Tuesday, 30 November 2010

Elite Wine Labels

The Telegraph has posted an online gallery of Chateau Mouton-Rothschild vintage wine labels by famous artists (title link). The firm's tradition of commissioning famous artists to design pictures for its labels began in 1923. This sketch of a naked young girl by Balthus for the 1993 vintage caused a storm of protest in the USA, and Château Mouton-Rothschild withdrew all 30,000 bottles destined for the American market and replaced their labels with blanks where the controversial sketch had been. The Telegraph has no qualms about posting this label by Balthus. So Yanks can see it for the first time.

Hayley Mills

When compiling yesterday's list of child stars whose faces have graced movie posters, how on earth could I have forgotten Hayley Mills, who shot to fame in Tiger Bay (1959) when she was 12 years old? It won her the BAFTA Award for Most Promising Newcomer. She promptly became a nice little earner for Walt Disney, winning the Academy Juvenile Award and the Golden Globe Award for New Star of the Year in her first Disney movie: Pollyanna (1960). She was the most popular child star of her day. This picture of her is a detail from the poster for The Moon Spinners (1964). Click the title link for her biography. If you're still wondering who Thomas Brodie-Sangster is, CLICK to see him dangling a spider for Nanny McPhee (2005).

Monday, 29 November 2010

Sword Stealers

Warning: protect your sword-bearing pussy or he'll have an empty paw. Japanese fuzz have arrested Yu Nishimura and Kaori Tanaka for allegedly ripping off 100 players of NC Japan's Lineage II to the tune of 1m yen (£7,630). They offered players a program that supposedly helped people play the game. Instead, the program stole account names and passwords. This allowed the pair to raise money by selling virtual items, such as swords, shields and armour, they "stole" from the duped players. If found guilty they could be fined up to 500,000 yen (£3,800) or go to jail for a year. I wonder if British law is sufficiently up to date to cover this type of scam.

Potter Posters

It hardly seems 9 years since this cherub in the National Health spectacles burst upon the world as Harry Potter. Danial Radcliffe was only 11 years old when he began his movie career as J.K. Rowling's budding wizard. Not many child actors have their faces given such prominence in movie posters. Shirley Temple, Macaulay Culkin, Thomas Brodie-Sangster, Elizabeth Taylor and Mickey Rooney are the only ones I can think of without doing a lorryload of research. Warner Brothers has gone overboard on Potter posters. I recently chanced upon a collection of them on Empire States: A Brief History Of Harry Potter Movie Posters (title link). It's a must for fans. Even for more level-headed types, its interesting to see how the young stars have grown up during the course of these movies.

Sunday, 28 November 2010

Mark Simms Wins

The overall winner of the UK Wildlife Photography Competition 2010 is Mark Simms for Three Deer Glade, this magical shot of fallow deer in Richmond Park, London. Click the title link to view a larger graphic of this photograph and all the category winners.

Age of Shiva

Bristol-based urban artist Mark Sinckler has managed to grab himself some notoriety with this mural entitled Age of Shiva (2010). You can take the name Shiva two ways: 1) a Hindu god, The Destroyer, or 2) in Judaism a week-long period of mourning. Either name could be applicable. To me this looks like a feeble Adobe Photoshop job using elements not created by the so-called artist. The bus is from a photograph. The two ugly cherubs in the foreground look like Rubens' work to me, and the column of naked souls ascending to Heaven is a reversed image of William Bouguereau's magnificent Les Oreades (1902), a fact which none of the art pundits seems to have noticed. Pathetic (pundits and picture alike). Click the title link to read Sinckler defending himself to the BBC. CLICK to view the Bouguereau masterpiece misappropriated by Sinckler.

Friday, 26 November 2010

Landscape Photos 2010

This magnificent landscape photograph - Neist Point Lighthouse, Isle of Skye, taken by Fortuno Gatto - was one of the entries in this year's Landscape Photographer of the Year competition. It didn't win, but it shows better as a glorified thumbnail than the winning photo of Corfe Castle, Dorset, by Antony Spencer, who won the £10,000 prize. Click the title link for a BBC slideshow and watch out for another brilliant photo by Antony Spencer: Field of Lavender. The free exhibition is at the National Theatre in London until 16 January (CLICK).

