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London Eye | Tom Flynn



London Eye: October 2014

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Written by TOM FLYNN, Auction Central News International   
Friday, 31 October 2014 15:08

London dealer Helly Nahmad’s carefully constructed  apartment for an imaginary collector, circa 1968, wowed visitors to  this year’s Frieze Masters art fair. Image courtesy Frieze Masters.

LONDON – The mighty Frieze fairs are over for another year and for once all the post-event chatter was focused not on which celebrity flew in for the opening night, but how one particular stand managed to inject some imagination into what is in grave danger of becoming a tired retail format. Helly Nahmad, son of the much talked-about Nahmad art brokerage dynasty, broke with convention by turning his stand into the interior of the home of an imaginary art collector circa 1968. (Fig. 1)

The interlinked rooms were furnished with 1960s period chairs, beds, desks, shelves groaning with artists’ monographs, and even a black and white television showing scenes from nouvelle vague cinema classics and news clips from the Paris student riots. A Miles Davis track played in the background and even the ashtrays bulged with cigarette butts as if our chain-smoking aesthete had just popped out for a Pernod. ‘The Collector’, Helly Nahmad’s stand at Frieze Masters,  which bewitched most visitors through its forensic attention to  detail. Image courtesy Frieze Masters.

“He’s not living to entertain people here, he’s living and breathing art,” Nahmad was quoted as saying about his absent subject. His comment was apparently intended as a critique of today’s investment-fixated socialite collectors and not, as a few more jaundiced commentators suggested, as an obliquely coded snipe at his New York-based art-dealing brother (also called Helly) who was recently released after serving a jail term for his role in organizing illegal poker soirées for his rich Hollywood film star friends.

Nahmad’s “Collector” diorama is being viewed by many as what could be a game-changing intervention into high-end art fair stand design. It may be some time, however, before it exerts its influence on the more staid tradition of middle-market antiques fairs such as the LAPADA Fair in Berkeley Square and the forthcoming Winter Olympia Art and Antiques Fair taking place from Nov. 3-9. That said, the recent LAPADA Fair was, by all accounts a resounding success. An exterior shot of the recent LAPADA Fair in Berkeley  Square, which saw record attendance figures. Image courtesy of  LAPADA.The recent LAPADA Fair this year witnessed new interest  from a younger clientele, helping to dispel the conservative image  of traditional antiques fairs. Image courtesy of LAPADA. Rebecca Davies, the new chief executive of LAPADA (the Association of Art & Antiques Dealers), said the fair enjoyed “fantastic attendance figures, topping all previous years,” with “a new interesting crowd of young collectors visiting in the 30-40 age bracket.”

Many of the world’s wealthiest individuals are now choosing to make London their first or second home, with overseas investors having a marked impact on property prices. These emerging economies are also driving up prices in the art market as Russians and Chinese seek to buy back important examples of their cultural heritage. This week sees the beginning of Asian Art London, the capital-wide festival that brings Asian collectors flocking to visit London’s leading specialist dealers, so the buying frenzy is set to continue.

With some 150 cities in China expected to have populations of 1.5 million or more by 2020, the country’s museum-building boom is in full spate. All those museums need filling with art, and thus it is no surprise that China is now such an active presence in the global market, particularly for Chinese porcelain and contemporary art. The interior of the impressive Yuz Museum of  Contemporary Art in Shanghai, one of the new breed of high- profile museums going up all over China. Image Auction Central  News.

The Ming exhibition now on at British Museum is rekindling interest in China’s 15th century blue and white wares and the art trade is responding with a range of relatively affordable ceramics aimed at “entry level” collectors. We hear much about the replicas being churned out of Jingdezhen, home of the famed Ming porcelain kilns, but not everything if quite so problematic. A new wave of beautiful contemporary Chinese ceramics are also coming out of Jingdezhen, albeit bearing a striking resemblance to their ancient cousins.

New York gallery FitzGerald Fine Arts, who also have bases in Jingdezhen and Beijing, will be located at the Weiss Gallery in Jermyn Street during Asian Art London, where they will be showing a range of contemporary wares made in Jingdezhen. Gan Daofu, Sentinel and the Pines, 2013, Jingdezhen  Porcelain. Image courtesy FitzGerald Fine Arts.Gan Daofu, The Woods (After Fan Kuan), 2013,  Jingdezhen Porcelain. Image courtesy FitzGerald Fine Arts.Zhu Di, Delicate Fragrance, 2013, Jingdezhen Porcelain.  Image courtesy FitzGerald Fine Arts.

And so to one or two other interesting exhibitions opening in London this month. Modern British dealer Osborne Samuel in Bruton Street is launching an exhibition of photography in association with London dealers Beetles and Huxley that will span a broad range of artists, periods and subjects.

Works by legendary photographers such as Henri Cartier-Bresson, Walker Evans, Cecil Beaton, Robert Mapplethorpe, Bill Brandt and Man Ray, to name just a sample, will be shown alongside previously unseen self-portraits by the recently widely acclaimed American street photographer Vivian Maier. Bill Brandt’s 1957 portrait of Salvador Dali, which will be  on show at Osborne Samuel’s groundbreaking photography  exhibition from 20 November to 23 December. Image courtesy  Osborne Samuel and Beetles & Huxley Gallery.Walker Evans, ‘Crossroads Store, Post Office, Sprott,  Alabama, USA,’ 1936. Courtesy of Osborne Samuel and Beetles &  Huxley Gallery.

Also on view will be a rare and unusual group of exploration photographs, including some of Frank Hurley’s iconic photographs of the Shackleton Expedition, plus a selection of original, rare NASA photographs from seminal space missions. These are sure to capture the imagination in a month when the American space program saw a setback with the explosion of the unmanned Cargo Space Shuttle in Virginia and with Christopher Nolan’s epic new space movie Interstellar poised to hit UK film screens. NASA, Itek Panoramic Camera, Apollo 15 Mission, Circa  1972. Courtesy of Osborne Samuel and Beetles & Huxley Gallery.

Another inviting photographic exhibition opening this month is a display of photographic images by the great Latvian-born ballet dancer Mikhail Baryshnikov, opening at ContiniArt in Mayfair on Nov. 29 and continuing until Jan. 31. Baryshnikov the dancer is considered by many to have been the true heir to Rudolf Nureyev, but his work as a photographer of dance is less well-known. It will come as no surprise that his experience on stage has given him extraordinary aesthetic vision as a photographer and his work is alive with a sense of color and movement and the dynamic energy of bodies under the controlled stress of dance discipline. Mikhail Baryshnikov, Untitled, on display at  ContiniArtUK, 105 New Bond Street on November 29. Image  courtesy of ContiniArtUK.Mikhail Baryshnikov, Untitled, part of an exhibition of  the dancer’s photography on exhibition at the gallery of  ContiniArtUK, 105 New Bond Street from November 29 to 31  January. Image courtesy of ContiniArtUK.

The work of Turner Prize-winning contemporary artist Gillian Wearing will be familiar to most enthusiasts of contemporary art. Her work has also made extensive use of photography, most notably in her 1993 work, Signs that Say What You Want Them To Say and Not Signs That Say What Someone Else Wants You To Say. Now she has made a work of public sculpture in traditional bronze titled A Real Birmingham Family.Gillian Wearing, A Real Birmingham Family, 2014.  Image courtesy Birmingham City Council, Arts Council England and  Ikon. An alternative title might have been A Work of Public Sculpture That Says What Real Birmingham Families are Like and Not What the Media Wants You To Think They Are Like. The subjects of the work, the Jones family, consist of two sisters, Roma and Emma, both single parents, and their two sons Kyan and Shaye. They were selected in August 2013, as “a real Birmingham family” by the artist and a diverse panel of community, cultural and religious figures. The work is now on display in Centenary Square outside the new Library of Birmingham. Given the work’s innovative take on the conservative tradition of public sculpture, it will be interesting to see how A Real Birmingham Family goes down with the broader Birmingham public.

