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London Eye | Tom Flynn

London Eye: April 2015

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Written by TOM FLYNN, Auction Central News International   
Tuesday, 05 May 2015 12:18

El Anatsui, winner of the prestigious Venice Biennale Golden Lion Award 2015, in front of the Royal Academy of Arts,  London. Photo © Jonathan Greet. Image courtesy October Gallery, London.

LONDON — It is 2015 and so once again it is almost time to head to Venice for the 56th edition of the Venice Biennale. A welcome piece of pre-Biennale news was the announcement that the Ghanaian contemporary artist El Anatsui is to receive the Golden Lion for Lifetime Achievement Award. This is good news for El Anatsui, but it is also welcome news for London’s October Gallery, which has represented El in London for many years.

The October Gallery is known for its support of what one might loosely call “World Art,” or what the gallery terms the “Transvangarde,” the trans-cultural avant garde. El Anatsui’s creations are a fine example of work in this category. Okwui Enwezor, the curator of this year’s Venice Biennale (the 56th), said of the award: “El Anatsui is perhaps the most significant living African artist working on the continent today. The award for which I am recommending him is an important honor to an artist who has contributed immensely to the recognition of contemporary African artists in the global arena.” Few would disagree with that. What makes El Anatsui’s work so extraordinary is his ability to repurpose the detritus of the urban world into beautiful objects. The art market, through its own immutable logic, has repurposed them again, by turning them luxury commodities. His gorgeous, lustrous wall hangings are actually made from discarded aluminum bottle tops flattened out.

El Anatsui, ‘Timespace,’ 2014, aluminum and copper wire, 325 x 495 cm. Photo Jonathan Greet, image courtesy October Gallery, London.jpg

When shown at swanky art fairs they tend to stop people in their tracks and are in huge demand when they appear at high-end auctions. One example, titled Path to the Okra Farm, sold at Sotheby’s in New York this time last year for $1.4 million (£860,580).

And so to more mundane matters. With the UK general election just days away (May 7), the British public is currently suspended between weary indifference toward the political classes and genuine concern as to how long the recession will continue. Nightly news bulletins and opinion polls confirm the deep disillusionment felt by many UK nationals about the state of the economy and the prospect of further cuts ahead.

Into this feverish climate and with impeccable timing, the Sunday Times chose to publish its annual “Rich List,” which revealed the extent to which the country’s wealthiest individuals have grown even wealthier, despite the recession. The report confirmed that the rich more than doubled their wealth over the last decade.

While this may generate even more resentment and envy among those who struggle to make ends meet, it will be greeted with open arms by the artists, dealers, auctioneers and advisers whose job it is to supply luxury goods to the super-rich. One of the most celebrated of these suppliers, and now a fabulously wealthy individual in his own right, is the American artist Jeff Koons, a survey of whose work opens this coming month at Norwich Castle Museum and Art Gallery as part of the touring “Artist Room” series.

Jeff Koons, Winter Bears, 1988. Artist Rooms, Tate and National Galleries of Scotland. Acquired jointly through The d'Offay Donation with assistance from the National Heritage Memorial Fund and the Art Fund 2008, © Jeff Koons. Image courtesy Norwich Castle Museum and Art Gallery

Quite what the gentlefolk of Norfolk will make of Koons’s various creations remains to be seen. For example, vacuum cleaners are only too familiar to the thousands of men and women who push them around on a daily basis in return for the minimum wage, but it’s doubtful they’ll ever have encountered three Hoovers in a glass case in an art gallery. However, these aren’t just Hoovers, they’re works of art that would have an eye-watering price tag were they to appear under an auctioneer’s gavel.

Jeff Koons, ‘New Hoover Convertibles, Green, Red, Brown, New Shelton Wet/Dry 10 Gallon Displaced Doubledecker, 1981-7,’ Artist Rooms, Tate and National Galleries of Scotland. Acquired jointly through The d'Offay Donation with assistance from the National Heritage Memorial Fund and the Art Fund 2008, © Jeff Koons. Image courtesy Norwich Castle Museum and Art Gallery.

One example fetched $11.8 million (£6 million) at Christie’s New York in 2008. However, that price information is unlikely to be made public in the Norwich show, which aims to present Koons not as a manufacturer of expensive luxury goods for the world’s super-rich, but as an artist and innovator.

As William Galinsky, artistic director of the Norfolk & Norwich Festival, explains: "This will be the biggest Jeff Koons exhibition in Britain for a decade and an unmissable opportunity for visitors to see the work of such an important, influential and fun artist.”

Jeff Koons, Mound of Flowers, 1991, Artist Rooms, Tate and National Galleries of Scotland. Acquired jointly through The d'Offay Donation with assistance from the National Heritage Memorial Fund and the Art Fund 2008, © Jeff Koons. Image courtesy Norwich Castle Museum and Art Gallery.

We look forward to the local Norwich press reviews. By way of sharp contrast, moviegoers may remember a few of the wonderful locations used in Mike Leigh’s recent film, Mr. Turner, about the great 19th century English landscape painter J.M.W. Turner. One of the film’s most memorable locations was Petworth House in West Sussex. Still occupied by the current Lord and Lady Egremont, whose family has owned the property since the time of Henry I (1068-1135), Petworth House and Park are now administered by the National Trust and are a popular destination for tourists with a hunger for classic British heritage.

Petworth House & Park, the location of a new fine art and antiques fair on May 8-10. Photo Martin Offer. Image courtesy the Antiques Dealers' Fair Ltd.

Given all this background, it is not surprising that the park has been selected as the location for a new fine art and antiques fair opening on May 10. It will be held in a marquee in the 700-acre deer park, which surrounds the late 17th century Grade 1 listed mansion in the quaint Sussex town of Petworth. Unsurprisingly, given the venue, the event has attracted some of the most prestigious dealers and so visitors will be treated to a mouth-watering array across all categories.

Among the things that caught our eye was Edward Seago’s atmospheric, summery oil entitled On the Dunes, on show with Haynes Fine Art of Broadway, priced at £100,000-£150,000 ($152,000-$228,000).

This oil on canvas titled ‘On the Dunes’ by Edward Brian Seago, is priced at £100,000-£150,000 ($152,000-$228,000) with Haynes Fine Art of Broadway at the new Petworth Park Antiques and Fine Art Fair from 8-10 May. Image courtesy Haynes Fine Art and the Antiques Dealers' Fair Ltd.

A smart Regency brass-inlaid sofa table marked £9,500 ($14,450) is among Freshfords Fine Antiques' offerings.

An English Regency brass-inlaid sofa table, circa 1815, priced at £9,500 ($14,450) on display with Freshfords Fine Antiques at the new Petworth Park Antiques and Fine Art Fair from May 8-10. Image courtesy Freshfords Fine Antiques and the Antiques Dealers' Fair Ltd.

A piece of contemporary garden sculpture titled Joie de Vivre, by Penny Hardy, is to be shown by local pioneering contemporary art and sculpture dealers Moncrieff Bray Gallery and is priced at £1,500 ($2,275).

