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Do Bacon and Holbein make happy bedfellows?

LONDON, ENGLAND - JUNE 11:  Francis Bacon's Study for a Pope I (estimated £25-35 million) is pictured alongside Portrait of Henry VIIIfrom the workshop of Hans Holbein (estimated £800,000 -£1.2 million) in prepartion for the Masterworks In Dialogue exhibition at Sotheby's June 11, 2015 in London.England. The Masterworks In Dialogue exhibition is open to the public from the 12-15th June 2015.  (Photo by Tristan Fewings/Getty Images for Sotheby's)

Francis Bacon’s Study for a Pope I (estimated £25-35 million) is pictured alongside Portrait of Henry VIII from the workshop of Hans Holbein (estimated £800,000 -£1.2 million) in preparation for the Masterworks In Dialogue exhibition at Sotheby’s. (Photo by Tristan Fewings/Getty Images for Sotheby’s)

The next three weeks will see the London’s biggest sales of the year with the flagship auctions of Impressionist & Modern art, Contemporary art and Old Masters.

This year Sotheby’s and Christie’s have both been staging exhibitions to showcase what they describe as ‘dynamic juxtapositions’ in addition to the regular run of viewings.

What on earth does this mean?

As far as one can tell, the idea of these ‘curated’ exhibitions is to arrange works thematically by attempting to show how art from different periods is linked.

This is an extension of what the auctioneers have been doing in print for some time – for example displaying images of famous Old Master paintings in a catalogue entry for a piece of Contemporary art to which supposedly relates.

Most commentators are sceptical of this approach. Presumably the idea is to add historical weight to the often more airy pieces of modern and contemporary art, and, conversely, trying to show how the less voguish older art can be still be fashionable. more »

Napoleon relics are hair-raising and razor-sharp at auction

PROVING the origin of a lock of hair can be tricky. The label may be right, the dates could match, but without the benefit of presumably DNA testing to clinch it, a leap of faith is always going to be involved on the part of the buyer.

Strand of Napoleon's hair sold by Cottees at auction for £130 on June 9.

Strand of Napoleon’s hair sold by Cottees at auction for £130 on June 9.

And a lot of locks of hair from historical figures/celebs are out there, a bit like pieces of the Berlin Wall or castles where Queen Mary apparently stayed the night.

A single strand of hair is more unusual, though. Among the huge range of Waterloo and Napoleonic wars memorabilia consigned around the 200th anniversary of the epic battle on June 18 was this strand said to be taken from the ‘Corsican Ogre’ in 1816.

Estimated at £100-200 at a Cottees of Dorset auction on June 9, it sold for £130 (plus 15% buyer’s premium) to a man living in the area who had seen coverage in the local press. The hair is contained within a folded piece of contemporary paper, inscribed in ink ‘ A single hair of Napoleon Bonaparte’s head 29th August 1816 ’ and subsequently ‘obt. 5th May 1821’ – the latter is the date of Napoleon’s death. The single strand is attached to the paper by red sealing wax.

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Sculptor who escaped the Nazis but was interned on Isle of Man

KURT Schwitters, Archibald Knox and Josef Pilates may not seem to share an obvious link.

Ernst Eisenmeyer pictured in 1997 next to the sculpture now on offer at Summers Place Auctions.

Ernst Eisenmeyer pictured in 1997 next to the sculpture now on offer at Summers Place Auctions.

And the fact that the link is the Isle of Man will come as a surprise to most people, but add ‘internment’ as another connection and you have an unusual set of circumstances that involved a set of highly creative personalities – and great art to follow.

Pilates is more famous in a different field of course, but Schwitters became a painter, sculptor and designer of note. He arrived in England in 1940 and was immediately interned in a camp on the Isle of Man, as foreign nationals – including many of Jewish descent – were to be in both world wars.

A lesser-known name who was also interned on the island during the Second World War is Ernst Eisenmeyer (b.1920). His skill is shown in an 12ft 2in (3.7m) high sheet copper abstract figure which is estimated at £8000-12,000 at Summers Place Auctions in Billingshurst, West Sussex, on June 23.

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James Bond novels show the golden touch

Proof copy of Goldfinger sold for £1800 at a Keys of Aylsham auction.

Proof copy of Goldfinger sold for £1800 at a Keys of Aylsham auction.

BOND villains always want to have the last laugh. They never do, usually suffering a gruesome end at the hands of 007.

In a strange way, Goldfinger has triumphed, however. Not Auric Goldfinger, that is, but the architect Erno Goldfinger who inspired the name.

Bond creator Ian Fleming called the megalomaniac of the seventh 007 novel Goldfinger after the once reviled architect, after apparently being upset by his plans to demolish a row of cottages in Willow Road, Hampstead, north London, and replace them with a modernist terrace (although that was in 1939).

Goldfinger took legal action in 1959 when the book  was about  to be released and publisher Jonathan Cape eventually ended up paying his costs and agreeing out of court to make clear in advertising and in future editions that all characters were fictitious.

In a 2005 article about Goldfinger, The Guardian wrote: “Fleming, in turn, was livid. He asked Cape to insert an erratum slip in the first edition changing the character’s name to Goldprick, a name suggested by the critic Cyril Connolly. Luckily for the film posters and theme tune of the future, sung by Shirley Bassey, Cape demurred.” more »

Running shoes and stopwatch from Roger Bannister’s four-minute mile

ON the face of it, Mr GT Law of Wimbledon, south London, has not gone down in history as someone who changed the world. But it was his creation that helped Sir Roger Bannister to do just that.