And finally, we regret to report the theft of two works of contemporary sculpture from FOLD Gallery in Clerkenwell, in the East End of London. The two works, by the popular young British artist Tim Ellis, went missing from the gallery last Saturday.Tim Ellis, ‘Forever Hopeful,’ plaster, oak, acrylic, varnish  and wood stain. Stolen from FOLD Gallery in Clerkenwell on  Saturday October 25. Further information from the gallery at 15  Clerkenwell Close, London, EC1R 0AA. Image courtesy FOLD  Gallery.Tim Ellis, ‘Forever Hopeful,’ plaster, oak, acrylic, varnish  and wood stain. Stolen from FOLD Gallery in Clerkenwell on  Saturday October 25. Further information from the gallery at 15  Clerkenwell Close, London, EC1R 0AA. Image courtesy FOLD  Gallery. FOLD Gallery director, Kim Savage, said, “It appears the gallery was broken into for the sole purpose of obtaining certain sculptures on display from the Tim Ellis solo show. Four of the 11 sculptures were selected, each with a bold and common aesthetic. What convinced us this was a ‘steal to order theft’ was that none of the paintings, which hang like banners and would be easily transported, were touched. The gallery was left in good order and there was no damage to the remaining artwork. The thieves went to significant effort to gain access to the gallery, entering through a side door hidden from the street and using heavy equipment to pry and destroy the magnetic, code-operated lock.”

If you have any information regarding the theft or have seen or heard mention of the works in question, please contact Kim Savage at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it , Tel: 0207 253 3039.

 

 

Last Updated on Friday, 31 October 2014 15:47
 

London Eye: September 2014

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Written by TOM FLYNN, Auction Central News International   
Thursday, 02 October 2014 15:47

Frieze contemporary art fair to be held in Regents Park on Oct. 15-18 is set to dominate the London art scene over the next few weeks. Image courtesy of Frieze.

LONDON – Winter is approaching and Londoners are already bracing themselves for the big freeze. Or perhaps that should be the big Frieze. The capital’s hippest art fair, and its more sedate cousin Frieze Masters, are set to hoover up all the media attention in the coming weeks as contemporary art moves to the top of London’s cultural agenda. (Fig. 1) The process started a week ago when Frieze’s co-founders Matthew Slotover and Amanda Sharpe announced their decision to step down as the fairs’ directors to pursue new projects. Matthew Slotover and Amanda Sharpe, co-founders of Frieze fair empire, who have announced that they will step down as the fair’s co-directors to pursue other projects. Image courtesy of Frieze.They have handed over the reins to Victoria Siddall, current director of Frieze Masters, who will direct both Frieze London and Frieze New York.

Frieze is not the only London art fair to undergo a recent change of leadership. The LAPADA Fair — the annual fair organized by the UK’s leading antiques trade association — has just closed its 2014 edition in Berkeley Square and by all accounts it was another successful event. The association is now under the wing of its new CEO, Rebecca Davies, who took over from Sarah Percy-Davis who stood down in May. Percy-Davis is widely credited with having transformed the organization during her 10-year tenure.Sarah Percy-Davis, who recently stepped down as chief executive of the UK antiques trade association LAPADA, has started her own art market consultancy. Image courtesy of Sarah Percy-Davis. She is now using those same skills to develop her own art market consultancy, offering business support and advice to a range of private and corporate clients, galleries, dealers, e-commerce companies and collectors. She continues to collaborate with LAPADA, however, and organized a hospitality event at this year’s fair for high-profile investors. “It was a huge success,” she told Auction Central News. “The group thoroughly enjoyed the fair and I’m delighted to report that around 20 significant purchases were made as a result of the initiative.”

The musical chairs has also extended to the British Antique Dealers’ Association, the other main trade body for UK dealers. Michael Cohen, director of Cohen & Cohen, the world’s leading dealers in export porcelain, was recently appointed the association’s new chairman. Michael Cohen, the new chairman of BADA, the British Antiques Dealers’ Association. Image Auction Central News. One of Cohen’s first initiatives was to introduce BADA buyer certificates, which will accompany works of art sold by BADA members. Innovations of this kind will be broadly welcomed by those in the industry who attach importance to issues of provenance and due diligence as a means of reassuring buyers.

Staying on questions of title and provenance, this month also saw the relaunch of Art Resolve, the cultural property dispute resolution service, has developed a new approach to settling title disputes over works of art and cultural and historic objects. Art Resolve’s directors, members and friends met recently at the ancient St. Olave’s Church in London to celebrate the relaunch of what is likely to become an important agency in an increasingly critical area of the market. Guests assembled at St. Olave’s Church in the City of London to celebrate the relaunch of the cultural property dispute resolution service, Art Resolve. Image Auction Central News.The Art Resolve service is under the chairmanship of Norman Palmer QC, CBE, one of the world’s leading experts in art and cultural property law. The professor gave one of his characteristically witty and erudite speeches to the assembled guests at the relaunch evening. Sir Norman Palmer, CBE, addresses the faithful at the relaunch of Art Resolve at St. Olave’s Church in the City of London in September. Image Auction Central News.

Palmer has assembled an impressive roster of art market professionals, lawyers and experienced mediators to assist him in running the organization. Panel members include, among others, the specialist mediator Lord Strathcarron, barrister Malcolm Taylor, city solicitor Hetty Gleave, and Diana Cawdell, founder/director of Cawdell Douglas, one of the UK’s leading strategic communications organizations for the international art market.Diana Cawdell (left) and Hetty Gleave, panel members of Art Resolve, the art market’s dispute resolution agency, recently relaunched at St. Olave’s Church in the heart of London. Image Auction Central News.

Gleave and Cawdell told Auction Central News that Art Resolve aims to fulfill an important role by mediating in what are often thorny issues of authenticity, title, family disputes and restitution. “We’re able to bring a less stressful, more confidential and more cost-effective approach to dispute resolution, offering the parties greater control than the conventional court process,” said Gleave. The note of cultured calm was subtly reinforced at the relaunch by lyric soprano Charlotte Derry and pianist Horacio Redondo Lopez, who together filled the famous medieval church of St. Olave’s with glorious music.

There was a palpable sense of business coming back to life in the capital this month as summer began to fade and early autumn set in. The darker evenings do bring opportunities for a little romance, though. Twenty years ago it would have been unheard of to witness Mallett, one of London’s oldest and most venerable antique furniture dealers, collaborating with a team of funky Vancouver-based postmodern designers. One of the striking interior lighting designs by Canadian designers Bocci, on view at Mallett at Ely House as part of London Design Festival. Image courtesy of Mallett.But that is what happened in September when Mallett opened the doors of its suave Dover Street premises, Ely House, for an evening of drinks and discussion to show off their innovative partnership with Canadian architectural and interior design firm Bocci. The building looked spectacular from the street, as one of Bocci’s exterior light installations cascaded down from the windows of the upper floors over the building’s neoclassical facade.

Ely House, the home of antique furniture dealers Mallett, showing a lighting installation by Canadian design firm Bocci. Image Auction Central News.

