5 – artists to watch – paul mcdevitt

23 December 2010 § 1 Comment

McDevitt’s intricate pencil drawings suggest a lost or undiscovered world, his subject matter derived primarily from 1950s European cultural magazines as well as the artist’s own photographs. Much of McDevitt’s imagery focuses on anonymous graphic design. This ranges from the commercial styling of old publications to the municipal murals and street graffiti of Europe.

In McDevitt’s drawings, graphic images are fused with elements of architecture and landscape. Graffiti trapped in icebergs imply a transmigration of styles, culture, and language. Flamboyant automobile decals are displaced in atmospheric skies – a mundane addition to epic surroundings.

Sprayed tags compete with the stained glass images of civic buildings. Representations of flightless birds, such as penguins and chickens from journals of the space-race era, are superimposed on architectural structures. Animals take the place of people in McDevitt’s drawings of deserted locations and transient gestures are given a permanent position.

Cosmic scenes are often part of McDevitt’s vision, bringing to mind both 1960s psychedelic culture and 1990s rave music. This depiction of extreme and chaotic phenomena also appears in the artist’s consistently ‘unstill’ still-lives. Fireworks replace flowers, lightening tears through otherwise quiet scenes and imagery appears to be plundered rather than arranged.

In all of McDevitt’s drawings, the viewer’s attention is drawn to the subjects and issues that construct our social fabric. However, it is the displacement of these elements into a unique visual panorama that produces such ominous, compelling and intensely alluring works.

Incidentally I must also reveal a personal bias in favour of McDevitts work as I currently have two excellent small works on my inventory for sale. Please contact me if you would likeany further information!


art price indices

17 December 2010 § Leave a comment

I thought I would bring to your attention a very useful service provided by the Financial Times (FT) on their online arts pages ‘Arts Extra’. Over and above the fact that this section is well worth watching for some well-written and regularly updated news on the whole of the arts, they feature an Art Price Index (provided by Arts Market Research) which is available as a free service.

Anyone wanting to keep up to speed in the art market could do worse than take an occasional look at the varied indices shown: Old Masters 100’s, America Art 100, Photography 100, and Modern 100. The ‘100’ by the way refers to the fact that the top 100 artists in each field are used to calculate the index. The photographic Index is shown below as an example.

Talking of indices there are a few others of which perhaps the Mei Moses is best known. Created by Jianping Mei and Michael Moses it uses art price ‘pairs’ from works that have sold more than once in auction. It is widely quoted as it was probably the first such index of its kind.

An example of an overall Mei Moses analysis of the market is shown below and seems to confirm what we are often told – that art is a good alternative investment and can often outperform conventional investmnts like equities and gold. A general concensus is that over the last 20-30 years art has more than kept pace with other investments with a compound return of some 7-8% p.a. 

However, by using only auction ‘pairs’ Mei Moses of course omits huge swathes of the art market: work sold only once at acution plus sales by artists, galleries, dealers and at art fairs for example. Old Masters, Modern and long-established artist values are probably the best served by their system.

The FT’s indices are of course similarly flawed although not limited by pairing auction sales. It does not take a rocket scientist to realise that all these indices, along with similar price analyses available from other subscription services like artprice, artnet and artfacts, should be used with a great deal of caution. Clearly one cannot buy a work from a gallery and estimate its value a few years by looking at a graph (as one can do more reliably with say, equities or even precisely with say, gold).

The indices neither take account of the costs of buying and selling which, especially for lower value lots are considerable – as much as 30% when various charges and taxes are added in. If you buy at a gallery of course they too add a sizeable margin and you lack the consolation available at auction – the fact that someone was willing to pay a few pounds less than you, meaning that, theoretically, you have a known resale ‘value’. On the other hand if you do purchase from a reputable gallery (not any old high street gallery!!) then they should be amenable to re-selling work at a modest commission. It is in their interest to not only maintain the prices for their artists but at the same time to keep their clients happy.

Now, as far as the painting over your mantlepiece goes is it even part of the index? If your chosen work has made the first (tough) hurdle of remaining a saleable commodity (it is said that only 20% of top gallery artists ever make it to auction) then you need to hope that they are well-enough regarded to be swept along with the same sentiment as for example the ‘top 100’ or a work of enough quality that it has been auctioned twice – an auction ‘pair’ .

You may have been lucky enough to have spotted the next ‘Warhol’ but in the end the following oft-repeated adage is well worth remembering: ‘always buy what you like’. If your work does not increase in value then you can always say that you have had the pleasure of its company on your wall! Unless you happen to enjoy hanging your share certificates on the wall alongside your gold bars then art, or other investments of passion like classic cars, antiques and jewellery, are by far the best way to create maximum pleasure from a financial investment.