Among the contemporary works at the new Petworth Park Antiques and Fine Art Fair this month will be this outdoor sculpture by Penny Hardy titled ‘Joie de Vivre,’ to be shown by local West Sussex art dealers Moncrieff Bray Gallery, priced at £1,500 ($2,275).

If the weather stays fine, this could turn out to be one of the most popular fairs of the summer, although it will have some way to go to compete with this year’s Masterpiece Fair in London at the end of June. Watch this space for news of that. And finally, a brief note about an interesting event opening at Bowman Sculpture in Mayfair this month. This is an exhibition of work by the current doyenne of traditional British sculpture, Helaine Blumenfeld, which will be shown alongside selected works by the late, great Henry Moore.

The interior of the Alex Rosenberg Gallery in 1985, showing works by Henry Moore and Helaine Blumenfeld. London sculpture dealer Robert Bowman will restage that dialogue at his gallery in Duke Street, St. James from May 22 to June 30. Image courtesy Helaine Blumenfeld and Bowman Sculpture.

The show celebrates and restages an innovative exhibition held at the Alex Rosenberg Gallery in New York in 1985 where the two artists’ works entered into a silent “dialogue.” American-born Blumenfeld has arguably become the most significant British sculptor working in the time-honored techniques of marble carving, which she practices in her studios in Pietrasanta, Tuscany (a set of skills entirely alien to the Koons generation). However, her smaller-scale bronzes are also in many public and private collections around the world. It will be fascinating to see the extent to which her sculptural “voice” has developed in the 30 years since the New York dialogue.

This work in Roman travertine, titled ‘Seascape,’ by Helaine Blumenfeld, will be shown at Bowman Sculpture in Duke Street from May 22 to June 30 where it will be among a number of works by Blumenfeld ‘in dialogue’ with works by Henry Moore. Image Auction Central News and courtesy Helaine Blumenfeld.

The exhibition, which coincides with a new large-scale work by Blumenfeld being installed in London’s Berkeley Square, runs at Bowman Sculpture May 22 to June 30.

Last Updated on Wednesday, 06 May 2015 11:07

London Eye: March 2015

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Written by TOM FLYNN, Auction Central News International   
Thursday, 02 April 2015 10:35
The traditional flower-strewn entrance to the 2015 European Fine Art Fair in Maastricht. The display is eagerly anticipated by visitors and rarely disappoints. Image Auction Central News.

LONDON — Here the main political parties have begun the breathless sprint towards voting day for the general election on May 7. Never before has the likely outcome been so unpredictable, nor induced so many yawns from the public. Meanwhile, British summer time has officially begun. Daffodils line the roadside and the trees are brimful of blossom. This would normally put a spring in one’s step, but the unsavory prospect of the looming general election tends to take the shine off things.

On the upside, those of us fortunate enough to have attended this year’s installment of the European Fine Art Fair (TEFAF) in Maastricht, were treated to another intoxicating taste of available fine and decorative art. This brightened the month of March considerably, despite us being unable to make the purchases our hearts desired. Still, the entrance foyer looked stunning and as usual the fair provided another stimulating, if exhausting, visual treat.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, given the wealth that descends on Maastricht for TEFAF week, the organizers have been celebrating another successful year. This rather chimes with the latest findings of their annual research report, which indicated that the art market is blooming like the Dutch tulips that adorn the fair.

The art market blossoms: The aisles of the European Fine Art Fair in Maastricht were once again blooming with traditional tulips at this year’s event. Image Auction Central News.

Prior to the 2008 global credit crunch, the TEFAF report was registering annual global revenues of around 47 billion euros. It is often said that when a recession strikes, the art market feels the pinch later than other asset classes and rebounds sooner. That would seem to have been confirmed by this year’s report, which shows that while most European economies are languishing in the financial doldrums and the majority of working families are struggling to stay afloat, the art market has again taken flight. Its global revenues now stand at 51 billion euros, the highest ever recorded total. This might come as good news to those who see the art market as a foretaste of an imminent, broader economic recovery. Wiser minds know that it is little more than confirmation of how the rich continue to get richer, despite the economic crisis.

One does not have to be at TEFAF for long to get a sense of how seriously the trade takes these events, some claiming to do up to 50 percent of their annual business during the 10 days of the fair. The stand of Munich dealers Röbbig offered the clearest indication of how some dealers regard it as no longer enough to simply bring the stock. It also has to be shown within a convincing recreation of the interior of a Parisian aristocrat’s ancien régime hôtel, or the palace of some minor Hapsburg prince.

The elaborate stand of Munich dealers R öbbig at the European Fine Art Fair in Maastricht. Image Auction Central News.

Peter Osborne, director of London-based Modern British dealers Osborne Samuel spoke to Auction Central News about the punishing travel schedule that dealers now have to undertake in order to keep pace with the event-driven global market. “This is the way it is now, and this is the future,” he said, commenting on the number of fairs stacked into a four-month period from March to July across several continents. “You simply have to go with it.”

The TEFAF fair traditionally has one or two blue-chip works of art in the Old Master category, but this year it seemed notably short on true masterpieces. It was, however, packed with antiquities of one kind or another, a worrying development given the widespread looting of ancient sites across the Middle East and developing world. We spotted a Cambodian statuette with no provenance to the label, a surprising omission at a fair as prestigious as Maastricht, particularly given how Cambodian temple sites are still being ravaged by subsistence looters. (Fig. 4) One assumes that this particular object has a legitimate provenance, even if it wasn’t clearly displayed as one might expect.

This 10th-century Cambodian statuette of a devi or goddess, from Pre-Rup in Angkor, was one of numerous antiquities on sale at the European Fine Art Fair in Maastricht in March. Image Auction Central News.

Should we take comfort from the fact that TEFAF is strictly vetted? Well, it has just emerged that a painting recently identified as having been looted by the Nazis from a Viennese family in 1944 was offered for sale at TEFAF just a few years ago. An enquiry to TEFAF’s organizers as to how this might have happened is yet to receive a response. ‘Portrait of a Gentleman’ by El Greco, shown a few years ago at the European Fine Art Fair, and subsequently found to have been looted from a Viennese family by the Gestapo. It has now been restituted to the heirs of its original owner. Image courtesy the Commission for Looted Art in Europe and Art Recovery International. The picture, Portrait of a Gentleman by El Greco, was seized by the Gestapo in 1944 from the noted Viennese industrialist Julius Priester, along with the entire Priester family collection. The portrait has now been restituted to the descendants of Julius Priester by the Commission for Looted Art In Europe working with Art Recovery International, the new London-based due diligence service for the international art trade.

