Cecily Brown – Madrepora, Thomas Dane, London

4 July 2016 § Leave a comment

I want there to be a human presence without having to depict it in full” – Cecily Brown

Located mid way on the short stroll between two of St James’ art heavyweights – Christies, King Street and White Cube, Masons Yard – are the two spaces of the Thomas Dane Gallery. It is always well worth dropping by to see the latest exhibition and with artists like Walead Beshty, Michael Landy, Hurvin Anderson and Steve McQueen on the roster there is a good chance you will find something very special.



Showing for the first time at the gallery, we found the wonderful Cecily Brown. She has recently jumped ship from Gagosian no less, a move that shows the growing power of Thomas Dane. Brown is, and has been throughout her career, one of the most engaged and distinctive painters of our time. Her preoccupation has always been the Body – in all its various guises and narratives, fleshy shapes and forms appearing from her many layered works.


Brown’s paintings are immersive and her passion is contagious. She reminds us how great it is to look at art unhurriedly: the pleasure of contemplation and examination. Her paintings reveal themselves slowly, almost ‘continuously’.


Brown often talks about ‘Sublimation’, paraphrasing Francis Bacon who craved “the grin without the cat”, the “sensation” without the “boredom of its conveyance”. Something she calls a ‘Breaking-down’ process.


Recently we discover that Brown has been (re)looking at a particular painting, and has fallen in love with it all over again: Degas’ Young Spartans, from 1860, at London’s National Gallery. She brings Degas’ very recognisable, cluster of bodies, postures and composition into some of the work here.



Crowds are indeed very present for example – in the enigmatic Madrepora, 2015. The ghoulish assembly of The Smugglers, 2015, too could have sprung out of a James Ensor painting.


A series of ‘Dark’ paintings are reminiscent of the Spanish Masters and brings together Brown’s taste for the slightly macabre, or forbidden, with more risqué reclining male nudes.


Spanning both spaces of the gallery, the exhibition includes some of works from the past. These are cleverly hung alongside her sketches and allows us to add some history and context to her work. Her star must surely continue to rise.

Cecily Brown – Madrepora runs until 23 July 2016

For more information visit www.thomasdanegallery.com

Summer Exhibition Royal Academy, London

2 July 2016 § Leave a comment

This review is also posted in arts & culture magazine CELLOPHANELAND here

There is probably little point in making any sort of critical analysis of the latest Royal Academy Summer Exhibition. It is what it is, which to be honest is rather a mess. Pretty much every gallery is hung by a different curator and whilst it is interesting to see what they have done it is ultimately beside the point.

Summer Exhibition Royal Academy reviewed at www.CELLOPHANELAND.com

The whole show should rather be taken more at face value – an annual opportunity for the talented, enthusiastic, amateurish and hopeful to apply to have their work on the walls of the academy. Here they can rub shoulders with the latest pieces from the Royal Academicians in a gloriously anarchic jumble.

David Mach Summer Exhibition Royal Academy reviewed at www.CELLOPHANELAND.com

David Mach

Marina Abramovic Summer Exhibition Royal Academy reviewed at www.CELLOPHANELAND.com

Marina Abramovic – Carrying the Skeleton

This years ‘co-ordinator’ is the sculptor Richard Wilson best known for 20:50 – the oil filled installation at the Saatchi. He has invited twenty artistic duos to present their work within this years exhibition. We therefore have Gilbert & George with Beard Aware and Jane & Louise Wilson in the lobby stairwell with Chernobyl. 

Summer Exhibition Royal Academy reviewed at www.CELLOPHANELAND.com

Jane & Louise Wilson

Boyle Family Summer Exhibition Royal Academy reviewed at www.CELLOPHANELAND.com

Boyle Family – Elemental Study

There are other obvious duos like Jake & Dinos Chapman, Eva & Adele, Allora & Calzadilla, Bernd & Hilla Becher and Tim Noble & Sue Webster. Their presence however serves no real curatorial purpose and they are lost within the show – at best it is simply of interest to see some of their work.

Gilbert & George Summer Exhibition Royal Academy reviewed at www.CELLOPHANELAND.com

Gilbert & George – Beard Aware

Almost all of the pieces are of course for sale and it is quite a good opportunity to pick some work for your own walls. Prices of course vary considerably from a few hundred to a few hundred thousand, and for the uninitiated it is not always easy to spot the difference!

Anselm Kiefer Summer Exhibition Royal Academy reviewed at www.CELLOPHANELAND.com

Anselm Kiefer – Bose Blumen

For the first time the works are available to browse and buy online and we would highly recommend taking a look online before the show and before purchasing (link here).

