Feature: ArtScene

ArtScene: Bacon and Freud Sell Big in London, Dame Elizabeth Blackadder in Edinburgh

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Elizabeth Blackadder's Tulips

Paris. Du café. Du croissant. Du affiche pop art - $144. Or as Guillaume sneers, “For you English” (Scottish please! He shrugs so what) “something for everyone”. Guillaume’s the last waiter in Paris to still smell of Gitanes. Maybe it’s spray-on to give the run down café below my studio a bit of atmosphere. Turning a profit is everything. Maybe not so much at the Christie’s show in Paris even if I think $144 was well spent on the late Michael English '70s pop art poster. A dripping spoon sucked by red, maybe sensuous lips. Worth the Eurostar fare. Not everything’s mega bucks.

London. Back here, Christie’s is doing it in $millions this week. Their Post-War and Contemporary sale fetched close on $126 million - only their June 2008 sale made more in this category. Sixty works went up on Tuesday and 53 sold - 25 making more than a $million.  Who’s buying? About 60 percent were Europeans and plenty of them Russians (they insist they’re Europeans). The Americans are not slow with their paddles. The bought more than a quarter of the store.

Bacon Study for a Portrait.jpgStars of the Christie’s show: Francis Bacons‘s Study for a Portrait ($28.6million) and five Lucien Freud drawings part of the Kay Saatchi’s collection. Charles Saatchi’s ex picked up $6.2million from her nine lots. Best buy? For me it was the $1.2million for Paul Rego’s Looking Back although Alexander Acquavella from New York seemed to think the Freuds had more than walk-on parts. He got Freud’s ink, watercolour and gouache on card Dead Bird for close on $700,000 - not quite twice the estimate.

Edinburgh. Now the sleeper from Kings Cross to Waverly. Wally the steward who always tells me “Oh my feet, they do so hurt, Miss”, says we’re not stopping at Preston during the night (unlike the Stuart Rebellion) and so that means no breakfast taken on board. No kippers on the night sleeper? Is civilization at an end? I can take it. This weekend’s special. Edinburgh. Home at last. I’ll have had my tea! Why special? I’ve come to see Dame Elizabeth Blackadder, celebrating her 80th year with this summer’s major exhibition at the Scottish National Gallery on The Mound. I am not disappointed.

This is much more than cats and flowers, lovely though they are.  Dame Elizabeth’s vibrant large-scale paintings are deeply reflect her fascination with non-Western cultures, in particular Japan.  Her personal collection of objects gathered throughout her travels appear in her paintings and prints which clearly reflect her inherent drawing ability that hinges even her more abstract works.  Greatly influenced by Anne Redpath (she and I were born in Hawick, though years apart) her work reflects a deep commitment to the craft of painting that is personal, obsessional and feminine without any trace of sentimentality. Happy Birthday Dame Elizabeth, we toast your health over a wee dram: “lang mae your lum reek!”  At the National until 2 January 2012.

Ai Weiwei. The Chinese have fined Ai Weiwei $1million plus for not paying taxes - they say. The price of freedom. Keep telling people. They haven’t finished with Ai Weiwei. Keep telling people.

ArtScene Quote of the Week: Life is never guaranteed to be safe. Ai Weiwei

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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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