Monday, April 30, 2007

Portrait By Xu Beihong to Lead 20th Century Chinese Art

Portrait By Xu Beihong to Lead 20th Century Chinese Art


Xu Beihong (1895-1953), Portrait of a Lady, Oil on canvas, 136.5 x 98 cm. Painted in 1939. Estimate: HK$20,000,000-25,000,000/ US$2,564,100-3,205,100. Christie's Images Ltd. 2007.

HONG KONG.- One of the most iconic and significant portraits by Chinese master Xu Beihong, alongside signature pieces by some of the most celebrated Chinese artists, will be offered at Christie’s Hong Kong 20th Century Chinese Art sale on 27 May. Representing milestones in the development of Chinese art history, these superb pieces are destined to draw tremendous interest from international collectors.

In this Spring auctions series, Christie's Hong Kong will introduce a real-time multi-media auction service Christie’s LIVE™, becoming the first international auction house in Asia to offer fine art through live online auctions. Christie’s LIVE™ enables collectors around the world to bid from their personal computers while enjoying the look, sound and feel of the sale.

Xu Beihong (1895-1953) - The star lot of the sale, Portrait of a Lady, is an important large-scale work by Xu Beihong (1895-1953) executed during his Southeast Asia period (estimate: HK$20,000,000-25,000,000/ US$2,564,100-3,205,100).

Ever since his first visit to Singapore in 1925, Xu had kept a close connection with the overseas Chinese in Southeast Asia. Soon after the Sino-Japanese War broke out, Xu moved to Singapore. During his stay, he produced extraordinary portraits for well-known members of the Chinese community there.

The present work is one of two monumental portraits produced during this period, and arguably one of the most iconic portraits by the artist ever to appear on the market. Another work, Portrait of Governor Thomas, now resides in the permanent collection of the National Museum of Singapore. Xu donated proceeds from these works to help fund China’s war effort, adding historical significance to this piece.

The graceful Cantonese woman in the painting, Jenny, was a close friend of the vice consul of Belgium in Singapore, who commissioned Xu to create this work. Dressed in the long cheongsam fashionable in the 30s, the sitter reclines in a rattan-backed rocker unique to Southeast Asia and is wreathed in soft light from the window.

Painted in 1939, Portrait of a Lady best exemplifies the unrivalled style of Xu and the depth of his artistic achievement. While applying Western Realist technique to paint with rigorous attention to the details, Xu skillfully adopts the Eastern aesthetic approach in capturing the emotions and glamour of this elegant lady. This unmistakable combination of artistic elements captivates viewers with its lively yet lyrical appeal. More significantly, this allows Xu to break through the tradition and cliché of the European portrait. A new type of Eastern beauty fully distinct from both the Chinese and Western traditions at the time is brought to this exceptional canvas.

Wu Guanzhong (born in 1919) - Wu Guanzhong reached his first peak in the creation of oil painting in the 60s and 70s. He successfully infused resplendent and colourist expression of Western oil with the freewheeling, vibrant appeal of traditional Chinese ink-wash.

Painted in 1973, Scenery of Northern China (estimate on request) is the most outstanding and only piece by Wu available in private hands that depicts the vast landscape of Northern China. Positioning the view from a high vantage point, Wu captures the vividness and imposing presence of the nature of his mother country. Snowy peaks, pines, roaring waterfalls and the Great Wall are well featured and testify Wu's skill at structuring a complex composition from multiple perspectives.

Nature and landscapes have clearly been a central theme in Wu's work. Also on offer is his Scenery of Guilin (estimate: HK$2,500,000-3,000,000/ US$320,500-384,600). Wu travelled extensively throughout China to search for subjects which best represent the cultural hallmarks of both the northern and southern regions. Under his brush, the diversity, poetic ambience and wordless beauty of the Chinese landscape come alive before the viewer’s eyes.

Flowers in the Mountain (estimate: HK$1,800,000-2,200,000/ US$230,800-282,100) is one of Wu’s rare works that took on the theme of fruit and flower. In fact, flowers are a testament to the difficult circumstances which Wu went through at the time. Under Wu’s vibrant brushstrokes, the subject appears particularly delicate and charming.

A Large Haul (estimate: HK$3,000,000-4,000,000/ US$384,600-512,800) depicts fish writhing and jumping as they are being caught. This vigorous scene perhaps suggests the artist's own eager determination to achieve further artistic breakthrough. At the same time, the rich fishing ground symbolizes bounteous prosperity and Wu’s confidence in his career.

Zao Wou-Ki (Zhao Wuji, born in 1921) - Using abstraction to re-interpret the spirit of nature in traditional Chinese landscape painting, Zao Wou-ki forged a very distinctive style that meticulously combines elements of Eastern and Western art. Inspired by ancient Chinese bronzes and oracle-bone inscriptions, Zao began exploring abstraction in 1953 through a series of superb early works that have since become an important milestone for his career. Le cité se reveille (estimate: HK$6,000,000-8,000,000/ US$769,200-1,025,600) is a prime example imbued with suggestive and calligraphically-derived symbolic emblems. The exquisite and well-matched colour brings about an expansive space of imagination, in which motion and energy find harmony. The work is also reminiscent of the sense of the intimate dialogue between men and nature suggested by China's ancient literati painters.

Zao’s later works including 14.12.59 (estimate: HK$5,000,000-8,000,000/ US$641,000-1,025,600), and 15.10.63 (estimate: HK$4,500,000-6,200,000/ US$ 576,900-794,900) are all lovingly crafted works featuring a red tonal palette. With a practiced and flowing brushwork purely his own, Zao expresses the depth of his feeling for China. 14.12.1959 and 15.10.63 are in fact a revelation of the "vividness and harmonious energy" so often alluded to in Chinese culture. Around this time, Zao also began to scrape paint from the canvas with the brush’s wooden handle to create fine lines in the midst of the broad strokes of the pigment. The result is an enchanting textural beauty that vibrantly illustrates his different moods and inner thoughts. His rough and imposing brushwork spreads across the surface in a burst of energy and strength. 14.12.59 15.10.63

Chu Teh-Chun (Zhu Dequn, born in 1920) - Chu Teh-Chun's abstract works are not merely an expression of symbolic shapes, but more a kind of lyricism reflecting the artist’s deep feeling and source of inspiration. From the free and evocative spaces of his paintings, one easily imagines mountain landscapes, waterfalls and gushing springs. In La saule est ombre (estimate: HK$1,500,000-2,000,000/ US$192,300-256,400), Subtilite Hivernale (estimate: HK$1,500,000-2,000,000/ US$192,300-256,400) and No. 116 (estimate: HK$800,000-1,200,000/ US$102,600-153,800), the strong and agile inky black lines moving across the canvas are reminiscent of classical calligraphy's cursive script, and the strong and flowing movement in Chinese gongfu sword work. These works construct a union of refinement and energy that can always be found in classical Chinese art.