Running shoes Sir Roger Bannister used to run the first sub-four-minute mile. Estimated at £30,000-50,000 at Christie's.

Running shoes Sir Roger Bannister used to run the first sub-four-minute mile. Estimated at £30,000-50,000 at Christie’s.

In the early 1900s Law was an accomplished athlete but was so dissatisfied with the running shoes currently available he decided to make his own, and the firm of GT Law & Son first took shape.

About half a century later, it was in GT Law running shoes that Sir Roger became the first man to run a mile in under four minutes, earning him worldwide fame.

But the name of GT Law is now enjoying its own moment of fame, thanks to Sir Roger’s announcement he is selling those very shoes in the Out of the Ordinary auction at Christie’s on September 10, with an estimate of £30,000-50,000.

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Noel Gallagher, Lucian Freud, Grayson Perry, Eduardo Paolozzi just for starters

SOMETIMES a single-owner consignment of items to an auction house will deliver a superb selection of contemporary works put together by a dedicated collector. On other occasions, maybe it will be early furniture or ceramics, or perhaps an array of regimental medals.

Urn by Grayson Perry estimated at £10,000-15,000.

Urn by Grayson Perry estimated at £10,000-15,000.

Then again, often it’s anything goes.

Such is the nature of inveterate collectors who just can’t stop themselves – which is of course part of the joy.

At The Manor House, in Chelford, Cheshire, it was a case of Lucian Freud meets Grayson Perry meets Eduardo Paolozzi meets Noel Gallagher… just for starters.

“When I was first invited to view the contents of the property I had no idea that some of the most important names in contemporary art would have works within such a traditional-looking home. Alongside a wonderful 17th Spanish walnut refectory table I saw a Grayson Perry urn and cover flanked by a pair of 16th century bronze lions. In the living room an etching by Lucian Freud hung beside an 18th century Lake District court cupboard, and in the hallway stood an incredible bronze figure by Geoffrey Clarke. I couldn’t believe my eyes.”

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Porsche and Ferrari cars are the stars

IT’S so easy to buy online these days. At the click of a button you can order a book, food, concert tickets perhaps, or a cheap flight.

This Porsche is the most expensive item ever sold to an online bidder in a Bonhams' sale.

This Porsche is the most expensive item ever sold to an online bidder in a Bonhams’ sale.

What about the ‘Ex-Jürgen Oppermann/Otto Altenbach/Loris Kessel Obermaier Racing 1990-93 Porsche Type 962 C Endurance Racing Competition Coupe’?

Along with being a bit of a mouthful, this Porsche sold in Bonhams’ Spa Classic Sale on May 24 at Le circuit de Spa Francorchamps, Brussels, also now stands as the most valuable lot ever sold to an online bidder at the auction house.

The hammer price was a hefty €1.3m (£926,120) but with the buyer’s premium included that internet buyer will have paid €1,495,000 (£1,065,038).

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The original parka coat makes a comeback

ANYONE who grew up in the 1980s UK (that’ll be me) will have fond/horrible memories of the parka coat, depending on personal experience.

Original Alaskan inuit parka coat on sale at an Eve auction in Paris.

Original Alaskan inuit parka coat on sale at an Eve auction in Paris.

On the plus side, they were certainly warm and cosy and kids just loved zipping up the hood as far as it could go to create a small tunnel of fur in front of their face – the snorkel effect. On the downside, parents insisted on zipping them right up to protect their cherished offspring even when it was boiling hot.

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Bottle of Arctic Ale from 1875 offered unopened

Auctioneer Aaron Dean holds a bottle of Arctic Ale to be offered on June 13.

Auctioneer Aaron Dean holds a bottle of Arctic Ale to be offered on June 13.

A FINE 1875 vintage… never opened… those ATG people must be blogging about a wine sale.

Er, no. Beer. And a very interesting bottle of beer at that. Shropshire auctioneers Trevanion & Dean are offering a brew bottled for the British Arctic Expedition sent out to reach the North Pole.

This attempt by HMS Alert and HMS Discovery, under the leadership of Vice-Admiral Sir George Nares (1831-1915), failed to reach the pole but succeeded in mapping the coast lines of Greenland and Ellesmere Island.

Nares, in taking both ships successfully north through the channel between both land masses, became the first explorer to do so and the channel was named ‘Nares Strait’ in his honour.

One hundred and forty years later, the bottle of Arctic Ale was discovered by Trevanion and Dean auctioneer Aaron Dean in a garage in the Shropshire village of Gobowen. “I saw a bottle which looked interesting standing in a mixed box of spirits,” he said. “However, my jaw dropped to the floor when I saw ‘Arctic Expedition 1875’ embossed on the intact seal.”

The bottle, which is full, will be offered on June 13 with an estimate of £400-600.

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How the Guinness toucan fits the bill for advertising

QUIZ time: what do an extravagantly billed tropical bird, a writer of crime novels and a pint of the ‘black stuff’ have in common?

Guinness toucan light on offer at Denhams of Sussex with an estimate of £100-200.

Guinness toucan light on offer at Denhams of Sussex with an estimate of £100-200.

Apart from what sounds like a great night out with lots to explain to your other half in the morning, the answer is ‘advertising’.

The bird and pint then become easy: the toucan and Guinness. The two were a familiar pairing in advertising and marketing for the Irish brew, as a lot on offer at Sussex auctioneers Denhams on June 3 demonstrates perfectly. The Carltonware lamp GA/2178, wired for electricity, 9½in (24cm) high, is estimated at £100-200 in the sale at Warnham, near Horsham. The bird has a light sitting on top of its head and a pint of Guinness sits below its bill.

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