Christie Gallery – update
Posted by horasio on July 29, 2009
A week of Old Master and historic British paintings sales begins tonight at Christie’s, and it could be the first time for many years that such a series makes as much as the more fashion-led contemporary art sales. Estimates suggest that the auctions at Sotheby’s, Christie’s and Bonhams could fetch up to £88 million. Highlights include paintings by Goya, Fragonard, Pieter Brueghel the Younger and Fra Bartolommeo, all estimated to fetch up to £3 million each; some rediscovered watercolours by Turner and Constable; and a selection of Renaissance paintings and sculptures from the extensive collection of Barbara Piasecka Johnson, the Johnson & Johnson heiress, which are being sold to free up space in her home in Italy. Previous sales from the Johnson collection have included the Badminton Cabinet sold to the Prince of Liechtenstein in 2004 for £19 million, the most expensive piece of furniture ever sold, and Mantegna’s Descent into Limbo, which fetched a record £17.6 million in 2003. Among the works to be offered this week is Johnson’s first ever purchase, made in 1972 shortly after her marriage to the late John Seward Johnson – a painting of the Madonna and Child (pictured), thought at one stage to be by Bronzino, but since disputed by some scholars, which is estimated at £100,000 to £150,000.
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Sir Ian Botham is not widely known to be an art lover, apart that is, from the art of in-swing and lofted drives. But, to coincide with the Ashes cricket series against Australia, he will be opening Ashes to Zooter, an exhibition of cricket paintings and cartoons at the Chris Beetles Gallery in St James’s in London on July 15. Prices for the 200 works, one of which was made on the occasion of Botham’s knighthood, range from £200 to £10,000, with 10 per cent of sales at the opening going to his nominated charity, Leukaemia Research.
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Some frustration with reluctant bidders was evident at last week’s contemporary art sale at Sotheby’s when auctioneer Harry Dalmeny found no one prepared to bid for a magazine-and-newspaper collage by Albert Oehlen, whose large paintings can fetch six-figure sums. The collage, perhaps no more than a piece of ephemera, but signed and dated nonetheless, was estimated at £3,000 to £5,000, but Dalmeny could not solicit bids at £1,000, or, then, at £500. Finally he asked for just £100. “Our catalogue cost more than that you rude bunch,” he exploded, finally triggering a bid to a round of applause. “That’s how Saatchi started,” he offered bluffly to the bargain-buyer in the front row.
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Sad news that the Grosvenor House Art and Antiques Fair is to close after 75 years during which it has become a society fixture along with Ascot and Wimbledon on the calendar. The closure is nothing to do with sales levels which were good this year, I am informed, but because the JW Marriott Group’s Grosvenor House Hotel in Park Lane thinks the fair takes too long to put up and take down and that the grand ballroom space could be used more profitably.