Sanyu (Chang Yu, 1901-1966) - Subjects familiar to Chinese intellectuals became the vehicles for Sanyu’s inner feelings and ideals. His works often seem as much poetry as art, speaking in pure and moving voices with all the clarity of verse. Typically, Sanyu’s subjects appear in clear outlines against spacious backgrounds, and through choice of subject and the structuring of space, Sanyu’s work enteres the expansive realm of the imaginative, freehand style of Chinese painting. On offer is his exceptional work Pink Rose in a White Vase (estimate: HK$2,000,000-4,000,000/ US$256,400-512,800).

Friday, April 27, 2007

Auction World Record for Banksy at Bonhams

Auction World Record for Banksy at Bonhams


Space Girl and Bird by artist Banksy.

LONDON, ENGLAND.- A spray paint on steel titled ‘Space Girl and Bird’ by the elusive artist Banksy, soared twenty times its estimate to create a new auction world record of £288,000 at Bonhams 25 April 2007. The previous auction record for Banksy’s work – ‘Bombing Middle England’ sold at Sothebys for £102,000 earlier this year. After intense bidding in the saleroom room and nine telephone bidders, the final bid was relayed on the phone to the auctioneer of the Vision 21 sale, Pippa Stockdale. The work sold to a US buyer. This work was part of a series of designs commissioned by pop band, Blur for the cover of their Think Tank album and featured on the cover of the Blur’s 5 track CD issued by the Observer Newspaper. A spray paint on steel work titled ‘Think Tank’ from the same series of Blurs Think Tank designs fetched £90,000 – 3 times its estimate.

A bidding war broke out at the start of the sale for an oil and spray paint on canvas titled ‘Self Portrait’ by Banksy. The price rose to five times its estimate to fetch £198,000 after six telephone bidders battled it out. This broke the auction record but ‘Space Girl and Bird’ far exceeded this auction record to break Bonhams’ own record. The unframed work (122 x 122 cms), was purchased at Severnshed Exhibition in Bristol in 2000.

A spray paint on sheet metal titled ‘Untitled, TV Girl’ fetched £38,400 - 3 times its estimate. The work was commissioned for the band’s appearance on the cover of the launch issue of Observer Music Monthly magazine, whilst they were headlining at the Leeds Festival. The Press shoot was threatened two days before when Banksy was arrested in Berlin for spraying a building, and on his eventual arrival, further complicated, as the festivals rural setting provided no walls for the artist to paint on. A neighbouring farmer was happy to grant permission for the artist to work on his property and the present lot was one of three works produced. It was painted on the door of the duck shed, which was recently renovated with the owners consigning it for sale.

Bonhams , Gareth Williams, commented on the Vision 21 sale, “We are delighted with today’s result. The art market for contemporary cutting edge art is booming and Banksy’s work has become part of this culture.”

Vision 21 is the innovative sale that delivers great design, diverse style and inspiration dating from 1945 to the present day. Conceived 4 years ago, Vision 21 encompasses Post War Paintings, Prints, Photographs, Sculpture and Modern Design. Bonhams in Knightsbridge has a long-held reputation for innovative ideas and, over the years, has introduced many new areas of collecting – such as Contemporary Ceramics and Rock and Pop Memorabilia, which have challenged traditional auction categories.

Three Men Convicted of Stealing Edvard Munch Works

Three Men Convicted of Stealing Edvard Munch Works


left: Edvard Munch, Madonna. right: Edvard Munch, The Scream.

OSLO, NORWAY.- Three men were convicted in Oslo of stealing two works by Edvard Munch, The Scream and Madonna, by an appeals court. The works were stolen from the Munch Museum in 2004 and were damaged when the police recovered them. The thieves were sentenced to different prison terms, ranging from five and a half years to nine and a half years. They were also sentenced to pay $263,000 in damages. The longest sentence was for the driver, Petter Tharaldsen. The one who planned the theft, Bjoern Hoen, was sentenced to nine years. Stian Skjold, who entered the museum wearing a mask, was sentenced to five-and-a-half years after being acquitted of the crime last year. They all pleaded not guilty. The fourth thief died of a heroin overdose last year, according to police.

Thursday, April 26, 2007

Edward Quinn at Michael Hoppen Gallery

Edward Quinn at Michael Hoppen Gallery


Rita Hayworth and daughters. Golfe Juan 1951 ©

LONDON.- We are delighted to announce the first UK exhibition of vintage prints by Edward Quinn. Best known for his photographs of celebrities on the French Riviera in the 1950s, to label Quinn a celebrity photographer would be to reduce both him and his work. The exhibition will also include his later portraits of artists, writers and politicians along with documentary work on the gypsies in the Camargue and evocative portraits of his native Dublin. The similarity between all of Quinn's work is that his subjects were never consciously posing -these are all true, unguarded portraits.

A musician and RAF radio navigator by trade, Quinn found himself in Monte Carlo soon after World War II and was astute enough to realize he could make a living photographing the stars relaxing off-screen. At this time the Riviera was a stage for the beautiful, rich and famous and a star's off-screen image could be pivotal in their career. Quinn developed relationships with many film stars amongst which Grace Kelly, Brigitte Bardot, Marlon Brando and Sophia Loren, which enabled him to capture them spontaneously and unguarded in his portraits. These photographs are a poignant memento of the golden age of the Cote d'Azur before it was irreversibly changed by publicists, paparazzi and tourism.

One of the first celebrities Quinn met was Picasso, at the opening of an exhibition in 1951 and their friendship lasted until the artist's death in 1973. Quinn's lack of formal training and talent for taking improvised shots proved invaluable when photographing Picasso -he wanted to capture his true character rather than staged shots of the artist. Picasso admired Quinn's improvisation and said of him "Toi, tu sais faire un portrait" (You know how to make a portrait).

