Category Archives: sculpture

➤ A personal tale about the genius staring out from a painting expected to sell for £30m tonight

David Hockney, Henry Geldzahler, Christopher Scott, Photography, painting, auction, Christie's London,

Being auctioned tonight at Christie’s: Henry Geldzahler and Christopher Scott by David Hockney (1969, acrylic on canvas). Private collection. © David Hockney

THIS MESMERISING HUGE CANVAS TITLED Henry Geldzahler and Christopher Scott was painted by David Hockney in 1969 and is expected to sell at Christie’s tonight for at least £30million and today is the public’s last chance to view it until 4pm. It creates an intense dialogue between Hockney and his soulmate Henry, whose hairline is the picture’s vanishing point. By chance I got to know Henry in 1977, later stayed at his house in Greenwich Village and of course had to try-out the by then fabled pale mauve sofa pictured here.

We’d met during the best holiday of my life that summer at a house party hosted by the painter Teddy Millington-Drake at his vast 17th-century villa on Patmos, the Greek Island where St John had his apocalyptic Revelation. Two dozen guests, several with their kids, had arrived either like me on the weekly boat from Athens or on their own yachts (there were no direct flights to Patmos) for what proved to be a conclave of amusing, clever and influential movers and shakers from across the international art scene who utterly changed my understanding of life, the universe etcetera.

Henry himself, a three-in-one wit, wag and Svengali, undoubtedly changed the course of modern art by shifting its centre from Paris to New York, and affirmed the credibility of the term Pop Art. While only in his 30s he became the Metropolitan Museum’s first curator for 20th-century art and in 1969 mounted the landmark exhibition of 408 contemporary American works executed between 1940 and 1970 by artists he called “deflectors” of prevailing trends, such as Warhol, Gorky, Pollock, Rothko, Rauschenberg, Stella, Johns, Hopper. It was an immediate sensation. A new canon.

David Hockney, Henry Geldzahler, Christopher Scott, Irving Penn, Photography, painting, Andy Warhol

My photo of Henry Geldzahler in 1981: taking receipt of Irving Penn’s new portrait of him, in his NYC cultural commissioner’s office

I met Henry again in 1981 the very day he took receipt of a new portrait of him by photographer Irving Penn. I was in NYC that May during the First Blitz Invasion of the USA when I accompanied the 21 Blitz Kids who included the synth-led Spandau Ballet and Jon (Mole) Baker’s Axiom design collective who played a gig and staged a runway fashion show to introduce Manhattan to the new stars of Swinging London.

By then Henry had become New York’s first Commissioner of Cultural Affairs, appointed by the mayor Ed Koch. I visited his office at Columbus Circle and he played along when I suggested taking a souvenir snap so that my portrait of him cunningly captures him four times over: Henry in life reclining on his chaise, holding the Penn portrait, in the glass of which we see reflected the Warhol lithograph of him from 1979. Behind on an easel stands a further 1973 head-and-shoulders by Hockney (savagely cropped to maximise impact in this post).

Henry, who died in 1994, was described as the world’s “most powerful and controversial art curator”. He must also have been one of the most painted and photographed curators ever. “There are lots of pictures of Henry,” said Hockney. “He didn’t have many mirrors in his home. He knew what he looked like just by asking people to make portraits of him.”

David Hockney, Henry Geldzahler, Christopher Scott, art, painting,

Masterpiece of pictorial drama (detail): the central subject in Hockney’s painting of Geldzahler and Scott stares back, evaluating the painter’s every move. (My photo)

➢ Henry Geldzahler and Christopher Scott is Lot 8 in the sale An American Place: The Barney A. Ebsworth Collection at Christie’s London, 6 March 2019, from 7pm. Update: the painting went in three minutes flat for £33million.

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➤ Sotheby’s first David Bowie art auction raises twice the expected total sales figure

Frank Auerbach, Sotheby’s, Bowie/Collector, auction

At Sotheby’s Bowie/Collector auction tonight: the pop star’s favourite painting, Frank Auerbach’s portrait Head of Gerda Boehm, eventually went for went for £3.35m. (Screengrab from Sotheby’s live webcast)

PART 1 OF THE BOWIE/COLLECTOR SALE saw its 47 modern and contemporary artworks raise £24m tonight – just over twice the total of top prices estimated by Sotheby’s the auctioneer in advance. So the “Bowie premium” added to market prices for the privilege of owning a memento of the pop icon’s personal collection averaged 105% (with wild extremes either side).

Bowie/Collector, Sothebys, Frank Auerbach

Bowie’s inspiration: Auerbach’s Head of Gerda Boehm (Sotheby)

Most suspenseful bidding came for Bowie’s favourite painting, the Frank Auerbach portrait that the pop star said set his mood every day when he rose: Head of Gerda Boehm was estimated at best to sell for £500k but eventually went for £3.35m when a new bidder popped up at the £2m mark and staged a fight to the end.

As might have been expected, two Jean-Michel Basquiat works went for roughly two-thirds more than best estimates – £2m for an Untitled collage and £6.2m for his large acrylic Air Power. The final lot, a Damien Hirst spin painting on which Bowie collaborated, sold for £625k (top estimate £350k). Hirst’s other work, Untitled Fish For David, 1995, sold for £150k (top estimate £60,000).

