Monday, June 30, 2008


Amedeo Clemente Modigliani (1884-1920) was an Italian artist born in Livorno of Jewish heritage, practicing both painting and sculpture who pursued his career for the most part in France. There he developed a unique style : today his graceful portraits and lush nudes at once evoke his name, but during his brief career few apart from his fellow artists were aware of his gifts. Modigliani had to struggle against poverty and chronic ill health, dying of tuberculosis and excesses of drink and drugs at the age of 35.

This portrait of the austo-hungarian painter Moise Kisling (born in Krakow in 1891- deceased in France in 1953) was made in 1915 and is an oil on canvas.

It was part of the Impressionists collection of Leo Rogers which was sold in 1972 on auction for a total of $2.2 million, the highlight being Portrait of Moise Kisling which went for 100,000 Gns ($273,000) to the Pinacoteca in Milan, Italy

Sunday, June 29, 2008


This picture by South African artist Marlene Dumas (photo) (b.1953) titled The Visitor is a medium oil on canvas measuring 70.9 x 118.1 in. (180 x 300 cm.) and was executed in 1995.

Dumas studied at the University of Cape Town from 1972 to 1975 and moved to the Netherlands on a scholarship when she was 23.

She's been living in Amsterdam for many years. She often uses reference material of polaroid photographs of her friends and
lovers, whilst she also references magazines and pornographic material. Dumas also paints portraits of children and erotic scenes to impact the world of contemporary art ; she can be considered one of the most renowned contemporary figurative artists. The South African artist has had an extraordinary career, impressed on the search for important and provocative questions concerning sexuality, violence, race, religion, obsession and oppression.

Dumas is one of the most highly quoted living artists in the whole world. “(Mis)Using your wounds”, a provocative watercolour of male nude taken from a pornographic source, in November 1999 was sold at Christie’s New York for 4,600,000 dollars, against an initial estimate between 3 and 4 million dollars.

“The Visitor” from a valuation of 800,000-1,200,000 pounds was sold in June 2008 by Sotheby’s London for 3.17 million GBP, ($4.75 million) making it the most expensive work by a living woman. Her work, the first of its scale to be mounted in the United States, is currently exhibited by The Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles, in association with The Museum of Modern Art until February 2009.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008


Francis Bacon (1909-1992) was an Irish-born British figurative painter. He was a collateral descendant of the Elizabethan philosopher Francis Bacon. His artwork is known for its bold, austere, and often grotesque or nightmarish imagery. He was a self-taught painter who destroyed a large part of his output, so much so that virtually nothing of his early work has survived. The picture at the right represents his last painting, possibly the beginnings of a portrait of his lover George Dyer who committed suicide, on the easel, photographed by Perry Ogden in 1992, some time before the death of the artist.

Bacon considered his paintings to be the reflection of his nervous system projected on to canvas, and his opinion, expressed in 1953, that painting is pure intuition and luck, was the presage of the action painting and Abstract Expressionism that was soon to dominate the scene, although he rejected abstract art for himself, since he felt that it evaded the problem of the representation of the human figure which he regarded as the artist's principal challenge. He has been acclaimed as the greatest English artist since Turner.

This picture by him, Second Version of Study for Bullfight No1 (1969) was sold in November 2007 for $ 46 million. The sum was so high that some experts questioned the price and anticipated a crash of the art market. Almost a year later, in the background of soaring energy and food prices, art market prices are still on the go. Some experts justly point out that the art market is not anymore a rarefied area animated by a small minority of very rich people but a culture industry. The preeminence of New York, London and Paris are a thing of the past in as much as China, Russia, India and the Middle East therefore contribute with huge appetite to the well being of the global Art market.

Others underline the forgotten fact that most galleries are starving, that public attention is attracted by the huge prices fetched at Sotheyby's and Christie's thanks to phenomally rich (and crazy) collectors but that, apart from the classical moderns and some Expressionists, the whole middlefield is "as difficult as always."

Tuesday, June 3, 2008


The Codex Leicester is a 36 pages notebook compiled in 1508-1510 by Leonardo da Vinci (1452-1519) comprising notes, comments and sketches on water, cosmology and even submarine warfare whose particularity is to be written from right to left using his characteristic mirror writing.

It was originally bought by Thomas Coke, 1st Earl of Leicester in 1717. In 1980 it was offered for sale to pay for tax liabilities of the 5th Earl of Leicester. At that time art authorities in Milan asked 29 private banks in Italy to bid for it but to no avail. The Codex went on auction to Dr. Armand Hammer for $2.2 million who stupidly enough renamed it the Codex Hammer. Hopefully a billionaire a little less pretentious named Bill Gates bought it in 1994 at auction for $ 30.8 million, making it the most expensive book ever, and renamed it the Codex Leicester. The Codex is put on public display once a year in a different city around the world. It is currently under the 14th of September 2008 exhibited in the Houston Museum of Natural Sciences where a more general Da Vinci exhibition is held.

Currently, the Codex Leicester notebook authored by Leonardo da Vinci is in the possession of Microsoft Chairman Bill Gates. However, there is nothing stopping you from shuffling through its pages. You will be able to browse through Codex Leicester or Codex Arundel, both notebooks of da Vinci and even have a look at one of the oldest copies of the New Testaments Codex Sinaiticus.

This is possible via the Turning the Pages 2.0, an online program over at the British Library. Turning the Pages is a browser based Windows Presentation Foundation application that allows users to turn the pages of old books in a virtual environment.