Adrian Ghenie – Golems at Pace London

18 July 2014 § Leave a comment

Adrian Ghenie is one of the chief figures of The Romanian ‘Cluj School’ – comprising artists like Victor Man, Mircea Cantor and Ciprian Muresan – a painter who’s star has been rising exponentially since his relatively recent arrival on the art scene. His latest exhibition, Golems at Pace London, provides ample evidence of why he is so highly regarded.

Adrian Ghenie Golems Pace London

The golem is an animated anthropomorphic creature from Jewish folklore, created entirely from inanimate material; a doer of terrible deeds. Ghenie’s reference here is the creation of a radical idea in society – in this case Darwin’s – let loose to change the socio-cultural environment. Darwin’s personal story holds a special fascination for Ghenie; the skin condition and vomiting that afflicted him, his luxuriant beard and Victorian attire all afford a rich source of textural possibilities that reveal themselves in this series of portraits.

Adrian Ghenie Golems Pace London

The exhibition consists of a collection of new figurative works of Charles Darwin shown alongside the ‘Darwin Room’, an installation that consists of an assemblage of meticulously sourced 19th century furniture, wooden floor boards and wall panels. Taking the room’s composition from Rembrandt’s Philosopher in Meditation Ghenie has created a three-dimensional environment that perhaps at first glance resembles a two-dimensional painting. Led in by an assistant with torch one reaches a dark and gloomy and life-sized room that evokes an intriguing physiological atmosphere of anxiety and comfort. The only light is that of the ‘light of reason’ which shines brightly through a small, solitary window – the room therefore a prototypical site for visionary thought within European history.

Adrian Ghenie Golems Pace London

The installation itself devoid of figures. These are supplied by the impressive artworks in the adjacent room. Portraits of 20th century figures whose actions indelibly changed the course of history are a recurring theme in Ghenie’s work and to him the publication of The Origin of Species represents such an inflection point – his ideas stolen by despots and dictators and misappropriated.

Adrian Ghenie Golems Pace London

Ghenie presents himself in Self portrait as Charles Darwin, 2014 and he himself becomes the arbiter of scientific change, the cliché of the tortured intellectual, and the anamorphic threat of the Golem; the idea let loose to reek havoc. All of these elements are present in Ghenie’s Bacon-esque brush strokes. He highlights an era that questioned man’s significance, the existence of God, and the question of Creationism —through a use of paint that suggests the anamorphic nature of identity through the evolution of scientific understanding.

Adrian Ghenie Golems Pace London

These works however are not just introverted intellectual exercise or conceptual navel-gazing, they are visually stunning and beautifully executed. The merging of impressive technique with rigorous artistic thought process provides the viewer with a rich and stimulating experience that will enhance Ghenie’s reputation not only critically but in the auction houses of the future.

Adrian Ghenie Golems Pace London

Adrian Ghenie – Golems is at Pace London until 25 July 2014

ArtTactic Forecaster – and some art price guides

28 October 2013 § Leave a comment

For anyone who feels that they might be a dab hand at art investment its well worth taking a look at the new ArtTactic Forecaster – an online ‘guess the art price’ website. Yours Truly is of course competing assidously and is sitting comfortably and tactically at 6th overall (as absolutbargain!) – waiting to make a move for the top when the others aren’t looking. I’ll keep you updated!

Screen Shot 2013-10-28 at 18.17.43Sign up (for free) and every few days the site is updated with works each from a few new auctions. Auctions are worldwide, from the major auction houses and are categorised in to such area as Contemporary Photography, Contemporary Painting, Prints and Sculpture for example. Images, details and estimates are given for the works and using a slider you enter your own prediction for the sales price or estimate as a ‘No Sale’. After the sale you are marked school-style – a point for correct or a half point for close. ArtTactic then draws up league tables in each category as well as overall.

Screen Shot 2013-10-28 at 18.29.59It is of course ‘just for fun’ and is a very appropriate and sobering reminder of just how difficult it is to accurately forecast auction results. Get more than 2 of the 5 right and you’re probably moving up the league table! The difficulty is most clearly brought home by the fact that the auction houses themselves would be well down the tables if their estimates were counted as their entries in the competition. They might say that their estimates are often tactical rather than necessarily accurate – but then again they would wouldn’t they!