The Turnip Prize

The Turnip Prize for bad art, inspired by the Turner Prize, is back again. Tracey Emin's bed instigated the competition in 1999. Trevor Prideaux, landlord of the New Inn in Wedmore, Somerset, organises this annual festival of bad art. Plays on words abound. According to its website "The Turnip Prize is a crap art competition. You can enter anything you like, but it must be rubbish." Sounds just like the Turner Prize doesn't it? This entry is by Bansy, who keeps being rejected for putting too much effort into his work. Click the title link for a Telegraph slideshow of the least stunning entries. The 2010 Turnip Prize champion will be announced on 6 December, the same night that we'll find out which inartistic plonker won the Turner Prize this year.

Thursday, 25 November 2010

Sorolla Update

The two Sorolla paintings I posted recently (CLICK) were the top-selling lots at Sotheby’s London auction of 19th Century European Paintings. El Pescador went for over £3m and Niños en la playa fetched £1.9m. This beautiful painting by Hermann Corrodi - The Galata Bridge, Constantinople - went under the hammer for a mere £187,250. I wonder where they'll all end up: private vaults or art galleries where the public can view them. World treasures like this really shouldn't be allowed to fall into the wrong hands.

Illustrations Sale

Quentin Blake is the driving force behind the House of Illustration, a museum/gallery for illustrations past and present, British and international, to be opened in central London as soon as funds are available. To help raise funds, he and a number of other top children's illustrators have donated 28 drawings to be auctioned at Sotheby's in London on 16 December. The exhibition opens on 12 December. Click the title link for a BBC slideshow. My favourite is this drawing of Kipper by Mick Inkpen, who has turned Cute into an art form. His Wibbly Pig series is the best thing since Leonardo da Vinci's sketchbook. CLICK to learn more about the House of Illustration. Quentin Blake will sign books at Chris Beetles Gallery, London, on Sunday 12 December between 10am - 12 and 2 - 4pm. Phone the gallery for details: 020 7839 7551.

Monday, 22 November 2010

NEAC Exhibition

The annual exhibition of the New English Art Club (NEAC) opens at the Mall Galleries in London on Friday 26 November and continues until Sunday 5 December. This year sees two cash prizes of £5000 each, awarded by Ronnie McIntosh and David Messum. The painting above is Arch, Bundi, Rajasthan by Patrick Cullen NEAC. Admission is £2.50, silver surfers £1.50.

The New Chapter

The Poppy Sebire Gallery has moved into a permanent home at All Hallows Hall, 6 Copperfield Street, London, SE1 0EP. Its opening exhibition is a group show by its four artists: The New Chapter. This painting by James Aldridge - Altar (2009) - is one of the exhibits. Maybe it looks better when you stand back from it ... er ... a long way back. The exhibition runs until 23 December. Click the title link for more information.

Sunday, 21 November 2010

Treasure Act Review

The sale of the bronze Crosby Garrett helmet (CLICK, CLICK) has prompted Lord Renfrew of Kaimsthorn - a former Cambridge University professor of archaeology - to call for an urgent review of The Treasure Act 1996, which protects only those artifacts made from precious metals. He commented "It is strange that a national treasure can be sold at public auction by an anonymous vendor to an anonymous buyer". It is perhaps even more strange that this news item didn't come from the BBC, but from ArtDaily (title link).

Saturday, 20 November 2010

The Nude Model

I was discussing nudity in art the other day. It's surprising how prudish we still are about the human figure. I've known artists whose work is rejected by curators because they think a nude is too risque. And at least two American teachers have got into serious trouble for even suggesting that their pupils attend a life class or peruse a naked statue. So I welcome this enlightened exhibition put on by the Rhode Island School of Design Museum of Art in the USA. Changing Poses: The Artist’s Model looks at the role of the model in art from the Renaissance to the present day, with over 50 works on display. It continues until 5 June 2011. The example here is Alfred Edward Chalon's The Life Class (1832). Note the hour glass in the foreground: time for the model to have a break and a cup of something steaming to warm her up. Click the title link for a delightful cartoon by Norman Rockwell: I Meet the Body Beautiful (1960).

