Issue 30, Spring 2012

Editor's letter

Now the smoke has cleared on 2011, what has emerged with stark clarity is that Bonhams has had a superlative year. The house celebrated its tenth anniversary since its merger with Phillips with results that hit headlines around the world. In November, for instance, Bonhams sold the most expensive lotduring the Asian Art week auctions, a Qianlong vase that made £9m. There was also a triumph in Russian week when a painting by Vasilii Polenov achieved £4.1m, again the highest earning lot to be offered at London's Russian art auctions. But perhaps the painting that really captured the imagination was Velázquez's Portrait of a Gentleman, the cover image of our last issue. This oil highlighted once more the expertise of Bonhams' specialists. Found in an attic in Kent, the Old Masters department, led by Caroline Oliphant and Andrew McKenzie, brought together a formidable array of world experts to confirm that it was a work of the Spanish master. It sold in New Bond Street for £3m. For more world-beating results, turn to page 14.

Bonhams, however, is a house that prides itself on looking forward. This season marks the launch of New York's Contemporary Art department with a May sale that features Jean-Michel Basquiat's Mad, a work all the more poignant for being painted at the end of his self-destructive life. On the other side of the globe, Hong Kong also has a sale of contemporary Chinese art, featuring the modern masters, Chu Teh-Chun and Zao Wuo-Ki, both of whom moved to Paris in the 1940s. It provides a intriguing insight into the fusion of traditional Chinese techniques with western art practices.

But then art and artifacts do bear witness to the past. One of the most moving items we have ever offered is Captain Scott's farewell letter, written in his tent only days before his death at the South Pole. If you have tears, prepare to shed them.

- Lucinda Bredin

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    Page 17

    Inside Bonhams: Master of arts

    When David Dallas took up his post as International Head of Old Masters at Bonhams New Bond Street, it was a homecoming. The distinguished specialist who has held major positions in the trade (most recently he worked in St James's for the private gallery Johnny van Haeften) spent three years in the 1970s on the third floor of Bonhams ...

  2. Claude Flight (British, 1881-1955) Speed Linocut, 1922, printed in cobalt blue, yellow ochre, vermilion and Prussian blue, on buff oriental laid paper, signed and numbered 43/50 in pencil,

    Page 21

    Cutting edge

    "Time seems to pass so quickly nowadays. Everybody is in a hurry... this speeding up of life in general is one of the psychologically important features of today. Traffic problems, transport problems, everybody is on the rush either for work or pleasure: business is hustle, the Cinema all movement." This, amazing to relate, is not a lament from last week ...

  3. El Antsui (Ghanaian, born 1944) 'New World Map'

    Page 24

    Cloth of gold

    At any one time, there can be 30 pairs of hands at work in El Anatsui's studio in Nsukka, south-eastern Nigeria. They crush bottle cap after bottle cap, folding the aluminum with careful fingers, before piercing and linking these together with copper wire.

    Anatsui insists on an atmosphere of silent industry. Dressed in overalls, he walks constantly around the ...

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    Page 28

    Hidden gem

    The Mughal Mirror Diamond Necklace is a remarkable survival from India's jewel-strewn past. Its five pendant diamonds come from the famous mines of Golconda in the Deccan. Their quality is such that it is hard to believe that they did not enter a royal treasury on their discovery, for the emperors and princes who vied for control over the ...

  5. ROBERT FALCON SCOTT. Autograph Letter Signed, 4 pages, 8vo, March 16, 1912, to Edgar Speyer

    Page 38

    Famous last words

    'Goodbye to you': one of Captain Scott's last letters

    My dear Sir Edgar
    I hope this may reach you – I fear we must go and that it leaves the expedition in a bad muddle – But we have been to the Pole and we shall die like gentlemen – I regret only for the women we leave behind – I thank you ...

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    Page 44

    Platform: Viennese twist

    The name Thyssen is synonymous with escalators, elevators and great art. August Thyssen founded the dynasty in the 19th century, when he turned a chicken-wire business into an steel and iron empire. He bought Flemish Old Masters and six sculptures from his friend Rodin. His son Heinrich continued the tradition. Heinrich bought Hans Holbein's portrait of Henry VIII from ...

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    Page 50

    Cultural evolution

    Chu Teh-Chun and Zao Wou-Ki moved to Paris after the Second World War. It enabled the pair to fuse Chinese techniques with western practice, says Helen Ho

    With careers spanning over six decades, Chu Teh-Chun and Zao Wou-Ki are two of the most important living Chinese artists, and their works are found in the collections of more than 50 museums ...

  8. PGL 268b Jean Royere A Chest of Drawers circa 1955  mahogany and patinated iron  73.5 by 80cm by 38 cm. 28 15/16 by 31 1/2 by 14 15/16 in.

    Page 52

    Continental accent

    In 1965, when Michael Pruskin was 18, he helped Marc Bolan ornament his surname with an umlaut.
    As the new publicist of the then-undiscovered pop singer, he believed a continental twist might improve Bolan's chances of fame. "We thought it looked French," he told an interviewer from the Evening Standard.

    Today, though Pruskin is rather better at identifying what ...

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    Page 57

    Wine: Cask in hand

    Fashions in wine come and go: the latest is a decrease in the use of 100 per cent new oak barrels for the production of fine wines. Twenty years ago, the trend was for all new oak, which meant that red wine often had a rather oaky flavor while white, especially Chardonnay or White Burgundy, took on a buttery, vanilla ...

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    Page 58

    Travel: Mysteries of Lisbon

    Recently dubbed 'the new Berlin' because of its exuberant nightlife and revived cultural clout, Lisbon is, in reality, an older, more majestic San Francisco. Aside from the obvious similarities – light-filled streets, hills sloping down to the water, the Golden Gate-esque Ponte 25 de Abril – there is also Lisbon's penchant for contemporary culture. Theater (try Culturgest for experimental performances or ...

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    Page 72

    My favorite room: Terence Stamp

    I first came across Chateau Marmont in 1966. I was in Los Angeles filming Blue, a western, and went to visit friends in Hollywood Hills. Their house had burnt down and the insurance company had put them up at the Chateau. I found it mind blowing. From the entrance, one walks up two flights of stairs into an amazing space ...

Contacts
  1. Lucinda Bredin
    Author
    Bonhams
    Work
    101 New Bond Street
    London, United Kingdom W1S 1SR
    Work +44 20 7468 8394