The opposite conditions apply with the collecting of paintings and drawings. It’s true that there are sceptics who say that it’s impossible to put together a great collection of old master paintings today. But that “impossible” is always there as a challenge, and there is something exciting about being shown a recently assembled collection of Old Masters, created in defiance of the pessimists.
"The true collector is an artist, squared. He chooses paintings and hangs them on the wall. In other words, he paints himself a collection.” (Marcel Duchamp)
The softer the science, the more advisable it is to open a subject with an enlightening quote of an authority in the field. Yet in contrast with what Duchamp’s name is commonly associated with, this essay does not attempt to limit or de-limit what art and artist may mean.
On March 16, the much anticipated exhibition reuniting Titian’s six great mythological paintings for Philip II of Spain opened at the National Gallery. The opportunity to see all six together was unprecedented, and was one that had not been enjoyed by their creator, nor even perhaps by their original owner. Titian had executed them and dispatched them from his base in Venice piecemeal over a period of about a decade (c.1552–62), and he never went to Spain. They were not destined for any particular residence, and there is no clear evidence that when in the Spanish royal collection they were ever arranged as a group in a bespoke space. Yet the six paintings were certainly conceived as a cycle, unified by size, shape and theme, and in the beautiful and moving display at the National Gallery this unity is further emphasized by their newly carved matching frames.
The current pandemic and the global movement for racial justice have made clear that the decisions our society makes in this pivotal moment will affect how our history will be written. One set of those decisions involve the future of Confederate statues and other monuments symbolizing racial oppression, many of which protesters across the United States and Europe have toppled, tagged, and removed. This has brought up a larger question, one that’s familiar to curators, museologists and others working in the field of preservation: If societies are understood through the objects they leave behind, then what is it that ours will choose to keep?
Ever since I was at the Courtauld Institute and then at the Victoria & Albert Museum, I have thought that it was diminishing to look at religious works as just another aesthetic experience or tessera in the history of art when once they had a numinous aura. I remember the outrage of curators at the State Russian Museum in St Petersburg when they caught people kissing the icons, which was bad for their conservation, of course, but I could not help feeling at the time, the early 1990s, that a piece of important territory was being reclaimed.
I can claim to have shared a sofa in Annabel’s nightclub with Jodie Foster (born 1962) in 1986, and to have chatted up Luise Rainer (1910-2014) – who won the Best Actress Oscar in 1936 for The Great Ziegfeld and then again in 1937 for The Good Earth - at a party in London in 2006, my role here is above all that of the anonymous nobody in the darkness of the cinema we all long to be allowed to visit again one fine day.
In March 1993, at a chance encounter on the floor of The European Fine Arts Fair (TEFAF) in Maastricht, I heard myself utter these words: “Annelette, if my doctor told me I had six months to live, I would go to the Isle of Bute and publish that incredible kunstkamer painting by Guillam van Haecht that only I know about.” Listening to myself, I could only wonder what was wrong with me. If I knew what mattered that much to me, why in the world hadn’t I done it in the long quarter-century since I had made the discovery? Was I waiting for that talk with the doctor? Why shouldn’t I always be doing what is most important to me?
Many years later, I showed a photograph of the Ceruti to a Venetian friend in the hope he could explain the strange assortment of fish, turnips, onions, wine vinegar and a red earthenware pot. My friend smiled and said, "These are the ingredients of a typical Venetian zuppa di pesce. The fish are the red mullet and sole of the upper Adriatic." As Marcella Hazan tells us in The Classic Italian Cook Book, “The very idea behind fish soup, is that it can turn virtually any combination of fish into a succulent and satisfying dish.”
On Sunday, March 8, the Exhibition, Hans Baldung Grien: Heilig | Unheilig (Hans Baldung Grien: Holy | Unholy) was closing at the Staatliche Kunsthalle, Karlsruhe. It was the first monographic exhibition on the artist to take place for sixty years, when Karlsruhe hosted the last such exhibition. As exhibitors at TEFAF Maastricht, we took the opportunity to see it before the opening of the fair. Little did we know, as we squeezed into a small rented car and headed for the autobahn to Karlsruhe how our world would change in the next three weeks.
