The Worlds Best Auction Search & Valuation Site – barnebys

6 November 2015 § Leave a comment

Online auctions are big business. We all know of course about Ebay which started as a local experiment and astonished even its founder as it evolved to cover almost anything that anyone could imagine. Many other online-only sale platforms as well as proprietary auction house live bidding sites have appeared on the web since but many have assumed that the online auction model would never work for big ticket items like blue chip fine art or collectable automobiles.

They were wrong. Despite being late to the party the major auction houses have now all realised that you can indeed sell anything of any value on the web and they too have jumped on the bandwagon. The whole panoply of art, culture and design from $1 to $100 million is now available online.

Naturally with choice comes complication. A search for a photograph by, say, Terry O’Neill could easily take hours via checks upcoming auctions at multiple houses and still be incomplete. It was this growing problem that actually led a Swede, Christian Barnekow, to develop a way to search easily across multiple auctions. barnebys was the result and is now the biggest of its type in the world. It now covers hundreds of thousands of lots from over 1000 auction houses – a number increasing daily – and makes a complex search achievable in seconds – it is an invaluable resource that we use here almost daily.

Another familiar problem for potential buyers is that once you’ve found a Terry O’Neill you need to know its value? Up to now expensive subscriptions to companies like Artnet and Mutualart were needed for, not always satisfactory, access to their databases. A free search at barnebys ‘realised prices’ instantly supplies over a hundred full Terry O’Neill auction records between 1998 to now and allows a quick and easy comparison of other similar works. How brilliant is that?

The auctions, and results, are subdivided in to around thirty different categories across the world of art, design and culture and include for example Fashion & Vintage, Jewellery & Gems, Photographs, Sculpture and Furniture & Design and its a great place to search for affordable designer furniture or perhaps a designer handbag. You can search by any key word, product or select individual auction houses and sales to browse through.

There are many other useful features accessed via the barnebys site including access to a blog with trends, news article and ideas. Last but not least is a free valuation service – simply send details of your item via an online form (here) – and details are forwarded to auction house experts for an appraisal.

We particularly like the website layout which is clear, nicely arranged and easy to use. All in all barnebys should be saved on any everyone’s ‘favourite’ websites.  Now, maybe I’ll just put a sly bid on that Picasso ‘La Gommeuse’ at £38 million or perhaps the Warhol Marilyn Monroe instead – a snip at around £100k?

For more information visit

lost picassos found – honest guv, they wuz gifts!

29 November 2010 § Leave a comment

It appears that a batch of  ‘missing’ Picassos has been discovered in the possession of a retired electrician Pierre Le Guennec, who worked on Picasso’s Cote d’Azur properties. It seems that he holds around 271 (yes, two hundred and seventy-one!) never previously seen works that including notebooks, nine cubist collages and paintings from Picasso’s “blue” period.

Their estimated worth has been put at around 60 million euros (about £50 million) – with the nine cubist works at £33 million alone. Unusually for an early ‘snap’ estimate this seems quite reasonable – or even low. What sort of value could one put on a contemporary notebook for example?

Picasso cubist collage

The electrician had contacted the Picasso estate to verify that the works were genuine – as they indeed were – but he also got a call from the police for his trouble. They responded by confiscating the lot. Le Guennec argued that the works were gifts from Picasso, but the estate rejected his claim stating that ‘Picasso was reasonably generous, but he always kept a date, signed and dedicated his donations to whom they were destined for, as he knew that sometimes they would be sold to help resolve economic problems’.

Picasso’s son, Claude, said that he called the police to prevent division of the collection. His lawyer has also insisted that Picasso had never made donations as generous, implying that this could be treated as theft.

One wonders how anyone could steal 271 items without being noticed and surely it will be impossible for the family estate to prove theft. My suspicion is that the works will soon be back with the electrician and, not long after that, they should be gracing the catalogue of a forthcoming Sotheby’s sale!

Les Templiers Bar Collioure

Le Guennec ‘s claim is reminiscent of the gifting of works by impoverished artists to any number of cafes, bars and guesthouses. Of these I highly recommend a trip to the delightful French village of Collioure close to the Spanish border. Drop in to (you can also stay) Les Templiers for a glass of Banyuls with the locals whilst admiring some of the hundreds of gifted works from the likes of Dufy, Mucha and Dali that grace the walls. Fantastic – and definitely not stolen!

the best art jokes

3 September 2010 § 7 Comments

Mark Tansey - Modernism, Postmodernism

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

The recent widely reported ‘Best Joke’  of the Edinburgh Festival 2010 prompted me to compile a list of the best art jokes. Artists have always mined a rich vein of humour and used it in a multiplicity of ways.