Scheduled to coincide with the London Design Festival, the evening offered an opportunity for a leisurely stroll around the sumptuous Georgian interiors of Ely House. The move to the “Bishop’s Palace,” as it has been known since the 1720s, seems to have helped Mallett, who have seen their business begin to recover over the past 12 months. One of the elegant period rooms at Mallett’s Ely House premises in Dover Street. Image Auction Central News. The company’s recent collaborations with contemporary artists and designers seem to be paying off. Certainly Bocci’s fantasy lighting creations provided a striking and somewhat futuristic counterpoint to the more traditional furnishings at Mallett’s Design Festival open evening. A chandelier by Bocci, part of the fantasy lighting display at Mallett’s Ely House premises as part of the London Design Festival. Image Auction Central News.

London antiquities dealer Charles Ede Ltd. has also recently announced an imminent move to new premises. The firm will be holding their inaugural exhibition at Three King’s Yard, Mayfair from Oct. 15 to Nov. 14, which will feature a range of important antiquities from the Greek, Roman and Egyptian periods.This Roman marble statue of Venus Victrix, first to second century, part of the inaugural exhibition at Charles Ede Ltd. from Oct. 15 to Nov. 14 to celebrate their new premises at Three King’s Yard, Mayfair. Image courtesy Charles Ede Ltd.

Antiquities have become a hugely controversial field in recent years as looted objects continue to make their way onto the international art market. However, Charles Ede’s managing director James Ede has been a key figure in pressing for best practice in the London antiquities trade through stringent approaches to provenance research on items offered for sale. We are told that the title of the company’s new exhibition, “A Flourishing Tradition,” seeks to reflect that ethos, referring to both the history of the gallery and the long tradition of antiquities collecting. However, given the current geopolitical turmoil that is bringing increasing quantities of illicit material onto the open market, one wonders whether dealing in antiquities will be able to “flourish” for much longer.

The state-of-the-art refurbishment of the new gallery aims to “reference the age of the Grand Tour whilst embracing a contemporary aesthetic.”

 

 

Last Updated on Thursday, 02 October 2014 16:36
 

London Eye: August 2014

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Written by TOM FLYNN, Auction Central News International   
Tuesday, 02 September 2014 14:45

George Bailey has been appointed chairman of Dreweatts & Bloomsbury Auctions, effective Sept. 1. Image courtesy Dreweatts and Bloomsbury Auctions.

LONDON – This year London has seen a noticeably quiet summer in the art market. As usual, members of the art trade retreated to their Mediterranean yachts and Italian villas for the month of August. Yet despite the annual migration to sunnier climes, one senses that the art market is beginning to experience a different sort of quiet. Might this be another sign of the inexorable transition from bricks to clicks as the web makes ever deeper inroads into traditional ways of buying and selling art?

New boardroom appointments rarely make headline news in the art trade, but matters are different when the Internet plays a part. Hence there was much interest this month in the news that George Bailey, founder of London-based electronic auction company The Auction Room, has been appointed Chairman of Dreweatts & Bloomsbury Auctions, the art and antiques auction subsidiary of the Stanley Gibbons Group PLC.

Bailey, a former Sotheby’s specialist, recently told London Eye that he saw the writing on the wall after laying out 50 chairs out for a sale at Sotheby’s but only five people turned up. The rest, it seems, were happy to bid online. He promptly went off and launched his Internet-only auction business. Now it has been reported that Bailey will be taking his digital innovations to Dreweatts. Whether this will mean that Dreweatts and Bloomsbury’s auction results will no longer be made public — as was the case at The Auction Room’s sales — remains to be seen. If so, it could have interesting implications for the much-vaunted notion that the Internet would bring greater transparency to the art trade.

Dreweatts & Bloomsbury utilizes online bidding services through LiveAuctioneers.

Meanwhile, a new report by London-based art research company Art Tactic has thrown new light on the extent to which the Internet is affecting the broader art market. 'Hiscox Online Art Trade Report 2014,' compiled by the London-based Art Tactic research agency, which reveals the steadily intensifying impact of the Internet on the traditional art market. Image courtesy Hiscox and Art Tactic. The report, conducted on behalf of specialist art insurers Hiscox, reveals significant advances in the take-up of online art auction services, with most of the key players reporting encouraging 2013 results. LiveAuctioneers.com recorded its best year ever last year, with gross online sales of $222.5 million, according to the report.

The report also notes a growing willingness on the part of new collectors to make their first art purchases online. Furthermore, the price-points also appear to be moving upward, contradicting earlier assumptions that art transactions made through online-only “click and buy” websites tend to be confined to relatively low-value prints and collectibles.

The report’s key findings suggest that online art sales platforms are widely regarded by a new, younger generation of art collectors as less intimidating places to buy than traditional bricks and mortar galleries and auction houses.

Unique artworks remain the favored purchases. Forty five percent of the buyers surveyed had bought art in the £1,000-£10,000 range with 10 percent having spent more than £50,000 on a single painting online. However, 82 percent said the most difficult aspect of buying art online was not being able to physically inspect the object.

This last finding offers one indication of why art fairs are continuing to grow in popularity. More and more dealers see art fairs as the most favorable environments in which to sell and clearly collectors like them too since they offer chance to inspect the work firsthand. Nowhere is this more critical than in the realm of tribal art.

With the onslaught of the sprawling Frieze and Frieze Masters fairs still well over month away, the Tribal Art London fair promises to be one of the most enjoyable events this coming month. From Sept. 10 to 13 some 15 exhibitors will be at the Mall Galleries for the UK’s only specialist top-flight tribal art fair. Given that London has traditionally been overshadowed by Paris and Brussels in this highly specialist market category, it is encouraging to hear that two prominent UK dealers, Rob Temple and David Malik, will be participating at this year’s relaunched fair.

Other seasoned participants include London-based Lisa Tao, who will be showing objects as well as the 19nth-century photographs for which she is best known. London-based tribal art dealer Lisa Tao will be offering this gelatin silver print photograph of a Maori chief, circa 1890, at the Tribal Art London fair from Sept. 10-13, where it will be priced at £1,000 ($1,660). Image courtesy Lisa Tao and Tribal Art London.This photograph, taken by Fritz Goro in 1951, showing Northern Australian Aborigines in Corroboree dress, will be for sale with Lisa Tao Tribal Art at £600 ($995) at Tribal Art London. Image courtesy Lisa Tao and Tribal Art London.

Elsewhere at the fair there will be plenty of opportunities to gauge the growing profile of African contemporary art, which remains one of the sleeping giants of the global art trade.

Kamba Gallery of Davies Street in London’s elegant Mayfair district are among the capital’s growing number of galleries devoted to African art. At Tribal Art London they will be showing a mixture of traditional African decorative and applied art and contemporary fine art. Representative of these two categories are an early 20th-century Namji Chair from Cameroon, priced at £2,500 ($4,150), and a mixed media work on canvas by the Kenyan artist Kiboko titled In All The Wrong Places, priced at £6,700 ($11,125). Kamba Gallery will be offering this early 20th-century Namji Chair from Cameroon, priced at £2,500 ($4,150) at the Tribal Art London fair. Image courtesy Kamba Gallery and Tribal Art London.This mixed media work on canvas by Kenyan artist Kiboko, titled ‘In All The Wrong Places,’ is for sale at £6,700 ($11,125) with Kamba Gallery at Tribal Art London fair. Image courtesy Kamba Gallery and Tribal Art London.

A painter, designer, and the founder of Ifreecans Collective, Kiboko works between Nairobi, London and Los Angeles. His work is grounded in the observation of what he calls the new “Afropolitian” society, “which exists alongside traditional Nairobi culture.” It will be interesting to see whether Kiboko’s work eventually finds its way to Bonhams, who has pioneered African traditional and contemporary art at auction.