Interior View of the Niewe Kerk, Haarlem by Pieter Saenredam is shortlisted as one of the highlights at TEFAF Maastricht 2020 by Vereniging Rembrandt (Rembrandt Association). The selection was made by Paul Rem, conservator at the Paleis Het Loo and member of the advisory board at VR.
For the Old Masters world, 2019 has been a bonanza year on the museum front - there were superb monographic shows devoted to Pieter Breughel the Elder, Albrecht Dürer, Leonardo da Vinci, El Greco, Verrocchio and Rembrandt. The market was also remarkable in the sense that it saw the rare emergence of Caravaggio and Cimabue, which topped the auction record for Old Masters this year; for us it was somewhat surprising to see the fireworks repeatedly ignited not in England or the United States, but in France.
Verrocchio: Sculptor and Painter of Renaissance Florence is the first monographic exhibition in the United States of Andrea del Verrocchio, one of the most versatile and innovative artists of the Florentine Renaissance. Organized in association with the Fondazione Palazzo Strozzi and the Museo Nazionale del Bargello in Florence, this is the second leg of a comprehensive survey of Verrocchio's work that began in Florence earlier this year, although they could not be more different in content, presentation, and even attribution of certain works.
This Autumn, the Musée Jacquemart-André in Paris is presenting a major exhibition of works from the Alana colletion, one of the most prestigious private colletions of Renaissance art today. Formed over several decades by the Chillian-born collector couple Alvaro Saieh and Ana Guzmán (hence Alana, a combination of their first names), the collection is based in the United States and hitherto unseen by the general public.
As part of the institution's bicentenary celebration, Fra Angelico and the Rise of the Florentine Renaissance is an important retrospecitve of the Florentine Renaissance master. Curated by Carl Brandon Strehlke, the exhibition focuses on the decade of 1420-30 and features highlights including the newly restored The Annunciation (1425-26) and the recent acquisition The Virgin with the Pomegranate (ca. 1426) from the museum's own collection, as well as key loans from over 40 institutions worldwide.
In this special exhibition, the Museo Nacional Thyssen-Bornemisza brings together a small group of Spanish Old Master paintings in juxtaposition with the designs by Cristóbal Balenciaga, arguably the most celebrated Spanish fashion designers of the 20th century, for which they serve as visual reference.
In this major retrospective for Giorgio Morandi, one of the most innovative still life painters of the twentieth century, the Guggenheim Bilbao Museum presents a small selection of Old Master paintings to examine three strands of early influences on Morandi's works: the Spanish Golden Age, Bolognese Seicento, and Jean-Baptiste Siméon Chardin.
The Monogrammist I.S. Portrait of a Woman at Nicholas Hall (Stand 342) shortlisted as one of the best 17th century paintings at TEFAF Maastricht 2019 by the Rembrandt Association (Vereniging Rembrandt). The selection was made by Ann Demeester, director of the Frans Hals Museum in Haarlem.
Congratulations to the Meadows Museum, Dallas for their recent acquisition of Visiones, the last drawing for Goya's album D in private hands from our exhibition Endless Enigma: Eight Centuries of Fantastic Art (Sept 13 - Oct 27, 2018).
On three previous occassions - in 1952, 1986/87 and 2009 - the Utrecht Centraal Museum paid homage to the celebrated 'Dutch Caravaggists' - a group of artists who travelled to Rome in the first decades of the 17th century from Utrecht and brought back the artistic innovations of Caravaggio upon their return to their native city. The current exhibition arrives at a timely moment, following the publication of new monographs on Honthorst, ter Brugghen and Baburen, which have been long overdue. Curated by Liesbeth Helmus and Bernd Ebert of the Alte Pinakothek in Munich where it travels to in mid 2019, the exhibition is arranged according to subject matter as opposed to chronology, which allows one to see these works alongside works by their peers fom Flanders, France and Spain who were in Rome during the same period. Some less obvious artists, such as Giovanni Serodine, add subtlety to the narrative created by the selection of seventy or so paintings in the exhibition.
Book launch for the publication accompanying the inaugural Museum 2050 symposium 'Looking to New Institutional Models: China’s Cultural Landscape by Mid-Century' (Long Museum, Shanghai June 9-10, 2018) took place at the Asia Society, HK on Sunday, November 25, 2018.