Summer Exhibition Royal Academy reviewed at www.CELLOPHANELAND.com

George Shaw – Black Magic

For our part we loved a little George Shaw edition (we highly recommend his National Gallery exhibition reviewed here) , Marguerite Horner’s enigmatic painted landscapes and Tom Hunter’s Rose prize-winning photograph Winterville. Harry Hill had one of his witty celebrity-oriented works – a tattooed David Beckham (sold but we hear High House Gallery has work available).

Tom Hunter Summer Exhibition Royal Academy reviewed at www.CELLOPHANELAND.com

Tom Hunter – Winterville

Marguerite Horner Summer Exhibition Royal Academy reviewed by www.CELLOPHANELAND.com

Marguerite Horner – On the Edge

Harry Hill - David Beckham Summer Exhibition Royal Academy reviewed by www.CELLOPHANELAND.com

Harry Hill – David Beckham

With rather more to spend Gert & Uwe Tobias’ had two spectacular works and there was a bright Gillian Ayres, which all seemed reasonable value despite the big ticket prices as did Rose Wylie’s Spider, Frog & Bird.

Gert & Uwe Tobias Summer Exhibition Royal Academy reviewed by www.CELLOPHANELAND.com

Gert & Uwe Tobias – Untitled

The floor to ceiling ‘salon’ hang – which is the norm at the Summer Exhibition – makes for difficult viewing, but it is not often that so much (varied) talent is on view at the same time. Take it slowly and concentrate on works that catch your eye – we have posted a selection of those that caught ours – and you may just have a very enjoyable visit.

Summer Exhibition Royal Academy reviewed by www.CELLOPHANELAND.com

David Mach

Gary Lawrence Summer Exhibition Royal Academy reviewed at www.CELLOPHANELAND.com

Gary Lawrence – Cinque Terre with Runner Beans

The RA Summer Exhibition runs until 16 August 2016

Rose Wylie Summer Exhibition Royal Academy reviewed at www.CELLOPHANELAND.com

Rose Wylie – Spider Frog & Bird

For more information visit www.royalacademy.org.uk

George Shaw: My Back to Nature – National Portrait Gallery, London

18 June 2016 § Leave a comment

“The longer I spend here, the earthier and more profane the collection gets. Even the religious paintings eventually get down from their high horse and meet you on your level. It’s all sex, death, bowls of fruit and flowers, and the odd landscape. That may sound somewhat dismissive, but it’s kept artists busy for 700 years and continues to do so.” George Shaw

George Shaw: My Back to Nature, National Gallery LondonGeorge Shaw has spent the last two years as the latest Associate Artist at the National Gallery. Provided with a studio at the gallery his brief is to produce work that responds to art in the collection. A Turner Prize nominee in 2011, Shaw is well known for his paintings of the decaying and depressing post-war housing estates of Tile Hill, Coventry, where he grew up, and for his idiosyncratic medium – the sticky Humbrol enamel paint.George Shaw: My Back to Nature, National Gallery LondonFamously used for children’s Airfix kits, the use of this unusual paint has led to the assumption that he used to paint these models as a child. Shaw quickly puts us straight telling us that he never would have played with such mundane toys “I was upstairs trying to be a Velasquez or a Goya”.George Shaw: My Back to Nature, National Gallery London Living on a daily basis with artworks that that has admired throughout his career (“I still have my Thames and Hudson book on the National Gallery that my mum gave me for a birthday present in the early eighties” ) his first response to the residency was a series of charcoal sketches -14 self-portraits in the various poses taken up by Christ in traditional Stations of the Cross compositions, followed by other sketches and watercolours of trees.George Shaw: My Back to Nature, National Gallery London Positioned as the first thing the visitor encounters on entering the exhibition, Shaw encourages us to read his work as carrying other, deeper ideas, rather than being just a ‘rehash’ of traditional landscape imagery. Even woodland in the National Gallery paintings would be redolent with religious meaning – lone trees for example being instantly recognisable by a contemporary spectator as the crosses of Calvary. Indeed in illustration Shaw provides us with a stark and beautiful monochrome watercolour of three bare trees.George Shaw: My Back to Nature, National Gallery London Alluding to the theme of woodland in the collection, ‘My Back to Nature’ resonates with Shaw’s own experience of walking in the woods as a teenager, with the feeling that “something out of the ordinary could happen at any time there, away from the supervision of adults”. Looking through the National’s collection many of the paintings feature mythical events involving incidents outside the accepted norms of behaviour, including violence, illicit sex, and drunkenness that are in similar locations – woodlands near a town which we perhaps see, idealised, in a misty or hilly backdrop.George Shaw My Back To Nature National GalleryLike Cézanne’s BathersVelázquez’s Venus, and all the other great nudes in these halls, in the pastoral tradition, woods and fields are places of desire and dalliance – scenes of intense human drama. Perhaps the moment has just passed or is just about to happen. For Shaw it is a mark on the ground, trampling of leaves, the torn pages of an porn magazines.George Shaw: My Back to Nature, National Gallery London The School of Love by Correggio, is of Venus, Mercury and Cupid in a leafy bower – Shaw’s version is a striped mattress discarded in a clearing. In another a tree trunk drips with red paint: someone’s rage or someone’s private message.George Shaw: My Back to Nature, National Gallery London A year in to his residence Shaw ordered three large canvases – exactly the size of the Titian Metamorphoses in the gallery. His painted responses to them show firstly a dark and erotic clearing, in another the tree assaulted with red paint and finally a Titian-blue tarpaulin, dangling ghost-like from the arm of a tree. It is easy to see the religious parallels: life, death and the resurrection.George Shaw: My Back to Nature, National Gallery LondonA kid from a suburban housing estate gets unlimited access to the National Gallery’s collection. This was George Shaw’s dream come true and through this perhaps unlikely interaction comes an inspirational exhibition of a special quality.George Shaw: My Back to Nature, National Gallery London George Shaw: My Back to Nature, National Gallery London is on until 30 October 2016

