Picasso for Pennies

Bonhams auctioneers have recently announced that they will be selling some ceramics made by Picasso in their October Impressionist and Modern Sale in Knightsbridge. These works, unlike his paintings all have rather reasonable estimates, with some starting at just £500-700. Although at this price the works are not literally selling for a few pennies, when compared to the cool £70 million that Picasso’s “Nude, green leaves and bust” sold for at a Sotheby’s evening sale in 2010, these prices do seem dramatically low.


That said, many of these are experimental works, and the prices justly reflect the disparity between the current value of paintings and ceramics. The works held at Bonhams are much more playful and simplistic than his paintings, to the extent that some may considered somewhat childish. This sale will be interesting to see how much people will be prepared to pay simply to have a Picasso, and to discover if the value of such an artist will be as important at the lower end of the auction spectrum.


The majority of these works were designed in the late 1940’s in the South of France by Picasso, where he was said to have inputted in over 3,500 different models. This vast scale, and the ease with which many of them were executed meant that Picasso sold many during his lifetime at low prices, with the idea that everyone should be able to own a Picasso. This ceramic production can be seen as either a clever marketing ploy to strengthen his “brand” or a way to sell himself out, placing money before art. Regardless of his motives, thanks to his clever collaboration with influential ceramicists at the Madoura Pottery workshop, these works at Bonhams are worth a second look, showing an interesting technique and of course demonstrating Picasso’s characteristic playful imagery.

If press coverage is starting already about these works, with the sale in October it will be interesting to see what happens closer to sale day. With such a small sale room at Knightsbridge it seems that perhaps Bonhams are not expecting these ceramics to draw in the big boys, or indeed, that many others.


Turner Shortlist Announced.

ShingleyThis years Turner prize actually looks quite Exciting. Yesterday they announced the 2013 shortlist who will be exhibiting their work at the Tate Britain until December. The list stands as Tino Seghal who works with live audiences, Laure Prouvost, an installation artist and filmmaker, Lynette Yiadom-Boakye who created painted portraits of fictional people and finally my personal favorite  David Shrigley, who combines drawings photography and painting to create often humorous works. Shrigley, the Glaswegian artist will surely spark some debate with his whimsical line drawings, that to many won’t be considered Art.

It will be interesting to see what work he contributes to the exhibition, for although his postcards and prints are very witty, I think that perhaps his sculptural works are more intellectually engaging.


However, there seems to be a much better variety this year than before and it is refreshing to have an artist like Yiadom-Boakye who creates works solely in the painted medium. Her works comment on racial difference, challenging the way we “read” works. To me she is somewhat akin to Marlene Duchamp in the way she constructs her figures, although clearly they are very different in form.


The other two don’t really tickle my fancy, but who know what this year’s panel will say.

Manet Madness

Hurrah. Finally A Manet Exhibition not displaying his works amongst his more famous impressionist sucessors, falsely dubbing him as their “founder”. An impressionist he was not.
To me, Manet is a man to be admired. Although from a wealthy, educated background, he knew of the Salon rules and expectations, yet he was determined not to make his ART according to these rigid standards. He was, veManet- Picnic in the Gary much, the painter of modern life, depicting modern characters in modern settings but gaining inspiration from the Renaissance masters.
This exhibition at the RA shows some of his greatest work, (although my favorite Bar At the Folie Berges is in the Courtauld collection) including the famous Breakfast in the Garden with the strikingly apparent nude female depicted in a picnic scene on the outskirts of Paris.
Manet appropriated this stare onto many of his later works, including his Olympia, in which he takes inspiration from Titian and Velazquez. The direct gaze of the nude woman, combined with the harsh contrast of her fleshy tones against the lush background re-enforce the intentional nudity. Here is where the modernity lies. It would have been interesting to perhaps see these two great works amongst the exhibition, and perhaps fewer of Manet’s experimental portraits, nevertheless it is still definitely one worth seeing.
Manet: Portraying Life opens at the Royal Academy, W1 (020 7300 8000, royalacademy.org.uk), from Saturday until April 14. Open Sun-Thurs, 10am-6pm; Fri-Sat, 10am-11pm. Admission £15 (concs available). Special Sunday lates, 6.30-10pm, March 3-April 7 (except March 31), £30.

Tim Walker at Somerset House

Tim Walker at Somerset House

If you are in London and have a spare hour or two this week, I urge you to head to Somerset House to catch the last of Tim Walker’s (free) photography exhibition.

As one of Britain’s most influential fashion photographers, all the works shown have already been displayed on the pages of top international fashion magazines, such as British, French and Italian Vogue, Vanity Fair and W, yet there is nothing stale or recycled about this exhibition.  Imagination- we are told- is the crux of the exhibition, with the focus on preparation and a highly constructed composition rather than an over-manipulated digital image (something that Walker scorns at).

Most notably, the exhibition begins with a room filled with an almost life-size replica of a spitfire plane that was used on set to invade and penetrate domestic interiors. The highly tactile display combined with the surreal photography produced by Walker introduces an innovative narrative to all his work, challenging the viewer’s perception of what is real and what is imagined, what is seen and what is felt.


