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Man Ray’s objects

In November, Man Ray’s archive will auction at Sotheby’s Paris.

Consisting of over 300 lots the sale will include a wealth of materials from his estate that span his life and career – including a huge array of photographs.

It is the largest collection of his work to come to auction in almost 20 years.

In addition, a number of surrealist objects are offered.

These include a work titled Ce que manque à nous tous or “What we all lack”, which consists of a clay pipe (inscribed with the title of the work) topped by a glass bubble that inverts the world around it.


This forced new perspective was one of the primary aims of the dadaists and surrealists.

Additional lots include a model of photographer Lee Miller’s lips in gold and two modernist chess sets.

Man Ray’s objects are less widely known than his photographs, as the majority have been lost over the years, but are equally fascinating.

He began working on them during the 1920s. Some were intended primarily for use in photographs and destroyed afterwards, meaning collectors covet those that do survive.

This scarcity is partly explained by the story behind Object to be Destroyed (created circa 1922-1923 and not included in the sale), a metronome with an eye photo clipped to the arm, which is housed in the Tate.

He explained: “I had a metronome in my place which I set going when I painted – like the pianist sets it going when he starts playing – its ticking noise regulated the frequency and number of my brushstrokes…

“A painter needs an audience, so I also clipped a photo of an eye to the metronome’s swinging arm to create the illusion of being watched as I painted.

“One day I did not accept the metronome’s verdict, the silence was unbearable and since I had called it, with a certain premonition, Object of Destruction, I smashed it to pieces.”



Nazi-stolen paintings unveiled

The last time the public saw these paintings, Hitler was chancellor of Germany.

These works of art are so important, and so controversial, that their location remains a secret.

But now, for the first time, we have been granted access to a few of them, courtesy of the BBC.

Frank Marc’s Pferde in Landschaft

Franz Marc’s Pferde in Landschaft is among the artworks recovered

I’m talking of the 1,500 or so works of art, many stolen by the Nazis, that Cornelius Gurlitt kept in his house for more than half a century.

They include multi-million dollar pieces by the likes of Picasso, Renoir, Monet and Manet.

Take a look for yourself, and see if you find this video as astonishing as I do.


Unassuming Chinese owl unleashed on Asia Week

As the consignments start to roll in for the annual Asia Week New York (March 14-22), Sotheby’s has announced that the spectacular highlight of its sales will be…

An owl.

Unassuming at first, this owl will have you fascinated by its history

Unassuming at first, this owl will have you fascinated by its history

It’s a rather fine kind of an owl, cast from bronze and designed for use as a wine vessel. Yet, next to the glittering jewels and spectacular artworks offered during the week, it does look a little shabby…

$4m worth of shabby, apparently.

At first, you might dismiss the piece – it’s nice, but perhaps not the most coveted item on your list. However, dig a little deeper and this wise bird begins to reveal its secrets.

The key to the owl’s value is its age; this vessel was created during China’s Zhou dynasty. For those of us that aren’t well versed in ancient Chinese history, that’s the 8th-7th centuries BC.

Yes, that’s right…BC.

600-700 years before Jesus Christ was supposedly born.

To give that date some context, this was a time when the Assyrian Empire dominated Babylon and Egypt, while Nebuchadnezzar was busy building the famous Hanging Gardens.

Meanwhile, my forebears were presumably still mucking about in caves in England, making rudimentary weapons to destroy their enemies.

China was light years ahead, with the country under the grip of the longest dynasty in its history, while their political and culture was already developed enough to draw comparisons with medieval England.

Just some food for thought before you dismiss this unassuming owl…it’s amazing that the piece has even survived the tests of time, let alone made it to auction in fantastic condition.

Learn more about its fascinating provenance.


P.S. You can read all about Asia Week New York and the latest consignments over at Paul Fraser Collectibles’ news site – or sign up to the free newsletter to make sure you don’t miss out.

$142m worth of Bacon

Chances are, if you’ve been perusing the news today, you’ll have seen that Francis Bacon‘s Three Studies of Lucian Freud has become the world’s most valuable painting sold at auction, knocking Edvard Munch‘s $120m The Scream off the top spot by a considerable amount.

And nowhere has covered the auction better than Paul Fraser Collectibles. Read the report on the sale here, or our ten (genuinely) fascinating facts about Francis Bacon, or the 11 reasons why the painting is now the most valuable ever sold.