Sadly the handful of works that didn’t even reach their low estimates included an exquisite Wyndham Lewis collage, a Paolozzi bronze, a rich Picabia portrait in oil, and a Bomberg townscape in oil. Among many moments of high-speed amusement that enlivened the event was the auctioneer’s unique pronunciation of Lytton Strachey’s name, which suggested this was the first time he’d come across it.

➢ Two more sales of 300 artworks owned by Bowie continue at Sotheby’s London through Friday, live online

➢ Previously at Shapersofthe80s: Bowie’s passionate eye for art proves to be not bad at all

➢ Previously at Shapersofthe80s: Bowie’s taste in art: respectable, with bargains to be had at Sotheby’s auction

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➤ Bowie’s taste in art: respectable, with bargains to be had at Sotheby’s auction

Damien Hirst, David Bowie, Sotheby's, auction, contemporary art,

Damien Hirst, Untitled Fish For David, 1995, est £40,000–60,000 – From the Young British Artist who preserved an adult tiger shark in a giant tank, this gift from Damien Hirst to David Bowie contains a tiny 2-inch fish in formaldehyde, as “a profound inquiry into human existence”. Here displayed at Sotheby’s London, reflecting and refracting other art in the saleroom. (Photography © Shapersofthe80s)

BEFORE THE AUCTION OF DAVID BOWIE’S ART at Sotheby’s, treat yourself to the free exhibition of 350 works owned by the pop star who died this year. His eclectic taste embraces pop art, Damien Hirst, German expressionism, Tintoretto, Surrealism, Contemporary African, a chess set by Man Ray, a couple of Duchamps, and much primary coloured contemporary furniture from Italy’s Memphis Group (which occupies much of Part 3 of the sale, dedicated to Design). The auction represents about half of Bowie’s entire art collection which he admitted to buying obsessively over 30 years. The evidence is that he had a sharp eye.

What’s surprising is the number of eminently collectable smaller items being offered at affordable prices which are bound to attract first-timers to next week’s three sales – all offering online bidding. Painted tabletop sculptures in aluminium by Ivor Abrahams are priced at a few hundred pounds, his bronze sculptures at perhaps £1,500. Ceramic plates decorated by Picasso and Cocteau are priced at just over a thousand and there’s even Sir Stanley Spencer’s artist’s palette for £2,000. Having toured the Bowie exhibition highlights to New York, Los Angeles and Hong Kong, Sotheby’s is geared up for long-distance bidding.

Click any pic below to enlarge and launch slideshow


The full set now on display makes an engaging and mischievous show, crammed with paintings and sculpture that may not be masterpieces, as the BBC’s arts editor Will Gompertz has noted [video below], but by and large represent good examples from highly regarded artists. In light of which, many of Sotheby’s estimated starting prices seem temptingly low.

Frances Christie, head of its Modern & Post-War British Art Department, explained why they have to apply prevailing market prices: “It’s hard to quantify what the ‘Bowie effect’ might be. We have to take into account market precedents, so for example, the world record for Peter Lanyon’s work is £370k. The Lanyon painting Trevalgan in the sale is not as well known so we have priced it at about £250k, which I think is fair. The range of our estimates can only be a guide.”

“David was like a child, childish and childlike
when he came to see me in the studio and we made
a giant spin painting together” – Damien Hirst

Frances is pleased that as a collector Bowie favoured 20th-century British modernists and, with some prices starting in the low thousands, this sale might help spread the word abroad for names such as Gill, Wadsworth, Bomberg, Minton, Nevinson, Wyndham Lewis, Hitchens, Tunnard, Armitage, Chadwick, Kossoff, not forgetting Moore, Sutherland, Auerbach and Scott.

Gompertz remarked: “Bowie’s taste appears to have been fairly conservative but very specific. He liked the art that came from the same place as him: mid-20th-century UK. It is art that you could argue shared his philosophy, a philosophy that went on to shape his aesthetic. It is art that questioned, that was preoccupied with the surface, that had many sides; that never quite settled. Art that performed.”

Just totting up the top estimates for the 47 Modern and Contemporary works in Part 1 of Sotheby’s sale – which stars Francis Picabia, Damien Hirst, Patrick Caulfield and Jean-Michel Basquiat – could yield £11.6million. How the “Bowie premium” might inflate these auctioneer’s estimated prices is what promises to keep us on our toes throughout Thursday and Friday.

painting, David Bowie, Sotheby's, auction, contemporary art, Memphis Group, Paul Feiler

Bowie/Collector in a nutshell: Paul Feiler, Horizontal Blue + Sienna, 1960, oil on board, est £30,000–50,000. Right, painting by Ian McKever (est £3k), plus bronzes by Denis Mitchell (est from £5k), Memphis table by Sottsass (est £3k)

➢ The Bowie/Collector exhibition is free, unticketed and open to all at Sotheby’s, Bond Street, until noon on Thursday 10 Nov, 2016

➢ Potential buyers must register in advance for the three auctions. All offer ticketed admission to the saleroom, online bidding (BIDnow), absentee bidding or telephone bidding. Incidentally, the web catalogue contains much extra information about selected works, as well as condition reports for all.

➢ BBC arts editor Will Gompertz appraises David Bowie’s taste in art

➢ On video – Working with Bowie: an insight into an incredible mind, by his curators

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