Meanwhile buy with care, take your time, enjoy the process and lastly and most importantly do NOT spend large amounts on art without some impartial advice (ie: not from a gallery) – contact an art consultant or expert.

Postscript: As a consultant myself I must reveal I am biased in this respect, but I can guarantee that not only will you escape some serious mistakes, but you may well save on the art that you do buy!

4 – artists to watch – ida ekblad

14 December 2010 § Leave a comment

Gauda de Stampa Paris

Ida Ekblad is a young Norwegian artist who, despite being based in Oslo seems to manage to pop up all over the shop. Last year she had no less than nine solo exhibitions covering seven countries, and was involved in a similar number of group shows that also included multi-media collaborations. This year has been almost as frenetic and one somehow doubts that her obvious enthusiasm will wane next year either.

To Drink a Glass of Melted Snow

Her first solo show in Paris in 2009 received a strong review from David Lewis in Frieze magazine who raved ‘it is not every day that one comes across so expansive a talent’ whilst Saatchi likes her enough to have purchased five works, including ‘Drink a Glass…’ (illustrated) which are to appear in the forthcoming ‘Paint’ exhibition (dates tba).

Ekblad’s earlier work combined free and spontaneous painterly gestures with graffiti culture – she is clearly quite at home among popular and street culture. However, without breaking stride she has effortlessly moved through more traditional styles of painting and sculpture.

Herald Street

Her most recent London solo show was at Herald Street this summer, where, as usual she moved freely between expressionistic abstract paintings, multimedia installation and sculpture – moving off the wall, into the room and back again. There is a liberating playfulness in Ekblad’s work in which her artworks perhaps represent a synthesising connection between society and art, past and present and the street and the white cube gallery.

Her work is developing rapidly and her reputation should no doubt grow accordingly. Look out for her next exhibition.

3 – artists to watch – rhea o’neill

11 December 2010 § 1 Comment

Continuing an occasional series about artists to watch I shall attempt to be more efficient and make a weekly (numbered) post. This week’s artist is Rhea O’Neill, who has recently been seen in an exhibition at the Rollo Gallery in London entitled ‘Four Young Artists to Watch’.

A recent 2008 graduate from Wimbledon, Rhea engages with the history of British landscape painting. Her vibrant landscapes shimmer with vivid non-and vibrant hyper-real colours which provide a contemporary twist. Her dream-like imagery suggesting that in this day and age societies perception of the British countryside may actually be more fanciful than real.

Summer Festival

She says ‘My work is an exploration and critical look at where notions of romanticism appear from and how they manifest themselves within our subconscious. My interest lies in myth and tradition and how this influences our viewing of landscapes.


In Power House a grey-blue sun glows in a eerily-coloured sky. It dominates a strange multi-coloured landscape that could be desert-like, post-apocalyptic or tropical – it is hard to say which and it does not seem to matter. The power lies in the hot/cold sun which seems to suck in the landscape. Rhea states that ‘it is an unabashed painting of the sun as creator and destroyer; it turns from emanating to sucking, drawing in. It is our environment unfenced and unboxed, becoming overseer and master.’

Even where the sun is not seen, as in Summer Festival, its presence is felt in the eerie glow of the sky. Elsewhere her fantastical landscapes may be of night-time scenes, but they all possess a magical appeal which is well worth seeing.

With prices for a substantial canvas (say about 100cm square) being around the £3-3,500 + VAT  mark this seems like a low price which wont be around for long.

For more information contact me or visit www.rollart.com

newspeak 2 at saatchi – who do the critics love?

3 December 2010 § 2 Comments

Jonathan Wateridge Jungle

Following on from a similar look at the Saatchi Gallery’s Newspeak Part 1, here is an overview of the critics verdicts on the artists featured in Part 2 – both positive and otherwise. Sadly analysis fairly limited in scope due to relative absence of critical reviews of the show. The favourites are at the top of the list, the clunkers at the bottom, with about twenty artists ignored entirely.

Dick Evans has produced a dark brooding wave of black silicon carbide, reminiscent of Hokusai’s Great Wave off Kanagawa. Toss in a crushed can and some fag ends and it has an undeniably ‘dark brooding aura’ loved by Metro and the Mirror. The Telegraph use it as their leading image.

Maurizio Anzeri embroiders and partially obscures vintage photographs. The result is ‘arresting and unsettling’ (Metro) and ‘exotic, mysterious and disturbing’ (Mirror).

Anna Barriball aims to provoke mystery in the familiar. She succeeds. A wardrobe is covered in black tape – it becomes a memory or void. A door is covered with tracing paper, repeatedly rubbed ‘broods with an ominous glamour.‘ (Independent).