Screen Shot 2013-10-28 at 19.40.19There is a more serious aim to the competition of course as ArtTactic presumably aim to attract investors and collectors to their product. ArtTactic after all is an art market analysis firm that offers research and commentary on the ever-changing art world. As new markets emerge and tastes shift, ArtTactic wants to offer the expertise for your to keep a close eye current and future art investments supported by ‘up to the minute information from all corners of the globe.’

Screen Shot 2013-10-28 at 19.16.48It has competition of course, all with slightly differing angles and priorities. Here are the main – and pretty much only – contenders: MutualArt (my personal favourite) , ArtPrice (French, and appropriately awkward to use), Blouin Art Sales Index (and online magazine), Artnet (a US company who also run online auctions), Artfacts (includes a very useful and pretty accurate free-to-use  artist ranking guide), Artfact (no ‘s’ – where you can also bid on various online auctions) and Gordons Print & Photography Prices (now part of Blouin, produce annual printed guides).

Screen Shot 2013-10-28 at 19.18.31

Anyone who doesn’t plan to use an advisor or consultant when buying art (in truth by far the wisest way to invest) it would be very foolish indeed not to sign up to one of the premium packages available from one or more of these companies. A full auction record of any artist you are investing in is an absolute must and along with various guides to the performance of individual artists or different sectors allows an insight not otherwise available.

A final word of warning beware the free to use companies – some of whom like Artsy are very professional indeed, who purport to offer a guide to prices, when they are in reality more like a selling platform for art of very varying quality.

the british art show 1984

12 August 2011 § Leave a comment

I recently noticed an old show catalogue in a second-hand bookshop window. entitled The British Art Show.  At first I thought it referred to this years excellent Arts Council touring show – British Art Show 7: In the Days of the Comet, however, apart from acquiring a ‘The’, and losing a number, the older catalogue also had appended, in very small lettering,  Old Allegiances and New Directions 1979-1984.

This was therefore the second ever show (the first in 1979 and with some hiccoughs being held every five years) and I bought it to take a look at how things are changed. I was also intrigued as to how the featured artists careers have fared in the intervening years. I will leave analysis of the styles and techniques of the artists together with their themes, and influences to others more knowledgeable than I, but there some interesting points that are quickly apparent.

Anish Kapoor

The shows were created to present an overview of the previous five years work. The first in 1979 featured a whopping 112 artists, by 1984 it was down to 80 whilst by 2011 it was less of an overview and more of a curated show and down to just 39. It is also noticeable that the 1984 show featured many then-established names – half of the artists were aged over forty and many much older – and it is noteworthy to see just how many are now big names: Frank Auerbach, Gillian Ayres, Anthony Caro, Leon Kossof, RB Kitaj, John Hoyland, Paula Rego, Howard Hodgkin and many more.  In stark contrast this year it is a narrower, curated show with pretty much only the young guns who got a look in.

Peter Bailey

Essays in the book provide interesting contexts to the show. It is startling to be reminded of how much the post-war hegemony of the New York school was still a sore wound. Many of the artists featured had worked through obscurity whilst abstraction reigned supreme and it had only been in 1980 at the Venice Biennale that the American shackles had been truly thrown off. In England Bacon, Freud, Kitaj & Hockney were part of a figurative renaissance in the 1970’s and nobody was sure what post-modernism had brought – or even whether it had happened.

The essays are full of contradictions and contrasts – which reflect the title of the show and the work exhibited. Consider this statement: ‘The exhibition veers from figuration to abstraction, idea to object, observation to invention, recalcitrance to enthusiasm, sentiment to empiricism.’  Actually those words are taken from the 2011 show – but it is clear they apply equally to the works in 1984. True, many works had more obvious modernist influences but the post-modern era had arrived even if they were not too certain of the fact.

It is interesting to see the parallels to today regarding the oft-predicted ‘death of painting’. Through the fairly recent arrivals of performance art, minimalism and conceptual art some had felt that painting had had its day and there was now a brave new world of new artistic practice. Of course the ‘death’ never happened (and never will) and here in 1984 the biggest representation was for painters who made up about half the show (quarter in 2011).