Before moving on to a few other interesting events in the UK in the coming month, a brief mention of one or two of the more striking objects at the TEFAF fair. London and New York dealers Mallett have been enjoying a significant resurgence of good fortune over the past couple of years, seemingly since moving to their new premises at Ely House, Mayfair. Their TEFAF stand looked terrific, combining traditional furniture and works of art with a few selected works of modern design. These included a “Fig-Leaf” wardrobe by Dutch designer Tord Boontje, although the term wardrobe doesn’t really do it justice as the accompanying image shown here makes clear. ‘Fig-Leaf,’ a bronze and enameled wardobe by Dutch designer Tord Boontje, featured on the stand of London and New York dealers Mallett at the European Fine Art Fair in Maastricht. Image courtesy of Mallett and Tord Boontje. Fans of C.S. Lewis’ The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe might have nightmares with this in the room, but instead of opening onto Mr. Tumnus, a tree-form coat-hanger appears. Every leaf of the doors has been individually designed and enameled, making it a classic example of what is now being described as “meta-luxury.” Its innovative design and exquisite craftsmanship amply justified its price tag, which good manners (and the fact that it had sold) prevents us from disclosing.

The open interior of Tord Boontje’s bronze and enameled ‘Fig-Leaf’ wardobe, with Mallett at the European Fine Art Fair in Maastricht in March. Image courtesy of Mallet and Tord Boontje.

Elsewhere Parisian dealer François Laffanour’s Galerie Downtown had teamed up with top-drawer art adviser and consultant Philippe Ségalot to present a superb display titled "Masterpieces of Shaker Design. Star" of the stand was a birch trestle table by a Massachusetts maker dating from 1840. It was long enough to accommodate the entire cast of Amish barn-builders from Harrison Ford’s Witness movie and yet it was constructed from a single plank of a noble birch tree. A shaker birch trestle table, Massachusetts, circa 1840, on the stand of François Laffanour’s Galerie Downtown at the European Fine Art Fair in Maastricht in March, where it was priced at 250,000-300,000 euros ($270,000-$323,000). Image Auction Central News. Priced at 250,000-300,000 euros ($270,000-$323,000), it had been reserved for a client, demonstrating, like the wardrobe mentioned above, that objects of extraordinary rarity in any category are likely to find buyers.

By now, most people will be suffering from a surfeit of fairs news but on a more local and affordable level it is worth casting a brief glance toward the Cotswolds Art and Antiques Dealers’ Fair, which opens on April 16 until April 19 at the famous Blenheim Palace in Woodstock, Oxfordshire. Now in its fourth year, the fair will host 24 exhibitors, all members of the Cotswolds Art and Antiques Dealers Association, so it comes with a stamp of quality. We have been alerted to far too many objects appearing at the fair to mention them all here, but we were struck by a splendid papier-mâché tea caddy decorated with a scene of cattle in a landscape by Henry Clay, circa 1800. It is priced at 5,500 pounds ($8,150) from Hampton Antiques, while Catherine Hunt Oriental Ceramics will no doubt be hoping for Asian interest in a transitional double gourd blue and white bottle vase priced at 13,500 pounds.

This charming painted papier-mâché tea caddy is priced at 5,500 pounds ($8,150) with Hamptons Antiques at the Cotswolds Art and Antiques Dealers’ Fair at Blenheim Palace.  Image courtesy of Cotswolds Art and Antiques Dealers’ Fair. Catherine Hunt Oriental Ceramics will be showing this Chinese transitional double-gourd bottle vase at the Cotswolds Art and Antiques Dealers’ Fair, where it is priced at 13,500 pounds ($20,000). Image courtesy of Cotswolds Art and Antiques Dealers’ Fair.

Finally, the ever-reliable Jerram Gallery in Sherborne, Dorset, is about to stage a mixed exhibition of new landscapes and still lifes by Charles Jamieson, Elsa Taylor and Vivienne Williams, which opens on April 11 until April 29.

Charles Jamieson, ‘Yellow Field,’ oil on board, to be included in the Jerram Gallery’s group show of landscapes and still lifes in Sherborne, Dorset. Image courtesy of Jerram Gallery. Vivienne Williams, ‘Kitchen Still Life with Lemons and Beans,’ mixed media, at the Jerram Gallery’s group exhibition in Sherborne, Dorset. Image courtesy of Jerram Gallery. Elsa Taylor, ‘Fishing Huts II,’ oil on board, included in the Jerram Gallery’s group exhibition in Sherborne, Dorset. Image courtesy of Jerram Gallery.

Exhibitions like this are a welcome reminder that the so-called “art market” comprises not only the high-ticket masterworks that so preoccupy the wealth-obsessed media, but also includes affordable work shown by regional galleries keen to support local artists and to serve the many less well-heeled, but no less passionate, collectors.

Next month we’ll be previewing an exhibition of works by Jeff Koons in, of all places, Norwich. Quite what the gentle folk of East Anglia will make of Jeff’s ironic take on popular culture remains to be seen.

Last Updated on Thursday, 02 April 2015 11:25

London Eye: February 2015

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Written by TOM FLYNN, Auction Central News International   
Monday, 02 March 2015 18:21

Dr. Clare McAndrew of Arts Economics, whose authoritative annual TEFAF Art Market Report is published annually through the European Fine Art Fair, speaking at the 2014 fair event. Image courtesy of TEFAF. Photo credit: Harry Heuts.

LONDON – Fine art fairs, contemporary art fairs, affordable art fairs, photography fairs, antiques fairs, decorative antiques and textiles fairs, works on paper fairs, craft fairs — fairs, fairs everywhere, in every major city all over the world, twenty-four-seven, it would seem. Given their ubiquity, it is a wonder that the dealers who attend these events aren’t flat on their backs suffering from some kind of neurological art-fair breakdown. Who knows, perhaps they are.

London and Hong Kong-based contemporary art dealer Ben Brown recently told the Daily Telegraph that in just a two-and-a-half-week period beginning in March he expects to travel 20,000 miles, “or almost the total circumference of the globe” to participate in three important international fairs in New York, Maastricht and Hong Kong. Brown estimates the cost of his Phileas Fogg-like perambulations will be close to £250,000, but told the Telegraph, “I wouldn’t be doing it if I thought I couldn’t cover my costs.”

One of the obligatory stop-offs for major dealers like Brown is the grand European Fine Art Fair (TEFAF) in Maastricht in the Netherlands, which opens to the public on March 13.The European Fine Art Fair (TEFAF), arguably the most prestigious event in the European art fair calendar, opens on March 13 in Maastricht, the Netherlands. Image courtesy of TEFAF. Photo credit: Loraine Bodewes. This is where the world’s most important dealers bring their finest stock, and where some of them expect to do up to 33 percent of their annual business during the 10 days of the fair. The world’s wealthiest collectors come to TEFAF to acquire; the most important museums come to keep tabs on what is on the market; and those who can’t afford to buy at these price levels come for the pleasure of looking, or to educate themselves, or merely to partake of the general welcoming ambience. Visitors to The European Fine Art Fair (TEFAF) enjoy the welcoming hospitality. Image courtesy of TEFAF. Photo credit: Loraine Bodewes.

