Galleries - October 2019

As the British Art Fair opens its doors (Oct 3–6 at Saatchi Gallery) it gives the opportunity to look at works in the context of recent market sales. In one ofthe most significant but little reported moments ofthe art market this year, Modern British art came to the rescue ofthe Impressionists. After an unimpressive sale ofinternational Impressionist art staged by Christie’s London, the auctioneers staged a press conference in which they deftly switched attention from the disappointments ofthe sale to the strengths ofa £17.5 million Modern British art sale held the evening before; and they had plenty ofstrengths to draw on. Amongst the sales was a record £1.1 million for a sculpture by Elisabeth Frink which last sold in 1993 for £31,500 thus realising an average price growth of14.64 per cent each year for 26 years – not bad by any standards. Frink was also the subject ofa major retrospective at the Sainsbury Centre for Visual Arts this year and is represented by a number ofLondon galleries including Messum’s, Piano Nobile and Beaux Arts. The next day, in its Modern British sale, Christie’s recorded the second highest auction price for a 1950s Neo-Romantic landscape by Alan Reynolds (an artist stocked by galleries including Connaught Brown, Gwen Hughes and Askew Art) with a triple estimate £100,000. It is worth mentioning that this price has been exceeded privately by Osborne Samuel. In the same auction a multiple estimate record £695,250 was paid for a 1963 painting ofa beggar by the Caribbean born Frank Bowling, who has been the subject ofa major retrospective and reappraisal at Tate Britain. Bowling’s work is stocked by The Nine British Art. Among the £1 million plus record prices set over the last 12 months was a large painting ofWillesden Junction by Leon Kossoff which sold for £1.4 million at Sotheby’s last November. Kossoff is gaining ground on his fellow School of London painter, Frank Auerbach; both artists’ work is held by Piano Nobile and by Connaught Brown, and the former staged an impressive retrospective for Kossoff before he died. Also related to the School of London is the late Euan Uglow who worked slowly so his work is rare to the market. The best example fetched £600,000 at auction in 2014, and in June a late 1950s reclining nude by Uglow sold for the second highest price, £337,500. The fact that it sold on the low estimate is less important than the comparison with its £20,000 price when last at auction in 1993. Uglow’s reputation is beginning to spread beyond Britain. This summer an exhibition ofhis work took place in the Museum MORE in Holland – his first outside the UK. Galleries who hold his work include Piano Nobile and Browse & Darby. Last November, a Peter Lanyon 1961 gliding painting, ‘Orpheus’, sold above estimates for a record £1.3 million. Lanyon’s work can be found at galleries including Cyril Gerber and Belgrave St Ives. Another post-war St Ives painter to reach new heights at auction was John Wells whose 1947 ‘Homage to Naum Gabo’ sold at Sotheby’s in June for £61,250. Demand for Wells’ abstractions has seen 18 out of 22 of his works offered at auction since June 2018 find buyers – a very healthy strike rate for an artist whose reputation has yet to be fully established. Wells is represented by Askew Art, Waterhouse & Dodd and Osborne Samuel. A popular Neo-Romantic painter, Keith Vaughan, is represented by a number ofgalleries including Osborne Samuel (who staged an impressive exhibition ofNeo- Romantic art this year), Gwen Hughes, Belgrave St Ives, Alan Wheatley, Redfern, Beaux Arts, Christopher Kingzett Fine Art and The Nine British Art. Vaughan has been in demand this year with 18 works selling at auction, mostly above estimates for up to £168,750 each. Staying with the Neo- Romantics, Graham Sutherland watercolours have performed well, with Sotheby’s and Christie’s offering five watercolours in June 6 GALLERIES OCTOBER 2019 frink tops a million bowling for britain up market From Impressionism to the YBAs – some insights into the 2019 Modern British ar t market. byColin Gleadell london school report neo-romantic love st ives connection