Just in case that wasn’t enough art news, we’ve also reported on the rest of the sale, which also saw a new world record for a work by a living artist.


‘Spilt milk’ – Andrew Vickers’ Paperboy and the rare comics blunder

A story is currently circulating among the collecting community, leaving a trail of horrified comic book fans in its wake.

As in the comic book world, where the force of good is met with a balance of evil, tales of unexpected discoveries of classic comic books in the walls of houses just had to be met with an opposing story of tragic loss sooner or later.

This is the news that  artist Andrew Vickers, having discovered a large number of discarded comic books in a skip, proceeded to transform them into a large papier mache sculpture of a superhero.


Comic book expert Steve Eyre’s heart almost stopped when he glimpsed an original Avengers #1, a comic worth at least £10,000, forming part of the statue, now drenched in glue and making up part of a leg.


The artist’s comments that he finds the whole situation hilarious, having created a £500 dollar sculpture out of perhaps £50,000 worth of comic books, may leave comic book aficionados seething.

Mr Vickers’ response is simply: ‘there is no point crying over spilt milk’. That’s a lot of spilt milk to keep a stiff upper lip over.

Superhero style, there’s still time for you to rescue an item or two from our collectibles store before an imprudent artist gets their hands on them!

By Louise

Money Talks: Andreas Gursky’s stock exchange photographs auction in London

Five photographic depictions of international stock exchanges captured by German visual artist Andreas Gursky were offered at Sotheby’s London on June 26.


Chicago Board of Trade III (pictured), the top selling image, sold for £2.2m ($3.3m) – a 169% increase on its £800,000 ($1.2m) top estimate.

Andreas Gursky’s dramatic stock exchange series casts an ambiguous, god’s eye view over proceedings, capturing the trading floors’ chaotic topography.

It is difficult to know what Gursky is trying to show us with these photographs, however, since, viewed from a distance, the finer details become indiscernible, yet viewed close up, detail overwhelms.

Without inside knowledge, the bright bibs worn by the traders in Chicago Board of Trade III become mere splashes of colour; it is impossible to know what the various hues denote.

It has been said elsewhere that “lack of spatial depth, combined with all over surface detail recalls the work of Jackson Pollock” – another blue-chip artist.

What is clear from the works is that the (occasionally incomprehensible) figures and graphs which signal the end of nightly news bulletins belie drama on an operatic scale.

One also notices that far fewer women than men work on trading floors internationally.

Sotheby’s Oliver Barker asserts: “This is a landmark collection and undoubtedly the most important group of works by Andreas Gursky to ever come to market.

“Not only are they fresh to the market, but they represent the apotheosis of Gursky’s technique and trademark subject. Standing before these epic works one is literally engulfed by the overwhelming spectacle, power and dynamism of the stock exchanges and their trading floors.”

I am yet to make my mind up about these enormous photographs.

A penny for your thoughts?

Limited edition Goya prints and the truth about investing in collectibles

Leafing though the catalogue for Swann Galleries’ Old Master Through Modern Prints Sale, I came across 14 etchings by 18th century Spanish artist Francisco Goya. Circa 1799-1825, the black and white images remain as intense and compelling as they must have seemed 200 years ago, as the ink was drying on the page.


My favourite Goya etching, “The Sleep of Reason Produces Monsters”, was among the 14 images on offer.  Goya writes of “The Sleep of Reason Produces Monsters” in Los Caprichos: “Fortune maltreats those who court her. Efforts to rise she rewards with hot air and those who have risen she punishes with downfall.”

The print from the Los Capichos series depicts the artist asleep at his desk. The owls are thought to be symbols of folly, the bats, ignorance, and the cats, witchcraft.

Thinking about collectible prints, and in particular how to profit from purchasing collectible prints, somehow led me back to this quotation. “Fortune maltreats those who court her.” Of course, Goya’s intended meaning has nothing to do with investing in limited edition art works and photographic prints, but the dictum struck a chord nonetheless.

As a potential investor, the biggest mistake you can make is purchasing items that ought to be pleasurable, that out to excite a passionate response, solely for profit.

While these Goya etchings are likely to increase in value, it would be a shame if they were purchased for that reason alone.

The best advice I can think of? Buy the very best you can afford and only what you love. You never know, if, when you come to sell your collection, enough people love it too, you might just make a fortune.


P.S. Swann Galleries’ Old Master Through Modern Prints Sale takes place on May 1.

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