Her Majesty's Treasure
After a 2004 sitting in which multimedia and light artist Chris Levine captured some 10,000 frames of the Queen’s head from various angles (an outtake of which cheekily captures her with her eyes closed), he created the first ever holographic portrait of a member of the British royal family, entitled ‘Equanimity’. To mark the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee, Levine has taken his daring 3D portrait to a team of jewellers from Asprey who have spent the past year making an exacting replica of the diadem she wore 60 years ago at her coronation.
This new, one-off decorative piece was painstakingly constructed from over 1,000 brilliant-cut white diamonds and pearls set in platinum and superimposed on to Levine’s holographic work for a collaborative sculpture called ‘The Diamond Queen’, which will be displayed first at Asprey’s flagship store on Bond Street (from May 28-June 27) and then at the Masterpiece fair in London (from June 28-July 4). All proceeds from the sale of this unique installation of light and jewellery will go towards two of the Queen’s favoured charities: the Woodland Trust, for the conservation of ancient forests, and QEST, the Queen Elizabeth Scholarship Trust, which is especially apt in this case as it funds career development in the field of British craftsmanship.
Seymours are coordinating a sealed-bid sale process for ‘The Diamond Queen’ on behalf of Asprey and Chris Levine from May 28-July 12.
Munch's Scream sets a new record
Expectations were sky-high for the Sotheby’s May auction of Edvard Munch’s pastel version of ‘The Scream’, so much so that bookmakers from here to Australia were placing odds on its final hammer price. Accompanied by much applause in the room, the lot eventually climbed over the mythical $100 million mark ($119,922 with premium), to make it the world’s most expensive work of art sold at auction. As many other records tumbled and high numbers for Pollock, Rothko and Calder pushed the totals across all houses to $1.4 billion, the talk again turned to whether this signified another peak of the market or whether these astonishing results might continue.
Although ‘The Scream’ is obviously one of only a handful of truly, universally iconic images from the history of art and the picture itself was cleverly marketed and exhibited widely across Asia and Europe before it reached the block, there now seems to be a new tier of super-rich collectors who aren’t scared of buying big, even amid all the global economic gloom. If scarcity is one obvious driver of these prices (a rare signed print of ‘The Scream’ is now being offered for £2m at the forthcoming Masterpiece London fair), then quality is perhaps harder to quantify and should certainly make any prospective buyers beware.
Old Master shows his muscles
With all the hype (most of it justified) surrounding the National Gallery’s recent blockbuster, ‘Leonardo da Vinci: Painter at the Court of Milan’, you would have thought that this was the last chance to see the Renaissance man’s genius in depth, in London, for a lifetime. Yet the Queen’s Gallery, in a Jubilee year no less, has staged the greatest ever gathering of Leonardo’s superb and unparalleled studies of the human form (and the occasional monkey hand or cow’s uterus), reminding us that the Royal Collection can rival any display of drawings mounted in da Vinci’s homeland.
Had these delicate metal-point and chalk sketchbook pages been published in his lifetime, they would have revolutionised and modernised medicine, but for those of us with barely a working knowledge of anatomical accuracy they are still wildly exciting documents and, of course, eye-opening in their simple beauty. Another must-see Leonardo exhibition.
‘Leonardo da Vinci: Anatomist’ is at the Queen’s Gallery until 7 October.
Market focus: Henry Moore means more
It seems that Henry Moore (1898-1986) is finally coming home, after many years in the relative wilderness. In Britain at least, our great modernist sculptor was long deemed out of fashion and even unfairly accused, late in life, of plonking his egomaniacal plaza-filling pieces in every far-flung corner of the planet. Now, however, in the wake of a balanced, reputation-restoring survey at Tate Britain in 2010 and a few recent, eye-watering prices – including a reported €35 million price tag for a large reclining nude in black marble at TEFAF Maastricht – perhaps the tide is turning and Moore is no longer seen as simply steady or sturdy.
An ambitious show of monumental public works coming to London from the Henry Moore Foundation’s outdoor sculpture park in Perry Green, Hertfordshire, has forced Gagosian to knock down all the interior walls of its cavernous Britannia Street galleries. It also forces viewers to look again and encounter Moore’s work afresh, not only within the context of a white space – where these walk-through behemoths are rarely seen – but within the context of other contemporary artists working on a similar scale, such as Richard Serra and Anish Kapoor. Of course, taste is notoriously fickle and no artist’s market is indestructible, even if the works themselves might seem to be (unfortunately major bronzes are still in danger of being stolen and melted down for their metal). Yet, of all the underrated modern masters, Moore surely deserves more of our respect.
‘Henry Moore: Large Late Forms’ is at Gagosian until 18 August and the Henry Moore Foundation at Perry Green is open until 28 October this year.
London Eye on Cornelia Parker
Tucked away in the far corner of the V&A’s British Galleries on Level 2 is the surprising sight of a giant mobile made of 54 squashed instruments hanging in the circular ‘oculus’ light-well. This installation, ‘Breathless’ by Cornelia Parker, involved the artist sourcing tubas, trumpets and other horns from the Salvation Army and other military or colliery bands, which she then took to be flattened by the giant 22-tonne weights that serve the lifting mechanism of Tower Bridge. Her notion was to represent the waning British Empire through the metaphor of the dwindling number of working, community brass bands. The sadness that accompanies the act of taking the wind out of these instruments is somewhat alleviated by their shiny coating of silver plate and their decorous arrangement and suspension between the museum’s floors where they also have the uncanny resemblance to an elaborate ceiling rose. A double take if ever there was one.
‘Breathless’ is a permanent installation in Room 55, V&A