Quinn's portraits of his contemporary artists, politicians, writers, musicians and racing drivers have rarely been seen before but are amongst his best work. Photographs of Somerset Maugham obscured by shadows at his desk, Winston Churchill appearing from behind a curtain, Dizzy Gillespie horsing around and Picasso paddling in the sea all offer us a fresh glimpse of these key figures, an alternate view from familiar staid portraits of the time. Quinn also applied his eye to capturing his native Ireland. Born in Dublin his portraits of the city and her people are atmospheric and evocative portraits of the 1960s.

"I have lived through an exciting, unique period on the Riviera. As Shakespeare wrote 'All the World's a stage, And all the men and women merely players...' The Cote d'Azur during the "Golden Fifties" was one of the largest and most beautiful stages in the world. Its actors were often magnificent and glamorous. And though the curtain has gone down, the memories remain. "

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Arman: Accumulation of Friends Opens in New York

Arman: Accumulation of Friends Opens in New York


NEW YORK.-The French Institute Alliance Française (FIAF) is launching its new FIAF Gallery with the exhibition, Arman: Accumulation of Friends, a portfolio of 82 black & white and color photographic portraits from the 1960s and 70s displayed for the first time in the United States.

When famed French-born American artist Arman (1928-2005) first came to New York in 1960, the art world was taking a new turn with Pop Art, Minimalism, and Conceptual Art. Arman soon became acquainted with the surrounding artists and befriended a great many of them. This exhibition features portraits of these friends, including most of the leading American figures of the time, such as Bill Copley, Christo and Jeanne-Claude, Marcel Duchamp, Robert Indiana, Jasper Johns, Roy Lichtenstein, Robert Rauschenberg, Frank Stella, Bernar Venet, and Andy Warhol.

Known world-wide for his “Accumulations” and sculptures, Arman’s personal hobby was photography. He was often seen carrying a camera and taking pictures of artists at openings and parties. The New York artists’ community was then small and very convivial. Arman recognized that he was living in what he called “a period of exception” and considered this portfolio to be “a reunion of portraits as souvenirs or snapshots with a documentary connotation.” Viewed together, these images speak to that camaraderie and form a historic portrait of the vibrant art scene that was then New York. The photographs were rescued from obscurity and erosion, printed, and put into a portfolio in 2000.

Arman’s notorious “Le Plein” installation at Iris Clert Gallery in Paris and New York debut at the Cordier & Ekstrom Gallery began his international career. He subsequently exhibited his works all over the world in museums and galleries. In February 2007 Arman’s most recent public sculpture, Stop, Look and Listen, 2004-2006, was officially unveiled at the opening of the Kaohsiuing train station in Taipei, China. Arman’s sculptural work is currently featured in the major “Nouveau Réalisme” retrospective exhibition at the Galeries Nationales du Grand Palais in Paris, alongside Yves Klein, Daniel Spoerri, and Jean Tinguely.

The exhibition was curated by Gabrielle Bryers. It is made possible by the generous loan from the Arman P. Arman Trust.

Lucian Freud To Open at Irish Museum of Modern Art

Lucian Freud To Open at Irish Museum of Modern Art


Lucian Freud, Sleeping Head, 1979-80, oil on canvas, 40.32 x 50.48 cm, Private Collection, Photo: Courtesy Acquavella Contemporary Art, Inc.

DUBLIN, IRELAND.- Lucian Freud is arguably the most important and distinguished figurative painter working today. This exhibition comprises some 50 paintings, 20 works on paper and etchings, from the last six decades, several being completed just months prior to the exhibition and others never shown before in a public venue. The exhibition also includes a selection of photographs of the artist. Best known for his portraits and nudes, Freud’s subjects include his family, friends, lovers and fellow artists. His early paintings and works on paper are often associated with a meticulous control of the brushstrokes and line, depicting people, plants and still-life, including several made while living in Ireland . From the late 1950s he began to paint people using more various flesh tones and thicker pigment. A number of ‘fragments’ in the exhibition give an indication of the artist’s willingness to leave a picture partly bare. The works in the exhibition are organised thematically and focus on several of the artist’s key areas of interest, for example, paintings of the same person at different ages, self-portraits, animals and double portraits. The formidably detailed study of his garden in Notting Hill Gate, The Painter’s Garden, 2005 – 2006, is as dramatic as any of the nudes.

Lucian Freud, grandson of the renowned psychoanalysis Sigmund Freud, was born in 1922 in Berlin , but moved with his family to the UK at the age of 11. He studied at the Central School of Arts and Crafts in London and the Cedric Morris’s East Anglican School of Painting and Drawing in Dedham . His first solo exhibition, at the Lefevre Gallery in 1944, featured the now celebrated painting The Painter’s Room, 1944. Since then Freud has become one of the best-known and most highly-regarded British artists of recent times. A major retrospective of his work was held in Tate Britain in 2002. He lives and works in London .

The exhibition is curated by Catherine Lampert, specialist on the work of Freud, a model for the artist’s friend Frank Auerbach and former Director of the Whitechapel Art Gallery . The exhibition will travel to the Louisiana Museum, Denmark, from 15 September - 28 January 2008 and to the Gemeente Museum , The Hague , from 18 February - 8 June 2008.

The exhibition is presented in association with THE IRISH TIMES. The exhibition is accompanied by a fully-illustrated catalogue with texts by Catherine Lampert, art critic and writer, Martin Gayford, and Freud’s son, Frank Paul.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007




Are categories helpful? This rather unpromising question seemed to be the starting point for a nevertheless intriguing exhibition at London’s Thomas Dane gallery, "Very Abstract and Hyper Figurative," Mar. 13-Apr. 14, 2007. The show featured contemporary paintings installed in two large, glass vitrines, one containing exclusively "abstract" works and the other filled with "figurative" art. Both were set up to be labeled and peered at like a bunch of dusty fossils in a natural history museum.

Since they’re contemporary paintings, of course, these categories are somewhat provisional. Sarah Morris, who had a painting in the "abstract" vitrine, isn’t really an abstract painter. Her painting Rockhopper (Origami) depicts a penguin made of flattened folded paper -- a figure to be sure, albeit in a De Stijl-inspired idiom. In the postmodernist manner of artists like Peter Halley, Morris has given the language of modernist abstraction a bit of new life by taking it back over the threshold of representation.

