“Titian: Love, Desire, Death” at The National Gallery

In March 2020 the general public were treated to the opening of a unique display at the National Gallery in London. For the first time ever a series of masterpieces by Titian went on show together – the “Posie”, depicting scenes from classical myths and legends.

The Coronavirus epidemic saw the Gallery close its doors shortly after the opening and it remains to be seen if and when access will re-open before the scheduled closure of the exhibition (in June 2020) and whether or not the dates will be extended.

Titian was one of the great masters of Renaissance art, living a long life (to somewhere between 80 and 100, which was a remarkable age for that period) and enjoying a highly successful and lucrative career, with estimates of over 400 works completed (approximately 300 of which remain in existence).

Titian was a versatile painter and works included landscapes, portraits and religious and mythological scenes. Perhaps he is best known for his use of colour – vivid and vibrant – especially in his early work – and an increasingly loose style as he matured. Together with Giorgione he was recognised as a leader of the 16th century Venetian School. Titian based himself in Venice for most of his career and following the deaths of Giorgione (in 1510) and Bellini (in 1516) Titian emerged as the pre-eminent master of Venetian art.

Titian found favour with many of the most significant figures in Europe and undertook commissions from the Medici, Este, Farnese and Gonzaga families and completed portraits of Emperor Charles V, King Philip II of Spain, King Francis I of France and Pope Paul III. He held a longstanding (although interrupted) commission to paint portraits of successive Doges of Venice and completed 5 in total.

In the latter part of his life Titian worked largely for Philip II of Spain including undertaking a series of mythological paintings. Titian based these largely on works from Ovid and in particular his “Metamorphoses”. The images depict high drama, violence (even rape) but also sensuality and a range of imagery. Titian’s use of colour and his loose and free techniques with paint (which included using his fingers to apply the paint) allowed him to portray the characters, landscapes and textures vividly and with exuberance and yet with great subtlety in capturing a range of emotions. The title of the exhibition – “Love, Desire, Death” accurately reflects the scope of the works.

Titian called these paintings “Posie”, being in his view, equivalent to poems. When each of the works were completed they were sent to his patron in Spain, over a period of time and Titian himself never saw the complete series together in one place.

King Philip had not specified the subject matter for the works and, he and his successors being of a very religious nature and somewhat prudish, gave a number of the works away. Only two now remain in the Prado in Madrid. Others are in London and Boston.

The National Gallery has hung the complete set of Posie together in one room (as originally intended) and for the first time in over 400 years, a remarkable achievement and a dazzlingly display.

 

6 Reasons Why Warhol Is Always On Trend

One of the frequent requests we get from art collectors at our Fine Art Brokerage is to find a painting or screen print by Andy Warhol. These requests come in regularly and almost always the request is for different subject matters depending on what is “on trend” and sometimes even what is “off trend”. Whether it is for a classic iconic piece of Pop Art such as a Campbell’s Soup Can, a Marilyn Monroe, a work from the Skulls or Electric Chairs series or a Flowers or a Society portrait, come rain or shine the one Blue Chip Artist that is always on trend is Warhol.

Why is this artist so relentlessly popular? Here are 6 reasons why we think he is the King of Blue Chip:

1 Warhol has wide appeal across the entire arts community.

Warhol was at the forefront of the Pop Art movement, redefining the artistic landscape by dislodging the Abstract Expressionist movement as the most prominent and significant artistic style in the US in the 1960s. His unique style and artistic language has remained relevant over many decades of the twentieth century, inspiring the next generation of brilliant artistic talent across many different media from writing, painting, photography, film to performance art and music.

Warhol embodied the multi-talented artist that we now see today, a modern day Renaissance man who could work across a variety of media and he continues to have a profound and considerable influence on Contemporary Art today. He was the twentieth century’s answer to Picasso and changed the language of art and the rules. Is it any wonder that top young talent of the 1980s Jean-Michel Basquiat, Francesco Clemente and Keith Haring wanted to work collaboratively with him?

2 Warhol was a pioneer in techniques and in the business of art.

Art was money and art was business like never before. Through his technique of photography and use of screen printing, he revolutionised the creative process of art and was able to normalise its mass production. Throughout his career he made original works but he also created hundreds of works that were editions. His workshop, known as “The Factory”, was unashamedly into using printing techniques and many assistants in the production process.

Warhol wanted “to be a machine” to become a mass production line and in realising this ambition he created an extraordinarily successful business model and arguably paved the way for the great artists of today who use numerous assistants in their production teams, such as Jeff Koons, Takashi Murakami and Damien Hirst.