About 50% of the young painters became established names: Gilbert & George, Graham Durward, Jock McFadyen, Adrien Wiszniewski and Tony Bevan for example. A pretty good talent-spotting rate but the sculpture hit rate is spectacular. There was a hugely talented British School of sculpture working at that time. Here is an (unedited) list of the young sculptors in the show: Helen Chadwick, Tony Cragg, Anish Kapoor, Richard Deacon, Shirazeh Houshiary, Anthony Gormley, Richard Wentworth, Bill Woodrow and Barry Flanagan. Wow – a hit-rate of 100%! OK I cheated and didn’t mention Stephen Johnson (sorry Steve), but an impressive list all the same.

There is also a hit rate of 10o% or film and performance – of relative ‘failure’ that is: Paul Bush, Sandra Goldbacher, Rose Finn-Kelsey, Gerald Newman, Jayne Barker and so on (perhaps those specialised in the field know them?) plus those practitioners with installations and mixed media are also almost entirely names that have slipped from memory.

Christian Marclay 24

So to 2011. Is there anything to learn? Which artists will be well-known in another 25 or so years and which art will be the best investment (usually the same but not always)? It is certainly hard to produce film and video art that is stands the test of time, but surely Christian Marclay‘s ’24’ will? Installation art is not often ‘easy’ – to store, exhibit, transport and so on – time again is not often kind.

Maaike Schoorel

If the younger painters of 1984 are anything to go by well over half of those showing in 2011 will be established names 27 years hence – and with only ten showing it is not a tough choice. Simple, powerful and well-executed pieces should have the easiest ride. My feeling is that Phoebe Unwin, Maaike Schoorel, George Shaw and Michael Fullerton‘s are fairly safe bets as painters as are Sarah Lucas, Roger Hiorns and Brian Griffiths’ sculptures, Wolfgang Tillmans‘ photographs and Christian Marclay’s film(s). Will I be right? In my inter-galactic cyber blog of 2038 I will let you know….

If you liked this post please make a comment or like it. If you like the blog please subscribe for regular updates (top right of page). Many thanks! akuta

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!

steady as she goes – analysis of NY sales results

17 November 2010 § Leave a comment

In the wake of the strong sales results in New York contemporary art sales last week the Art Market Monitor has made some very interesting comments.

They looked at the day sale market separately from the evening sales. Not only do the evening sales represent the fantasy-land of the art world but due to low lot numbers they are prone to being skewed by expensive individual works. The day sales have a larger number of lots and represent the core of the market and the majority of the collectors. Having removed the evening sales world inhabited by the super rich and potentially those least affected by the boom and bust cycle we can possibly look at current state of the wider art market.  The AMM noted:

Last week’s strong day sales posted very similar numbers to the Spring’s sales. Total volume in the day sales was $121 million in May and $122.6 million in November. The May sales had 800 lots find buyers and the November sales had 831 lots succeed. The average price for the day sales was slightly higher in May (at $151,318) than in November (at $147,572) but hardly a significant difference.

From 2007 to mid-2008 there was a dramatic rise in the average price of day sale works. The average price last week, however, was 40% below the bubble peak of Spring 2008. There seems to be a consolidation at the this 40% decline from the all-time highs. This should be seen as good news especially within the context of average prices having moved above the median level for the last five years for both sales cycles in 2010.

They also observe that by removing those boom and bust years from 2007 to 2009 we are left with a market that,  from 2006 to 2010 looks remarkably similar.

Coming after reassuring signs over the last six months one feels that we can now confidently say that we have reached the end of any ‘bust cycle’ and can look forward to a stable market with steadily increasing prices and renewed confidence in the market.

There has been some recent nonsensical talk of a move away from contemporary art and towards, for example, ‘modern masters’ but these results confirm further that this analysis was premature. The market for contemporary art is as strong as it has been in recent years, having felt the same stresses as other parts of the art market.

spotted at frieze – new young artists to watch

19 October 2010 § Leave a comment

It seems rather superfluous to note that once again that Frieze is the event of the UK art world calendar – but, there you go, I have just done it anyway. The game that everyone plays around the time of the fair is trying to spot the trends. Which artists are up, which are down, who is hottest, who is buying, who is not buying, and so on. It is a game that not only takes place in Frieze itself, but in the, ever-increasing, multiplicity of private views, auctions, exhibitions, parties, openings and satellite fairs that clog up the middle of October. 

Amongst other complications dealers and galleries will do their best to confuse the issue by talking up their own artists and increasing their perceived desirability by hanging work that is already sold (or not for sale) or keeping you holding for work that they had already planned to sell elsewhere.