Venus and Mars

Should ancient Roman statues be restored? Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi thinks they should, and he ordered that this marble statue of Venus and Mars in the Chigi Palace in Rome should get the treatment at a cost of 70,000 euro thingies (don't ask). On the left you see the statue in the damaged condition in which it was found in 1918. On the right you see Venus and Mars with new hands and Mars sporting a chunky new penis. The newspapers are up in arms about it (title link for an example). I guess Berlusconi didn't think an emasculated Mars in his office did his image as a stud any favours.

Thursday, 18 November 2010


Have you picked up your copy of The Amazing Spider-Girl, which hit the stands today? It's the latest series from Marvel Comics. I must admit I'm confused. BBC News shows the new super heroine in a fetching silver-on-black outfit (title link), but the pictures I'm finding elsewhere, including the cover of the comic itself, show her costume as red on navy blue, as here. Will the real Amazing Spider-Girl please stand up? The makers claim that she isn't "sexualised", but I must point out that swinging around New York with your legs wide open isn't exactly a ladylike thing to do.

ING Discerning Eye

Take ING Commercial Banking, six prominent figures from the art world - two artists, two collectors and two critics - and they select rubbish like this for the ING Discerning Eye exhibition at the Mall Galleries in London: Atsuko Fujii's Asparagus with red string (2009 exhibitor). Discerning Eye? Pull the other leg, ING. This isn't art. It's a Mickey-take. The best thing I can say about this show is that admission is free. It continues until 21 November.

Wednesday, 17 November 2010

Sorolla Sale 2

Back in October I reported on the upcoming auction of two outstanding paintings by Spanish artist Joaquin Sorolla (CLICK). Here's the complete El Pescador (1904). You can view it at Sotheby's in London. The exhibition begins on Friday 19 November. The auction takes place on Tuesday 23 November.

Louvre Appeal

It's that time of the year when all those Christmas appeals start descending on us. The Louvre Museum in Paris is no exception. It's appealing to the public to raise 1m euro thingies (£630,000) toward the purchase price of 4m euro thingies (£2.5m) for Lucas Cranach the Elder's The Three Graces (1531). He was German. So why does the Louvre want it? It can't be his incompetent female anatomy. The answer is it could be a nice little earner. The Louvre has until 31 January to raise the readies.

Kate Takes Charge

Another day, another bikini. Captain's orders:

I told you, Willy, right hand down a bit. And throttle back. This is a power boat, not a yacht. Watch out! You'll prang that paparazzi rowing boat. Whoo-hoo-hoo. Our wake will give him camera shake. Whoops! Tidal wave. Paparazzi overboard. Tee-hee-hee. Watch out for Sir Richard's yacht. Prang that and we'll never get super fast broadband. Quick, Willy, left hand down a bit! Oh, I don't know how you ever passed your whirlybird test.


Kate Middleton must be the first royal-to-be to advertise the fact that she shaves her pubes. Wearing a see-through bikini where the paparazzi abound is asking for a revealing photo. And they abound in the seas around the yachts of jet-setters, like sharks waiting to snap. Still, she makes a very pretty picture, whatever her attire. Why the world is getting so excited about a couple of jet-setters becoming engaged to be married is beyond me, but Prince William is currently doing a useful job and I wish the couple every happiness.

Tuesday, 16 November 2010

Painters' Hall Show

The Worshipful Company of Painter Stainers has awarded the Lynn Painter-Stainers Prize 2010 to Rachel Levitas for her painting Urban Fox III. She receives £15,000. Lauren Archer won the young artist award for another fox-inspired painting: The Chase. An exhibition of the top 68 works entered into the competition has opened at Painters' Hall in London and continues until 26 November, admission free. It then moves to the WH Patterson Gallery. Click the title link for details and a ponderous slideshow of exhibits. I wasn't impressed.

Monday, 15 November 2010

Marc Sijan

Believe it or not, this is a sculpture: Hand on Shoulder (2004). It's by Marc Sijan, who spends six months creating a plaster mould, casting the sculpture in polyester resin and coating it with up to 25 layers of paint. Using oil paints, he adds freckles, veins and birthmarks. The results are stunning. The Delaware Art Museum in the USA opened an exhibition of his work two days ago: Ultra-Realistic Sculpture by Marc Sijan. The exhibition runs until 16 January 2011.

