Issue 44, Autumn 2015

Editor's Letter: Lucinda Bredin "It has just been announced that Matthew Girling is the new Global CEO of Bonhams. This prompted a rejig of our latest issue so that we could interview Matthew, the only CEO of a major auction house to take sales as an auctioneer. On page 14, amongst other things, he talks about how exciting it is when specialists guide someone new to a particular collecting area and turn the buyer into a connoisseur.

It led me to think about the notion of inspiring figures and how an individual's 'lightbulb moment' can transform an idea, a theory, a piece of art. Let's look no further than Charles Darwin. It's now acknowledged that the naturalist drew on the theories of others in his field, yet it was his popularisation of the now famous phrase 'survival of the fittest' that catapulted him into the pantheon of great thinkers. And while we are on the subject of pantheons, how did religion – specifically, Christianity – sit with his discoveries?

A fascinating letter outlining Darwin's views on God is on offer in New York's History of Science Sale. On page 22, the celebrated writer A.N. Wilson studies its importance. Darwin had most of his major ideas while on a five-year voyage on HMS Beagle, serving as the ship's naturalist. Paul Klee was similarly struck while on a visit to Tunisia in 1914. After experiencing a completely different type of light from that of Northern Europe, his views on colour were radically and irreversibly changed; a revelation that affected all his subsequent paintings. Martin Gayford examines the impact of this and discusses a work in New York's Impressionist Art sale in November, on page 50.

Another artist, Cai Guo-Qiang, creates 'explosion events', using gunpowder as if graphite to scorch the surface of his 'drawings'. This technique combines the ancient Chinese arts of both firework-making and calligraphy – and once again, it is this inspiring fusion of ideas that produces such striking work, an example of which is offered in Hong Kong's Contemporary Art Sale in October.

The film director Richard Attenborough took ideas and transformed these into art. An array of his film memorabilia – to be sold, with his collection of modern art at Bonhams Knightsbridge – gives a glimpse behind the scenes of the work of one of the greats. Finally, the word inspiration, as you know, originates in the notion of breathing in. We hope that there are works in the magazine that provoke similar gasps of excitement. Enjoy the issue."

Lucinda Bredin

  1. Page 4

    Auto erotic

    Rolling Stones guitarist Keith Richards' 1965 limited-edition motor was the perfect vehicle for his rock-star lifestyle. Satisfaction guaranteed, says Neil Lyndon

    If cars could talk, many might tell a tale to make their owners blush. If, however, the 1965 Bentley S3 Continental Flying Spur originally registered JLP 400D could recall the excesses it bore and the scenes in which it ...

  2. Page 6

    Big bang theory

    Cai Guo-Qiang creates 'explosion events' using gunpowder and flame. Ron Rosenbaum meets this artist with a passion for pyrotechnics

    Cai Guo-Qiang may be the only artist in human history who has had some one billion people gaze simultaneously at one of his works. The internationally-lauded explosives artist created the fireworks sculpture for the opening of the Beijing Olympics in 2008 ...

  3. Page 12

    The shape shifter

    The work of Kohei Nawa is as amorphous as the digital manipulations he uses to create his sculptures. As he prepares to create a special installation at Bonhams, Matthew Wilcox strives to keep up with all the artist's plans and projects

    "Before I came to London, I didn't really like contemporary art," says Kohei Nawa – an unexpected admission ...

  4. Page 19

    Light bulb moment

    The Gutai and Zero groups are now recognised as pioneers of live art. As an exhibition of their work opens at Bonhams, Hans Ulrich Obrist explains why these movements are now more relevant than ever

    The emergence of the Gutai group in Japan in the mid-fifties represents one of the great moments of the avant garde in the post-war era ...

  5. Page 31

    Feat of Klee

    Capable of working on two or three paintings at once, Paul Klee spent a lifetime exploring not only form but also the theory of colour. Martin Gayford sifts through the many facets of this polymathic artist

    When, early in 1921, Paul Klee gave his first lecture at the Bauhaus in Weimar, he made an unusual entrance, backing through the door ...