Although some of the above-mentioned dealers retain traditional retail spaces, it is nevertheless a widely held view that the proliferation of art fairs is proving another contributory factor in the decline of bricks and mortar galleries where rents are high and footfall more unpredictable.

This was among the conclusions reached at a recent symposium in New York where the impact of high-end art fairs was debated and analyzed by a number of leading art market participants and commentators.

While most of the media attention is directed toward the “blue-chip” end of the fairs circuit, it is all too easy to neglect the continuing appeal of the mid-market art and antique events. Occasionally these manage to combine local cultural attractions to complement the art on offer. Such is the case with the forthcoming Harewood House Antiques and Fine Art Fair in Leeds, West Yorkshire, from Sept. 12-14. Harewood House, Leeds, Yorkshire, location of the Harewood House Antiques and Fine Art Fair from Sept. 12-14. Image courtesy Harewood House Antiques and Fine Art Fair.

Harewood, the family seat of the Earl and Countess of Harewood, enjoyed some welcome media coverage during the summer when it provided a picturesque backdrop to the UK leg of the Tour de France cycle event. Now the thousands of punters who assembled outside the house to witness the Grand Départ of the Tour de France will be offered a chance to see inside the house’s sumptuous state rooms.

Much of the furniture in the house was designed by Thomas Chippendale and the painter J.M.W. Turner stayed at Harewood on a number of occasions. Hence the house is an ideal venue for a prestigious art and antiques fair.

Among the more notable objects that will be on display at the fair is an oil painting of 1920 titled The Palace of the Queen of Voluptuousness, a design by the great French pioneer modernist painter Maurice Denis (1870-1943) for the first scene of the first act of Vincent D’Indy’s opera La Legende de Saint Christophe. Denis designed the sets and costumes for the opera, and the oil on cardboard to be shown at Harewood offers a sense of the opera’s rich Orientalist flavor. This design on cardboard of 1920, titled ‘The Palace of the Queen of Voluptuousness,’ by Maurice Denis (1870-1943) is with David Powell Fine Art, priced at £26,000 ($43,165), at the Harewood House Antiques and Fine Art Fair. Image courtesy David Powell Fine Art and Harewood House Antiques and Fine Art Fair.David Powell Fine Art is offering the work at a price of £26,000 ($43,165).

Finally, given Harewood’s Chippendale connections, there will doubtless be a warm reception awaiting the more elegant 18th century furniture on display at the fair. Typical of the objects in this category is a very chic George III mahogany serpentine window seat in the French taste by George Hepplewhite, c. 1785. George III mahogany serpentine window seat in the French taste by George Hepplewhite, c. 1785, priced at £7650 ($12,700) from Freshfords Fine Antiques at Harewood House Antiques and Fine Art Fair in West Yorkshire. Image courtesy Freshfords and Harewood House Antiques and Fine Art Fair.This will be offered by Freshfords Fine Antiques of Bath at a price of £7,650 ($12,700).

And so, with Frieze just over a month away, London prepares to be propelled from the calm of August into an autumn of celebrity-soaked art fairs. Just how much this frenetic “real-world” activity disguises what’s happening on the Internet is worth pondering. One thing seems certain, given the recent research referred to above: The future of the art market will be conducted as much in cyberspace as in glass-fronted galleries or on mahogany rostrums.

 

 

Last Updated on Tuesday, 02 September 2014 15:27
 

London Eye: July 2014

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Written by TOM FLYNN, Auction Central News International   
Friday, 25 July 2014 08:51

Convicted art faker John Myatt, whose exhibition of honest fakes in the style of modern masters has been packing in the crowds at Castle Fine Art in Bruton Street. Image Auction Central News.

LONDON – “A common trait of modern life is that the existence of a market for any kind of valuable object almost always encourages the production of counterfeits — such is the case with banknotes, drugs and designer handbags. It is also the case with works of art.”

These words might be ringing in the ears of curators at Tate Modern today after Artnet reported recent claims by London dealer James Butterwick, a specialist in Russian art, that a number of works purporting to be by Kasimir Malevich and published in Patricia Railing’s recent book, ‘Malevich Paints: The Seeing Eye’, may not be autograph works by the artist, but fakes.

The proximity of these claims to the opening on Wednesday of Tate’s major exhibition devoted to the great Russian avant garde painter, has prompted the Tate into an indignant defense of the works in its show, such as ‘Suprematist Painting (with Black Trapezium and Red Square)’ of 1915 from the Stedelijk Museum in Amsterdam.‘Suprematist Painting (with Black Trapezium and Red Square),’ 1915, by Kasimir Malevich, collection Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam. Image courtesy Tate Modern.

Understandably, the art market has become very twitchy about the sensitive topic of fakes and forgeries. The case of the fake Jackson Pollocks marketed by the Knoedler Gallery in New York and the numerous German Expressionist-style fakes knocked out by the German forger Wolfgang Beltracchi have left dealers, collectors and museums in a state of some bewilderment.

Coincidentally, the text quoted above comes from the foreword to the catalog of the current exhibition of the work of notorious art forger John Myatt (born 1948), currently on view at Castle Fine Art gallery in Bruton Street, Mayfair, one of London’s most fashionable shopping districts.

Just around the corner from the Castle gallery, one can find any number of chic designer outlets selling the sort of fashionably expensive handbags that are now commonly faked all over the world. Many of the up-market galleries that used to populate this part of town have long since been forced out by the luxury brands. Thus it is somewhat surprising to find the work of John Myatt being promoted in a district where ground rents are astronomically high. This is because historically the area has relied on the prestige of authentic luxury goods, from shoes and handbags to fine art. John Myatt has built a reputation on defying that trend. He came to public attention back in 1995 when he was arrested for his part in what is regarded as one of the most sophisticated art frauds in British history. Myatt faked the pictures and John Drewe forged the provenance documents in support. Both were jailed.

Quite what one should read into the size of the crowd that packed the gallery on the opening night of Myatt’s show is open to question, but it seemed to suggest that whatever the art trade thinks of the problem of fakes, the British public is somewhat bewitched by it. Castle Fine Art welcomed record crowds to the opening night of the John Myatt ‘Genuine Fakes’ exhibition on July 17. Image Auction Central News.

“I think people find the art industry impregnable and alienating and run by a group of self-regarding élites,” Myatt told Auction Central News. “The public have a vast appetite for it because it sort of waves two fingers up at the art world.”

Even allowing for the hangers-on who were there for the nibbles and free Prosecco, it was the sort of attendance that most serious artists would die for, with punters spilling out onto the street. Guests spilled onto the pavement at Castle Fine Art’s oversubscribed opening night as punters flocked to see John Myatt’s fake masterpieces on July 17. Image Auction Central News.

Myatt lapped it up, happily signing autographs for his numerous admirers, a fair number of whom were bussed in for the night from Castle’s 37 regional galleries. Art faker John Myatt signs catalogs for his fans at Castle Fine Art. Image Auction Central News.Who knows how many of them would have forked out the £2,500-£3,000 ($4,250-$5,100) price tag for a small “Renoir” or “Picasso” by the master faker, but there was no doubting the enthusiasm expressed towards the more accomplished larger works, which were retailing at around £25,000-£39,500 ($42,500-$67,100). ‘View of Antibes, 1888, In the style of Claude Monet’ by John Myatt at Castle Fine Art in Bruton Street, priced at £39,500 ($67,100). Image Auction Central News.

The extent to which the art trade is concerned by questions of ethics and provenance was made clear elsewhere in London this week when the new chairman of the British Antique Dealers’ Association (BADA) Michael Cohen, rolled out a constructive new initiative.