It would take weeks to try to analyse all of the trends and even then, as I have suggested, it is far from clear. What is perhaps easiest to spot is which young artists seem to be on the up. I mention prices, despite a frequent feeling in the art world that it is somehow vulgar to do so. My feeling is that if you have a ‘shop’ and sell objects it is rather pretentious not to. I also note them as a kick up the arts aims to look at investing in art as well as aesthetics – to create a collection, sadly, you need to pay! Revealing my preference for painters and oil, here are my top six:

6. William Daniels. Hardly ’emerging’ but his stock is rising well with a nice selection of paintings selling out at Vilma Gold gallery. Some questions of whether he is a little ‘stuck in a rut’ with his style and subject very much the same over the last few years. Not greatly prolific however, so the market is not flooded. Prices creeping up from a few £k in to the tens.

5. David Smith. Already has had three solo shows in the last four years at the good-at-spotting-upcoming-talent Carl Freedman Gallery just round the corner from White Cube Hoxton. Mesmerising paintings that drip with feeling. All works sold quickly at about £12-14k

4. Simon Fujiwara. You could not help seeing his Frozen ‘intervention’ which you would, almost literally, trip over throughout the Fair. Based on the conceit that the fair was built over a newly-discovered Roman city, mini ‘excavations’ were exposed around the site. One ‘important’ section of the dig even had a resident ‘archaeologist’ busily working with towel, tweezers or magnifying glass on the latest discovery. Priceless.

3. Lesley Vance. Reputable LA gallery David Kordansky devoted a large section of their stand to a display of Vance’s modestly sized abstracts. Working back from photographs of still lifes she creates dense and atmospheric works. Needless to say – all sold at over £10k

2. Jessica Dickinson was exhibited in the Frieze Frame section showcasing young artists. Shown by NY gallery James Fuentes Dickinson’s airy, pastel-coloured abstractions involved layering and reworking to reveal a sense of time or even timelessness. The works reminded me of Makiko Nakimura at the small Albemarle Street Gallery –  John Martin – also worth a look . Both must be seen in real life as images fail to show the depth of work. Price of Dickinson £?, Nakamura £3 to 9k.

1. Simon Fullerton. Another Carl Freedman artist who has had a recent solo exhibition at the charitable Chisenhale Gallery space. Fullerton’s enigmatic, undeniably attractive, portraits each have a hidden story. The stories are usually of loss, sadness or exploitation. Just over £12k, and  no doubt rising soon, for the portraits.

the souls – damien hirst at paul stolper

10 October 2010 § Leave a comment

Whatever you think of Mr Hirst, there is one thing for sure – he is not going to fade away. His latest exhibition opened last week to reveal some 340 different butterflies (not all on display), each in signed editions of 15 – a grand total of some 5,100 prints. At £3,000 (plus VAT) a pop it is not a bad return for the bad boy of British Art but, on the other hand, it is a relatively modest outlay to get your hands on an attractive original Hirst. It will not make anyone a fast buck, but should also hold its modest value reasonably well. 

For someone who suffers from mild Lepidopterphobia (roughly translated as a fear of butterflies), it was with more than a little trepidation that I made my way to the Paul Stolper gallery in a beautiful Bloomsbury Street for the opening of The Souls by Damien Hirst last week. Thankfully my fears were alleviated as soon as I stepped into the beautiful pale, bright room containing floor to ceiling white frames encasing hypnotic shimmering butterflies.

As this was an exhibition of editioned prints, I was prepared for feelings of cynicism but was actually most surprised at how much I genuinely liked them. The four different shapes of butterfly together with the kaleidoscope of 84 different colour combinations were overwhelmingly beautiful. The foil-blocking of each butterfly has been done in three stages and then the base colour print received two more iridescent layers which highlight the detail on the patterned wing or body. Some butterflies comprise three colours, some two and others just one. The striking thing about each however, is that the image changes depending on where you’re standing. Even a matt wing glitters if you move an inch or two to the right or left.

Grouped in sets of four, the layout is reminiscent of Andy Warhol’s Flowers exhibition first displayed in 1964. You choose a favourite and then upon walking around the gallery, immediately your choice has been superseded with a new favourite – impossible! I expected to stay ten minutes and instead, remained for an hour just gawking at these objects of immense beauty and fragility.