  6. Page 37

    Platform
    The great and the good

    The National Portrait Gallery, one of the world's best-loved collections, has a new director. Nicholas Cullinan outlines his vision to Louisa Buck

    When he took up his post in April this year, Nicholas Cullinan became the twelfth director in the National Portrait Gallery's 158-year history, and at 37, one of its youngest. "I'm really enjoying it – it ...

  7. Page 40

    Travel
    Costa nostra

    Syracuse is the ideal base from which to explore the eastern part of Sicily, says Christopher Newall

    I began my love affair with Sicily in Syracuse. Set on the south-eastern coast, it is one of the most gloriously beautiful and historically fascinating cities of the Mediterranean. Although it is connected to the mainland by a causeway, Syracuse was built, back ...

  8. Page 46

    The reel thing

    Barry Norman celebrates the life and work of Richard Attenborough, one of cinema's most remarkable figures – and his friend for 50 years

    Richard Attenborough, who died last year aged 90, was not only one of the most significant figures the British film industry has ever produced, but an art collector and connoisseur, the energetic patron of countless charities and ...

  9. Page 49

    Whisky
    Rising Suntory

    Japanese malt is taking the world by storm. Matthew Wilcox explains why the country's whisky is no longer lost in translation

    "Mr Bob-san, imagine you're relaxing in your study. There's a bottle of Suntory whisky on the table. Now, with intense feeling, slowly, look at the camera, as if to an old friend, like Bogie in Casablanca ...

  10. Page 52

    Yours faithfully

    Did Charles Darwin believe in God? A letter sheds light on the beliefs of a conflicted man for whom religion would always be at odds with his theory of evolution. A.N. Wilson reads between the lines

    It is a short letter, but it is highly revealing. A young barrister, Frank McDermott, who had been reading Darwin's books with ...

  11. Page 53

    My favourite room
    Raymond Blanc

    When he first visited Alain Ducasse's Le Louis XV, Raymond Blanc remembers being overwhelmed by the gilt – and then by the gastronomy

    My favourite room could easily have been the theatre of the Royal Shakespeare Company in Stratford-upon-Avon – where I went within days of arriving in England, 40 years ago, to see Romeo and Juliet – or somewhere closer to ...

  12. Page 60

    Seat of power

    All the presidents – and their men – posed with a humble chair in a photographer's studio. Madelia Ring investigates

    To mark the occasion of his speech at the Cooper Institute in New York in 1860, an obscure lawyer from the backwater state of Indiana decided to have his portrait taken. He chose the experienced photographer, Matthew Brady, who had the ...

  13. Page 63

    Inside Bonhams
    Ring master

    Matthew Girling joined Bonhams in 1988 to work in the jewellery department. Now is the newly appointed Global CEO. He talks to Lucinda Bredin

    It's been an eventful past two years for Bonhams. Among the many landmark moments there was the unveiling of the new headquarters in New Bond Street, the opening of the Hong Kong saleroom and the ...

  14. El Anatsui (Ghanaian, born 1944) 'Al Haji' 184 x 80 x 28cm (72 7/16 x 31 1/2 x 11in).

    Page 65

    Under African skies

    African art has taken its place in the sun. Farah Nayeri charts its rise and profiles three artists in Bonhams Africa Now sale

    This has been an auspicious few years for African contemporary art. In an historic first, last year's edition of the 120-year-old Venice Biennale was curated by an African-born curator: Okwui Enwezor (director of the Haus der ...

  15. A Ute beaded shirt

    Page 67

    Venerable beads

    A lifetime's passion for Native American art and a career in films has enabled horseman extraordinaire Mario Luraschi to amass an outstanding collection, as Jim Haas discovers

    Mario Luraschi bought his first piece of Native American craft at the age of 13 – a pair of moccasins, demonstrating, so the story goes, that a great journey starts with small (in ...

  16. Page 75

    News

    In and out of Bonhams' salerooms:

    Prince of Denmark

    Danish car enthusiast, Henrik Frederiksen, is offering his collection of 48 rare motor cars for sale with Bonhams in a single-owner sale, The Frederiksen Auction, on 26 September. The sale takes place at Frederiksen's residence at Lyngsbækgaard, a 16th-century manor house in a national park, built for the Danish royal ...

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