Cohen has announced that from July 21st BADA members will be issuing Certificates of Provenance, which he envisages will function as a kind of passport, accompanying the object whenever it is re-sold in order to add value and increase buyer confidence.

The initiative may prove influential since the issue of provenance is becoming ever more critical as the problems of Holocaust assets and stolen art continue to dog the international trade. Few are as aware of the need to bolster Britain’s standing in the global art trade as Cohen who, with his wife, Ewa, trading as Cohen & Cohen, is widely acknowledged as one of the preeminent dealers in Chinese export porcelain, exhibiting every year at the European Fine Art Fair in Maastricht. The new BADA chairman Michael Cohen (right) and his wife, Ewa, with their assistant William Motley, on their stand at the European Fine Art Fair in Maastricht. Mr. Cohen has announced sweeping new innovations at BADA. Image Auction Central News.

Stolen art was a theme that emerged elsewhere in recent weeks when the Berlin-based auction rooms, Dannenberg offered a “Wanted” poster issued by the late British artist Lucian Freud. Freud designed and circulated the poster in 2001 in an effort to recover the portrait he had painted of his friend Francis Bacon in 1951.‘Like a grenade about to go off’ — Lucian Freud’s ‘Wanted’ poster appealing for the recovery of his stolen 1951 portrait of Francis Bacon. The 2001 poster sold at Dannenberg’s auction rooms in Berlin recently for €850 ($1,450). Image courtesy of Dannenberg. The portrait was later bought by the Tate, but stolen in 1988 while on display in Berlin. Even in a black and white reproduction it is a memorable image. It was described by the late Australian art critic Robert Hughes as looking like a grenade about to go off. Sadly, the portrait has never been recovered, but Dannenberg pulled the pin on the poster, the hammer falling at €850 ($1,450).

And so, briefly, to the world of antiques. This week sees the opening of the Antiques for Everyone Fair at the National Exhibition Centre in Birmingham. Some 220 dealers will be showing at the event and already we have heard reports of some significant business being done during the setting up of stands today. Some of the Vetting Committee are reporting that after a long recession there is a lot of fresh stock coming onto the market at what is being described as “reasonable prices,” although how long is a piece of string? Certainly we know from reports of regional auctions up and down the country that period furniture is more affordable now than it has been for decades. Whether that constitutes an upturn is worth pondering. What’s good for the buying goose is not always good for the selling gander. And as if to prove that point that, note the perfectly respectable early 18th century oak chest offered this week at Bonhams in Oxford. The hammer fell at £200 ($340). Beat that, Ikea! This Georgian chest of drawers fetched a mere £200 ($340) at Bonhams in Oxford this week. Image courtesy of Bonhams.

We have just been sent an early sneak preview of a couple of paintings to be offered by Newman Fine Art of Painswick at the forthcoming Cotswolds Decorative Antiques and Fine Art Fair at Westonbirt School in Tetbury, Gloucestershire from Aug. 15 to 17. The two oils, Painswick Church, and Painswick Churchyard, are by Charles March Gere (1869-1957), an artist well-known to Cotswold habitués. Newman Fine Art of Painswick will offer this work entitled ‘Painswick Church’ by Charles March Gere (1869-1957) at the forthcoming Cotswolds Decorative Antiques and Fine Art Fair at Westonbirt School in Tetbury, Gloucestershire from Aug. 15-17. Image courtesy of Newman Fine Art.‘Painswick Churchyard’, by Charles March Gere (1869-1957), to be offered by Newman Fine Art of Painswick at the Cotswolds Decorative Antiques and Fine Art Fair in Tetbury, Gloucestershire. Image courtesy of Newman Fine Art.

Newman Fine Art’s offering of the two pictures provides a chance to acquire the work of an artist included in the BBC’s online “Your Paintings” initiative, which aims to show the entire UK national collection of oil paintings from thousands of museums and other public institutions around the country.

And finally, news that on Saturday, Aug. 2, the venerable October Gallery, which is devoted to the promotion of African art and “World Art” more generally, will be screening a film about leading Ghanaian artists Ablade Glover and El Anatsui in the African Artist film series at their October Gallery Theatre. Celebrated Ghanaian contemporary artists Ablade Glover and El Anatsui, who are the subjects of a film to be shown at a free screening at the October Gallery Theatre in Bloomsbury on Saturday, Aug. 2. Image courtesy of October Gallery. Both artists have achieved world renown and their work is regularly seen at major art fairs. The film will offer a chance to gain deeper insights into their working practices.

Last Updated on Friday, 31 October 2014 15:19
 

London Eye: June 2014

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Written by TOM FLYNN   
Monday, 30 June 2014 14:29

Viscount Linley (right) and his chief designer Michael Noah on the  Linley stand at Masterpiece London. Image Auction Central News.

LONDON – David Armstrong-Jones, better known as Viscount Linley, is no ordinary member of the British Royal Family. Chairman of auction house Christie’s, he is also a craftsman designer of distinction whose bespoke furniture is in keen demand among wealthy clients the world over. (Fig. 1)

Yet despite his international reputation and high-class client list, David Linley was never allowed to show his furniture at the Grosvenor House Art & Antiques Fair which, until it closed in 2009, was regarded as London’s most prestigious art fair. “I was banned from the Grosvenor House Fair,” Linley told invited visitors to his company’s stand at the Masterpiece London Fair in Chelsea this week. “The fact that we are welcomed here at Masterpiece reveals how much things have changed,” he added.

Masterpiece London, founded in 2010, was established not only to fill the art market vacuum created by the demise of the Grosvenor House event, but also to satisfy the booming demand among the world’s wealthiest individuals for a range of ‘conspicuous consumption’ goods such as Maserati motor cars, contemporary jewellery, and gold-plated sculptures of Kate Moss by the likes of Marc Quinn. The gold-plated bronze sculpture of supermodel Kate Moss in  contorted pose by Marc Quinn, brought to Masterpiece London by Modern  British dealers Osborne Samuel. Image Auction Central News.

Masterpieces of hand-crafted furniture also fit comfortably within that broad mix. One of Linley’s specially-commissioned ‘tailor-made’ four-fold screens in dark oak with rose-gold inlaid details will set you back in the region of £100,000 ($170,365).Michael Noah, chief designer at Linley, shows visitors a unique four- fold screen on the company’s stand at Masterpiece London. Price in the region  of £100,000 ($170,365). Image Auction Central News.

Now in its fifth year, Masterpiece London is smaller and thus more manageable than the enormous European Fine Art Fair that takes place annually in Maastricht in March. The broad consensus among the Masterpiece exhibitors we spoke to was that the fair had matured and finally found its own level. It was also attracting its fair share of art world personalities. We spotted über-collector Charles Saatchi strolling the aisles Collector Charles Saatchi stops to chat to friends at Masterpiece  London. Image Auction Central News. Even White Cube boss Jay Jopling, normally more at home at uncompromisingly contemporary events such as Frieze or Art Basel, dropped by to take a look.Contemporary art dealer Jay Jopling visits the Masterpiece London  art fair on June 26. Image Auction Central News.