At the first glance it’s hard to believe that Walker’s images are not digitally manipulated, especially due to the intriguing smoky effect he so often achieves. Although undoubtedly fashion is the context for all of the images, due to their highly complex construction I would argue that the fashion element is sidelined in favour of a more compelling narrative.

There is no doubt that Walker is a storyteller, and as the so-titled exhibition evolves the spectator is introduced to an array of characters and bizarre creatures along the way. Naturally, with such a high profile photographer, several  famous faces such as Agnes Deyn, Helena Bonham Carter, Tim Burton and (lest we forget) several disturbing shots of Tilda Swinton are portrayed in an array of disguises as Walker continually surprises the viewer not only with his creative powers as a photographer, but with his technical talents too.

Each room is filled with inventions from Walker’s wild imagination that will keep you on your toes, although a word of warning goes out to those with fears of dolls, especially giant ones.

The exhibition runs until Sunday 27th January 2013, East Wing Galleries, Somerset House.

Richter swipes the new auction record for any living artist.

£21, 321, 250. The Premium Price of the World’s most expensive artwork to be sold at auction by any living artist, and it happened this evening.


At 7pm the Contemporary art evening auction kicked off at Sotheby’s on Bond St, where lot number 15, Gerhard Richter’s Abstraktes Bild made it’s astonishing new record. With an estimate of 9,000,000 – 12,000,000 GBP the hammer price almost doubled this, with the work that according to the catalogue, “represents an all-enveloping evocation of a distinctly post-modern semblance” and is “a masterpiece of calculated chaos and paradigm of Gerhard Richter’s mature artistic and philosophical achievement”.

This work was always set to be the star of the show, with it’s bold, bright colours and large scale it dominates the room. Although another Richer entered into the sale, making a very notable 1.9million GBP it was nothing abstract away from good old lot 15.

The breaking of an auction record such as this, will help to dispel rumors of a collapsing art market after a somewhat nervous week of Frieze, where dealers have reported that a lack of American buyers has significantly reduced sales.



Angel or Demon

Angel or Demon?


Since it’s erection in 1998 Anthony Gormely’s Angel of the North has sparked much debate. It’s imposing 20m high presence on the side of the A1 in Gateshead is impossible not to notice, with it’s rusted plane-like industrial 54 metre wingspan.

The question is, do people still appreciate Gormley’s sculpture or has it become something of an eyesore? Whilst traveling on the train to Scotland I overheard two middle aged women who- incidentally- were merrily munching on some pork pies and swigging on tins of pre-mixed bracardi and coke whilst dismissing, ‘that piece of junk’ and rolling their eyes at Gormley’s Angel.

As a longstanding appreciator of Gormely and his work, my opinion remains split on this piece. Where his installation Another Place on Crosby Beach connects the sculptures to the surrounding environment, presenting an ethereal, peaceful effect encouraging the contemplation of time and the selfThe Angel of the North has no human grace or poise, but stands tall like a past war monument left over from times of hardship and terror. For me it is too menacing to suggest contemplation and reflection, too industrial to be human, and perhaps just a bit too close to the roadside to be understood in context.

Gormley states, “People are always asking why an angel? The only response I can give is that no-one has ever seen one and we need to keep imagining them. The angel has three functions – firstly a historic one to remind us that below this site coal miners worked in the dark for two hundred years, secondly to grasp hold of the future expressing our transition from the industrial to the information age, and lastly to be a focus for our hopes and fears.” –

Perhaps then these women have forgotten their past, and have no fears other than  drinking too much bracardi and missing their train stop. Whizzing past on the train or motorway doesn’t allow for a proper glimpse of the sculpture, the image along with it’s message is blurred and confusing in the mind’s eye.

Tellingly upon it’s erection the Sun paper likened Gormley’s Angel to a monumental clanger, and many other tabloid’s were similarly unimpressed by the work. For something that is supposed to inspire the masses, sadly this work doesn’t quite translate.

74 Million Later

£74 million Later



I know I’m almost a week behind now but I am still in shock.  This pastel work which is one of four sound in just 12 minutes in Sotheby’s New York last Wednesday. This version, is (of course) superior to the others because it has one of Munch’s poems on the reverse:

“I was walking along a path with two friends – the sun was setting – suddenly the sky turned blood red – I paused, feeling exhausted, and leaned on the fence – there was blood and tongues of fire above the blue-black fjord and the city – my friends walked on, and I stood there trembling with anxiety – and I sensed an infinite scream passing through nature.”

After the news of the double DIP recession surely this lavish spending is a sign that the art market is stronger than the rest of the economy, fighting back when times are tough. Or is it just another classic example of the money and goods only mixing with those who already have it. Obviously a work with such prestige as this belongs in a gallery, but I am sure that the new owner would be delighted to donate their newfound acquisition if the exhibition in question enhanced their public image?  Yes, art should be available to all, but sometimes it becomes more special when you can only see it for a select period. Just look at the latest Leonardo Da Vinci exhibition over Christmas. Tickets sold out in hours. Exclusivity sells, clearly.