We were out in force in London’s sudden burst of hot summertime weather when I was there for three fabulous weeks recently in June, with a view to seeing a lot of art and here’s a little of what I experienced.
At Sotheby’s Bond Street you could hardly move as serious international collectors poured through that hallowed portal to view the much anticipated Impressionist and Modern sale featuring masterpieces by Malevich, Picasso, Klimt, Miro, Matisse, Degas and Gaugin and many, many more. What a great viewing experience, so many extraordinary works, with a few rubles being thrown around as I overheard one Russian gentleman firmly announce to the softly-spoken Sotheby’s specialist that £10m was his final bid for the work he so coveted! With the fast and frantic competitive bidding at the auction, I hope he got his prize. The sale, which exceeded £178.6 million, showed yet again the strength of the art market.
Sotheby’s sale in action
On to the Tate Britain, where in my eagerness to see sculptor Barbara Hepworth’s exhibition – I arrived a day early! Sadly there was no way I could inveigle my way into what was obviously a private preview for sponsors and supporters. So I consoled myself with a Walk through British Art and saw powerful works by Henry Moore, Britain’s pre-eminent sculptor and Tate Britain’s significant Turner Collection. Also on display was Tracey Emin’s My Bed 1998, first shown in the 1999 Turner Prize exhibition and I think somewhat overrated.
Over at Tate Modern two major female artists, Agnes Martin and Sonia Delaunay had impressive solo shows. My favourite, Agnes Martin, (March 22, 1912 – December 16, 2004) classified herself as an Abstract Expressionist and produced minimalist works of outstanding beauty. This show was one of the highlights of my trip; her work, so subtle and mesmerising, is defined by an emphasis upon line, grids, and fields of barely-there colour. Sensational!
Then onto a very glamorous affair at Masterpiece London for an Art Gala fundraising which raised over £1.2 million in aid of NSPCC, the UK’s leading children’s charity. Masterpiece is an annual art fair that presents art, antiques, design and jewellery from over 150 of the world’s leading galleries and it was a treat to mingle with curators, collectors and visitors alike all admiring the museum quality works of art from across every collecting category, from antiquity through to contemporary.
Another highlight was the extraordinary Alexander McQueen: Savage Beauty retrospective at the Victoria & Albert. It’s difficult not to fall into hyperbole when writing about this – it was quite simply one of the best shows I’ve seen anywhere – at times melancholy, dramatic, provocative, grotesque, romantic and profoundly beautiful. Brilliantly curated it was a sensory and sensual spectacle that revealed the imaginative powers of McQueen.
Read part II of my recent London art experiences in the upcoming August issue of Mansam Magazine.
Jenny Garber – Co-Director inART