Abby Hignell, long-serving manager at London’s Bowman Sculpture gallery, told Auction Central News that she sensed the fair had “come into its own,” adding that, “the atmosphere felt more positive and relaxed than in previous years.” Abby Hignell of Bowman Sculpture with works by Helaine Blumenfeld  at Masterpiece London. Image Auction Central News. Ms Hignell was encouraged by having successfully sold a very fine bronze cast of The Abduction of Hippodamie by leading French romantic sculptor Albert-Ernest Carrier Belleuse to the Art Gallery of Ontario, Toronto. The work was modelled in 1871 when Auguste Rodin was in the employ of Carrier-Belleuse, making it all the more academically interesting.An “exceptional cast” of ‘The Abduction of Hippodamie’, dated 1871,  modelled by Auguste Rodin while in the employ of Albert-Ernest Carrier  Belleuse. Sold by Bowman Sculpture to the Art Gallery of Ontario at  Masterpiece London. Image courtesy of Bowman Sculpture. Robert Bowman is among the leading dealers in Rodin’s work and he and Ms Hignell have also helped organise an important symposium on the artist’s work to be held at the Victoria and Albert Museum on July 12, celebrating the centenary of Rodin’s significant gift of 18 works to the V&A in 1914.

Sculpture was generally well-represented at this year’s Masterpiece. With dramatic bravado Gerry Farrell, of Sladmore Gallery, transplanted the entire studio of sculptor Nic Fiddian-Green onto the Sladmore stand at Masterpiece.Gerry Farrell of London’s Sladmore Gallery, who transplanted, in its  entirety, the studio of equine sculptor Nic Fiddian-Green into Masterpiece  London. They won the fair’s ‘Best Stand Award’. Image Auction Central News. The installation included every minuscule detail of the artist’s Surrey hill-top studio, including plaster dust, welding gear, maquettes and drawings…and even a crumpled Coca Cola can. “Nic’s work is all about the handmade, the craft of sculpture,” said Mr Farrell. “We wanted to communicate that approach and also do something authentic and different.” His efforts paid off, winning the Best Stand Award at this year’s fair.

Art fairs are steadily replacing the traditional bricks and mortar gallery-based way of doing business. When dealers like Sladmore take a risk with their stand it not only makes for good publicity, it also enhances the visitor experience for these sprawling marquee events can be exhausting things to attend. Thankfully there is often a sculpture park to relax in afterwards, weather permitting. This year’s outdoor display in Ranelagh Gardens in the Royal Hospital, Chelsea was devoted to the work of Philip King, the veteran British exponent of coloured sculpture, who celebrates his 80th birthday this year.The work of veteran British sculptor Philip King on display in  Ranelagh Gardens adjacent to Masterpiece London, in cooperation with  Thomas Dane Gallery. Image Auction Central News.

Needless to say, strolling aisle upon aisle of blue-chip luxury goods can be tough on the strongest of legs, so the Masterpiece organisers charitably provide golf buggies to ferry visitors from the Royal Hospital Garden gates to the fair marquee. Masterpiece London kindly provided courtesy golf buggies to ferry  visitors from the gates of the Royal Hospital grounds to the fair marquee.  Image Auction Central News.

There is now an art fair of some kind in London most months of the year. Masterpiece arrived just a fortnight or so after Art Antiques London closed in Kensington Gardens. Quite how long art fairs can continue to proliferate before the market collapses from over-nourishment remains to be seen. Art Antiques London delivered a host of significant sales, however, so it seems that, for the present at least, the demand is there to meet the seemingly endless supply. London ceramics dealers Bazaart sold this rare terracotta vase from  the Wonderland Pottery, Bombay School of Art, circa 1880, for £15,000  ($25,500) at Art Antiques London in mid-June. Image courtesy Bazaart and  Art Antiques London.

It perhaps goes without saying that art fairs like Art Antiques London and Masterpiece benefit significantly from the capital’s status as a leading financial centre. Middle-class Asian and Russian private investors are pumping the capital’s property boom, but they are also driving prices in the art market. The Financial Times recently quoted property group Jones Lang Lasalle predicting that, “Russian capital flight could quadruple year-on-year,” so the market seems likely to remain buoyant for the immediate future. This may also have been a factor in the success of specialist Russian art auction house MacDougall’s recent sale in London where a private collector secured Pavel Kuznetsov’s avant-garde masterpiece of 1912 entitled ‘Eastern City, Bukhara’, for a new auction record for the artist at £2,367,600 ($4,030,000).Pavel Kuznetsov’s ‘Eastern City, Bukhara’, which set a new auction  record for the artist at £2,367,600 ($4,030,000) at MacDougall’s sale of  Russian art on 4 June. Image courtesy of MacDougall’s.

Away from the fairs circuit, independent curators and art historians continue to excavate seams of creativity from earlier periods, offering a reminder that the current obsession with contemporary art is not the only show in town. The tiny Nunnery Gallery in Bow in the East End currently has an exhibition of work by the all too long-neglected East London Group of artists. One of the group’s claims to what little fame it enjoyed was that the great Walter Richard Sickert was among its visiting instructors. But this sparkling little gem of a show reveals that there was much more to the group than a famous teacher. Although by no means household names, the group’s members nevertheless had an unerring facility for capturing the very particular ambience of the East London urban scene. Some of the works have an appealing noir quality reminiscent of Edward Hopper: lonely buildings, deserted streets, decommissioned industrial structures — many of which have since been replaced by flyovers and other developments. All, however, are rendered with a touching intimacy. This is one of those rare, ‘must-see’ exhibitions that makes the trip out to the distant East End a most worthwhile safari. ‘Bow Bridge’ by Walter J. Steggles of the East London Group at  Nunnery Gallery in Bow. Image courtesy of the Nunnery Gallery.‘Demolition of Bow Brewery’ by Elwin Hawthorne, in East London  Group show at Nunnery Gallery, Bow. Image courtesy of Clive Boutle and  Nunnery Gallery, Bow.

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Last Updated on Friday, 25 July 2014 08:53
 

London Eye: May 2014

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Written by TOM FLYNN, Auction Central News International   
Monday, 02 June 2014 13:16

An interior view of ‘Beyond the Object’, an exhibition of the work of American glass sculptor Dale Chihuly at Halcyon Gallery in New Bond Street until June 21. Image: Auction Central News.

LONDON – It is warmer than usual here in London and it is raining, so it must be summer. As June makes its entrance, the city is gearing up for a month of fairs and other glamorous art market events. This is when London asserts its status as a truly global hub where the planet’s richest individuals congregate to meet, eat and shop till they drop, constant cloud cover being no deterrent.

If you were in any doubt as to just how wealthy the world’s wealthiest really are, then consider this: Last Tuesday, Prince Charles opened a conference here on “Inclusive Capitalism” which was attended by 250 people who between them control $30 trillion dollars worth of investable assets, which is roughly one third of the total wealth in the world. Ask yourself: do you feel included?

Doubtless the organizers of London’s summer art and antiques fairs will be hoping a few of the “inclusive capitalists” at this week’s event will hang around a little longer, envelop them in a warm embrace and spend some of their unearned cash on alternative assets of the art and antique variety. They could, for example, take a stroll over to fashionable Kensington Gardens, once home to the late Princess Diana, where, from June 11 to 18 art fair organizers Anna and Brian Haughton will stage another edition of their popular Art Antiques London event.The Art Antiques London pavilion in Kensington Gardens, close to the famous Albert Memorial. Image courtesy Art Antiques London.

This has established itself as a popular summer fair here in London and, weather permitting, can make for a glamorous and atmospheric destination, even in the evening. The Art Antiques London pavilion in Kensington Gardens can be an inviting prospect on summer evenings. Image courtesy Art Antiques London. We have been sent a few images of the sort of material that will be on view this month, which include an extremely rare Rouen faience sponge box, circa 1730, which will be on the stand of Paris-based ceramics dealer Christophe Perles. A rare Rouen faience sponge box, circa 1730, which will be on the stand of Paris-based ceramics dealer Christophe Perles at Art Antiques London in Kensington Gardens from June 11 to 18. Image courtesy Art Antiques London and Christophe Perles. Meanwhile, London works of art dealer Ted Few can always be relied upon to bring a much-needed slice of daily life to the swankier art fairs and among his offerings this year will be an oil on canvas by David Craig, titled And Her Mother Came Too (1949). London dealer Ted Few will be showing this amusing oil on canvas of 1949 by David Craig, titled And Her Mother Came Too, at the Art Antiques London Fair on the West Lawn of Kensington Gardens from June 11-18. Image courtesy Art Antiques London and Ted Few. The image shown here suggests this is not, perhaps, how the mothers of the world’s wealthiest people sit down to eat, but variety is the spice of life.