Maurizio Cattelan

There is even a very serious book on the subject – The Artists Joke which looks comprehensively at the subject via such artists as Maurizio Cattelan, Marcel Duchamp, Fischli & Weiss, Hannah Höch, Mike Kelley, Martin Kippenberger, Barbara Kruger, Sarah Lucas, Paul McCarthy, Bruce Nauman, Claes Oldenberg, Francis Picabia, Pablo Picasso and Ed Ruscha. However, I will avoid any further academic discussion on humour in art – let us get to the jokes!  Counting down  accompanied by a few more obvious arty visual jokes at the same time:

David Shrigley - I Am Dead

5. There was an artist who worked from a studio in his home. His model showed up at the usual time and, after exchanging the usual small talk, began to disrobe for the day’s work. The artist told her not to bother, since he had a bad cold. He added that he would pay her for the day anyway, but that she could just go home; he just wanted some hot tea with lemon and honey.

The model said, “Oh, please, let me fix it for you. It’s the least I can do.” He agreed, and told her to fix herself a cup as well. They were sitting in the living room chatting and enjoying their tea, when he heard the front door open and close, and then some familiar footsteps. “Oh my!” he whispered loudly, “It’s my wife! Quick! Take all your clothes off!”

Richard Prince

4.  A wealthy man commissioned Pablo Picasso to paint a portrait of his wife. Startled by the non-representational image on the final canvas, the woman’s husband complained, “It isn’t how she really looks.” When asked by the painter how she really looked, the man produced a photograph from his wallet. Returning the photography Pablo observed, “Small, isn’t she?”

Alison Jackson - Queen

3. A guy passes and artist standing next to a small hole in the wall yelling, “FIVE FIVE FIVE FIVE”.
Interested the guy bends down and looks in the hole. Instantly the man is poked in the eye with the sharp end of a paint brush and runs off in pain. The artist stops yelling “FIVE FIVE FIVE” and starts yelling “SIX SIX SIX SIX”.

2. Recently a guy in Paris nearly got away with stealing from the Louvre. However, after escaping with the goods, he was captured only two blocks away when his van ran out of fuel. When asked how he could mastermind such a crime and then make such an obvious error, he replied: “I had no Monet to buy Degas to make the Van Gogh.”

1. Vincent van Gough walks into a bar, and the bartender offers him a drink…
No thank you, said Vincent, I’ve got one ‘ere.

… And those ‘best’ Edinburgh jokes (or should we say one-liners)? Here are the top four:

Harry Hill - PBW's birthday treat

1) Tim Vine – “I’ve just been on a once-in-a-lifetime holiday. I’ll tell you what, never again.”

2) David Gibson – “I’m currently dating a couple of anorexics. Two birds, one stone.”

3) Emo Philips – “I picked up a hitchhiker. You’ve got to when you hit them.”

4) Jack Whitehall – “I bought one of those anti-bullying wristbands when they first came out. I say ‘bought’, I actually stole it off a short, fat ginger kid.”

Alison Jackson - Rubik's Cube

The last word however has to go to Picasso, as sharp as any stand-up confronting a heckler:  During World War II an inquisitive German officer was harassing him in his Parisian apartment. Noticing a photograph of Guernica lying on a table he asked the artist “did you do that?” “No, you did,” responded Picasso.
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liverpool galleries – a day trip

31 August 2010 § Leave a comment

Adrian Wiszniewski

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

Liverpool has never been very high on my radar as a spot to consider for a flying visit. Naturally, as all Southerners know, any northern town is obviously grimy, dirty and highly dangerous – if the muggers do not get you then, in time, the pies, chips and fried Mars bars will reap their toll! Next is the weather. It is of course icy cold and rains all the time – not just in nice quick falls but in a steady, penetrating wind-blown sort of way that lasts for days, especially around Liverpool. As if that was not enough it also is such a bloody long way – I do not know how far of course, but I do know for certain that it is way, way too far to consider travelling anywhere north of the Watford Gap except in the case of an extreme emergency. And as for a day trip – fuhgeddaboutit!

That is until yesterday. Tempted by the Picasso: Peace and Freedom at the Liverpool Tate I had a couple of weeks ago looked at the possibility of a brief trip. Initially I had considered an overnight stay but after checking out the trains I discovered, to my amazement, that it only takes just a fraction over two hours from Euston to reach Liverpool Lime Street – a station that is not on the edge of the city but bang in the heart of town, next to the fabulous Walker Gallery. Then the price – plan ahead and it is a bargain £22 return. Sold! Walking shoes on foot, plastic mac and thermos in backpack and city map in hand I ventured northwards.

