Oliver Shuttleworth (@olivershuttleworth) — Art advisor, specialising in buying & selling Impressionist, Modern & Post-War art
The Alberto Burri & Lucio Fontana (1915-1995) show @tornabuoniart on Albemarle St in London gives us a glimpse into Burri’s fascinating oeuvre. His work is now considered (by the cognoscenti more than the market) as vital a part of post-war art in Italy as his contemporary Lucio Fontana (1899-1968). In his earliest artistic forays the burlap sack clothes, or ‘Sacchi’, that form the canvases of his work (part painting, part cloth collage) are not purposefully distressed – it was all he had to work with in the internment camp in Texas during WWII. Burri’s collages, plastics and burnt assemblages were the very essence of Arte Povera. The Exhibition runs until 30th March.
On 27th March this year @tate_britain will open the exhibition ‘Van Gogh and Britain’. This work, ‘Self-Portrait’ of 1887, hangs in the Musee d’Orsay in Paris and stems from one of the most captivating series of his career. The Self-Portraits are particularly extraordinary since when placed on a timescale with his letters to his brother Theo we can match the visible emotions to the corresponding writing. Painted before the paranoia, fear and loneliness of his last years it shows an artist lost in his own scintillating gaze. The eyes are quite remarkable, profoundly black and made even more intense through the swift, spontaneous, brushwork elsewhere.
John Currin (b. 1962) is one of the most extraordinary painters of his generation. I find his work utterly transfixing and the warped, saccharine, world that his subjects inhabit really marvellous. These paintings are on view in Geneva @gagosian on Place Longmalle, which I had the opportunity to visit last week. Despite the flock of works on paper these three paintings were rather special. Please do go visit if you find yourself in Geneva before 12th April.
@thefineartsociety are selling much of the remaining stock from their former Old Bond Street premises @sothebys today. The range of work, from 19th C. furniture to contemporary art is typically eclectic and idiosyncratic as one gets the feeling of an era coming to an end. The FAS was an institution on Old Bond St and after 150 years everyone will be sad to see its gallery gone. These two works by Keith Coventry (b.1958) are wonderful and though not typical of the gallery’s wares they show the depth of talent they exhibited. ‘Chicksand Estate’ (1995) and ‘Ontological Painting’ are both well worth a bid or two.
Greatly enjoyed a day @BRAFA, Brussels, on Thursday. Amongst many highlights were Alighiero Boetti’s (1949-1994) Mappa of 1979 @gladstone.gallery, the dark CoBrA painting ‘Begging Children’ of 1948 by Karel Appel (1921-2006) @die_galerie_ and several large works by the guests of honour: Gilbert and George (b. 1943 & b. 1942). The fair closes tomorrow, Sunday 3rd.
This great show entitled ‘Paperwork and the Will of Capital’ is @gagosian on Davies St., London. In short, Taryn Simon (b. 1975) has re-created the exact floral displays from the tables of famous (and infamous) treaty signings. In all the works we get a sense of fragility, forced beauty and the often-half-baked attempts at political resolution to horribly complex matters. This is the re-created floral display from the signing of the Maastricht Treaty in 1992. The show runs until 2nd February.
‘Asger Jorn (1914-1973), Per Kirkeby (1938-2018), Tal R (b. 1967)’ is a fascinating exhibition showing the work of three potent artists, linked to Denmark by birth or residence, with careers stretching across the majority of the last 100 years. Jorn was one of the founders of CoBrA (Copenhagen, Brussels, Amsterdam) in 1948. Kirkeby was a true polymath, also working in film and performance, who never met his hero Jorn despite the close influence. Tal R combines the spontaneity of Jorn with some of the more composition-led works of Kirkeby. The show displays a wonderful seam of non-conformist art running through 20th & 21st Century Denmark. Do go and see it @victoriamirogallery , London (closes 23rd March).
Patrick Heron (1920-1999) is an intriguing Modern British artist as his career bridged the patterned, almost Nabis, influence of the Bloomsbury Group with the great ‘Tachiste’ and Colour-Field painters of the 1950s. Here in ‘Big Disc, Three Reds with whites: 1971’ we see a huge influence from Henri Matisse in this mid-career painting based on his garden at Eagle’s Nest, Cornwall. An excellent, but relatively small-scale oil, it is up for sale @sothebys in March at 80,000-120,000 GBP. As with most Herons of this era the colour is bright and the balance pretty perfect. It shall be on view in the Bond Street Galleries in the run up to the 20th March sale: Made in Britain.
A few highlights from a very enjoyable wander through the @londonartfair yesterday afternoon. Michael Craig-Martin’s (b. 1941) ‘Untitled (Sardine Tin / handcuff)’ of 2007 @pianonobilegallery , Anne Redpath’s ‘Rooftops’ of c. 1959 @waterhousedodd and a beautiful little Barbara Hepworth ‘Sculpture of Colour’ (1940, cast 1968) @beauxartsgallery . Modern British Art has attracted an ever more international buyer and judging by the prices fetched over the last few years I think the future looks, perhaps surprisingly, bright for the sector. The fair runs until 5pm on 20th January at Islington’s Business Design Centre, London.