It was curator Jens Hoffman, former director of exhibitions at the ICA, who organized and displayed these pictures as though they were relics from a bygone era. And seeing blue-chip market darlings like Marlene Dumas, Peter Doig and John Currin hung as cultural flotsam did give a certain satisfaction. The paintings could be seen from the back, provenance labels and all, as if to show the behind-the-scenes structure that underlies the convergence in such big-ticket artworks of esthetic importance and cold monetary value.

True, the best works, like Mark Grotjahn’s shimmering insect-wing abstraction and a creamy, palette-knifed Wilhelm Sasnal, were obscured by the highly reflective glass and a curatorial conceit that literally came between the viewer and the art. But what the display was pointing out is the unreliability of categories -- that is to say, the institutional frame -- and it’s these categories that the viewer was actually inspecting in this installation.

As it happens, this also makes the exhibition a fine introduction to two other shows in London galleries, one by an apparently "figurative" artist and another by an apparently "abstract" artist, both of whom defy expectations.

Last year George Condo threw the UK tabloids some red meat when he painted a bug-eyed and bulgy-cheeked Queen Elizabeth, putting a particular irreverent chipmunk spin on that genre of ossified power, royal portraiture. In his latest show at Simon Lee, Feb. 7-Apr. 21, 2007, Condo infiltrates another staple of the Renaissance tradition -- the female nude. Condo’s no sneering iconoclast, though. His paintings combine a love of Renaissance painting with a funhouse-mirror version of Analytical Cubism.

Condo sees Western portrait painting, a genre designed to nail down the fleeting lives of monarchs into something approaching immortality, through the fog of howling kitsch. In the series of nudes at Simon Lee, Condo’s women bend their arms behind their heads in imitation of ideal beauty -- but their faces are car-crashes of cats’ grins and clowns’ eyes.

With their raised arms, Condo’s pin-ups make an obvious reference to the gruesome line-up in Pablo Picasso’s 100-year-old Les Demoiselles d’Avignon. Condo’s sketch, Female Rock Thrower, even contains an echo of Picasso’s abandoned male presence -- the medical student found in his sketches for Les Demoiselles, but elided from the final painting -- in the person of an oblivious, walkman-wearing teenager sitting on a park bench reading, ignorant of the leering female monster poised behind him with an immense boulder.

Like Picasso, Condo is obsessed with metamorphosis, both in terms of physique and genre, but what he loves more than anything is painting. The Smiling Sea Captain is a three-quarter-length portrait of a man whose puncturing with a spear recalls Renaissance depictions of St. Sebastian. But rather than pouting beatifically, he’s grinning wildly; not gamely suffering death but madly, stupidly alive.

On the other hand, New York-born Ian Monroe’s works at Haunch of Venison, Mar. 2-Mar. 31, 2007, were as far away from Condo’s as something still called a "painting" could be -- flat and geometric where Condo is loose-limbed and rich -- but they have in common an interrogation, even a resurrection, of a kind of carnival modernism. Where Condo channels Picasso via Philip Guston, George Herriman and Hanna-Barbera, Monroe views El Lissitzky and Kazmir Malevich through Halley, Archigram and The Sims.

The exhibition’s title, "Planit," refers to a long-lost plaster sculpture by Malevich -- entirely absent and undocumented, yet suggestive of an all-encompassing project -- which is as perfect a metaphor of the Russian artist’s obsolete-seeming utopian dream as you could want. In the face of this failed modernist promise, Monroe has created vast-seeming virtual worlds on canvas, like hypothetical architectural drawings, which react to Malevich’s ideal future by imagining apparently endless geometric vistas. Parallel, a two-panel freestanding work in black and grey vinyl on aluminum with eye-popping single-point perspective, encapsulates the push-and-pull of utopian ideology. It looks good, but you’d ruin it if you stepped in.

Monroe’s works speak to an obsolete idea of the space-age, reminiscent of the labyrinths of computer games. His deft handling of his materials makes the works engaging, and the neatness of the cut Formica and veneer gives them the geekish charm. There’s something endearing about a meticulously rulered line, with its tiny but significant nicks and flaws.

Such glitches and speckles abound in "Momentary Momentum" at the non-profit Parasol Unit Foundation for Contemporary Art in East London, Mar. 3-May 12, 2007, a survey of recent animated drawings created by artists, quite the opposite of the slick CGI films from Pixar and the like. These art animations seem filled with all kinds of social melancholy.

For example, Avish Khebrehzadeh’s Backyard is a projected digital animation with the somewhat naive, graphic look of a children’s book illustration. Slow metamorphoses taking us between a girl in a patterned dress and a lamb curled up in her lap are reminiscent of the deadpan logic of a children’s book. Khebrehzadeh often refers in her work to her childhood in Tehran, and the gauzy scrim on which the animation is projected, which part-conceals, part-reveals a wall-drawing depicting fragments of architecture, evokes the process of memory -- names and places lose focus, points of sensory impact resonate. Shown in an endless loop, the animation has the beguiling repetition of a dwelled-upon incident from a distant past, just beyond the reach of words.

Bullet Sisters by Christine Rebet makes good use of the wobbles and disruptions of hand-drawn animation to present a reconstruction of childhood in a style reminiscent of DIY adolescent pursuits. Viewers of the work sit in a theatre-cum-garden shed, which for the British carry nostalgic memories as a children’s retreat -- an eternal crucible of Dungeons & Dragons marathons, go-kart construction and amateur vivisection. In Rebet’s animation, the tiny movements of the characters in not-quite-consistently painted inks flickering from frame to frame project the hand-drawn obsessiveness of the young imagination. The image of a boy’s cup-and-ball magic trick, stretched over numerous frames, acquires an unexpected gravitas, an effect that is in part due to the film’s loping, indie-rock soundtrack, which gives it a melancholy that holds adolescence at arm’s length.

Finally, Naoyuki Tsuji’s whimsical, sometimes disturbing Children of the Shadows is a fantastical charcoal animation that -- like William Kentridge’s Tide Table (which also makes an appearance in this show) -- makes great use of the build-up and erasure of mark-making. After a dramatic outburst from a monstrous gouge-eyed father figure depicted sitting at the dinner table, cups and dishes tumble to the floor. Several frames later, their ghostly paths remain -- a metaphor for the persistence of trauma in the young mind?