Anthea Hamilton’s assemblages extract the cubist elements from imaginary works to reveal them in their 3D strangeness. They work quite well and the Independent loved them, the Telegraph illustrated them.

Idris Khan’ s photographs overlay multiple images such as Becher’s iconic water towers to create impressionistic prints ‘amazing in their depth’ (Mirror). Delicate images have been created from soulless objects.

Anne Hardy photographs fictional scenes carefully built from scratch. Littered with ephemera they create an elaborate narrative of events, place and time. Mysterious and captivating, I agree with the Mirror’s approval.

Toby Ziegler ‘remakes a Seurat landscape … for the computer age’ (Telegraph). His geometric landscapes, devoid of humanity feature star-shaped leaves fall from pixelated trees. Every Saatchi visitor stopped, stared and photographed. Genuinely eye-catching.

Tessa Farmer in Swarm has created a glass case full of insects, which on closer inspection are ‘elaborately constructed fairies battling garden insects’  which the Mirror wonders are just bits of craft  that has not yet reached the guft shop. Rather cruel – especially as it was chosen as the articles leading image. One up to Tessa I would say!

Jonathan Wateridge’s oversized canvases of plane wrecks, Sandinistas and astronauts play on the accuracy of traditional paintings whilst adding contemporary elements, somewhat as Ged Quinn, but were criticised by the Mirror for ‘not going far enough.’ Their physical presence and easy interpretation will nevertheless make them popular with the public and no doubt we will see his work sell strongly at auction.

Alexander Hoda creates assemblages of junk which are covered in black latex to – well – to something. Unfortunately Hoda does not really seem to know himself – the artists comments in the Saatchi guide are a mish-mash of different ideas including (but not only) ‘exploring relationships, desires, and urges, to perceive them in different contexts rather than something that’s conditioned to be guilt-laden or perverted.’ Pardon? They left the Independent, and me, rather cold. Metro concurred as did the Mirror – at length!

Carla Busuttil gets the ‘wooden spoon’ for ‘total lack of talent’ from Brian Sewell at the Standard. It is hard to argue. The deliberate lack of draughtsmanship or painterly efforts do not seem to have any real aim or purpose other than to provoke.

There we go – all rather underwhelming. Let us now look eagerly forward to the British Art Show , currently at Nottingham until 9 January 2011 and from thence moving onward to Plymouth, Glasgow and London. Held every five years it hopes to be an overview of the development of British Art. Early reviews seem to be good – personally I am itching to see Christian Marclay’s The Clock, where some three thousand film clips featuring the time are collaged in a compelling 24 hour film.

london art fair gets ‘littlewhiteheaded’

1 December 2010 § Leave a comment

The London Art Fair used to be the city’s leading art fair until all of a sudden, back in 2003, Frieze leapt on to the scene. It is now a bit of sideline event – and it is far from happy! Not that it has done much about it, pottering along, much as it always has. The word is out that it wants to try to do something about it. Unless something very dramatic happens, like hell friezing over (see what I did there!), it is hard to see it ever get back to number one. Meanwhile it is making some noises about making the fair a little more, let us say, memorable.

Their first move has been revealed today by the young and go-ahead London dealers SamarriaLunn. Their artists littlewhitehead will be appearing throughout the exhibition, much as Simon Fujiwara’s brilliant archaeological ‘intervention’ at Frieze.

Craig Little, 29, and Blake Whitehead, 25, began working together after graduating from the Glasgow School of Art in 2007. Having become friends by default because “nobody else would speak to us”, their prerogative is to expose the inherent, unpleasant, and bleakly comic truths about society and the viewer.

The London Art Fair heralds the unveiling of their most provocative work to date: a Bible cast from the ashes of 90 copies of Mein Kampf. Doomed to enrage any number of religious groups, not to mention anybody who has ever taken a history lesson, this work is classic littlewhitehead. They claim that “to some extent, it doesn’t really matter that it’s made from the Bible and Mein Kampf”: The two books can merely exist as symbols for powerful and commonly adopted ideologies and more importantly, their destructive capabilities.

They have stated that “We don’t ever set out to offend, we just seem to have a knack for annoying people.” A favorite recent subject for the artists has been hostages. Victims are tied to chairs, bags pulled taut over their heads, knocked onto the floor and left there, helpless. They wait to be saved, only for nobody to come. These victims may well be hyper-real sculptures, but the stories on which they are based are real: unashamedly lifted from the newspapers and brought screaming into the physical world. In walking past the work as viewers, littlewhitehead demonstrate our choice to ignore, and in turn make us complicit in the act;

And even if their work fails to offend/impress then they at least have a new verb. To littlewhitehead – which I suggest means to be deeply disturbing – even when initially you are sometimes not sure quite why. We shall see!

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