The Maastricht event is also important as the moment when the annual TEFAF Art Market Report is published by Dr. Clare McAndrew’s Arts Economics research company.Dr. Clare McAndrew of Arts Economics, whose authoritative annual TEFAF Art Market Report is published annually through the European Fine Art Fair, speaking at the 2014 fair event. Image courtesy of TEFAF. Photo credit: Harry Heuts. It will be interesting to see whether this year’s report will confirm that the market has finally climbed above its pre-2008 credit-crunch crash level of €48 million. However, given the rising number of art transactions that are conducted under a veil of secrecy and the traditional confidentiality of the international art trade, any market analysis probably needs to be taken with a healthy pinch of salt.

Only recently, another art market analysis company, Skate’s, gloomily announced that, “the heyday of art fairs seems to be over,” pointing out that 2014 was the first time when “the total attendance for the top 20 art fairs in established collectors markets declined on a year to year basis.” According to Skate’s art fairs report, the flagship global art fairs such as Art Basel Miami Beach, TEFAF and Paris Photo, “all posted audience decline in 2014, particularly notable since those fairs serve largely different segments of global art trade.”

No doubt the dealers would scoff at these Cassandra-like prognostications, knowing that attendance doesn’t matter; it is the number of high-profile buyers that counts. Most dealers will feel secure in the belief that if they take the right stock they will do well. London dealers Tomasso Brothers Fine Art will be seeking a buyer for their superb bronze equestrian portrait of Savoy’s Great Duke, Carlo Emanuele I by the great Florentine sculptor and bronze caster Antonio Susini. London dealers Tomasso Brothers Fine Art will be seeking a price ‘in the region of €1.5 million ($1.6 million)’ for this important bronze equestrian portrait of Carlo Emanuele I of Savoy by Antonio Susini, circa 1620, on their stand at the European Fine Art Fair in Maastricht from March 13-22.Dating to circa 1620, the work is believed to have been commissioned to mark the marriage in 1619 of Duke Carlo Emanuele’s son and heir Vittorio Amadeo to Christine Marie, daughter of King Henry IV of France and Marie de Medici. That’s quite a provenance and its asking price “in the region of 1.5 million euros ($1.6 million)” reflects its historical importance.

Given the BBC’s recent exposé of the sheer scale of the antiquities looting in the war-ravaged Middle East, it is perhaps unsurprising that antiquities dealers are now under more forensic scrutiny than ever before. The material being removed from ancient sites is somehow finding its way, in wholesale quantities it seems, onto western markets, although little seems to be being done to control the flow.

London-based antiquities dealers Charles Ede Ltd. knows better than most how important it is to conduct comprehensive due diligence on the material they buy and sell, the firm’s managing director James Ede being one of those who has long lobbied for a more ethical industry. He believes the Roman period Egyptian portrait he is taking to Maastricht will be the oldest portrait at the fair.Excavated in the late 19th century and later included in a number of renowned European collections, this Roman period Egyptian portrait will be on show at the stand of Charles Ede Ltd. at the European Fine Art Fair in Maastricht. Image courtesy Charles Ede Ltd. Perhaps unsurprisingly, it is offered with an exhaustive provenance from a number of illustrious European collections following its original excavation in Cairo in the late 19th century. The Ede stand at the strictly vetted TEFAF fair will be enlarged at this year’s event, suggesting that some of the more prestigious dealers clearly are having no difficulty sourcing material.

As we reported last month, there is now a new agency in London dedicated to issues of due diligence and art recovery. Art Recovery International, set up by London-based, American lawyer Christopher Marinello to offer a more ethical approach to the provision of due diligence that what is currently available, have just moved into smart premises in London’s fashionable Mayfair district. The new London-based Art Recovery International, which offers due diligence services to the art trade, has moved into smart premises at 9 Clifford St. in London’s fashionable Mayfair district. Image courtesy of Art Recovery International.The firm is encouraging collectors and members of the art trade to drop into their Clifford Street offices to meet the team and learn more about how the company seeks to transform the business of art recovery. “We are delighted to take a place alongside some of the world’s most prestigious dealers and art institutions,” said Marinello. “Our company provides a valuable resource to the art market and we are committed to fostering excellent working relationships with our clients both in London and around the world.”

Not so very long ago, museums would not have deigned to even whisper the name of an art dealer, such were the strictly policed boundaries between the pure discipline of art history and what was widely perceived as a dubious art trade. But meaningful changes have taken place in academia in recent years such that more and more attention is now being focused on the socio-economics of art dealing and collecting. Nowhere will that change be more apparent than in the forthcoming exhibition at the National Gallery devoted to the work of the great 19th-century art dealer Paul Durand-Ruel. Nineteenth-century French art dealer Paul Durand-Ruel in his gallery, the subject of a new exhibition at London’s National Gallery from March 4 to May31. Photograph taken by Dornac, about 1910. Archives Durand-Ruel © Durand-Ruel & Cie.

Durand-Ruel is virtually unknown outside academic circles despite having virtually single-handedly championed the Impressionist painters when they were unknown and unappreciated. The National Gallery’s forthcoming exhibition, “Inventing Impressionism” from March 4 to May 31 seeks to throw light on the Parisian dealer’s contribution to the Impressionist story and will give a sense of the circle of painters and collectors who helped turn Impressionism into one of the most popular art movements of all time. Joseph Durand-Ruel, Georges Durand-Ruel and Claude Monet at the water lily pond in Giverny, 1900. Photograph Archives Durand-Ruel, © Durand-Ruel & Cie. ‘Inventing Impressionism’ is at the National Gallery from March 4 to May 31.

Durand-Ruel’s determination to spread the word in promoting the Impressionists led him to stage exhibitions in America and London, the exhibition at the Grafton Gallery in London in 1905 being one of the most notable, albeit not in sales.Many now famous Impressionist paintings on show for the first time at the Grafton Gallery, London in 1905. Silver gelatin print. Archives Durand-Ruel © Durand Ruel & Cie. To be shown at ‘Inventing Impressionism’ at the National Gallery from March 4 to May 31. French painters in the Durand-Ruel circle included the earlier Barbican School artists and some of them painted memorable images on their visits to London, which compare with the iconic views of the Thames left by Monet, Pissarro and others.Charles-François Daubigny, ‘St. Paul's from the Surrey Side,’ 1871-3, oil on canvas. The National Gallery, London Presented by friends of J.C.J. Drucker, 1912. © The National Gallery, London. It will be interesting to see whether the National Gallery show genuinely does full credit to Durand-Ruel or is just an excuse for yet another turnstile-spinning Impressionist exhibition.

Finally, it is worth mentioning that one of the capital’s most intellectually engaging private gallery exhibitions has been extended until the end of March due to keen public interest. James Hyman Gallery is the UK’s leading commercial gallery for vintage 19th- and 20th-century photography and their most recent thematic exhibition, which features photographs from the earliest days of the medium, “The Age of Salt: Art, Science and Early Photography” will now continue until March 31. The show takes as its starting point one of William Henry Fox Talbot’s greatest works and one of the finest prints outside a museum. Titled “Veronica in Bloom” (1840), the rare print dates from the very moment in which the birth of the photographic medium was announced – a treat for fans of early photography.James Hyman Gallery in Savile Row has extended their hugely popular early photography exhibition ‘The Age of Salt: Art, Science and Early Photography’ until  March 31. The show includes one of William Henry Fox Talbot’s greatest works  ‘Veronica in Bloom’ (1840). Image courtesy of James Hyman Gallery.