3 Warhol was a social documenter.

From the zeitgeist to the uncannily prophetic, Warhol tapped into critical moments in recent political times that continue to have relevance today. He selected and created iconic images, ones that seemed to perfectly reflect American society and have a deep resonance in America’s pysche.
By immediately tapping into the immense success of advertising campaigns for consumer goods of the 1940s and 1950s and recreating with incredible simplicity and perfect accuracy the powerful design work of major brands, he turned ordinary mundane products into works of art, such as his Campbell Soup Cans series, his Coca Cola bottles and his amazing Brillo Box sculptures.

Warhol also captured the extraordinary tragedies that troubled the mass conscience and upset the balance of the norm, such as the suicide of Marilyn Monroe and the deaths of Elvis Presley and John F Kennedy. Death and suicide were thoughts and themes that haunted Warhol’s work and arguably inspired his best and most sought after work. These themes add a special complexity and a side to his work that contrast significantly to the brash dollar signs and joy filled Flowers and Toys series.

Through the use of great photography, strong pop colours and accentuating the most prominent facial features Warhol developed a formula for creating extraordinarily powerful images of the rich and famous. He created a legends’ “who’s who”, from political giants such as Chairman Mao, Lenin and Che Guevara, to the superstars of the day in film, music and sport.

The media of screen print was perfect for commoditising these icons, as if they were part of large advertising campaigns. His creation of icons by using his mass production factory style spoke to America about their fears, their dreams and their complicated history. Deeply aware of his impact as a social documenter, Warhol also created his time capsules which included hundreds of works of art.

4 Warhol was a Gay Rights Activist well ahead of his time.

From the 1950s onwards, at a time where broadcasting your sexual orientation was definitely not acceptable and certain sexual acts were illegal in every State across America, Warhol was very busy creating art that openly normalised gay relationships. He did this again across different media through art and film. In one of his film’s entitled “Sleep”(1964) he captures for over 5 hours his lover John Giorno sleeping.

While other prominent artists such as Jasper Johns and Rauschenberg kept their sexuality low key, Warhol was determined to break down the barriers. He wanted to use film as a way of educating the masses that being gay was no different to being heterosexual and some argue Warhol decided to move from being a successful commercial illustrator to being a painter to redress the balance of famous heterosexual artists with more successful gay artists.

5 Warhol was the celebrity who had more than 15 minutes of fame.

From humble beginnings coming from a poor immigrant family from Pittsburgh, from a very young age Warhol was fascinated by Hollywood and would collect the autographs of the famous stars. Was it any wonder that with his drive, passion and self-belief he would create his own celebrity cult status where his studio would one day became the mecca for great talented young artists, sophisticated art collectors and celebrities.

His private commission work led Warhol to producing many society portraits of the great and good in America, from Hollywood actors such as Elizabeth Taylor, Ingrid Bergman, Judy Garland and Lisa Minelli to famous musicians such as John Lennon and Mick Jagger and sporting legends such as Mohammad Ali. His commissions brought Warhol ever closer to the stars he so greatly admired and respected.

However, such is his extraordinary personality that his self-portraits are some of the most fascinating works he produced. Immortalised in his silver fright wig, his ghost like face emerging from his black garb and his uncanny fixed stare towards the camera, his portraits take on an iconic feel of their own, particularly as they were produced not long before his own death.

6 “If you want to know all about Andy Warhol, just look at the surface of my paintings and films and me, and there I am. There’s nothing behind it.

So, if we look again and all we see are consumerist products, celebrities and dollar signs, we may be missing something more fundamental. Underneath it all Warhol, kept very private the fact that he was a religious man. Raised in a devout Byzantine Catholic family, Warhol would return to regularly attending mass later in life. His later series of works turned to religious subjects and one of his largest projects was his one hundred works depicting Leonardo da Vinci’s The Last Supper.

He also painted religious imagery such as Raphael’s Madonna and Saint Apollonia based on a painting by Piero della Francesca. Christian motifs regularly appear throughout the body of his work and underscore the fact that Warhol was a man with profound beliefs and at the heart of it all, a man with deep convictions.

A recent exhibition called Andy Warhol: Revelation at The Warhol Museum is the first in-depth exhibition to explore the impact his catholic faith had on his artistic career. Maybe after all one does need to dig deeper than the surface of his paintings to truly understand this genius.

At Vitruvian Arts we help art collectors buy and sell works by Andy Warhol and works by other Blue Chip artists. To find out more about our service and for a free consultation please do contact us here:
http://www.vitruvianartsconsultancy.com/free-consultation.

