Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Art sales: retrospectives flower in Scotland

Edinburgh's commercial galleries give a retrospective flavour to events of the summer's Festival, with collections from former National Gallery artist in residence Jock McFadyen and Charles Rennie Mackintosh.

Yellow Tulips by Charles Rennie Mackintosh. Yellow Tulips by Charles Rennie Mackintosh. 

Edinburgh is a city steeped in history, and while much of the flavour of the sponsored events of the summer’s Festival is to do with the new, there is a distinctly retrospective flavour to events in the commercial galleries.
The Open Eye Gallery, for instance, looks back over the stormy career of John Bellany, who has just turned 70, anticipating a major retrospective at the National Galleries of Scotland in November. Bellany made his name in the Sixties, infusing figurative painting with tough expressionism and elemental allegory. In 1990, the art critic Peter Fuller rated him as “the most outstanding painter of his generation”. But since then he has adopted a softer style. For an artist of such renown, his prices are also relatively soft, from £2,500 to £15,000.
Sixty-year-old Jock McFadyen, a former Artist in Residence at London’s National Gallery, has worked in the East End of London for most of his life, and this month returns to the country of his birth for a retrospective exhibition at Bourne Fine Art. The show takes the viewer from his earliest caricatures of the Seventies to his later, vast, depopulated and graffiti-strewn London landscapes. McFadyen prices also start at £2,500 and rise to £55,000 for the largest works.
At the Scottish Gallery there are not one but two retrospectives – the first for 75-year-old Duncan Shanks, whose exuberant abstracted landscapes cost £2,500 to £25,000, and a centenary show for the modernist Wilhelmina Barns-Graham (£6,000 to £27,000). The Ingleby Gallery, meanwhile, displays a rediscovered work from 1977 by Ian Hamilton Finlay in which an epic air/sea battle is portrayed using common domestic objects. An ironing board becomes an aircraft carrier, irons are destroyers, model planes dot between cotton-wool clouds and so forth – all set to music by John Purser. The exhibition, with works from £200 to £50,000, precedes major presentations this autumn of the artist’s work at the São Paulo Biennale and Tate Britain.
Since Sotheby’s and Christie’s no longer hold auctions of Scottish art in Scotland, the Festival competition is now between Bonhams and Lyon & Turnbull. This year, Bonhams has a stronger focus on historic art for its August 20 sale, with a handsome three-quarter-length portrait of Scottish lawyer John Campbell, by Allan Ramsay, estimated at £80,000 to £100,000 and a stunning, rediscovered view of Edinburgh Castle in the 1860s by swashbuckling Scottish painter Sam Bough that could fetch a record for the artist at £100,000 to £150,000. The 20th century is represented with Scottish colourists and lashings of paintings by Jack Vettriano and the late Alberto Morrocco, but there is no cutting-edge contemporary art at all.
This is a field that Lyon & Turnbull tries to cover, though its August 15 sale looks very conservative apart from the odd example by Hamilton Finlay or Beck’s Prize-winner, Glaswegian artist Toby Paterson. But the company’s main event sees Glaswegian art a century ago taking centre stage with a £1 million-plus plus collection of Scottish works of art formed by the American TV producer Donald L Taffner and his wife Eleanor. Taffner developed a passion for Scottish art after meeting the Scottish artist Barbara Rae, and Tony Ray of the Glasgow School of Art.
The collection is centred round the figure of Charles Rennie Mackintosh, with silver tableware and furniture commissioned by the Glasgow tea-rooms owner Kate Cranston, and a group of his later watercolours. Top price of the sale is expected for one of several watercolours of flowers that he painted in Suffolk and London. Yellow Tulips was painted in 1919 and is estimated to fetch £100,000 to £150,000. Taffner bought it in 1994 for £183,000, which was close to a record for Mackintosh. Estimates are set slightly below the prices that Taffner paid in the Eighties and Nineties.
The collection also represents the so-called Glasgow Girls who studied at the Glasgow School of Art at the turn of the century and made such a contribution to art and design – Mackintosh’s sister in law, Frances Macdonald MacNair, Annie French, Jessie Keppie, Mary Sturrock, and Jessie Marion King – and will go on view the day after Bonhams’ picture sale on August 21 prior to being sold on September 7.

No comments:

Post a Comment