For more information visit www.nationalgallery.org.uk

This post also appears on www.cellophaneland.com

investing in art – your own fakes, mistakes and discoveries

26 July 2010 § 1 Comment


Mark Tansey - Modern/Postmodern 1981

With the recent opening of the fascinating – if often incomplete –exhibition at the National Gallery in London entitled Close Examination; Fakes, Mistakes and Discoveries, it seems like a good idea to run through some key points to consider when buying, collecting or investing in art.

Please note that these are however just a few of the main guiding ‘rules’. Although all are brief many could be expanded  to fill a book, for every rule listed there is another that could be added and for each unbreakable ‘law’ there will be many notable exceptions. Please use as basic guidance and in future I will expand and expound.

1. Specialise. Find something you really like and try and find out all you know about it. Be your own ‘expert’ – enjoy researching and discovering all you can about the artist and their work.

2. Buy art you like. Better still, that you are passionate about. Don’t be tempted with something you don’t like but think is cheap or a good investment. A recipe for disaster!

3. Buy trademark works. Stick to the artists key styles, types of work. If an artists is famous for street scenes, don’t buy a nude. If his oils are world-renowned, don’t buy a watercolour. Fancy a Warhol gouache? I thought not.

3. Buy quality. Never buy second best. Even in a poor market the best will always resell – there will always be a collector who wants the best. It will keep its value better, and increase more than anything inferior. Cheap works are a false economy.

4. Use an expert & build a relationship. Would you buy a car off a kerbside trader? Yes? Then don’t invest in art! Use a consultant or stick to a gallery (or two) that you really trust. Find a specialist in your preferred style. Collections formed using the expertise of dealers, experts and consultants are always the best – look at any great collection of any visual arts or antiques and they are all done with a long-term relationship with an expert.

5. Be patient. The right works will not come along just like that. You may have to wait, build contacts, persuade, wheedle and charm. It is not always easy to get what you want!

6. Avoid editions. Unless you are using an expert try to avoid them. Not only are editions a minefield of over-priced and over hyped work – from Salvador Dali to Thomas Kinkade – but fakes abound. If you want something that will appreciate in value it is tougher when there may anything from 5 to 5,000 of them to appreciate – and that is just your particular edition. ‘Limited’ is hardly the way to describe them! ‘Signed’ – well, I should damn well hope so! Generally why not stick to unique works or, if you have to, very small editions.

7. Provenance. A difficult one. Provenance authenticates the work and can increase the value if it shows that it has been in important collections, with well-respected owners or featured in important auctions. Unfortunately much is faked. Ideally see original sales/auction receipts, gallery stickers, get the view of a recognised expert. Never buy without provenance and beware ‘Certificates of Authenticity’, most of which are not worth the paper they are written on.

8. Market hype. If everyone is talking about an artist and they are splashed around the papers, then you have probably missed the point to invest. If you have a work – it is the time to sell!

9. Watch trends. If, for example, India and Brazil are on everyone’s lips think very carefully about buying a Canadian artist (actually unless you live in Canada always think carefully about it!). If conceptual art is fashionable should you be buying a realist painting? Even if realism or Canadian artists start to get more recognition, your works were probably not significant when made and may never ‘catch up’ or be ‘relevant’.

10. Condition. Buy in the very best condition, and keep it like that! Display and store the work properly – and of course insure it.

There is so much more to say – but for more you will have to wait – other than for this one golden tip (do I really need to say it?) DON’T buy on Ebay!

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

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