5 Things You Should Know If Buying a Banksy

Banking on a Banksy? This amazingly alluring artist continues to see a rise in demand for his powerful, provocative and often politically charged artworks. At Vitruvian Arts we have requests coming into our Fine Art Brokerage from collectors seeking to find original Banksy works at particular price points. Savvy collectors know his work is hot right now and they are predicting a positive upwards trend in value and so here are 5 things you should know if you are looking to buy a Banksy:


1. The first question to ask is – how do you know you are buying an authentic Banksy? The elusive and anonymous graffiti artist sometimes does not claim his work. So always check to see if it has been declared an authentic Banksy by Banksy’s authorised handling service for authenticating works – Pest Control. Check also if there are authenticity certificates issued by Pest Control and check with Pest Control or a recognised expert to see if these are genuine. Fake certificates are in the market place, so always investigate the authenticity of the work and the veracity of the accompanying documentation.

2. Who is selling the artwork? Checking out the source of the work is always important. We recommend you only buy from a reputable seller. Buying through a website from someone who is not a known art dealer or art seller is highly risky without a great deal of investigation into the owner and how they acquired the work. Always do a detailed check on the provenance of the artwork to try to establish who the previous owners were as this may be very significant in detecting the authenticity of the work and also whether there could be any potential title disputes. We recommend that you hire an art specialist to do this work for you as this requires a specific skills set.

3. We also recommend you work with experts to check the condition of the work before you spend hundreds of thousands or even millions of pounds on an original artwork. The condition of the artwork can be a significant factor if the work is spray painted on brick or concrete and has been lifted from a public or private site, you will always need to assess the structural integrity of the work. Can it deteriorate rapidly and what can you do to conserve the work? Consider also the potential ongoing costs of conservation and preservation if the work is to remain in a public space or is to be relocated somewhere else for example?

4. Always check the title or ownership position. Who owns the artwork and do they have the legal right to sell it? There have been legal cases where parties have laid competing claims to owning a Banksy work, particularly where the work has been painted on an external wall and there is potential argument about who owns the property or land the work is situated on. Seek specialist advice on this issue as you do not want to get embroiled in a disputed ownership claim.

5. Last but not least always check the value of the work. Prices can vary considerably for the works and will often depend on whether the artwork is an edition or an original. Ask how the price has been reached? How does it compare to auction prices or known gallery prices? Be prepared for the fact that original Banksy works are very hot ticket right now. There is a high demand by collectors and there is scarcity in the market and so prices can vary considerably, particularly as some sellers might want to push their luck on the pricing too. On a lighter note watch out for hidden surprises – make sure the work you are about to buy does not self-destruct….

We source, advise and help clients purchase Banksy works and artworks by other Blue Chip artists. If you would like to know more please contact us on for a free consultation at http://www.vitruvianartsconsultancy.com/contact-us or call us on + 44 (0) 203 290 1367.

A Superstar: Top Auction Record breaker for American Artists

“I wanted to be a Star not a Gallery Mascot”

Jean-Michel Basquiat

You might ask yourself what all the fuss is about? The artist had an incredibly short career, was a self-taught artist who started with graffiti art, tagging trains and buildings on the streets of Manhattan under the pseudonym of SAMO. However, this young African American from Brookyln, from the age of 20 started to create a completely new language in art and quickly was lauded for regenerating the 1980s art scene in New York. Famous for elevating graffiti art, he is also revered for being a multi-talented genius as an artist, poet, musician and DJ.

His highly distinctive artworks, often using striking block colour contrasts, unusually distorted flat figures, are littered with scribbled text and symbols, that are powerful messages referencing his heritage, religion, pop culture but also troubling dichotomies in society, such as the shocking imbalance between rich and poor and between people of different race. His works go beyond opportunistic statements or personal history and speak of universal truths.

For any viewer ready for the challenge of Basquiat’s unique visual language, get ready for endless esoteric interpretation and fascination, as well as the physical raw energy and power of his imagery. Often imbued with spirituality, one needs to dig deep to understand the artworks, they are not just politically charged as they raise timeless philosophical questions.

Basquiat achieved his goal and quickly shot to Stardom.

There was plenty of glamour as he hung out with other celebrities in the arts such as Blondie, Warhol and Keith Haring. Basquiat is famous for his artistic collaborations with other greats such as Warhol.  

Within a 7 year period of artistic fame Basquiat’s life tragically ended, with the curse of aged 27, as many other young talents suffered the same fate, drugs and fame took its hold and he died of a drug overdose.

But he is not famous for being famous, or famous for dying young, this Artist has entered the ranks of true talent and is a heavyweight when it comes to the value of Contemporary Art as demonstrated by the extremely high prices his artworks command today.

His art has consistently climbed in value over the last 6 years. 11 of his artworks have exceeded 20 million dollars in recent auctions and his artworks have steadily advanced to the very top of the auction prices at the Contemporary Art sales.

Very few (about 10 artists) have ever managed to break the $100,000,000 million dollar price level for auction sales and Basquiat has done it.