Hirst was as usual confronting the balances between life and death. I, on the other hand, was confronting my secret admiration for these elegant insects. In fact I would love to buy a print if only I could decide which one.

Lost Souls runs until 13 November 2010.

For further information please visit:

gold or gamble – portraits as investment

29 September 2010 § 2 Comments

I have just been reading the last part of a very (perhaps overly) long six-part ‘art market blog’ by Nicholas Forrest (link) on the value of portraits as ‘art market currency’. The basic premise of the feature is that art can be divided in to two markets that behave differently – one market is based on portraits, the other on contemporary art. He equates this duality with the financial markets where gold behaves in a different way to the fiat (ie: trust, paper) currency market.

In respect of gold he says: ‘The market for classical figurative works of art resembles the gold standard because of the intrinsic value many of these works …. Regardless of what happens to the art market or to the artists reputation, such [works] will always have value; just as currency backed by gold will always have value regardless of what happens to the economy of the country.’

On the other hand for contemporary art the value ‘is dictated by the galleries who sell the work…. Just like with fiat currency, if people lose faith in a contemporary artist then their work is severely devalued, or even rendered worthless.’

He makes three concluding points summarised as:

1. The long-term value is linked to the extent to which one can disassociate the work of art from the artist, and the extent to which one can assign value to the actual characteristics of the art object as an independent entity.

2. Portraits have a future-proof intrinsic value because of their status as historical documents. It is this sort of intrinsic value that makes the portrait a good candidate for use as currency.

3. It is possible to take a strategic and mathematical approach that virtually guarantees success over the long-term. This sort of approach requires discipline, patience and objectivity.

It is an excellent article but there are some huge holes in the debate. He only really looks at two very limited parts of the art market – classical portraits and contemporary art. Portraiture itself, even in Classical times was not evenly spread over both time and space. Modern and contemporary portraits are ignored even when they fulfil his criteria as ‘documents’. Is a modernist portrait by Van Gogh or Matisse not as safe an investment as a ‘Classical’ portrait? It is not clear if sculptural portraits, etchings, pencil sketches etc are included in the argument (he usually refers to classical paintings). The reasoning for ignoring other artwork that could be considered as ‘historical documents’ – such as commissioned paintings of places, events and perhaps animals, – is not given. Portraits are selected as ‘a genre’ that will always have a value – but what about, and why not, other genres? Are they actually as stable in value as is suggested? Portraits too have had period where they were deeply unfashionable and had little value – including quite recently. Further, is the contemporary art market really controlled by the galleries?

I also have some problems with point 3 : an ‘approach that virtually guarantees success.’ What!? Please Nicholas, give us just a little clue in to the methodology of this amazing ‘strategic and mathematical approach’ to a sure-fire fortune. Unfortunately this is something that was not given over the course of the six posts.

I do have a reason for making these points however and it is that this line of argument has a certain appeal. Classical portraiture as a genre seems not bo be liable to the boom and bust cycles that bedevils some parts of the market, although it could be said that the same might apply to 19th century railway engravings or 18th century dog etchings. It could also be argued that a part of the market that can be considered to act in the same as gold is rather pointless, unless you have lots of empty wall space to fill – why not buy gold instead?

The main point is of course where purchased within a portfolio portraiture could create a stable ‘core’. If their value could be shown to be more stable than other parts of the market then this would be useful. From my position – admittedly outside the Classical art market – I have not seen this stability clearly enough – I would need to see much more evidence that portraits are the ‘way to go’. Until then I will stick to the – admittedly difficult – task of looking for works that should appreciate in value and where a stable value can be viewed as a useful ‘failure’!

pordenone montanari art – all hype, no talent

19 September 2010 § 1 Comment

Pordenone Montanari

One again the ‘art’ of Pordenone Montanari’ has reared its ugly head. The Sunday Times this morning (and others?) have picked up on the PR machine ramblings of an Indian Venture Capitalist. Did we trust these city financial speculators when they caused the meltdown of the world’s banking systems? Do we trust them now? Do we believe them when they talk about art?