Last Updated on Tuesday, 03 March 2015 09:29

London Eye: January 2015

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Written by TOM FLYNN, Auction Central News International   
Monday, 02 February 2015 15:41

Secretary of State John Kerry and other members of the U.S. Senate assemble in 2013 beside a bust of Sir Winston Churchill by Oscar Nemon. The 50th anniversary of Churchill's funeral was marked with reverence in London this week. Image courtesy of Architect of the Capitol.

LONDON – “I refuse to be exhibited like a prize bull whose chief attraction is his past prowess,” said Sir Winston Churchill in one of his less familiar utterances. His words echoed down through the decades this week as Prime Minister David Cameron and other members of Parliament assembled beneath Oscar Nemon’s bronze statue of Churchill in the lobby of the House of Commons to mark the 50th anniversary of the great man’s state funeral.

Unsurprisingly, the occasion was another opportunity to celebrate Churchill’s “past prowess,” although some commentators chose to draw attention to the war-time leader’s more questionable attitudes toward people of different ethnicities. But if the stature of a politician were to be measured in the number of statues and busts portraying him (or her), few would come close to Churchill whose bulldog gaze stares down from pedestals the world over.

For example, a recent indication of Churchill’s still towering reputation in the United States came in 2013 when a new bronze after the original work by Croation-born British sculptor Oscar Nemon (who made the statue of Churchill in the House of Commons) was unveiled in Statuary Hall, off the Capitol Rotunda. On that occasion, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry remarked that Churchill would “remain forever an inspiration to those in the Capitol and across the continents.” Secretary of State John Kerry and other members of the U.S. Senate assemble in 2013 beside a bust of Sir Winston Churchill by Oscar Nemon. The 50th anniversary of Churchill's funeral was marked with reverence in London this week. Image courtesy of Architect of the Capitol.

Despite having created some of the most memorable portrait statues of the man, Oscar Nemon (1906-1985) remains a somewhat overlooked figure in Churchill lore. Lady Aurelia Young, Oscar Nemon’s daughter and the wife of Sir George Young, a former Leader of the House of Commons in David Cameron’s government, told Auction Central News that, “When Churchill unveiled Nemon’s portrait statue in the Guildhall in 1955, he said: ‘I greatly admire the art of Mr. Oscar Nemon, whose prowess in the ancient realm of sculpture has won such remarkable modern appreciation. I also admire this particular example, which you, my Lord Mayor, have just unveiled, because it seems to be such a very good likeness.’” Churchill, a talented painter in his own right, also tried his hand at sculpture and made a bust of Nemon in tribute to his good friend and portraitist. Churchill memorial week, clockwise from top left: The Honorable Sir George Young MP, and Lady Aurelia Young with Oscar Nemon’s famous bust of Churchill; Lady Young’s father, the sculptor Oscar Nemon; Nemon posing with his bust of Churchill and with Churchill’s bust of Nemon. Images by kind permission of Lady Aurelia Young and the Oscar Nemon estate.

It was surely no coincidence, given the anniversary of the funeral, that a number of other versions of Nemon’s portraits of Churchill have turned up under UK auction hammers recently. In December, Sotheby’s dispersed items from the collection of Lady Mary Soames, Churchill’s youngest daughter. Included in that sale was a small resin bust of Churchill after the work by Nemon.This small resin bust of Sir Winston Churchill by Oscar Nemon, which beat an estimate of just £400-£600 to bring a hammer price of £35,000 ($52,730) at Sotheby’s sale of the Lady Mary Soames collection. Image courtesy of Sotheby’s. For some reason, Sotheby’s estimated this at just £300-£400, a risible forecast that was summarily demolished by a hammer price of £35,000. Had Sotheby’s followed the example of Christie’s by levying the notorious “reward fee” for beating their own upper estimate — an innovation recently greeted with uproar from the trade (and from many regional auctioneers to boot) — they would have earned a very nice additional bonus. Happily they have not … at least not yet.

The highest price from the Soames sale was the £1.5 million ($2.26m) that changed hands for The Goldfish Pool at Chartwell, one of Churchill’s own more accomplished watercolors, which had been a little more realistically estimated at £400,000-£600,000. ‘The Goldfish Pool at Chartwell,’ an oil on canvas of 1932 by Sir Winston Churchill, that brought £1.5 million ($2.26 million) at Sotheby’s white glove sale of the collection of Lady Soames in December. Image courtesy of Sotheby’s.

Meanwhile, on Jan. 27, Bonhams offered an interesting miniature gold bust of Churchill formerly in the collection of the late British-born Hollywood film star Stewart Granger (1913-1993) which realised £7,500 ($11,300). This miniature gold bust of Sir Winston Churchill, formerly in the collection of British-born film star Stewart Granger, fetched £7,500 ($11,300) at Bonhams on Jan. 27. Image courtesy of Bonhams.

Interviewed on the BBC’s long-running Desert Island Discs radio program in 1981, Granger was asked, as all guests of the program are, which luxury he would like to take to the island. His first reply “A blonde?” was rejected by presenter Roy Plumley. Granger went on to choose his bust of Churchill. “Churchill was my great hero during the war,” he said. “I thought he was absolutely fantastic. And Nemon did this statue of him which is now in the Houses of Parliament and Aspreys were clever enough to get Nemon to do some miniatures and I think he did 15 in gold and 200 in silver. I had a few bob to spare, so I went into Apreys and I bought one in gold…and wherever I go he goes in the bag with me.”

Some may conclude that taking a gold bust of Churchill on one’s travels constitutes a significant insurance risk. Had Granger been robbed of his treasured objet d’art, to whom would he have turned? Happily today there are a few more options open to those who suffer losses than there were in Stewart Granger’s day. Dealers, museums and private collectors are now obliged to conduct comprehensive “due diligence” checks into whether an object being offered for sale comes with clear provenance and good title. Until recently there were few reliable places to go to conduct such checks but there is now a new kid on the “due diligence” block. Last week saw the launch at the Royal Institution of Art Claim, a database established by the Art Recovery Group, which has brought together innovative technology and what it describes as “an intuitive user interface and integrated image-recognition software” to provide “an unprecedented degree of reliability and range for professional due diligence in the art market and cultural heritage sector.”

The Art Claim database and related services are the brainchild of London-based American lawyer, Christopher Marinello, who identified the need for a more ethical approach to due diligence than anything currently being offered. Marinello and his colleagues welcomed art market consultants, art insurance professionals, art journalists and others to the Royal Institution to mark the launch of the new service. Guests assembled at the Royal Institution in late January to celebrate the launch of Art Claim, a new ‘due diligence’ database for the art market developed by London-based American lawyer Christopher Marinello (far right). Image Auction Central News.