Oskar Schlemmer’s (1888-1943) ‘Bauhaus Stairway’ of 1932 is one of the many outstanding paintings synonymous with the great Bauhaus School of Art in Dessau. This painting depicts students climbing and descending the busy stairs of the main building: the architect Walter Gropius’s controversial masterpiece. Schlemmer rarely embraced the abstraction of other Bauhaus painters (such as Moholy Nagy and, of course, Kandinsky) but the simple Purist forms and the modern take on figurative painting are none the worse for it. This picture hangs in the stairwell @themuseumofmodernart in New York – an apt place indeed.
‘Transitional Object (PsychoBarn)’ by the brilliant @corneliaparkerartist (b. 1956) has been on view @royalacademyarts for a while but on a brooding, overcast, winter morning it looked particularly great. The setting is spot-on for a piece of this type: neo-classical pomp surrounding a small house built from found objects or ‘readymades’. The sculpture is based on the famous/infamous Hitchcock house, and by association the Edward Hopper painting of 1925 ‘House by the Railroad’. The fact that the work is so clearly a temporary structure, with scaffolding its support, completely undermines the space – quite simply Cornelia Parker at her best!
Günther Uecker’s (b.1930) nail works are truly absorbing in their beauty and tension whilst exhibiting the most unlikely, banal, media. His work stems from a fervent reaction to the ‘Informel’ artists of post-war Europe and he helped form ‘Zero’ – a movement to start art again from, well, zero. This piece, ‘Spirale III’, is on view at @levygorvy on Bond St, London, amongst a strong collection of paintings, sculpture and furniture aping the galleries of Lord Duveen – the art dealer and bon viveur that revolutionised the art market in London in the 1920s and ‘30s. The show is on until 12th January. Happy New Year everyone!
Mario Schifano (1934-1998) has been increasingly popular in recent years and a group of fascinating paintings from 1968 are on view @mayorgallery on Cork Street, London. Where his most famous work plays on the ubiquity of famous brand names these are different and aptly direct for the time. Part Pop art and part workers-rights manifesto this is political art at its finest. Well worth a trip ASAP before the show closes tomorrow.
This staggering work by Paul Signac (1863-1935) of 1892, ‘le Port au soleil couchant, Opus 236 (St. Tropez)’, is to be offered in late February @christiesinc on King St., London. 1892 was a critical year for Signac as it followed the death of his friend and mentor Georges Seurat (1859-1891): the artist that pioneered colour theory and with-it ‘Pointillism’. Indeed, it was in 1884 that the young Signac met Seurat and the same year that ‘A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of the Grand Jatte’ was painted, perhaps the most important work of its generation.
One of Andy Warhol’s (1928-1987) most celebrated subjects was, of course, Marilyn Monroe (1926-1962). This work: Marilyn Diptych of 1962 was acquired by @tate but is currently on view at the phenomenal exhibition ‘Andy Warhol: From A to B and Back Again’ @whitneymuseum. Also hanging is the stock photo from where the iconic image was sourced: a slightly motheaten promotional film still from the 1953 film ‘Niagara’. If you are in New York this Winter go and see the exhibition which is on view until 31st March 2019 – it is outstanding.
Jedd Novatt’s (b. 1958), ‘Conversations with Gravity’, is a marvellous exhibition @WaddingtonCustot on Cork St, London. His ‘Chaos’ sculptures teeter on the brink of falling apart, toppling over or collapsing into themselves creating an appropriately ‘chaotic’ space. I couldn’t help thinking of purposely inelegant George Rickey sculptures or a group of contradictory Sol Lewitts. It’s well worth a detour if you are in Mayfair before the show closes on 30th January.
Alexander Archipenko’s (1887-1964) ‘Oval Figure’ of 1957 is on view @eykyn_maclean in New York. Archipenko’s work is synonymous with the early adoption of Synthetic Cubism in America following the seminal Armory Show of 1913 that introduced New York to the greatest artists of the Paris Avant-Garde. This wonderful late work is a shallow frieze using Bakelite, a metal ring, and sculpted wood. The show is entitled ‘Alexander Archipenko: Space Encircled’ and is on view until 14th December.
My favourite show amongst many gems last week was @levygorvy on Madison: ‘Calder/Kelly’. The relationship between Alexander ‘Sandy’ Calder (1898-1976) and Ellsworth Kelly (1923-2015) was not only personally close but professionally beneficial since Kelly’s static interpretation of composition and colour was so similar to Calder’s mobiles. The show underlines how their work shares so many wonderful qualities. Kelly’s inclusion in the seminal 1959 @themuseumofmodernart show ‘Sixteen Americans’ was ultimately due to Calder’s recommendation that Alfred Barr send Dorothy Miller for a studio visit. It is a superb exhibition and is on view until 9th January @levygorvy, Madison Ave. New York.