This once again extracted from my post on 18 August this year:

“Indian investor Arun Rangachari, chairman of venture capital firm DAR Capital, has purchased the rights to the entire life’s work of a reclusive Italian artist by the name of Montanari, who has lived in seclusion for the past 18 years. Rangachari is building up an art collection, of which the work of Montanari will play a significant part, with the intention of setting up an art fund in the future. Before selling any of the paintings, Rangachari plans to increase the value of Montanari’s work by holding exhibitions and building a foundation dedicated to the artist’s work.”

For the full story see my two previous posts on this particularly insidious piece of hype:

Pordenone Montanari – Genius or Senile Dauber?

Pordenone Montanari – Postscript

Just in case my view is not clear – that this artist has any talent is merely the PR work of a businessman – with no interest or knowledge of art – who is using his wealth to try and make a quick buck. There is no evidence whatsoever that the Mr Rangachari has ‘bought’ any paintings at all and even less that he has paid ‘seven figures’ for them. The Sunday Times should be ashamed in that repeating this rubbish they are giving this hyped-up story undeserved credence. As for the Italian institute in London that is showing them – whose advice did they listen to and what funding and/or ‘donation’ are they receiving to further peddle this rubbish upon us?

In case you still have any doubts, illustrated is another of his works of ‘genius’ – a strange mish-mash of barely distinguishable objects in a vaguely sub-cubist palette and style that might have been of passing interest in 1910, but not now thanks.

the krays, adolf hitler and von ribbentrop’s watch (by marks & gran)

25 August 2010 § Leave a comment

If you like this post please make a comment or like it. If you enjoy the blog please sign up for regular updates (right). Thanks akuta

To continue on from the theme initiated in the last post there is the difficult question on the moral rights and wrongs of owning works by villains of various types. I certainly had some initial misgivings about my modest purchase of a signed copy of Kray Poems, despite the relatively low rating on the international ‘evil’ scale of these archetypal London hoodlums. What was my deeper motivation behind owning a Kray Twins  ‘souvenir’?  Naturally we are all intrigued by the mentality of – let us not beat about the bush – deranged and brutal murderers – whilst being strangely attracted by their notoriety. In the end I felt that their murderous tendencies had by now been long been subsumed by their kitsch value. They are now little more than cartoon twins with dark glasses and suits, Hale & Pace’s ‘Management’, a spoof representation of the 1960’s East End. Ultimately my little book is little more than a perverse ‘joke’ on the lack of intelligence of the average post-war gangster – The Thoughts and Poems of Ronnie Kray – Thoughts? Are you kidding me!

Somewhat higher up on the naughty list is someone like Adolf Hitler, who was a notorious dauber of course, refused entry to art school in Vienna before a slight change in direction. Thirteen works of his sold in Shropshire last year for £95,000, whilst in 2008 Mark & Dinos Chapman overpainted another thirteen watercolours bought for £115,000 before re-selling them for £685,000 stating that they were redeeming the work rather than Hitler – the exhibition entitled If Hitler Had Been A Hippy How Happy Would We Be. White Cube were forced to announce that they would be ‘extremely careful’ as to who the works were sold to. Whilst I could never imagine owning a Hitler watercolour I love the way the Chapmans have seized these works from the realm of the Nazi memorabilia collectors.  Now ‘recreated’  in the art world they brilliantly destroy their previous nazi-sympathiser associations and, in their new incarnation, are highly desirable and guilt-free! For an interesting Sunday Times article about Hitler art at auction click here.

I recently discovered another, rather ingenious, way to assuage guilt over ownership of an item of dubious provenance. Over an entertaining dinner with Laurence Marks of the Marks & Gran writing team (famous for Birds of a Feather, New Statesman etc) he described his dilemma upon discovering that he was the unwitting owner of a piece of very valuable nazi memorabilia. An innocently bought watch had turned out to be a relic from the notorious Nazi Von Ribbentrop. Despite excitement over the value (some £50,000) writing partner and family were quite naturally mortified and alarmed at the potential attraction of the watch to collectors of Nazi memorabilia as well as the problem of explaining away their ownership of such an item. How could one dispose of it? Should one sell it at all? Should it be destroyed? The ingenious solution was to write a play, Von Ribbentrop’s Watch, based on the story whilst the watch would be consigned securely to a bank vault, never to be sold or seen. Opening at the Oxford Playhouse (9-18 September) it is then touring, via Richmond Theatre, before reaching the West End. If the story is half as interesting or amusing as the snippets that I have heard so far it will be one to – let us say – watch!

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