Galleries - March 2010

9. GALLERIES MARCH 10 Being a relatively small nation, Scotland has always suffered from the view that, because of its size, it is unable to produce more than a few star artists – like Allan Ramsay – within a British and international perspective. Thus it must come as a surprise to many that Ramsay’s fellow countryman Gavin Hamilton for instance, was the most cele- brated British artist in 18th Century Europe – but who has heard of Hamilton today? Robert Colquhoun and Robert MacBryde also suffered a similar reversal of critical fortunes. Yet although these working class Scottish artists are now treated as mere footnotes to the biographies of their illustrious contemporaries Bacon and Freud, in the 1940s they were rightly regarded as “the most promising and the best of the young artists” by the likes of Wyndham Lewis and David Sylv- ester. Of course even in their short tragic lifetimes their promising careers quickly went into a spiral of critical hostility and neglect and tragically, both died in abject alco- holic poverty. Recently however, there have been notable efforts to reassess the significance and influential impact of the work of these two neglected painters who, as much as any at the time of British art es- tablishment hostility to modern art, brought to the post-war London scene the innovative radicalism of European modernism. Appropri- ately The Scottish Gallery ’s March exhibition is part of this revival of interest in “The Roberts” along with Roger Bristow’s new book on them, The LastBohem- ians , which will be launched at the opening. A further attraction for me will be the chance to see Ken Russell’s early art documentary The Golden Boys of Bond Street which will be screened throughout the exhibition. If ever London had to re-establish its prime position in the World Art Market it had to be this February with the Impressionist, Modern and Contemporary Art Sales. The results were not only spectacular but sensational with a new world auction record for a work of art being achieved by Sotheby’s . Giacometti’s Walking Man I, was sold for over £65 million, super- seding Picasso’s Garcon à la Pipe also sold by Sotheby’s in New York in 2004for £58 million. Their total of £230 million for the series of sales was the highest ever realised in London with 32 works selling for over £1 million and 22 new artists’ sale records. Christie’s , though not reaching anything like the same total, had their own successes with a high percentage of lots exceeding the estimates and a substantial num- ber of record prices. Amongst these they achieved the highest price in the Post War and Con- temporary evening sale with £5.8 million for Yves Klein’s Relief éponge and a world record for a female artist with Gontcharova’s Espagnole c.1916 at £6.4million. There were also 4works selling for over £5 million and 21 works for over £1 million. A measure of the stunning succ- ess of the Contemporary sales is that ‘artprice’, the world leader in art market information, predicted a combined total of £69 million, a figure that would have repre- sented an increase of 54% over the sales of February 2009. But in fact with Christie’s total of £39 million and Sotheby’s of £54 million – and that was just for their evening sales – the increase must be in the region of a staggering 200%. The difference between the two can often rest purely on the luck of who will acquire the next major Picasso or Giacometti – or per- haps a £100 million Impressionist painting! THE ROBERTS B ill Hare F ORWARD MARCH W illiam Jackson R obert Colquhoun ‘The Necromancer’ (detail) The Scottish Gallery Alberto Giacometti ‘L’Homme qui Marche I’ sold at Sotheby’s