Sunday, 14 November 2010

Alberto Vargas

Note: Alberto Vargas - Trick Or Treat has been removed at the request of the copyright holder.

Here's a painting I suspect our troops would appreciate more than the work of war artists. Alberto Vargas's “girl-next-door” pin-ups for Esquire magazine certainly perked up American GI's during World War II and were used to adorn US aircraft and ships. But the Brit. Anti-art Establishment is a bit sniffy about cheesecake. Not so the San Francisco Art Exchange (title link). Yesterday it opened a major retrospective of his art, marking two anniversaries and tracing his career from the Ziegfeld Follies to Playboy magazine with over 60 artworks. Shown above is Trick Or Treat from Playboy.

War Artist

What more fitting day could there be than Remembrance Sunday for BBC News to have posted a slideshow of sketches by war artist Xavier Pick, who spent 6 weeks with British troops in Iraq? This painted sketch shows Merlin helicopters flying over a shepherd on Leaf Island, north Basra (2008). Click the title link.

Saturday, 13 November 2010

The Lady Released

The Burmese generals have released Aung San Suu Kyi - nicknamed The Lady - from house arrest.
Click the title link for a BBC video.

Chinese Vase

Auctioneer Peter Bainbridge became so excited when he sold this Qianlong Chinese Vase for £43m ($69.3m) yesterday that he broke his gavel. Bainbridge Auctioneers isn't in the same league as Sotheby's or Christie's, and Mr Bainbridge is more used to selling second-hand fridges and cookers. His auctioneer's premium on the sale of this vase is £8.6m ($13.9m). No wonder he broke his gavel. The anonymous sellers, a brother and sister, found the vase when clearing out the bungalow of a deceased relative. They had no idea of its value and when the hammer fell - or rather broke - the sister had to leave the sale room to get some fresh air.

Chess Souvenir

This gilt-bronze Souvenir Rook (1897) by Carlo and Arthur Giuliano was made to commemorate the historical chess match played between The House of Commons in London and The House of Representatives in Washington D.C. in 1897. The match, which lasted two days, was played by means of cable and resulted in a draw: 2½ games to 2½ games. Each player is thought to have received one of these chess pieces as a memento of the match. This rook is the star piece in a private collection of chess sets and game boards which comes up for auction at Christie's in London on 7 December.

Friday, 12 November 2010

Batman In London!

Holy cow! It's Batman in London! For the first time ever! And to prove it, here's the Dark Knight saving a schoolgirl from The London Eye. Why she needs saving is beyond me, apart from a colourful explosion out of frame; but I guess it has something to do with that evil Pearly King of Crime who lives in Basement 101 of the Tower of London. Robin is flying around our landmarks too. Click the title link to see him burning past Buck Pal. It's all the fevered brainchild of Scottish writer Grant Morrison. This could be a collector's item, folks. Batman Legends is in the shops now.

Thursday, 11 November 2010

Wild Potter Nights

It's been a wild couple of nights for Potter fans potty enough to camp out in Leicester Square to get a glimpse of stars attending the world premiere of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows - Part 1. Here's the lovely Emma Watson at an awards ceremony earlier this year, trying very hard not to upstage her co-star little Daniel Radcliffe. Click the title link to view a BBC video of red-carpet interviews with author J.K. Rowling and co-stars Daniel Radcliffe, Emma Watson and Rupert Grint. CLICK for a Telegraph slide show of the youngsters from the start of their movie careers.

Indian Owls

The Warner Brothers' publicity department has gone into overdrive for the launch of the latest Harry Potter movie Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows - Part 1. The popularity of the Potter series has a downside in India, according to Indian Environment Minister Jairam Ramesh. He recently pointed out that there had been an increase in people wanting to buy owls from illegal bird traders and that this is contributing to the demise of owls in India. Vultures are also doing badly in India, because of the widespread use of deadly chemicals in agriculture. Owls are also sacrificed for Diwali and in black magic rites. He can't blame Hedwig for these barbaric practices.

Wednesday, 10 November 2010

Huntress Wins

David Chancellor wins the Taylor Wessing Photographic Portrait Prize 2010 with his magnificent portrait Huntress With Buck, which shows a teenager from Alabama on her first hunting trip to South Africa. Shades of Diana, Goddess of the Hunt. Below is Clare Shilland's photo Merel, a beautifully natural portrait, which won the ELLE Commission. CLICK to see a BBC slide show of the top 5 photos. The exhibition opens tomorrow at the National Portrait Gallery in London and continues until 20 February 2011 (title link).