And so to one of the most popular events in the capital’s winter fairs season. The Works on Paper Fair, which again takes place at London’s Science Museum, will feature another mouth-watering display of works from across all periods and in a broad range of media. The highlights this year include a rare etching after Rembrandt (1606-1699) titled The Writing Master. This 18th-century impression, after the original dated circa 1658, is a portrait of one Lieven Willemsz Van Coppenol (circa 1599-1677), who began his career as the headmaster of the French School in Amsterdam, until illness caused his early retirement. Thereafter he pursued his passion for calligraphy, hence the title of the work. It is for sale at an as yet undisclosed price with Elizabeth Harvey-Lee.

This original etching, entitled ‘The Writing Master,’ an 18th-century impression, circa 1658, after Rembrandt Van Rijn (1606-1699), is available through Elizabeth Harvey-Lee at the Works on Paper Fair at London’s Science Museum from Feb. 5-8. Image courtesy of The Works on Paper Fair and Elizabeth Harvey-Lee.

Paul Sandby (1730-1809) is one of the most admired of English 18th-century British watercolorists. As a result, his works are included in some of the most prestigious public and private collections, including that of the late Queen Mother who had a particular penchant for his landscapes. Thus there is likely to be great interest in the fine example to be offered by dealer Charles Nugent at the Works on Paper Fair. Roche Abbey, Yorkshire, in watercolor and bodycolor, is for sale priced at £28,000 ($42,070). Paul Sandby R.A. (1730-1809) ‘Roche Abbey, Yorkshire,’ watercolor and bodycolor, for sale with Charles Nugent, priced at £28,000 ($42,070) at the Works on Paper Fair at the Science. Image courtesy of the Works on Paper Fair and Charles Nugent.

Another item with mentioning is a composition sure to underscore the perennial appeal of the Venetian vedute — William James Muller’s (1812-1845) watercolor The Rialto, Venice. It will be for sale at the fair with dealer James Mackinnon priced at £9,500 ($14,275).

This watercolor by William James Muller (1812-1845) titled ‘The Rialto, Venice’ is priced £9,500 ($14,275) with dealer James Mackinnon at the Works on Paper Fair at the Science Museum. Image courtesy of the Works on Paper Fair and James Mackinnon.

And finally, a note about one of the most potentially exciting finds in the sculpture realm. A pair of very fine large bronzes from a UK private collection have been subject to renewed scrutiny by scientists and art historians led by Paul Joannides, emeritus professor of art history at the University of Cambridge. A pair of fine bronzes of bacchantes riding panthers, which are now thought to be works by Michelangelo. They will soon be on display at the Fitzwilliam Museum in Cambridge, but will they ever make it to the auction block?Ever since the 19th century, the figures, depicting male bacchantes riding panthers, have been attributed to the Dutch sculptor Willem Danielsz Van Tetrode (circa 1530-1587). However, Professor Joannides has now uncovered what appears to be compelling documentary evidence that may tie the bronzes to the great High Renaissance master himself. They will be on display at the Fitzwilliam Museum in Cambridge until Aug. 9. Meanwhile, the obvious question on the lips of art market watchers is: Will they eventually be consigned to the auction block? Now a pair of Michelangelo bronzes would make the headlines.

Last Updated on Sunday, 08 March 2015 11:49

London Eye: December 2014

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Written by TOM FLYNN, Auction Central News International   
Wednesday, 31 December 2014 13:56

A historically important painted wood ship’s gaucho figurehead from the Brazilian slaver Piratenim, which brought £50,000 ($77,760) from an American private collector at Sworders in Stansted Mountfitchett on Dec. 9. Image courtesy of Sworders

LONDON – Happy New Year from London, once the center of the global art market but now in third place behind the USA and China. A recent report compiled by the British Art Market Federation (BAMF) attributed this fall in the UK’s status in part to the negative impact of the Artists’ Resale Rights Levy. However, few doubt that globalization has also played a part, shifting the wealth-generation from west to east, so to speak.

On a more holistic level there is a broad consensus that 2014 represented something of a bumper year for the art market, with billion-dollar auction sales in the blue-chip sector affirming a return to the pre-crash levels of 2005-2008. Yet it was also a year that saw an inordinate number of high-profile fakes and forgeries scandals rocking the market. Whether this can be taken as evidence that rising prices encourage the criminal fraternity would be hard to prove. However, there is little doubt that the apparent proliferation of fakes and forgeries is starting to have a knock-on effect on professional practice. Auctioneers and dealers are sharpening up their due diligence and installing that little extra caution into their appraisals and cataloging procedures.

Such awareness appears to have guided the hand of the auctioneers at Dee Atkinson & Harrison in East Yorkshire at the end of November. Their general auction of antiques and fine art included an interesting pen and ink sketch of a young man reclining on a sofa.

This pen and ink drawing, catalogued as ‘20th Century School’ and estimated at £300-500, sold for £2,800 ($4,350) at Dee Atkinson & Harrison in East Yorkshire on Nov. 28. Was it a work by David Hockney, as the winning bid suggests? Image courtesy of Dee Atkinson & Harrison

Anyone familiar with the draughtsmanship of British artist David Hockney would surely have assumed this to have been from his hand. The fact that Hockney currently lives in the seaside town of Bridlington, just 15 miles from the Driffield auction rooms, may have encouraged some to assume it to have been one of the artist’s masterly portrait drawings of the early 1970s. In the event, the auctioneers played safe, cataloging it as “20th Century School … indistinctly monogrammed and titled Peter March 1973 and gave it an estimate of £300-500. The hammer price of £2,800 ($4,350) suggests that some bidders saw Hockney’s hand at work.

The regional salerooms saw quite a few good prices as the year drew to a close and none were more notable than that achieved by the Essex auctioneers Sworders at their Country House Sale on Dec. 9. The catalog included an historically important carved and painted wood ship's figurehead from the Brazilian slave ship Piratenim, modeled as a South American gaucho. It had been acquired by the vendor’s grandfather from an antique dealer in Worcester in the 1940s, although sadly we don’t know what he paid for it on that occasion. It is safe to assume, however, that it would not have been a great deal of money, such folk art at that time lacking the academic importance that recently encouraged Tate Britain to mount a major exhibition devoted to such objects.

Sworders estimated it at what seemed like a perfectly justifiable £5,000-8,000 and even alerted the National Maritime Museum to its imminent sale. In the event it sailed up to £50,000 ($77,760) thanks to the determination of a U.S. private collector bidding on the telephone. Here was yet another sad instance of a national museum finding itself unable to compete with the ever-wealthier private sector.

Turning to the new year, there are a number of exhibitions on the immediate horizon with an alluring French theme. Norwich Castle Museum is to hold an important exhibition of works by the great French ‘modernist’ Édouard Manet from Jan. 31 to April 19.