This year’s fair coincides with Asian Art in London, the city-wide festival organized by London’s most prestigious dealers in Asian art which, of course, is all the rage right now as Asian collectors channel their freshly earned millions into art and antiques. This augurs well for Maastricht dealer Gus Röell, who is bringing to the fair, among other things, an intriguing Cantonese ivory basket, circa 1810, thought to be a wedding present from an official of the Dutch East India Company to his son in 1814. Gus Röell Fine Art of Maastricht will offer this ivory basket, China/Canton, circa 1810, at the Art Antiques London fair. The inside bears the initials of Wouter Karel Willem Senn van Basel (1781-1856). Image courtesy of Art Antiques London and Gus Röell.Elsewhere at the fair a slightly more contemporary aesthetic is represented by Lesley Kehoe, one of Australia’s leading dealers in Asian art, whose display will be devoted to an installation of works by Japanese artist Maio Motoko (born 1948), who has revived the traditional art of decorative folding screens. Lesley Kehoe, the Australian dealer in Asian art, will be showing this screen titled ‘Koku Fleeting Moments’ by Japanese screen artist Maio Motoko (born 1948) at Art Antiques London. Image courtesy of Art Antiques London and Lesley Kehoe.

Prestigious fairs like Art Antiques London pride themselves on their vetting procedures. The process ensures that everything exhibited at the fair is authentic and offered with good title. That “due diligence” culture is becoming increasingly important in an art market characterized by rocketing prices, an alarming increase in art theft, the proliferation of fakes and forgeries, and the illicit traffic in cultural heritage.

Until recently there was only one organization responsible for providing due diligence services to the international art and antiques trade and that was the Art Loss Register. However, recent critical press coverage of the ALR in the New York Times and elsewhere has highlighted the urgent need for an alternative service. Now American-born, London-based lawyer Christopher Marinello has founded Art Recovery International to do just that. He spoke to Auction Central News at his smart new offices in West London, a stone’s throw from the Olympia Exhibition Center where the Olympia Fine Art and Antiques Fair will be held from June 5 to 15. Christopher Marinello, founder director of newly established Art Recovery International in his offices in West London from where he will offer a range of ethical Due Diligence services for the art trade. Image: Auction Central News.

“By the fall we aim to be in a position to provide an ethical and comprehensive due diligence and art recovery service to the international art and antiques industry,” said Marinello. His new company has been busy in recent months winning hearts and minds among the world’s crime prevention agencies, cultural heritage protection bodies, and the art trade. “We are confident that by the end of the year we will be in a position to take due diligence to a new and cost-effective level,” said Marinello. “To that end we have recruited a highly experienced team, all of whom are committed to improving best practice procedures in the art market.”

Cultural heritage can turn up almost anywhere and in many guises, and as specialist London coin dealers Morton and Eden recently discovered, Eastern Europe is an increasingly fertile focus of attention. One of their specialist valuers, Jeremy Cheek, was recently sifting through a collection of old envelopes sent for appraisal by descendants of an Eastern European family. One of the hundreds of small dusty envelopes was found to contain a cache of rare silver Tsarist coins dating from the early 19th century. The small kopecks are thought to have been struck by Tsar Alexander I, Emperor of Russia from 1801 until his death in 1825, and it seems many of them have never been in circulation. This early 19th-century Tsarist ten-kopeck piece of 1803 is expected to fetch £15,000-£20,000 ($25,000-$33,450), when it is offered at Sotheby’s London rooms on June 10 in association with Morton & Eden. Image courtesy of Morton and Eden Ltd.

“I was really surprised to find them in an otherwise fairly ordinary group of coins,” said Cheek, “and I was astonished by their condition.” The origin of the coins, each of which is a different variety with no duplication and all of a high “Mint State” grade, remains a mystery. “There are no apparent records of such a set having been issued,” said Jeremy Cheek. Their rarity has led the auctioneers to estimate the 10-kopeck piece of 1803 (pictured here) at £15,000-£20,000 ($25,000-$33,450), while a five-kopeck piece of 1825 is expected to bring £6,000-£8,000 (£10,040-$13,400) when they are offered at Sotheby’s London rooms on June 10. Might they be of interest to one of the many newly minted Russian billionaires now domicile in London?

The twinkling lights of the Art and Antiques pavilion will not be the only visual attraction visitors will enjoy during the coming weeks. Recently one of glass sculpture maestro Dale Chihuly’s writhing creations set Berkeley Square ablaze with dazzling color. ‘The Sun’ a glass sculpture by Dale Chihuly on show in London’s Berkeley Square. Image: Auction Central News. The installation in the square coincides with Chihuly’s exhibition "Beyond the Object" at Halcyon Gallery in New Bond Street until June 21.

Sculpture comes into its own during the summer months, largely thanks to the numerous outdoor displays in the countryside scheduled for July through September. More on that next month, but for now a brief mention of one or two other interesting exhibitions taking place outside the capital in the coming weeks.

The Fosse Gallery in Stowe on the Wold, Gloucestershire will be showing an exhibition of crayon, pen and ink drawings of native breeds of farm animals by Seren Bell from June 8 to 28. Bell’s Chartley Park Bull and Red Gate reveal her knack of capturing the personality of her animal subjects.‘Chartley Park Bull’, a crayon, pen and ink drawing by Seren Bell on view at the Fosse Gallery in Stowe on the Wold, Gloucestershire from June 8 to 28. Image courtesy of The Fosse Gallery. Seren Bell’s ‘Red Gate’ - on view at The Fosse Gallery in Stowe on the Wold, Gloucestershire. Image courtesy of The Fosse Gallery. No doubt the exhibition will meet with an enthusiastic response from members of the rural Gloucestershire community who live and work among these native breeds.

Finally, something of the serenity of the English countryside can also be sensed in an exhibition currently on view at the Jerram Gallery, Sherborne, Dorset until June 11. Fifteen artists have contributed works to “Still Life and Interiors,” a biannual exhibition that seeks to offer “a comprehensive overview of still life painting today.”

Many of the artists will be familiar to Jerram habitués, but two new faces, Charles Anderson and Karl Taylor, join them this year. Prices range from £750 to around £3,500, with John Maddison’s oil on canvas The Butler's Pantry and Brian Hanlon’s Pots from an Old Garden Shed (the latter priced at £3,850 [$6,450]) being broadly representative of the kind of appealing, traditional work on show. John Maddison’s ‘The Butler's Pantry’, oil on canvas, part of the ‘Still Life and Interiors’ exhibition at the Jerram Gallery, Sherborne, Dorset until June 11. Image courtesy of the Jerram Gallery.Brian Hanlon’s ‘Pots from an Old Garden Shed’, acrylic on board, priced at £3,850 ($6,450) at the Jerram Gallery, Sherborne, Dorset until June 11. Image courtesy of the Jerram Gallery.

Last Updated on Friday, 25 July 2014 08:53
 

London Eye: April 2014

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Written by TOM FLYNN, Auction Central News International   
Wednesday, 30 April 2014 14:35

The inconspicuous entrance to The Other Art Fair, one of London’s most adventurous contemporary art fairs. Image Auction Central News.