Tuesday, 9 November 2010

Rupert is 90

Rupert Bear turned 90 yesterday, making him the longest running children's character in the world. This cover from the 1937 Rupert Annual is worth at least £20,000 in good condition, because only 12 were printed. The print run was stopped so that Rupert's more familiar white face could be inserted (CLICK). The artist, Alfred E. Bestall, wasn't consulted over the change. He left in a huff and never painted another Rupert cover. The covers have shown a white-face Rupert ever since. Click the title link for a BBC video about Rupert and watch out for the white-faced 1937 Rupert Annual.

Sunday, 7 November 2010

Jan Gossaert

A major exhibition coming to The National Gallery in London early next year is currently on display at New York's Metropolitan Museum of Art: Jan Gossaert's Renaissance. Over 50 works have been brought together to make the biggest collection of his paintings for over 40 years. The exhibition closes in New York in January and then moves to the National Gallery. It will run in the Sainsbury Wing from 23 February to 30 May 2011. Above is a detail from Jan Gossaert's Portrait of a Merchant. Click the title link for admission prices.

African Art

If you're interested in contemporary African art, this is the exhibition for you: Surface, Sensuality and Desire at the Arc Gallery from 26 November to 6 December. It's a collective exhibition featuring works by Titus Agbara (CLICK), Azubuike Ani, Glory Charles, Shallman Quashie and Olu Shobowale. Admission is free. And here's a novelty: the Arc Gallery is a converted barge, the Barge Belle, moored at Tottenham Hale Warf in the Upper Lee Valley, London, N17 9NF. It's wheelchair friendly too. Click the title link for more information.

Badger Cull? Yes/No

Should there be a badger cull in England? | Countryfile Magazine

Saturday, 6 November 2010

House Arrest for Ai

Need any porcelain sunflower seeds, guv? Genuine imitations. Guaranteed hand-painted the lot. I've got 100 million of 'em going cheap. That's 150 tonnes to you. Bargain price. Don't mind the dust, mate. It won't get up your nose if you don't breathe in. No, it's not Del Boy from Trotters Independent Traders. It's Chinese publicity seeker Ai Weiwei (pronounced way way, not wee wee). His latest stunt is to get himself put under house arrest while the authorities demolish his £670,000 ($1.1m) Shanghai studio. Oh well, easy come, easy go.

Alma-Tadema Record

Netherlands-born Sir Lawrence Alma-Tadema became of one of our finest Victorian artists, but toward the end of his career his meticulous paintings were given the raspberry by impercipient art pundits who hailed the trendy tripe of Matisse, Gauguin and Picasso. By 1960 the Newman Gallery couldn't give this masterpiece away: The Finding of Moses (1904)! At a recent Sotheby’s auction in New York, it fetched $35m, more than seven times the pre-sale high estimate of $5m, and a new record for the artist. CLICK to read about the rise and fall and rise again of Sir Lawrence Alma-Tadema.

Friday, 5 November 2010

First Life

If the journalists strike at the BBC doesn't mess up this evening's schedules, BBC Two will show David Attenborough's First Life at 9pm. Not only will we have Sir David's erudite explanation of the origins of life through fossils, but also computer generated animation wizardry will bring many extinct animals to life. This little fellow snuffling about is an opabinia.

Turner Export Ban

Culture Minister Ed Vaizey has put a temporary export ban on JMW Turner's Modern Rome - Campo Vaccino (1839) until 2 February 2011. If there is a serious attempt to come up with the readies, he is prepared to extend the ban until 2 August 2011. The painting sold at a Sotheby's auction in London for £29.7m ($48m). It's a big ask. Time for The Art Fund to raid its piggy bank.

Canary Wharf Wins

Yesterday at the 2010 International Art & Work Awards in Barcelona, Canary Wharf Group plc won the Christie's award for best corporate art collection. Canary Wharf has around 60 permanent art works by 45 artists in public spaces. The judges found that the company had shown a "sophisticated approach to integrating art into the landscaping and the buildings on their shopping and business district in London." Nice one.