Mining this same vibe of sinister whimsy was Marcel Dzama’s new half-hour film, called The Lotus Eaters, which was the centerpiece of his recent exhibition at Timothy Taylor gallery, Mar. 8-Apr. 13, 2007. Best known for his occasionally cute, occasionally powerful drawings of fantastical creatures and stiffly posing humans, Dzama’s film is, relatively speaking, something of a leap forward, in which his cast of characters is rooted in a poignant, if obtuse, narrative context.

A makeshift cinema in the back of the gallery sets the oddball scene immediately. Old-fashioned cinema seats, one of which is occupied by a cross-legged bear-man effigy in a thrift-store suit, sit in front of a player-piano which another bear-man is pretending to play, while wildly grinning at visitors. The film itself -- an apparent homage to silent movies with its leaps and flickering movements -- is shot on a combination of old and new film stock and framed as though seen through a fuzzily discernible keyhole.

An artist (played by Dzama’s own father) sits on a high stool in a cave-like studio, moodily enacting clichés of the tormented artist as he sketches familiar Dzama-like animal-men. Leaping occasionally into speckly pen-and-ink animation, the sketches come alive, most powerfully the figure of a woman, who transforms herself from a sketch into a giggling, filmed nude presence, into whose most intimate orifice a tiny version of the "artist" gleefully clambers.

The "artist" then plunges into his own fantasy world, appearing in a mask in a filmed dinner party peopled by his characters, played by actors in outlandish masks and costume (most of which are on display in the gallery). Slowly the rest of the dinner party discovers the imposter in their midst, and, in the best tradition of fairy tales, turn on their creator -- apparently devouring him.

The film’s enigmas are best unraveled through the props and other items displayed in the gallery outside. There, one finds that a masked mannequin skimming along the ceiling is a quotation of John Heartfield’s Prussian Archangel from 1920. A Polaroid of the bear-man posing on an anonymous roof is subtitled "the bear dances on the roof, even," a play on Marcel Duchamp’s famous Large Glass. And the collages that line the walls are straight out of Hannah Höch’s ‘20s photomontages. There’s even a doctored Mona Lisa (a la Duchamp’s LHOOQ) -- this time wearing a Zorro mask.

As a whole, then, this is an exhibition about a man -- the artist? -- whose subconscious has been ransacked by the ghouls of art past. The revolutionary art of the Dada and Surrealist collagists and filmmakers has been recast as creepily comic fairy-tale. And there is something nightmarish and fantastical about all those mad masks in any modern museum -- something that draws us back to our first experiences with art and which sits in our heads like a dream, sometimes remembered.

Changing Face of Childhood. British Children's Portraits

Changing Face of Childhood. British Children's Portraits


Elisabeth Vigée Le Brun (1755-1842), Maria Christina of Bourbon-Naples, 1790, Oil on canvas, 121,5 x 92,5 cm, Museo e Gallerie Nazionali di Capodimonte, Naples. Courtesy: Museo e Gallerie Nazionali di Capodimonte, Naples.

FRANKFURT, GERMANY.- In the course of history, the view of childhood has again and again been subject to fundamental changes. Today, it has become perfectly natural to regard children as individuals with subjective needs, wishes, and interests who have ideas of their own concerning their life in society. Yet, the issue of children’s position in the family and the family’s position in society has been of essential importance long before 2007 of course. The origins of this development date back to the early eighteenth century. What provided the occasion for this exhibition on the evolution of children’s portraits in eighteenth-century England and its spread on the European continent was the recent purchase of the painting “The Children of Lord Cavendish” by Sir Thomas Lawrence by the Städel. The pictures shown reflect the new attitude towards childhood: inspired by John Locke’s and Jean-Jacques Rousseau’s writings, this stage of life began to be understood as a significant period of human development. The portraits feature children as autonomous personalities whose sprightly naturalness also fascinates today’s public. The years covered span from Sir Anthony van Dyck by way of Thomas Gainsborough, Joshua Reynolds, and Henry Raeburn to Friedrich von Amerling and Franz Xaver Winterhalter. The exhibition comprises loans from the Musée du Louvre, Paris, the National Gallery of Art, Washington D. C., The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, The Royal Collection – Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II, and other institutions.

The exhibition is sponsored by the American Express Foundation. Additional support comes from the Stanley Thomas Johnson Foundation.

The English philosopher and Enlightenment thinker John Locke’s landmark treatise “Some Thoughts Concerning Education” was published in London in 1693 (German edition: Leipzig, 1708). Addressing the English gentry, but also the English middle classes, it called for a new concept of how to educate children: instead of raising them to become affected beings that imitate the behavior of grown-ups, their education should rather be aimed at supporting their natural talents. The objective was to get children used to a simple way of life and to instill them with a morally upright attitude so that they would be able to be of great use to society. The new understanding of their specific world informed new values since children were now not only regarded as descendants guaranteeing dynastic continuity but as persons with independent characters on whom the family’s care and pride focused.

The view of childhood as a decisive phase of life in which children develop to become autonomous personalities also exercised a formative influence on portrait painting. The Städel’s exhibition opens with Anthony van Dyck’s (1599–1641) portraits of “Maddalena Cattaneo” and “The Balbi Children,” which the artist painted during his stay in Italy in the 1620s. Despite the representative form of the pictures and the attributes documenting the children’s superior social status, van Dyck introduced his subjects as endearing childlike creatures. His understanding of portraiture was taken up by his successors and was still valid in the 18th century.

Yet, when Thomas Gainsborough (1727–1788) and Joshua Reynolds (1723–1792) fell back on these models, they set new standards. The subjects of their portraits, like Reynold’s “Miss Crewe,” radiate a carefree presence thanks to the meticulous depiction of their childlike behavior, which is emphasized by the artist’s fresh and light brushwork. Landscapes constitute a crucial element of composition: Baroque staffages with their columns and balustrades hinting at sovereignty and land ownership are increasingly replaced with representations of pristine nature. Comparing Thomas Gainsborough’s portraits of “Master John Truman-Villebois and His Brother Henry” and “The Marsham Children,” which he painted in 1783 and 1787 respectively, exemplifies this shift. Hardly formed by man, the landscape corresponds with the children’s unrestrained natural behavior and provides an ideal environment for their play, which was regarded as an expression of their independent appropriation of the world. What came to bear here was the French-Swiss author, philosopher, and theorist of education Jean-Jacques Rousseau’s influence whose treatise “Emile: or, On Education” (1762) was also read widely in England. Rousseau assumed that all human beings are born with a good disposition. In order to escape the harmful influence of the notions and conventions advocated by society that deform their character, children should be brought up far from civilization in the countryside, in nature. Their guardian should always serve as a model and take care that children learn to rely on their reason when judging people, things, and society.