The 1854 neo-classical St Georges Hall is the first stop – you virtually trip over it as you step out of the station. Fortunately open (not always so), it is the one of the finest buildings of its type in Britain. The main hall is stunning, although sadly the amazing Minton floor is usually covered with a protective wooden parquet. From here it is just a few yards to the  Walker Gallery, the ‘National Gallery’ of the north, with its exceptional collection of pre-Raphaelite art. There are fine works by all the major artists of the period: Lord Leighton, Gabriel Rosetti, Holman Hunt, Albert Moore and many more – all very Victorian and very British. Suddenly, right out of the blue, appears an 1891 Giovanni Segantini – my Italian co-traveller nearly fell over backwards. A smaller version of a much larger Italian one (I forget where) it is a beautiful symbolist work. Here is what the Walker say about it:

Segantini - The Punishment of Lust

The souls of the women are depicted floating against a snowy background based on the Swiss Alps where Segantini spent much of his life. The grandeur and spirituality of the Alps was a constant inspiration to Segantini whose last words before he died were: “I want to see my mountains”.  In the painting the spirits of the women are punished for having committed the sin of abortion consciously or by neglect.

We were a couple of weeks too early to see the entries for the next John Moores Painting Prize so we settled for an exhibition of previous winners. It was an impressive selection that included the likes of  David Hockney, Peter Doig, John Hoyland and Peter Davies. One could have done much worse than buy up a work buy each winner as they were announced – you would certainly have made a few bob! I liked the work by the Glaswegian School artist Adrian Wizniewski (pictured at top of post) whilst the 1993 winning work from Peter Doig was a lovely work called ‘Blotter’ for which you would need some £2m at auction today. This is what the artist says about it:

‘Blotter’ was painted from a photograph I took of my brother standing on a frozen pond. The reflection was enhanced by pumping water onto the ice. It is a variation of earlier paintings that have been more reliant on the imagination. The title refers to (amongst other things) the notion of one’s being absorbed into a place or landscape, and to the process through which the painting developed: soaking paint onto the canvas. The figure is deliberately shown looking down into the reflection; this is to suggest inward thought, rather than some sort of contemplation of the scene.”

Next stop was the fine Bluecoats Gallery for Arabcity: Such a Near East where six Middle Eastern artists who ‘explored cultural heritage from unique perspectives’. Most interesting were Chant Avedissian, with witty Elizabeth Peyton-like  portraits of stars and commoners alike, and Ayman Balbaaki’s cityscapes. Two worth watching.

Via a gawk at the Cavern Club, its beer-sticky street and the tourist throng we took a stroll down to the Tate. I will not review the Picasso exhibition  – because firstly, it ended yesterday and secondly, it has already been reviewed to death, but I will just make a couple of observations. Although it was interesting and neatly brought together elements of Picasso’s political and post-war work one has to say there was a certain amount of , let us call it ‘Picasso Blindness’. An exhibition of Picasso’s wine-stains or phlegm-traces I feel are nowadays uncritically hailed as further examples of his genius. I do not buy it. This was a moderately interesting, comprehensive and competent exhibition of a period of Picasso’s work. There were a handful of great works, a few moderate ones and a bunch of ‘fillers’. It was reasonable.


The DLA Piper Series: This is Sculpture also only just makes the grade. Supposedly ‘curated’ by Michael Craig-Martin it is nothing more than a seemingly random selection of every, broad, aspect of sculptural practice –  ‘one of each’ is the mantra here. And as for the headphones with random dance tracks – what were they thinking? There were however some excellent works that could be selected from the ‘mess’ and made a trawl around the three rooms well worthwhile.  A tremendous Lipchitz was my pick.

Finally, we took a look at the two contrasting and despite ther ugliness, strangely appealing, Cathedrals – the dour red block of the Anglican Cathedral and the modernist crown of the Catholic. The climax of the day was a pint in the wonderful Philharmonic pub to admire the ornate Victorian decor and capped off a wonderful day. Oh – and Ialmost forgot to mention that it was hot and sunny all day and although the muggers did not get us the greasy chip shop did! I must go again soon.

cat, dog or chimp – the battle for best animal art!

27 August 2010 § 3 Comments

I have recently seen some quite remarkable cat art. I should firstly make clear that when I say ‘cat art’ I actually mean art made by cats, rather than of cats. The paintings naturally, I suppose,  show a preponderance of expressionistic sweeping paw strokes together with pointillist dabbing. Varying in style from abstract through to abstract impressionism the paintings actually show a quite remarkable sense of colour and feeling for space. 

