Feature: ArtScene

ArtScene: Action at Christie's, Art/42/Basel, Toulouse-Lautrec and Jane Avril

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London. Lulu, who does my morning coffee on Frith Street, says the nice Jeffrey Archer is rethinking his life now he's 70. Part of the deal (who with she doesn't say) is that he's sent a chunk of his art collection to Christie's. It's coming up next week. Lulu says about $8 million and the biggy will be Monet's La Seine pres de Vetheuil, temps orageux. A lot of Archer's haul will go to charities.

Lulu knows the field as we say on Frith Street. The London Modern and Impressionist summer sales have started. There's talk even of a Picasso study for Les Demoiselles d'Avignon at Bonhams. Don't bet on it. Was I going to bid anyway? Nor did I nod at Christie's this week for Picasso's Jeune fille endormie, the portrait of Marie-Therese Walter, his lover whom he painted in 1935. It was given to the University of Sidney on condition it was sold to fund medical research on diabetes, obesity and heart disease. It made £13.5 million. That's how I like my Picasso.

Ernst Beyeler.jpgBig smiles at Christie's on Tuesday. In a single day they sold £140 million of 82 Impressionists and moderns. Forty one of the list came from the estate of that astonishing collection of the Swiss dealer, Ernst Beyeler.  But not every name sells. Monet's Nympheas never quite worked for the painter nor for Tuesday's bidders. It was expected to fetch £15 million. Oh well. Back to the attic. There's plenty of backstairs negotiations on a lot of stuff this week.  Maybe that's what made last week's Art/42/Basel sale so good.

Basel. I was in Florence with my students but the word there was: Global economic crisis? What crisis? At a guess, 65,000 collectors, curators and enthusiasts turned up for the annual Basel Fair. All the glit and glam roaming the booths - Brad Pitt, Naomi Campbell, Linda Evangelista, Will Ferrell, et al. A total of $1.75 billion worth of art. The art market is booming!

One London dealer tells me the sales were good because right now art is top dollar investment - even in Athens. San Francisco's Anthony Meier reportedly sold a Gerhard Richter, making a healthy profit of $500,000. Does this bode well for the sister fair held in Miami each December?  Has to be one for this sunshine seeker's diary. Someone has to.

Jane Avril.jpgLondon. Back in town for a real treat at the brilliant Courtauld Gallery on the north bank of the Thames for Toulouse-Lautrec and Jane Avril: Beyond The Moulin Rouge. In the 1890s Jane Avril was a star of the Moulin Rouge and here we have the depth of the creative relationship between Jane Avril the dancer, and Toulouse-Lautrec the painter. The collection of paintings, drawings, lithographs and photographs are keenly reflective of those heady days in Paris. Jane suffered from a nervous disorder commonly known as St Vitus's Dance. "It's Fate!" exclaimed the dancer in her memoirs.

Although there is no evidence that they were lovers, Lautrec certainly had a respect and possible infatuation for the dancer who constantly appears in his work.  Amongst other things he seems to have taken a delight in his depictions of Jane's hats. Nancy Ireson has curated a sensitive exhibition, well placed in the beautiful surroundings of the Courtauld. Maybe the best small show in London town. A charming, evocative exhibition not to be missed. You've got until 18 September.

Ai Weiwei is out! But when he wasn't, who did you tell?  Then keep telling. There are plenty more in there. And they haven't finished with him.

ArtScene Quote of the week:

Of course one should not drink much, but often. Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec

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Fiona Graham-Mackay, is London's newest royal portrait painter. She is also recently back from painting in the Pakistan-Afghan border. She studied at London's Royal College of Art, had a studio in Paris before returning to the UK to paint and teach in London, Spain and Italy. Her next assignments are…

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