With one painting Untitled (1982) selling for $110.5 million dollars in a Sotheby’s auction sale in 2017, this was the 6th most expensive painting to be sold at auction. Basquiat had also set an auction world record as the highest amount ever paid for an American Artist.

He is now as important as artists such as Warhol, Picasso and Francis Bacon when it comes to the most exceptionally desired and highly prized artworks for top end collectors.

So when the Barbican Art Gallery in the UK decided to hold their first retrospective of the Artist’s works, called Basquiat Boom For Real (an exhibition that has recently closed in London on 27th January 2018) it is perhaps unsurprising the Gallery achieved their best ever attended exhibition in the history of the Gallery; with over 200,000 visitors, a sell-out show, with late viewings to accommodate the high demand and nearly complete sell out of all merchandise and books.

With over 100 paintings and drawings on display, as well as archival material and rare film and photography, it was the first major exhibition of Basquiat’s works in the UK for over 20 years.

Blockbuster exhibitions like this make our Galleries and Museums great. The phenomenal work it takes to pull together many works from international collectors, galleries and museums cannot be overstated. These exhibitions take several years to plan and organise and that is why they become more than just an exhibition but a once in a lifetime event for hundreds of thousands of people to enjoy.

If you missed the Barbican exhibition, the good news is you can still see it in Frankfurt as it opens on 16th February 2018 at the Schirn Kunsthalle. However, book early as its likely to be a sell out show there too.

If you would like to have a free consultation from our arts consultancy on buying art, please contact me at jessica@vitrivianartsconsultancy.com. We advise clients on buying artworks at all pricing levels, from affordable art under £5000 to high value art.

A night of record breakers at Sotheby’s

Following on from a very strong Impressionist and Modern Art evening sale at Christie’s on 28th February, last night on (1st March 2017) the evening Sale at Sotheby’s for Impressionist & Modern Art was the one to watch.

It was a master-class in how an auction house is rising to the challenge and meeting the art market’s rampant demand for major blue-chip works.

Helena Newman the auctioneer for the evening, also the Global co-head of Sotheby’s Impressionist & Modern Art department and Chairman of Sotheby’s Europe deftly moved the bidders along, as for nearly each of the artworks up for sale there were several bidders actively competing for the works.

The highlight work for this season of sales, was the Austrian symbolist Gustav Klimt’s landscape painting called ‘Bauerngarten’ (Flower Garden), I mentioned in my article see here.

As the most important work by Klimt, to come to public auction, it did not disappoint and broke auction records.

This exceptional oil on canvas painting depicting an “informal profusion of poppies, daisies and roses” has become the third most expensive artwork ever sold in Europe, after fetching a record price of £47,971,250 ($59,321,248).

This painting follows Alberto Giacometti’s ‘Walking Man’ (£65,001,250 in 2010) and Peter Paul Rubens’ ‘The Massacre Of The Innocents’ (£49,506,648 in 2002) in the list of the top three most expensive works sold in Europe.

The line up of stellar artworks continued with some fantastic works by Pablo Picasso.

Another world record was broken as fierce bidding took place for Picasso’s ‘Plant de tomates’, which quickly rose above the estimate of between £10 Million to £15 million and surpassed expectations when it sold for £17 million, becoming a record still-life sale for this Artist’s work.

Eight works by Picasso reached a combined total of £54.7 million, with three works selling over £10 million.

This is an indication of the import of the works in this sale as these were high value works by this exceedingly popular Master.

Other high points in sale for me, was watching the bidding for Amedeo Modigliani’s Portrait of Baranowski, this work sold for £16,021,250.

Also Paul Gauguin’s very beautiful ‘Te Arii Vahine – La Femme aux mangos’ (The Woman With the Mangoes) sold at £8,371,250 within the estimate of £7 million to £10 million.

Sotheby’s had an exceptional night and broke their own sales performance records by making £194.8 million in sales ($240.8 million).

As I mentioned yesterday, for anyone who has doubts about the art market, if these last two important sales of this season are anything to go by, the London art trade and market as a whole is thriving.

Whilst the Impressionist and Modern sales continue over the next few days, the market will now look ahead to The European Fine Art Fair (TEFAF) in Maastricht, the world’s leading fair for antique and modern artworks.

We will now all look forward to seeing how the rest of the trade – the galleries and dealers perform.  At the symposium at TEFAF, the Fair will reveal its annual market report and its predictions of market-trends which is hugely informative data for the art market. We will bring you more information about this in due course.

At Vitruvian Arts Consultancy Ltd our independent art advisers have expertise across specific artistic fields and can help clients determine whether to buy or sell art through auction, private treaty or privately. For more details about our services visit www.vitruvianartsconsultancy.com.

For my review of the extremely impressive Christie’s Impressionist and Modern Art Sale on 28th March see here.