It was quite a revelation, bearing in mind that the only animal art I have seen before was by Congo the chimp (see later!). My revelation was courtesy of the wonderful book Why Cats Paint by Burton Silver & Heather Busch. Impressively illustrated with a broad selection of varied paintings by different cat ‘artists’ it is divided in to a number of chapters which investigate the phenomena of these talented felines. It includes the abstract expressionist Minnie, the trans-expressionist Bootsy as well as Ginger the neo-synthesist. There are critics though who feel that the book did not go far enough. Here are the thoughts of  Jon Torkelson: 

‘Influential feline artists are discussed and their work reprinted in glorious detail. There is, however, a strong bias towards the mainstream of cat art. Important, indeed vital, underground movements are completely ignored. The street art of alley cats is sadly overlooked, perhaps reflecting the authors deference to the curators of that ivory tower, the Museum of Non Primate Art. Also lacking is any serious discussion of Queer Theory, so vital in the deconstruction of any mammalian artistic representations. Yet in spite of these flaws, Why Cats Paint remains an important and influential volume that no connoisseur of feline aesthetics can afford to ignore. 

At this stage some of you may be a little sceptical but before you dismiss the talents of feline artists may I respectfully suggest that you take a look at the MONPA (the Museum of Non-Primate Art) web site. This covers topics like the history of feline art, uncovering fakes, discovering the latent talent in your own moggies and a list of upcoming exhibitions. There are also a couple of video clips showing a couple of pussy Picassos in full flow. I certainly learnt a lot including the existence of cat markings from the 5,000 year-old Aperia scrolls. All highly impressive and convincing. And yet… 

So can you see what it is yet? Yes, sadly it is all an elaborate hoax. From the book to the museum, website and the elaborately constructed history of the art it is all fake. I do have to admit that it was so cleverly done and with such excellent illustrations that I was briefly taken in by the whole thing. Oh, how I wish it was all true. How I tried to convince myself that it was! I longed to believe in a talented Tiddles dancing around his multi-coloured canvas, coat paint-spattered and crazy-eyed like some latter-day Jackson Pollock. Alas, it was not to be. But the book is still a great christmas gift! You can even buy its companion edition – Why Paint Cats? Fantastic! 

Tillamook Cheddar 2010

Of course anything that cats can do dogs can do better – and for real. Most famous is Tillamook Cheddar whose fame extends to an entry in Wikipedia and dozens of TV and media appearances. The art looks great too even if its production (as shown on youtube) involves a fair amount of DIA (Destruction In Art)! Also featured in a number of US publications and TV shows are the Shore Service Dogs (similar to Guide dogs in the UK). Trained to hold a brush between their teeth and mark a canvas the results are actually not dissimilar to those of Ginger the imaginary neo-synthesist. Here a video of ‘Sammy’ in full flow: 


Now on to Congo the painting chimp. Nope, not a hoax either. This is the genuine thing – a 100% genuine primate Picabia, a real monkey Matisse. With the encouragement of renowned zoologist (and quite talented) surrealist painter Desmond Morris Congo forged quite a lengthy and succesful career in the art world. This from Wikipedia: 

Desmond Morris first observed his abilities when the chimp was offered a pencil and paper at two years of age. Morris soon observed that the chimp would draw circles, and had a basic sense of composition in his drawings. He also showed the ability of symmetrical consistency between two sides of a sketch; when Morris drew a shape at one side of a piece of paper, Congo would balance the structure by making marks on the other half of the paper. Similarly, if a color on one side contained blue for example, he would add blue to the other side as well to keep balance. By the age of four, Congo had made 400 drawings and paintings. His style has been described as “lyrical abstract impressionism“. 

Pollock at work

His artistic career continued in leaps and bounds, so to speak. Picasso was a fan and had a painting hanging on the wall of his studio. Miro swapped two of his for one of Congo’s and Salvador Dali declared that Congo was human whilst Pollock was actually the animal! Other works have made their way to auction, the Artnet website revealing a reasonably robust record,the climax so far being at Bonhams in 2005 when three paintings sold for a remarkable £14,400 leading to all sorts of newspaper headlines (Art World Goes Wild, Chimp not a Chump and so on). I sadly missed bidding on one I spotted at Christie’s last year – the price a quite reasonable £750 – however I shall keep my eye open for the next one and will naturally be hoping to pick it up for something around a monkey*! 

* Cockney slang for £500 

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