In its focused selection of 27 works, the exhibition presents only pictures of children unaccompanied by grown-ups in the open. “The Children of Lord Cavendish” by Thomas Lawrence from 1790 in its center provides a characteristic example for this kind of portrait illustrating the educational ideals of that time. The wild, rough terrain calls for the elder brothers to act responsibly: considerately, they hold their little sister by the hands. Their cheerful looks and rosy cheeks underscore that the three are growing up healthily and that their outlook upon the world is full of self-confidence. William Beechey’s (1753–1839) “Portrait of Sir Francis Ford’s Children Giving a Coin to a Beggar Boy” conveys charity as a philanthropic ideal of education.

The approach of English children’s portrait painters soon spread all over Europe. Artists such as Angelika Kauffmann (1741–1807), who visited England to see the admired models in the original, ensured the wide dissemination of this “modern” type of portrait. Her portrait of Henrietta Laura Pulteney is included in the exhibition. The novel understanding of children met with great interest on the part of the enlightened contemporaries on the continent: for the Weimar court, a center of enlightenment in Germany, Johann Friedrich August Tischbein (1750–1812) portrayed Count Karl August’s children in a park landscape. The scenery reminds us of the gardens on the Ilm river which the prince planned together with Goethe. The unusual portrait of “A Running Boy” by the Danish painter Jens Juel (1745–1802) also breathes the new principles of education, evidencing that sporting activities began to be considered a crucial part of education in those years.

The French Revolution of 1789, Napoleon’s assumption of power, and the wars that were caused by his expansionist ambitions and spread over almost all of Europe also molded the artists’ attitude. Elisabeth Vigée Le Brun’s (1755–1842) close relationship with Marie-Antoinette became her undoing: because of her contacts with the royal court, she could not stay in France after the outbreak of the revolution. Painted in Naples, her “Portrait of Maria Christina of Bourbon,” Marie Antoinette’s niece, documents how the acclaimed artist tried to find her feet again in her exile. The child’s informal clothes, the sensual depiction of the fabrics, and the motif of picking roses show Elisabeth Vigée Le Brun employing patterns of representation she had already used for her portraits of the Queen of France.

For the European princes’ alliance against the “usurper,” Napoleon’s defeat in the Battle of Waterloo marked a great triumph. King Georg IV commissioned Thomas Lawrence (1769–1830) to paint portraits of the military and political leaders who had made this victory possible, which were then show

White Space Gallery Presents Being Beauteous

White Space Gallery Presents Being Beauteous


Russian Beauty. Circa 1989. Courtesy: Archive of Modern Conflict.

LONDON, ENGLAND.- White Space Gallery presents Being Beauteous, on view through June 2, 2007. The exhibition features Elliott Erwitt, David Goldblatt, Tony Ray Jones, Erik Kessels, Jacqueline Hassink, Martin Parr, Stephen Gill, Juergen Teller, and rare archive photos from Soviet-Russia.

Being Beauteous brings together rarely seen vernacular archive photographs from Soviet Russia with images by internationally renowned photographers. The curatorial concept sets out the key theme of feminine beauty along two axes: Public/Private, and Western/Eastern. The exhibition is divided into two parts, the first of which is Public Beauties: Vignettes from the world of beauty pageants, glamour modeling, and advertising - works that document public visions of westernized feminine beauty from the position of critical remove. The second part is Private Beauties: Images that record private, Eastern, sites of feminine beauty - shot through with the trace of western mass-culture.

Central to Public Beauties is competition; being seen and judged 'of a standard'. David Goldblatt's Saturday Morning at the Hypermarket: Semi-final of the Miss Lovely Legs Competition is from his Boskburg series, set in a small white community in apartheid-era South Africa. As much about the black spectators - present only by special permission - as the white contestants, the photograph alludes to a broader spectrum of aesthetic judgments than the contest formally enshrines; to do with race, sex and society. Child beauty pageants feature in photographs by Parr and Erwitt. Martin Parr's Miss Rosebud Competition, from the New Brighton series, depicts young girls in tutus, clutching star-topped wands, while Elliot Erwitt's grave-looking American tots and their determined mothers are shown milling around a hotel lobby. Juergen Teller's portraits of Miss Guatemala and Miss Poland, strive to capture the people behind the competitors, beneath the make-up and the hairstyles. No less to do with competition and judgment is Car Girls, by the New York-based Dutch photographer Jacqueline Hassink, which have as their subject a vision of feminine beauty that is pitched, or reduced, to the level of ornament. The photographs depict the smooth curves of the latest model (car), with women draped across their bonnets. Taken at international automobile shows, Hassink records the surface sheen two mass-cultural consumer products. Comic relief is supplied by Parr's picture of an also-ran marrow at a Yorkshire agricultural show.

Private Beauties includes Stephen Gill's conceptual series Russian Women Smokers. In these pictures, unseen - ostensibly Russian - beauties are referenced by a spectrum of red and pink lipstick traces on discarded cigarette butts from the streets of St Petersburg. Lest we forget, as Germaine Greer notes, 'after the implosion of the USSR the first western shops to open in the old Soviet cities were cosmetic franchises; before a Russian woman could buy an orange or a banana she could buy a lipstick by Dior or Revlon'. Finally, the show features vernacular images of Russian Beauties by an unknown photographer, from a private archive. These provide a rare glimpse into the hidden world of a few women at the end of the Soviet era - training at home for the novel phenomenon of beauty contests. These rare documentary artifacts recall the genre of fizkultura in Socialist Realist painting as much they do American glamour modeling. In Being Beauteous we witness the collision of self-image, private desire, and historical forces, presented with humor and pathos.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Poiret: King of Fashion at Costume Institute

Poiret: King of Fashion at Costume Institute


Georges Lepape (French, 1887-1971), Les choses de Paul Poiret / vues par Georges Lepape, 1911, Pochoir print, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, The Irene Lewisohn Costume Reference Library, Special Collections.