LONDON – You could have walked past the entrance to The Other Art Fair in the fashionable Marylebone district of London last week without noticing it, such is the unpretentious, low-budget approach to this still relatively new artist-led London art fair. The event is staged twice a year, once in the spring, and again in October at the Truman Brewery in East London to coincide with the bigger high-ticket Frieze Fair. Its real innovation is in giving the public an opportunity to buy affordable art from around £50 upwards direct from the artists. By all accounts it is a model that is working well, no doubt in large part due to its informal approach to location and design

Having passed the front desk, visitors descended a flight of concrete steps to arrive in the service basement of a municipal office block complete with exposed ductwork and emergency lighting. Even the reception desk had to compete with a backdrop of overflowing dumpsters and industrial detritus, none of which remotely ruffled the placid calm of the young woman graciously greeting visitors.Skip the niceties, the reception desk of The Other Art Fair offers a funkier take on the conventional art fair model. Image Auction Central News.

So accustomed have we become to the glitzy veneer of top-end art fairs like Frieze, the European Fine Art Fair in Maastricht, the Masterpiece Fair, Art Basel and the rest, all of which are focused on their core clientèle of ultra high net worth individuals, that the street-wise, Reservoir Dogs approach of The Other Art Fair comes across as a breath of fresh air. This is fair design that reinvents the grit and grime of a now largely forgotten avant garde approach to contemporary art: fresh and funky and full of vibrant energy.

Inside, we spoke to Georgia Parodi-Brown of pioneering online auction house Paddle 8, who talked with enthusiasm about the fair’s approach and the buzz in the air on the opening night. She was on the stand of London-based Art Below whose founder, Ben Moore, has partnered with Paddle 8 to auction artist-designed Star Wars Storm Trooper masks customized by the likes of Jake and Dinos Chapman and Matt Collishaw.Georgia Parodi-Brown of Paddle 8 at The Other Art Fair in Marylebone in April. Image Auction Central News. The so-called “Art Wars” initiative aims to raise funds to launch a search for Ben’s brother Tom, who has been missing for 10 years.

The best judges of an artist-led fair like this are surely the exhibiting artists themselves. Stand rentals are competitively priced at around £700, a mere fraction of what the fashionable fairs charge. Still, artists would not return if they failed to cover their costs. Those we spoke to were extremely positive. Rachel Ann Stevenson was upbeat at the interest expressed in her bronze sculptures.British sculptor Rachel Ann Stevenson at The Other Art Fair in London in April. Image Auction Central News. Meanwhile, her small, taxidermied sleeping mice assemblages titled Little Lives Dream, were selling well at £300 a pop.‘Little Lives Dream,’ a limited edition taxidermy work by Rachel Ann Stevenson, seen at The Other Art Fair in London in April. Image Auction Central News.

Also smiling was self-trained photographer Roy Tyson whose Roy’s People stand is now a regular presence at The Other Art Fair events. His quirky photographs comprising tiny model figures placed in real world environments were flying off the walls. “The Other Art Fair is always good for me,” said Roy. “Last October’s event at the Truman Brewery was mental. But this one’s been great too. I’ve sold loads.” Photographic artist Roy Tyson whose Roy’s People stand was proving popular with visitors to The Other Art Fair in April. Image Auction Central News.

Unsurprisingly, these positive testimonials were greeted with a broad grin by the fair’s enterprising young founder-director Ryan Stanier, a graduate of Kingston University’s School of Business and Law. Ryan Stanier, founder-director of The Other Art Fair at his Marylebone event in April. Image Auction Central News.“We’ve had a fantastic and encouraging response from artists and visitors alike,” said Stanier. “The challenge is finding the right venue to keep costs manageable but the atmosphere this time has been great, visitor numbers are up and sales have been very positive.”

A few days after The Other Art Fair closed, the venerable London Original Print Fair opened at the Royal Academy of Arts in Piccadilly. The final day of the London Original Print Fair was well attended at the Royal Academy on April 27. Image Auction Central News.This is a rather more sedate affair but there was a clear sense on the final Sunday of a highly focused clientele with a specialist interest in this section of the market. Next year will be the fair’s 30th anniversary, an event that director, Helen Rosslyn is looking forward to with obvious relish.Helen Rosslyn, director of the London Original Print Fair, which will celebrate its 30th anniversary in 2015. Image courtesy the London Original Print Fair. “This is my 27th fair,” she told Auction Central News, “and once again we’ve had a very good response. The First World War centenary theme explored by some dealers has been particularly successful, with Gerrish, the Fine Art Society and Osborne Samuel all reporting an encouraging number of sales of works by war artists like Nash and C.R.W. Nevinson.”

Asked how the London Original Print Fair has managed to stay ahead, given the capital’s increasingly crowded fair circuit, Rosslyn observed that the LOPF’s strict specialism has always worked in its favor. “We may not get the same levels of visitors as some of the bigger fairs, but our buyer/sale rates are proportionally higher thanks to our core focus.” The stand of fine art print dealers Gerrish, who were doing a solid trade in prints by World War I artists at the London Original Print Fair in April. Image Auction Central News.

This was borne out by Gordon Samuel, director of London Modern British dealers Osborne Samuel, who remarked, “We were delighted with the number of serious international collectors at this year’s London Original Print Fair and have made some significant sales and met a number of new clients. We’ve been delighted with sales across the board and have enjoyed meeting a number of curators from institutions who regard the fair as an important and necessary date in their arts diaries.”

This year the London Original Print Fair benefited further by coinciding with the Royal Academy’s exhibition of chiaroscuro woodblock prints from the collection of German contemporary artist Georg Baselitz, which reinforced the print theme. The Royal Academy was also helping celebrate the centenary of the birth of the late British postwar sculptor Lynn Chadwick (1914-2003), by displaying four of the artist’s large angular steel beast sculptures. Steel beast sculptures by the late British artist Lynn Chadwick on the forecourt of the Royal Academy. This year is the centenary of Chadwick’s birth. Image Auction Central News.

Chadwick was the winner of the International Sculpture Prize at the Venice Biennale in 1956, but despite the presence of many of his highly individualistic works in prominent public locations, his oeuvre remains largely unrecognized by the general public. Perhaps the various exhibitions taking place around London this year will go some small way toward reinvigorating interest in his significant contribution to postwar British sculpture.

And finally, turning to the auction circuit, a brief note about a most unusual collection coming under the hammer of Canterbury Auction Galleries on June 12. The auction house has been instructed to disperse the contents of Gregory, Bottley & Lloyd, for 150 years one of the most prominent dealers in minerals, fossils and natural history curiosities. Minerals and fossils from the Gregory, Bottley and Lloyd business, the contents of which will be dispersed by Canterbury Auction Galleries in June. Image Auction Central News.Established in London in 1850 by James Reynolds Gregory, the firm was one of the longest surviving mineral specimen suppliers in the world. In 2008 the stock, original Victorian cabinets, display cases, books, specimens and geological antiques, were moved to Walmer in Kent. The auction follows the decision by owners Brian and Mary Lloyd to retire.

It will be fascinating to see how such a highly specialist and somewhat idiosyncratic collection is greeted by buyers in Canterbury on June 12.The original interior of the Gregory, Bottley and Lloyd fossil and minerals business, the stock, fixtures and fittings of which will be dispersed by Canterbury Auction Galleries in June. Watch this space.

 

Last Updated on Friday, 25 July 2014 08:53
 

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 — www.wrharvey.com.

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
 
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