Lecture by Emma Capron accompanying the intimate exhibition she curated at The Frick Collection entitled The Charterhouse of Bruges: Jan van Eyck, Petrus Christus, and Jan Vos, which brought together two Early Netherlandish masterpieces commissioned by the Carthusian Monk Jan Vos for only the second time in history.
This exhibition takes as its point of departure Alfred H. Barr Jr.’s legendary 1936 exhibition at The Museum of Modern Art, New York, Fantastic Art, Dada, Surrealism, which not only introduced these movements to the American public, but also placed them in a historical and cultural context by situating them with artists from earlier centuries. Drawn from international museum and private collections, the exhibition at David Zwirner will include works from the twelfth century to the present day.
This weekend, Yuan was invited to present at the Long Museum in Shanghai for the inaugural Museum 2050 symposium, investigating the future of the cultural institutions in China.
Nicholas Hall wishes to congratulate the Sarah Campbell Blaffer Foundation on its recent acquisition of the painting The Four Elements by Louis Finson. The painting will be on loan to Endless Enigma: Eight Centuries of Fantastic Art, an exhibition Nicholas Hall organized in association with David Zwirner. It will be on view at 537W 20th Street, New York from September 12 to October 27, 2018 before heading down to its new home in Texas.
After the extraordinary price achieved by the Salvator Mundi in a Post-War Evening sale one wondered whether conventional Old Masters would fare so well in a conventional Old Masters sale. The Leonardo story was still dominating the art news last week with conflicting accounts as to who actually bought it, even though it is now clear that the painting will be going to the Middle East. The December sales often have less to offer than their July counterpart and this year was no exception. However, both houses had paintings of real interest and these generated competitive bidding.
Astonished and baffled, many of us are probably still trying to make sense of the $450 million Leonardo. The freakish price, which made over $300 million profit for the seller who originally felt to have overpaid at $127 million, far exceeded everybody’s expectation. It challenged our preconceptions about the art world mechanics and brought on a slew of questions: how did the work manage to sell for such an astronomical figure? How will this affect the Old Masters trade? What does the price mean for the condition-conscious Old Masters market? What does it say about the art market in general?
NICHOLAS HALL is delighted to announce their participation in the second edition of October Art Week, which will take place alongside TEFAF New York and Christie’s Classic Art Week.
A year ago the Duke of Northumberland sold, at Sotheby’s in London, a remarkable panel painted in about 1300 by an exceptionally rare artist, Giovanni da Rimini. The panel was acquired at the auction by the American collector and founder of New York’s Neue Galerie, Ronald Lauder. He has generously donated this panel to the National Gallery in London and, to celebrate that, the National Gallery has assembled a dazzling little exhibition which reunites the ex-Northumberland panel with its companion piece, as well as showing alongside them other works that speak to the old Byzantine and new Giottesque currents which would have influenced the artist in 1300.
In addition to the auctions of Old Master paintings and drawings at Sotheby’s, Christie’s, and Bonham’s, there was plenty of activity in London from the trade this July. Agnew's celebrated its 200th birthday at Spencer House, Colnaghi gave two lively parties, the Masterpiece fair drew crowds to the Chelsea Royal Hospital, and over 30 dealers participated in a series of exhibitions during London Art Week. These exhibitions, mounted by many of Europe's foremost galleries, give dealers an opportunity to show how they represent an interesting alternative to buying at auction. Galleries exercise taste, expertise, and patience, and at any one of these shows it was possible to find things of real merit at all price points.
Sotheby’s and Christie’s assembled extremely respectable Old Masters sales this summer. The good news was the impressive sell-through rates at both houses, even for material that had not just come out of some ancestral home. Also, despite talk about the shortage of supply, there were plenty of very good Old Masters of most schools on offer this year. It was reassuring that both top lots found buyers, reinforcing the well-worn adage that we live in a ‘Masterpiece Market’.
For what it is worth, Christie's Old Master Paintings Department took market share in New York following a successful sale this April. The centerpiece of Classic Week, the sale exceeded expectations largely on account of the impressive price achieved for a single painting, the success of the other offerings from the collection of which that formed part, and competitive bidding for a rare Netherlandish panel recently plucked off the walls of the Met.
After a succession of recent TEFAF fairs at Maastricht had left visitors and exhibitors underwhelmed there were concerns that this legendary event had lost its luster. However, despite modest expectations there were many collectors and dealers who judged it a success.