NEW YORK.- Metropolitan Museum's Costume Institute will present "Poiret: King of Fashion," on view May 9 – August 5, 2007. Paul Poiret – who at the height of his career in pre-World War I France was the undisputed "King of Fashion" and whose sweeping vision led to a new silhouette that liberated women from the corset and introduced the shocking colors and exotic references of the Ballets Russes to the haute couture – will be celebrated with a landmark exhibition at The Metropolitan Museum of Art from May 9 through August 5, 2007. He has not been the focus of a major museum exhibition in more than 30 years.

"The historic significance and influence of Poiret's work is breathtaking, and felt in fashion to the present day," said Harold Koda, Curator in Charge of the Metropolitan Museum's Costume Institute. "Poiret pioneered a seductive modernity based on woman's self-confident femininity, and envisioned a 'total lifestyle' that extended from how she dressed and what fragrance she wore to how she decorated her home – an approach reflected in the strategies of many of today's fashion houses." Presented in a series of tableaux, the garments on view will highlight the multiple facets of Poiret's astonishing inventiveness – including the beauty of his draped, unstructured fabrics and his fascination with the Ballets Russes, the Wiener Werkstätte, Orientalism and the 1001 Nights – and will be complemented by paintings, illustrations, furniture and examples of the decorative arts that explicate his expansive artistic vision. At the core of the exhibition will be a grouping of the stunning creations the Metropolitan acquired in the much-heralded 2005 auction of clothing from Poiret's estate.

The exhibition is made possible by Balenciaga. Additional support is provided by Condé Nast.

To celebrate the opening of the exhibition, the Museum's Costume Institute Benefit Gala will take place on Monday, May 7, 2007. François-Henri Pinault will serve as Honorary Chair of the Gala. Co-Chairs will be actress Cate Blanchett, Nicolas Ghesquière, Creative Director of Balenciaga, and Anna Wintour, editor-in-chief of Vogue.

More than any other designer of the 20th century, Paul Poiret – who is credited both with liberating women by making the corset démodé and with restricting their gait with narrow-hemmed hobble skirts – elevated fashion to the status of art. Like the artists with whom he collaborated, Poiret's work was fueled by the dominant discourses of the day, including Classicism, Orientalism, Symbolism, and Primitivism. Known as the "King of Fashion," (the title of his 1931 autobiography) he introduced the vivid colors of the Fauvists and the exotic references of the Ballets Russes to the haute couture. Poiret's protean genius extended beyond fashion to the realms of art, theatre, architecture, and interior design. As well as discussing his design legacy, the exhibition will focus on Poiret's collaborations with such artists as Paul Iribe, Georges Barbier, and Georges Lepape. Poiret's designs will be presented in a series of vignettes evocative of the drawings of these artists for such fashion periodicals as Art, Goût et Beauté and La Gazette du Bon Ton.

The exhibition will include several garments from the May 2005 Paris auction of the private collection of Poiret's descendants, many of which had never been photographed or put on public display. The Metropolitan Museum acquired several of these garments – which were made for Poiret's wife Denise, who was his muse and wore his designs without concession to prevailing tastes – at the auction.

While apprenticing in his teens to an umbrella maker, Paul Poiret entered the world of fashion when he sold some of his sketches to Madeleine Cheruit at her Paris fashion house. After stints with designers Doucet and Worth, he opened his own house in 1903 and was boosted by the patronage of Réjane, a famous actress of the period, among others. In his groundbreaking designs, he led the way to the chemise dress with his revival of Directoire silhouettes and his referencing of the simple cuts of ethnic costume. In 1911 he became the first fashion designer to create and market his own perfume, which he named after Rosine, his oldest daughter. Also in 1911, he created a series of workshops for the production of fabrics, furniture, and a range of decorative objects as an extension of his overall aesthetic. He and his wife were renowned for their glamorous excess and sumptuous entertaining, marked by fêtes such as the now-legendary "Thousand and Second Night" party in June 1911 – at which guests were required to wear appropriate costume. Poiret spent the last decade of his life in debt, having been superseded by other designers including Coco Chanel and Jean Patou. As the famous, and perhaps apocryphal, story is told, of the 1920s chance encounter between the "King of Fashion" and young Coco Chanel: Poiret inquired of the black-clad Chanel, "For whom, madame, do you mourn?" to which Chanel replied, "For you, monsieur."

"Poiret: King of Fashion" is organized by Harold Koda, Curator in Charge, and Andrew Bolton, Curator, both of the Metropolitan Museum's Costume Institute.

A book, Poiret, published by The Metropolitan Museum of Art and distributed by Yale University Press, will accompany the exhibition, which will also be featured on the Museum's Web site (

The design for the 2007 Costume Institute gala benefit will be created by Jean-Hugues de Chatillon and Raul Avila.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Les leaders du marché de l´art contemporain aux enchères belges

Les leaders du marché de l´art contemporain aux enchères belges


En avril, à Bruxelles accueille l´un des grands rendez-vous en matière d´art contemporain : Artbrussels. Pour sa 25e édition, cette foire d´art contemporain belge regroupe 123 galeries, près de 2000 œuvres et reçoit 30 000 visiteurs. Afin de présenter une vision des plus actuelles et novatrices, certaines galeries regroupées dans la zone First Call ont été sélectionnées par un comité de collectionneurs afin de donner davantage de visibilité à un certain nombre de galeries prometteuses ; 38 autres galleries sont regroupées dans Young Talent afin de mettre en exergue le caractère jeune et novateur d´Artbrussels.

Aux enchères belges, le marché de l´art contemporain est bien moins dynamique. Il ne représente que 1,2% du produits de ventes des enchères belges sur 10 ans. Les noms qui ressortent : Jan Fabre, Robert Combas, Philippe Vandenberg ou encre Christian Silvain.