An 1868 photograph of the French painter Édouard Manet by David Wilkie Winfield, to be included in ‘Homage to Manet’ at Norwich Castle Museum from Jan. 31 to April 19. Image courtesy ©Royal Academy of Arts, London. Photograph: Prudence Cuming Associates Limited

The artist is reasonably well represented in UK collections, with the Courtauld able to boast his famous Bar at the Folies Bergères and the Ashmolean in 2012 acquiring his Portrait of Mademoiselle Claus of 1868 after an export bar and a successful campaign raised almost £8 million saved it for the nation. (Fig. 4) The Norwich show, titled "Homage to Manet," will doubtless draw huge crowds, not least because it will include the Claus portrait as well as works revealing Manet’s influence on British artists working in the broadly Impressionist style.

Norwich Castle Museum’s spring exhibition ‘Homage to Manet’ will feature the artist’s oil on canvas ‘Portrait of Mademoiselle Claus’ of 1868. Image courtesy ©Ashmolean Museum, University of Oxford

Gwen John (1876-1939), ‘Girl in a Blue Dress Holding a Piece of Sewing’, oil on canvas, included in ‘Homage to Manet’ at Norwich Castle Museum. Image courtesy ©Norwich Castle Museum & Art Gallery.

The Norwich Castle Museum & Art Gallery from Jan. 31 to April 19 will include this work by Sir William Orpen (1878-1931) entitled ‘Homage to Manet’ of 1909. Image courtesy ©Manchester City Galleries.

Manet remains connected in the public mind with the Impressionist movement (despite the artist’s own protestations otherwise) which always gets the turnstiles spinning.

London sculpture specialist Robert Bowman continues to stage exhibitions at his new Duke Street gallery that manage to be both academically interesting and market-friendly, embracing contemporary and 19th-century categories. His current exhibition is devoted to the work of the great French 19th-century realist sculptor Aimé-Jumes Dalou (1838-1902). Following the fall of the Paris Commune in 1871, Dalou spent the remainder of the 1870s in England where he exerted a profound influence on British artists of the so-called "New Sculpture" tendency. The works on show at Bowman Sculpture typify his small-scale bronze work before his return to Paris and the public monuments for which he became rightly famous.

‘La Sagesse Soutenant La Liberté’ (Wisdom Supporting Freedom) by Aimé-Jules Dalou (1838-1902), bronze, included in Bowman Sculpture’s show devoted to the great French artist running until Jan. 31. Image courtesy of Robert Bowman

This bronze by French artist Aimé-Jules Dalou, titled ’Grand Paysan’ (Large Peasant) will be on show at Robert Bowman’s exhibition of the artist’s work at his Duke Street gallery until Jan. 31. Image courtesy Robert Bowman

Robert Bowman’s current exhibition of sculptures by French artist Aimé-Jules Dalou includes this work titled ‘Désespoir’ (Despair). On display at Bowman Sculpture, Duke Street, St. James’s until Jan. 31. Image courtesy Robert Bowman

The show comprises both loans and some works for sale, which start at around £7,000 ($10,900).

Coincidentally, Robert Bowman was also the guiding force behind a most enjoyable private view in early December at Leighton House Museum in Kensington of a small selection of 50 important Victorian paintings from the collection of the Mexico-based Spanish businessman Juan Antonio Pérez Simón. Frederick Lord Leighton was one of the most illustrious artists of the Victorian era and the house’s exotically tiled interior was the ideal environment in which to view some of the finest Victorian paintings in private hands. (Champagne somehow tastes better in a room clad with Islamic tiles.)

The atrium of Leighton House Museum in Kensington where Robert Bowman organized a privileged private viewing of the collection of Victorian paintings owned by Brazilian collector Juan Antonio Pérez Simón on Dec. 1. Image courtesy Leighton House Museum.

The collection is said to be the world’s finest after that owned by composer Andrew Lloyd Webber and features superb works by most of the greatest artists of the period, including Alma-Tadema, Rossetti, Burne-Jones, Millais, Waterhouse, and Godward. The show is open to the public until March 29.

As January dawns, the big question on everyone’s lips is what 2015 might hold for the art and antiques trade. One thing we can be fairly sure about is that the market will continue to move ever closer to the Internet. It is now 15 years since the web really began to make its presence felt in the industry. Some of us can remember UK dealers and auctioneers bluntly refusing to embrace the new-fangled technology, insisting that computers had no place in such a traditional marketplace. How times have changed.

This year is also likely to see the rich get even richer. The most recent market survey from The European Fine Art Foundation (TEFAF) reported that there were 32 million millionaires worldwide in 2013 and 42 percent of those were based in the U.S. The research also found that at least 600,000 of this global group are mid-to-high level art collectors. That augurs well for the top end of the trade. London soldiers on.

Last Updated on Wednesday, 31 December 2014 17:41

London Eye: November 2014

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Written by TOM FLYNN, Auction Central News International   
Monday, 01 December 2014 17:19
Willam S. Burroughs, who is the subject of the exhibition ‘Can You All Hear Me?’ at October Gallery from Dec. 4 to Feb. 7. Image courtesy of October Gallery. Photo copyright James Grauerholz. LONDON – There is a distinct American theme to this month’s report from rainy Britain, and we are not referring to the bizarre shopping phenomenon known as Black Friday, which has now crossed the Atlantic, bringing retail mayhem to British high streets as members of the public do pitched battle with over heavily discounted consumer durables.

Happily that style of shopping is yet to reach the art and antiques sector where a certain genteel restraint is still the order of the day. No, instead the American flavor referred to comes from two events this month, one in a London gallery, the other in a Yorkshire auction room.

London’s October Gallery is about to stage an exhibition devoted to the work and influence of William S. Burroughs, one of the leading figures of the 1960s counter-culture. Meanwhile, up in North Yorkshire on Dec. 6, the Leyburn auctioneers Tennants will sell a major collection of mainly British porcelain, furniture and works of art accumulated over the past 80 years from UK galleries and auctions by a long-standing client of the auction house based in Virginia, USA. What is the going rate for an older American flag, I hear you ask. Lot 270 is estimated at £60-100 ($95-$1,560).

An American flag, from an American private collection, estimated at £60-£100 ($95-$1560) at tenants in North Yorkshire on Dec. 6. Image courtesy of Tennants.

William Burroughs’s association with the October Gallery’s founders dates back to 1974. It was a friendship that led to the gallery staging Burroughs’s first UK exhibition in 1988. Burroughs died in 1997, but his off-center influence can still be felt, as the October show seeks to demonstrate.

Internationally renowned as the spiritual home of the Transvangarde, October Gallery promotes innovative creative projects by established and emerging artists from around the world. Located just a stone’s throw from the British Museum, it continues to provide a meeting place for discussion, experimentation and cross-cultural collaboration for artists, musicians, poets and performers and is thus the most appropriate place for “Can You All Hear me?” the current show of Burroughs’s work. The exhibition, which runs from Dec. 4 until Feb. 7, will include a number of Burroughs’ own abstract works and “talismanic objects” in a range of media. William S. Burroughs, ‘Ulysses not too late to seek a new world,’ 1992. Paint and spray on paper. Image courtesy October Gallery. Photo Jonathan Greet, copyright Estate of William Burroughs. William S. Burroughs, ‘The Assassins, Gun II’ circa 1990. Ink and spray paint on sketchbook page. Image courtesy October Gallery. Photo Jonathan Greet, copyright Estate of William Burroughs. Burroughs had an important influence on many of his contemporaries in Britain and beyond and the exhibition will communicate something of his impact on London-based and international avant-garde artists, poets and musicians such as Lilian Lijn, Genesis Breyer P. Orridge, Shezad Dawood, Cerith Wyn Evans and Brion Gysin. Gysin’s “cut-up” technique was in turn to exert a major impact on Burroughs. The October exhibition is sure to keep the Burroughs flame burning.

