Lowry in Liverpool
Apparently L.S. Lowry, the great painter of Britain’s industrial north, only made three pictures of Liverpool. The majority of his townscapes were of, or inspired by, his local surroundings in Manchester and Salford. But for lovers of Liverpool, those few examples are highly desirable. Fortunately for the Walker Art Gallery in Liverpool, one of those lovers is Martin Alderson Smith — Liverpool-born, Oxford-educated, but for long resident in the USA where he is managing director of the investment giant, the Blackstone Group – who is especially well disposed towards the gallery.
In 2009 Smith splashed out £361,250 at Christie’s on a Lowry painting of Liverpool’s Waterloo Dock – where emigrants to America would gather before departure – which he lent to the gallery. Then, just before Christmas, he handed the gallery a view of the Liver Buildings from across the water (pictured), which he had recently acquired privately for over £1.5 million.
L.S.Lowry, The Liver Buildings, Liverpool, 1950 CREDIT: COURTESY OF THE WALKER ART GALLERY, LIVERPOOL/ON LONG TERM LOAN TO THE WALKER ART GALLERY, LIVERPOOL
For this, the Walker is indebted to Lowry’s gallery, Crane Kalman. In 1984, the gallery founder, Andras Kalman, sold that Liver Buildings view to a London collector who lent it to The Lowry in Salford. Last year, though, they decided to sell and went to Kalman’s elder son, Andrew, to find a buyer. Quite out of the blue, Kalman says, Smith contacted him as he had heard the painting was to leave Salford, and a deal was done. The price, says Kalman, demonstrates how robust the market is for the best Lowry pictures. The Walker, needless to say, is delighted.
The third Lowry Liverpool picture is a similar view of the Liver Buildings which sold at Christie’s in 2006 for £1.1 million. It had been owned by the late Liverpudlian racehorse breeder, Robert Sangster, and was bought by dealer, Guy Morrison who is thought to have been bidding for Sangster’s former partner, John Magnier.
The New Year brings its customary sense of quiet amongst London’s auction rooms. There is action in the shires, though those happening upon what might appear to be a treasure trove of modern art at knock-down prices at Eastbourne Auctions, should read the small print first.
An «abstract composition» signed and dated John Piper, worth £100,000 if genuine, is priced at £500; a surrealist head, signed and dated in the style of Eileen Agar, is priced at just £150.
John Piper, 1935, verso. Estimate: £500-800 CREDIT: COURTESY OF EASTBOURNE AUCTIONS
Neither are fully attributed to the artists in the auction catalogue, but the styles, signatures, dates and labels on the reverse might lead the unwary to think they might just have made a discovery. The same would apply to numerous works bearing the signatures or monograms of other valuable artists.
The auctioneer’s position is stated quite clearly in the «terms and conditions» of sale which ends: «The buyers are to satisfy themselves as to the authenticity of any picture before bidding as all bids are final. The Auctioneers will not rescind a sale of a picture for any reason whatsoever, Caveat Emptor.» Buyer beware indeed.
Spray-gun art takes off
German-born abstract artist, Hans Hartung, who died in 1989 aged 85, is best known for his energetic, linear black and white paintings of the 1940s and 50s which have commanded close to £1 million at auction. His later, more colourful work, executed with a light spray gun rather than a brush, and with the help of studio assistants following a debilitating stroke in the 80s, was somewhat overlooked, much like de Kooning’s late work made when he was suffering from Alzheimer’s. But about 10 years ago, Hartung’s estate went in search of galleries that would present this work to a new contemporary audience.
Hans Hartung, T1988-E21, 1988 CREDIT: COURTESY SIMON LEE GALLERY, LONDON
For a while, the Timothy Taylor gallery in London fulfilled the role, but now the estate has changed horses and this month is mounting simultaneous shows of late work at the Simon Lee Gallery in London, and the Emmanuel Perrotin gallery in New York. A third gallery, Nahmad Contemporary in New York, is joining the action as the Nahmad family has been buying and selling Hartung’s work independently for decades.
Three major shows on each side of the Atlantic in the same month is some accolade, but Simon Lee also believes the appetite is there. At Art Basel last summer, he and Perrotin both exhibited late Hartungs and virtually sold out.
“There is a lot of interest coming from successful younger artists like Christopher Wool and Wade Guyton and those who collect their work, because of the way Hartung embraced new technology in his later years,” says Lee. “It’s incredible that in his last year, confined to a wheelchair, he managed to complete some 360 large-scale paintings.” Even before the shows open, the late works are selling fast with prices ranging from €140,000-400,000.