Avec 114 000 euros de produit de ventes sur 10 ans, Jan Fabre est sans contexte l´artiste phare du marché contemporain belges. Seules 11 sculptures ont été dispersées en ventes publiques, la dernière, "Flemish Warrior (guerrier flamand)" est constituée d´une armure métallique d´où émerge une forme animale recouverte d´une multitude de scarabées. Dispersée par la maison de ventes belge De Vuyst, elle changeait de main en 2005 pour 17 000 € établissant la plus haute adjudication de l´artiste. Quatre ans plus tôt, la même maison de ventes soumettait une œuvre similaire aux enchères : intitulée "Le chapelet du guerrier" et constituée d´une armure et des mêmes insectes, l´œuvre décrochait à l´époque 500 000 francs belges, soit près de 12 400 €. Ces deux guerriers demeurent, jusqu´à présent, les deux sculptures les plus imposantes de Fabre soumises aux enchères.

Face à la pénurie de sculptures en 2006, l´amateur pouvait se consoler avec des œuvres en deux dimensions comme les deux petits "Projekt voor nachtelijk grondgebied" (19x12 cm) réalisés en 1979 qui partaient pour 400 € chacun le 25 avr. 2006 chez Campo à Antwerpen. Plus récemment, De Vuyst dispersait un ensemble de 6 dessins de 1978 mêlant crayon et sang, "My blood, my body, my landscape" qui fut enlevé pour 12 000 € le 09 décembre dernier à Lokeren.

Leader en France, Robert Combas est le deuxième artiste contemporain du marché des ventes publiques belges de ces dix dernières années ; il doit notamment son excellent positionnement à deux galeries qui le représentent en Belgique : la galerie Guy Pieters (Knokke) et la galerie Dewart (Bruxelles). La cote de Robert Combas est en pleine progression : +147% depuis 1996. Malgré tout, l´artiste français n´a pas en Belgique autant de succès qu´à Paris. Les trois dernière toiles présentées le 10 mars 2007 chez De Vuyst n´ont pas trouvé preneur. En 2006, seule une Chaise peinte de 1993 a changé de main en Belgique, pour 1 600 euros.

Régulièrement présenté en salles de ventes belges, avec 19 adjudications sur 10 ans, Philippe Vandenberg occupe la 5e place du classement par produit de ventes. En mars dernier, il a décroché une enchère record de 6 500 euros avec "Compositie", une toile de plus de 2 mètres de large, chez De Vuyst. Les artistes contemporains les plus souvent vendus aux enchères belges sont Christian Silvain (61 lots vendus en 10 ans) et Jan Vanriet (80 enchères en 10 ans).



April 2007


Apr. 16, 2007

The major May sales of Impressionist, modern and contemporary art in New York are on the horizon, and the two big auctioneers have begun to announce some of their star lots -- all works from the post-war category, as it happens, an indication of the current state of the market. Sotheby's specialist Oliver Barker told Linda Sandler of Bloomberg News that the top of the market consisted of 10 to 15 buyers worldwide, many of them seeking postwar art.

On May 15, Sotheby’s New York is selling a Francis Bacon "pope" painting, Study from Innocent X (1962), which is estimated to go for over $30 million. The Bacon is reportedly being put on the block by Mona Ackerman of New York, the daughter of pioneering corporate raider Meshulam Riklis, who bought the work more than 30 years ago. Bacon’s $27.6 million auction record was set in London in February 2007.

Another star lot in Sotheby’s May 15 sale is Mark Rothko’s White Center (Yellow, Pink and Lavender on Rose) (1950). Estimated at $40 million, the work is being sold by David Rockefeller, 91, who bought the painting for less than $10,000 in 1960. White Center is considered a pivotal work, one of the first in the artist’s signature style, and the estimate is well above Rothko’s auction record of $22.4 million. According to Carol Vogel in the New York Times, Sotheby’s has given Rockefeller a guarantee of $46 million. Museum of Modern Art curator John Elderfield told the Times that Rockefeller first offered the picture to the museum, but Elderfield declined. "We already have five Rothkos from the ‘50s," he said.

Last but not least, Sotheby’s May 15 sale includes an untitled 1981 painting by Jean-Michel Basquiat that was given to the Israel Museum in 1985 by Barbara and Eugene Schwartz. The museum, which has a second Basquiat from that period, is selling Untitled to set up a Barbara and Eugene Schwartz Contemporary Art Acquisition Endowment Fund. The presale estimate is $6 million-$8 million. Basquiat’s auction record is $5.5 million.

As for Christie’s New York, the firm’s May 16 sale features Andy Warhol’s Green Car Crash (Green Burning Car I) (1963). The picture carries a presale estimate of $25 million-$35 million, well above Warhol’s current auction record of $17.4 million, and "is bound to set a new price structure for the artist," the firm says.

Christie’s is also offering a 1962 Yellow Marilyn by Warhol that the unnamed consignor supposedly bought for $250 from Eleanor Ward’s Stable Gallery in New York in 1962. The painting now carries a presale estimate of $15 million.

Sotheby’s four-day series of sales in Hong Kong, Apr. 7-10, 2007, put over 1,200 lots of art, jewelry and watches on the block, and totaled more than $135 million U.S. The auctions were kicked off with a sale of contemporary Chinese art that totaled $27.6 million, a new high for the category at Sotheby’s.

The top lot was Xu Beihong’s Put Down Your Whip (1939), an academic realist painting of a World War II era anti-Japanese street performance, which sold for $9,288,000 U.S., a record for any Chinese painting at auction. Auction records were also set for Liu Ye ($902,564), Wei Rong ($184,615), Michael Lin ($69,230) and Hou Chun Ming ($61,538).

Christie’s New York
sale of 19th-century European and Orientalist art on Apr. 12, 2007, totaled $11.7 million, with 197 of 229 lots finding buyers, or 78 percent. The top lot was William Adolphe Bouguereau's Chansons de Printemps (1889), which sold for $1,720,000, above the presale high estimate of $1.5 million. Twelve new auction records were set in the Orientalist section alone, including for Rudolf Ernst ($552,000), Pierre Tetar van Elven ($432,000) and Eugène Devéria ($240,000).

The "white glove" sale at Sotheby’s New York on Apr. 13, 2007, of 41 photographs by Eugène Cuvelier, plus two by his father, Adalbert Cuvelier, was 100 percent sold, totaling $2,892,000, well above the presale high estimate of $2.1 million. New records were set for both father ($240,000) and son ($288,000), with several institutional buyers. The Tel Aviv Museum of Art won the record-setting lot by Adalbert, Along the Scarpe River, Near Arras (1853), while the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, took home Eugene Cuvelier’s Ferme du Parc de Courances for $103,200.