Genesis Breyer P-Orridge, ‘Snoflakes DNA (Clouds)’ 2008. C-Print mounted on Plexiglass. Featured in an exhibition devoted to the work and influence of William S. Burroughs at October Gallery from Dec. 4 to Feb. 7. Image courtesy the artist and October Gallery. William Burroughs had an influence on many artists, including the British artist Liliane Lijn, whose multimedia work titled ’Way Out Is Way In,’ 2009, is included in the October Gallery’s exhibition devoted to Burroughs. Image courtesy October Gallery and the artist.

Turning to more traditional matters, Yorkshire auctioneers Tennants’ sale on Dec. 6 of the surplus contents and reserve collection of their Virginia client contains some real treasures. In many ways it is the sort of coherent collection that was relatively common under English hammers in the 1970s and early 1980s, but is rarely encountered these days. There is English porcelain aplenty here, including a selection of lovely Worcester cachepots on stands by Flight & Barr and other makers. This English porcelain cachepot and stand, one of a number coming under the hammer at Tennants in Yorkshire on Dec. 6, comes from an American private collection. It is estimated at £700-£1,000 ($1,100-$1,560) There will no doubt also be huge interest in the sale from Chinese dealers and collectors keen to buy back examples of their own material culture, although my expert industry contacts tell me that Chinese export wares are yet to catch on among Asian buyers. It will therefore be interesting to see who competes for the monogram-decorated Chinese porcelain dinner service, circa 1790, that is forecast to realize between £2,000-£3,000 ($3,125-$4,700).

This Chinese porcelain dinner service, decorated with a monogram, is expected to make around £2,000-£3,000 ($3,125-$4,700) when Tennants disperses the estate of a Virginia private collection on Dec. 6. Image courtesy of Tennants.

One of the most interesting items in the sale is a very elegant and simple American Windsor ash and maple stick-back bench settee. A 19th-century maple and ash Windsor bench, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania or Rhode Island, possibly by Joseph Henzey or John B Ackley, to be offered by Tenants in Yorkshire on Dec. 6, with an estimate of £2,000-£3,000 ($3,125-$4,700). Image courtesy of Tennants. The auctioneers have been careful to hedge their bets somewhat in speculating on the origin of this, suggesting “Philadelphia, Pennsylvania or Rhode Island,” possibly by Joseph Henzey or John B. Ackley. Once again, it will be interesting to see where this ends up, given the combination of its obvious historical interest and its clear interior decorator appeal. It has been estimated at £2,000-£3,000 ($3,125-$4,700) but one suspects its lovely Shaker-like shape and warm color could see it sail over that.

Finally, one of the most potentially expensive items in the sale is a George III silver épergne of pagoda form by Thomas Pitts, London, 1762. This hugely elaborate 18th-century London silver pagoda-shaped épergne is expected to make £50,000-£70,000 ($78,225-$109,500) when it is offered by Tennants in North Yorkshire on Dec. 6. Image courtesy of Tennants. The catalogers clearly had some fun doing justice to the extraordinarily ornate construction of this confection, with its swing handles, pierced baskets and dangling bells, all of which are expected to help steer it to a hammer price in the region of £50,000-£70,000 ($78,225-$109,500).

From small porcelain teacups and saucers to massive, scaled-up porcelain teacups and saucers of the kind that would bring a double-take were you to encounter one of them in a field somewhere in the English countryside. Unless, of course, that field was in a sculpture garden like Broomhill Art Hotel and Sculpture Garden in North Devon. Broomhill’s annual Sculpture Prize has become quite a coveted award for practicing artists making large exterior pieces. Launched, in 2009, the prize has an annual fund of £15,000 ($23,500) offered to new and emerging UK based sculptors. Each year, 10 short-listed artists selected by the judges receive £1,000 each to create a proposal, which is then exhibited at the Broomhill Sculpture Park in the annual summer Exhibition. The winner gets £3,500 ($5,475) and the work goes into Broomhill’s permanent collection. That may not seem like a lot of money, but the award also represents valuable recognition for artists seeking to assert themselves in today’s highly competitive contemporary art world.

The 2014 judges had the usual thorny, but clearly enjoyable, task of weighing up a range of highly imaginative, accomplished and occasionally wacky creations. Sculpture is fun. British sculptor Simon Hitchens (left) and fellow judges of the annual Broomhill National Sculpture Prize pause in their deliberations over the 2014 winner of the award. Image courtesy of Broomhill Sculpture Garden.  Their winner this year was Tian Zhu’s Hiccup, an enormous teacup buried in the earth. A graduate of the Royal College of Art, the artist has said of her sculpture, “I would like my work to serve as a 'hiccup' – to interrupt and to disturb.” Tian Zhou’s ‘Hiccup,’ winner of this year’s annual Broomhill National Sculpture Prize. Image courtesy of Broomhill Sculpture Garden.

And so finally, to a piece of interesting London art market news. It is now common knowledge that the European sanctions imposed on Russia as a result of the Ukraine conflict and the country’s alleged involvement in the downing of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 are hitting the country where it hurts most — its economy.

Those geopolitical developments may also be having an indirect impact on the art trade. MacDougall’s, the specialist London-based auctioneers of Russian art, held one of their regular sales of Russian material on Nov 26, selling over £7.7 million ($12 million) worth of art. However, despite some high prices, such as Nicholas Roerich’s And We Continue Fishing, from the "Sancta series," which made £1,228,500 ($1.9 million) and Ivan Shishkin’s Pine Forest, which fetched £1,215,600 ($1.9 million), the general outlook was cautious.

Nicholas Roerich (1874-1947), ‘And We Continue Fishing,’ from the ‘Sancta’ series, which sold for £1,228,500 ($1.9 million) at MacDougall's auction Nov. 26. Image courtesy of MacDougall’s. Ivan Shishkin’s ‘Pine Forest (Sukhostoi)’, which fetched £1,215,600 ($1.9 million) at MacDougall's sale of Russian art in London on Nov. 26. Image courtesy of McDougall’s.

MacDougalls’s founder director Catherine MacDougall said afterwards, “Clients have money but are not in a great mood to buy, given the political and economic situation. Nevertheless, the general trends continue — top lots sell, sometimes exceeding the reserves.”

If there is one thing the art market hates, it’s uncertainty.



Last Updated on Monday, 01 December 2014 17:46

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. 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
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