bracket is being left behind and as sale commissions continue to rise there are opportunities for new business initiatives to enter the digital space." He referred to a recent live auction at Sotheby's New Bond Street premises where 120 seats were provided for bidders but only nine people turned up.

For now, The Auction Room will be concentrating on smaller, more portable objects — silver, jewelry and watches — which will be on view at Brown's Hotel in Albemarle Street prior to each sale. Other categories will come on stream in the fullness of time. The inaugural sale of fine jewelry takes place on June 4 and will include a fine platinum and diamond spray brooch estimated at £20,000-25,000 ($30,200-37,800),This 1950s platinum and diamond spray brooch, set with 38 brilliant-cut diamonds and 46 baguette-cut diamonds, is among the lots on offer at the inaugural auction to be held by, exclusively online, on June 4. It is estimated to fetch £20,000-25,000 ($30,200-37,800). Image courtesy The Auction Room.  while the watch auction on June 5 will feature a ladies Harry Winston wristwatch estimated at £12,000-14,000 ($18,150-21,160).A fine Harry Winston ladies 'Avenue' 18K gold and diamond-set bracelet wristwatch — a gift from Nursultan Nazarbayev, the president of Kazakhstan, to a respected employee. It is estimated to fetch £12,000-14,000 ($18,150-21,160) when it comes up at the exclusively online sale of watches to be held by on June 5. Image courtesy The Auction Room. It was originally given by Nursultan Nazarbayev, the president of Kazakhstan, to a well-respected employee. The George IV trowel, used by the Lord Mayor of London in 1828 to open the building of London Bridge, will be offered on June 6.

Whether Bailey and Blythe’s interactive virtual saleroom will “transform the traditional auction experience” as they anticipate, remains to be seen, but nothing ventured nothing gained.

The Auction Room is not the only inaugural art event taking place over the coming weeks. June is always a busy time in London as overseas visitors arrive, brollies and guide-books in hand, to explore the many art fairs and other cultural attractions.

One of the most significant new events this year is London Art Week, a collaboration between dealers across the three main traditional categories — paintings, drawings and sculpture. These "tentless" events are in part a response to the proliferation of marquee blockbusters such as Art Antiques London and Masterpiece (both June) and Frieze (October). London Art Week aims to foreground the intimacy and ambience of the "bricks and mortar" gallery experience in contrast to the "mall" art fair culture currently sweeping the globe. It is the first time that Master Paintings Week, Master Drawings Week and Sculpture Week have come together under one umbrella. Judging from the recent summer weather here in London, umbrellas will certainly be needed.

Notable objects on view in London Art Week include a late Hellenistic marble torso of an athlete (circa second-first century B.C.) inspired by Polykleitos, one of the most influential Greek sculptors of the High Classical Period, which will be with Rupert Wace Fine Art,This late Hellenistic marble torso of an athlete (circa second-first century B.C.) will be with Rupert Wace Fine Art during London Art Week from June 28 to July 5. Image courtesy of Rupert Wace. while a Thomas Gainsborough drawing, Wooded Landscape with a Country Cart and Faggot Gatherers, dating from the 1760s, will be on view with Old Master Drawings dealer Stephen Ongpin.Stephen Ongpin Fine Art will be offering this drawing, 'Wooded Landscape with a Country Cart and Faggot Gatherers' by Thomas Gainsborough, (1727–1788) during the inaugural London Art Week. Image courtesy of Stephen Ongpin. Lowell Libson Ltd. is exhibiting a collection of 20 oil studies and 40 drawings by James Ward R.A. (1769–1859) that will throw light on every aspect of his career and working methods.During the inaugural London Art Week, London Old Master dealer Lowell Libson will be showing this work titled 'Virgil's Bulls' by James Ward R.A. (1769–1859). Image courtesy of Lowell Libson.

It would not be an English summer without a few open air sculpture exhibitions. Two of the most significant shows opening in June are the University of Leicester's annual Open Air Sculpture Show at the Harold Martin Botanical Gardens in Leicester, which runs from late June until October, and "Fresh Air," the biennial outdoor sculpture show at The Old Rectory, Quenington, Cirencester, from June 16 to July 7.

 The organizers of the Quenington event say its purpose is "to wash the dust from the soul of everyday life" and to provide the opportunity to celebrate the vitality and diversity of outdoor sculpture. Regular exhibitors include the renowned British sculptor Terence Coventry who will be showing one of his popular Couple sculptures,Terence Coventry, 'Couple I,' bronze, edition of five, on view at the Fresh Air open air sculpture exhibition in Quenington, Gloucestershire from June 16 June to July 17 where it will be priced at £13,500 ($20,400). Image courtesy of Fresh Air. while among the more conceptual works on display is A Bench by Hannah Davies, priced at £1,350 ($2,040).Hannah Davies, 'A Bench,' treated wood, edition 1 of 5, priced at £1,350 ($2,040) at the Fresh Air open air sculpture exhibition at The Old Rectory, Quenington, Gloucestershire from June 16 to July 17. Image courtesy of Fresh Air.

Her Majesty the Queen has sat for a fair number of artists during her long reign, the most memorable of which is perhaps the work by Lucian Freud. The latest portraitist to venture into what must be a nerve-wracking hot seat behind the easel is British painter Nicky Philipps.Portrait painter Nicky Phillipps in her studio with her portrait of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II, commissioned by The Royal Mail for a new stamp. Image courtesy of Fine Art Commissions and the artist. Commissioned by the Royal Mail, Philipps' portrait of Her Majesty will be used for a special stamp issue to mark the 60th anniversary of The Queen’s coronation. Royal Mail will be gifting the portrait to the Royal Collection but before that happens it will be on view to the public during the artist's solo exhibition at Fine Art Commissions in Duke Street, St. James's from June 5-28.Nicky Phillipps' portrait of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II, which will be on public view at at the Fine Art Commissions gallery in St. James's from June 5-28. Image courtesy of Fine Art Commissions and the artist.

Philipps' portrait will be in noble company in St. James's at the end of June. Wander just a hundred yards up Duke Street into Jermyn Street you will find the Weiss Gallery, where from June 28 until July 5 there is a chance to see a magnificent full-length portrait of Mary, Lady Vere, by the Jacobean artist William Larkin.This marvelous 17th century full-length portrait of the Puritan noblewoman Mary, Lady Vere, by the Jacobean artist William Larkin, will be on view at The Weiss Gallery during London Art Week, which takes place from June 28 to July 5 . Image courtesy of the Weiss Gallery. Vere was a member of one of 17th-century England’s most noble Puritan families. It is an extraordinary image, Lady Vere's appropriately black gown contrasting with the crisply painted folds of a crimson curtained backdrop. The painting is one of the highlights of a fine exhibition of Old Master paintings at the Weiss Gallery during London Art Week mentioned above. It will be well worth making a detour to see.


Last Updated on Monday, 03 June 2013 11:01
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