Sir Peter Paul Rubens

Tales from the London Old Master Sales: from 17,000 to 3.2 million!

Following the low energy at Christie's and Bonhams Old Master sales in London, there was more buzz and  excitement at Sotheby’s evening last night and the sale did quite well. Although some of our favourite works are reserved for the New York sales in January, there were still some works that we loved in the mix. Such as the delicate tiny "Lucretia" by Lucas Cranach the Elder which sold for just over £1million, and the Rogier van der Weyden of the Pieta - although by a follower, it is a strong work and it’s not like you can buy the original from the Musée Royaux des Beaux-Arts in Brussels. One of the highlights of the evening was the Portrait of a Gentleman by Sir Peter Paul Rubens, a very fine, Velazquez-like work by the master. This portrait was sold for £3.2million, well above its estimate £400,000-600,000.  What makes the story interesting is that this painting was purchased at Christie’s Paris in 2003 as Circle of Rubens for a mere € 17,000!! Christie’s must be upset for getting this one wrong, so is the owner who consigned it to them. This is where one clearly sees the importance of expertise and talent for spotting good quality paintings.

Old Masters Boom in Singapore

It seems like there is an Old Master paintings boom in Singapore! First it was the announcement that highlights from the world famous Princely Collection of Liechtenstein, normally housed in the Liechtenstein Palaces, are going on exhibit at the National Museum of Singapore, which opened on 26th of June. Singapore is already the fourth stop for the collections' Asia tour, which have included Tokyo, Kochi and Kyoto. Further exhibitions in Beijing’s National Museum and the China Art Museum in Shanghai are planned to starting in the autumn.

Dr Johann Kraftner during the press preview of the Liechtenstein exhibition at the National Museum of Art, Singapore

Although these loan exhibitions are to promote the LGT Bank (owned by the princely House of Liechtenstein) in Asia, it certainly serves a great cultural purpose. The show is curated by Dr. Johann Kraftner, the family's art advisor and director of its two museums in Vienna, and brings together by masterworks including Raphael, Rubens, Canaletto and Pieter Brueghel the Younger.

Canaletto, "Venice: The Piazza San Marco, Looking West from the North End of the Piazzetta" Oil on canvas 65 x 95 cm Princely Collection of Liechtenstein, Vienna

The Canaletto on view was sold to the coll ection through the London-based Old Master dealer Derek Johns, who recently started a new venture in Singapore as well. Together with his Singapore-based partner Chng Hock Huat, and joining forces with Monaco-based dealer Marietta Vinci-Corsini (widow of the famous dealer Piero Corsini who passed away in 2001) Derek Johns has set up Emperor Fine Art in Singapore, giving the opportunity to see European Old Master paintings within the Asian region.

Chng Hock Huat and Derek Johns in front of "Holy Family" by Andrea del Sarto

Johns and Corsini selected a group of paintings from their gallery stock to send to Singapore and held their first official week of events which cleverly corresponded with the opening of the Liechtenstein exhibition on 26th of June.

Add all this information on to the fact that just a month ago, the Singaporean government announced that the Pinacothèque de Paris is to bring Old Masters and Modern art in a pop-up space from September during the renovations to its main building in Paris. Owned and run by the Modigliani scholar Marc Restellini, the Pinacothèque first opened in 2007, and since 2011 has been displaying a collection of masterpieces from Van Dyck, Monet and Modigliani to Picasso and Pollock; all works on loan from private or public collections.

Singaporeans are getting a series of events and exhibitions highlighting Old Masters! Exhibitions are a great way to educate and expose audiences to such works, which is even better news for the dealers as they hope that after viewing and admiring the Old Master treasures on display, the Asian audience will be more inclined to start collecting them too.