Having collected over the years many of the glorious catalogues published by the Museum of Modern Art going back to the 1940s—on a dizzying array of topics such as Futurism, Britain at War, 20 Centuries of Mexican Art, Americans 1942, Bauhaus 1919-1928, New Japanese Photography, Built in USA: Post-war Architecture, and any number of artist monographs—I recently came across one published in 1958 that I had never seen before. It was a slim, paperbound volume in black-and-white of no stylistic distinction save for the magnificent Brancusi sculpture Blond Negress on the cover. This intriguing booklet was entitled Two exhibitions: The Philip L. Goodwin Collection and Works of Art: Given or Promised.
“Geoffrey operated from modest premises perched on a corner of Pimlico Road. No one in London, however, had more original stock. His items were unearthed whilst scouring Britain in a Rover, and his beady eye missed nothing.”
—Terence Stamp, reminiscing about the legendary English decorator Geoffrey Bennison
“There’s magic in the air tonight. Fleecy clouds sail high above . . .and your road is a ribbon of glistening moonlight.”
Nash magazine advertisement of 1940 entitled
“All the servants have gone from Polesden Lacey except for the housemaid, whom I have reengaged. I met there Mr. Abbey of Christie’s who has completed the inventories of all the contents save the pictures. I went round the rooms with Abbey who pronounced that there is hardly a piece of furniture of museum worth, the bulk of it being made up, or deliberate copies. We ate sandwiches and drank tea in the servants hall after this depressing perambulation.”
One had to squint in reading the tiny caption beneath the watercolor drawing by the great English painter Joseph Mallord William Turner (1775-1851) illustrated on page 149 of a Christie’s catalogue in mid-April of this year. The tantalizing caption read: “actual size.” But was this true?
Read More “Inside the Art Market: Theme Songs”
Sales at the old and venerable auction houses of Sotheby’s and Christie’s are often a sort of eulogy, celebrating the life and times of a prominent individual as glimpsed through an art collection. The marketing and promotional rumblings that attend such sales, especially if involving a very famous name, can be noisy and theatrical. And the public exhibition has to be dramatic and dazzling. After all, the auction house is mounting a major production, with special lighting and design of the sort one might associate with a Broadway show.