Issue Number: 93
Buying art is all about discovering memorable images. During the winter months, a huge array of art goes on sale in galleries and auctions, though few possess the elusive combination of ‘wall power’ and an affordable price.
Artful Shopper Jean Shrimpton from 'Box of Pin-Ups', 1965, by David Bailey. Jean Shrimpton from 'Box of Pin-Ups', 1965, by David Bailey.Photography is one obvious medium where an arresting image can still be bought for a reasonable sum, particularly in up-and-coming areas such as photojournalism and fashion. Sotheby’s auction, ‘Photographs’ (14 Nov), includes a number of iconic works from the 1960s and ’70s, such as a complete set of David Bailey’s Box of Pin-Ups (1965), estimated at £5,000–£7,000.
Originally designed to be literally ‘pinned up’ on the wall, these 36 half-tone prints of ’60s celebrities such as Jean Shrimpton and Mick Jagger are increasingly prized by collectors. ‘Buyers of photography are looking for great images that hold the wall,’ says Sotheby’s photography specialist Jocelyn Phillip. ‘Every time we sell a set, it goes up in value.’
Sotheby’s is also showing ‘Venice: City of Dreams’ (15–19 Jan), a fundraising exhibition for St George’s Anglican Church in Venice, featuring the work of Royal Academicians Ivor Abrahams, Nigel Hall, Ken Howard, Christopher Le Brun, Mick Moon, Dhruva Mistry and Bill Woodrow, who joined other artists on a visit to Venice last April. Their works afford a special opportunity to see how contemporary artists respond to a subject that has fascinated artists for centuries and to acquire work in aid of the appeal.
Christie’s is showing ‘Master Drawings from the Oppé Collection’ (5 Dec), one of the last great twentieth-century collections of Old Master drawings. It was compiled by a civil servant who was a passionate collector and was exhibited at the Royal Academy in 1958. It includes works by Goya, Carracci, Veronese and Tiepolo as well as watercolours by Cozens, among the diverse selection of 120 lots, with prices ranging from £150 to £600,000.
Small-scale works like drawings can also pack a visual punch. Christie’s ‘Christopher Wood Sale’ (28 Feb) is offering 250 drawings, paintings and objects owned by one of London’s best-known dealers in Victorian art, and there may well be some serious bargains. The pencil sketch, Ellen Terry at the Piano, by George Frederick Watts RA, and Frederic, Lord Leighton’s study for The Captive Andromache, are two beautiful examples, which are estimated at £5,000.
Earlier in February, a much larger range of affordable works on paper will be on offer at the ‘Watercolours & Drawings Fair’ (1–4 Feb). Showcasing the stock of some 50 dealers, the fair will offer a choice of thousands of images, mainly appealing to collectors in the Victorian and Edwardian and Modern British sectors. ‘This is where you can buy real art at reasonable prices,’ enthuses exhibitor and co-founder Rupert Maas.
Equally appealing is the visual world of E.H. Shepard, the original illustrator of Winnie the Pooh and The Wind in the Willows. The Fine Art Society is holding a selling exhibition of 300 of Shepard’s drawings and illustrations (6–21 Dec), most of which are priced in the £300–£1,000 bracket.
During the same period, a major selling exhibition of 62 mainly new paintings by R B Kitaj RA, ‘Little Pictures’, are on display at nearby Marlborough Fine Art (22 Nov–6 Jan). The title of his show suggests he now paints on a smaller scale than in the ’60s. The ‘on application’ prices promise to be rather more upscale.
But, if you’re looking for visual impact on a shoestring, Grosvenor Prints stocks a vast range of unframed antiquarian engravings, mezzotints and lithographs, including dozens of weird and vibrantly coloured eighteenth-century vue d’optique prints, which can be purchased loose for anything from £50 to £450, depending on the subject, the condition and whether the print retains the original psychedelic hand-colouring.
Vue d’optique prints may not be high art, but if you’re going for an eclectic look and want a splash of colour on your wall, then they may well be the last bargain left in the art world.