Thursday, 4 November 2010

La Belle Romaine

Amedeo Modigliani's painting La Belle Romaine (1917) made a new record for the artist at a recent New York auction: £42.7m ($68.9m). I still have a soft spot for Modigliani's stylized nudes, even when they have a silly Cupid's bow mouth which predates Clara Bow. Despite their modernish cartoon-like quality, they manage to hit all the right buttons for traditional art. If I were a corporate collector buying modern art for the vaults, Modigliani is the artist I would choose.

Banksy Wins Grierson

Banksy's documentary Exit Through The Gift Shop (CLICK) won the most entertaining documentary prize at this year's Grierson Trust awards in London. Here you see the trophy after Banksy had finished spray-painting it. For those of you who are clueless about John Grierson (1898–1972) he was a pioneering Scottish documentary film maker and critic who coined the word "documentary" to describe non-fiction films. I still recall with affection his TV series This Wonderful World, which showed excerpts from outstanding documentaries. CLICK for his Wikipedia entry.

Wednesday, 3 November 2010

Chewing Gum Art

A BBC News crew had nothing better to do than follow chewing gum artist Ben Wilson around London and film him painting his latest gum creation (title link). Surprisingly, the film is interesting. I had no idea he needed to keep heat blasting his chosen gum and its paints colour by colour. He has created more than 8,000 miniature works of art in this way and is accepting commissions from the public. A gum picture for your daughter, Madam?

Art With A Bang

The Serpentine Gallery will transform a former munitions depot in Kensington Gardens, west London, into a new gallery for "modern" art. Groan! Award-winning architect Zaha Hadid has the job of turning the Grade II-listed Magazine building (1765) into an exhibition space to house the rubbish the Serpentine Gallery will show there. Many years ago I visited the Serpentine Gallery. Once. Never again. Its modern-art junk was appalling.

Book of the Dead

I don't think I've covered so many different forms of art in one week before. Now we go back to c. 1280 BC for The Book of the Dead of Hunefer (above). The British Museum's exhibition Ancient Egyptian Book of the Dead shows the Greenfield Papyrus in its entirety for the first time, together with other exhibits to follow the ancient Egyptians’ journey from death to the afterlife. This is the museum's Autumn biggy, a "once-in-a-lifetime exhibition" due to the fragility of papyri, opening on 4 November. Click the title link for more information.

Tuesday, 2 November 2010

Drawing Fashion

Tomorrow, London's Design Museum opens Drawing Fashion, which runs until 6 March 2011. This collection was put together over 30 years by Joelle Chariau of Galerie Bartsch & Chariau and has never been shown to the public before. The striking image I've chosen is one of the more recent ones: Swiss illustrator Francois Berthoud's Loves me Loves me Not (2001). It says more about Woman than about the fashion industry! Click the title link to learn more.

Hockney's iPad

The Pierre Berge - Yves Saint Laurent Foundation in Paris is currently showing David Hockney: Fleurs fraîches (Fresh Flowers), an exhibition which breaks new ground in that the artworks are displayed on iPads and they change. When compared with the art created for the best video games (CLICK), Hockney's iPad doodles are rubbish; but he is a Big Name and the art world pays attention to what he does. Despite my reservations, I rather like the one shown here: it's a vase of lavender, minimalist, unpretentious and attractive. It does what it says on the tin. But great art, forget it. If you fancy braving strike-torn France, the exhibition runs until 30 janvier 2011 (title link). If not, CLICK for a BBC video.

Monday, 1 November 2010

Watercolour Comp

Today the exhibition of The Sunday Times Watercolour Competition opened at the Mall Galleries in London. This is the largest watercolour competition in the UK and one of the few prizes to celebrate the undervalued medium of watercolour. Above is Juliette Palmer's Visiting Clovelly from the 2009 exhibition. Admission is free. The exhibition continues until 7 November.

Kris's Sculptures

I first introduced you to Kris's sculpture four years ago (CLICK). This excellent profile is from his Icarus (2006). He is still beavering away at his hobby and putting many professional contemporary sculptors to shame. I really don't know how some of them manage to graduate from art school. His website (title link) shows photos of the development of some of his pieces, well worth a browse if you have ambitions to become a sculptor yourself.