Issue 49, Winter 2016

Editor's Letter: Lucinda Bredin "Many of the artworks and objects in this issue were produced during tumultuous times. You might ask when has an era not been strapped to a rollercoaster? Fair point, but some of the works in this season's sales can be traced to specific moments during grim times – whether in the Second World War or the dark days of the 1970s in Britain.

Take the case of Günther Uecker. When it comes to working with specific materials, Uecker has made the nail his own. Two examples of his work – from 1958 and 1962 – will be offered in February's Post-War and Contemporary Art sale in New Bond Street. On page 30, the writer and curator Francesca Gavin points to the episode in his life that caused Uecker to channel his artwork through this humble but essential piece of ironmongery. The story goes that during the war, as the Russians advanced, the artist, then a boy, nailed up every door and every window of the family home to prevent the approaching army from entering. Ever since, his nail landscapes – it is thought he has used more than 100 tonnes of nails to date – have become a force field of angst and beauty.

Another work that evokes the past – in this case Britain in the 1970s – is Bhupen Khakhar's Man in Pub. The painting depicts a far-off world of English boozers where bad beer was drunk against a backdrop of dreadful wallpaper, places that have all but vanished. The novelist Amit Chaudhuri, who like Khakhar comes from Bombay, writes about how this work exudes the sense of alienation and feeling of being cold-shouldered that Khakhar experienced when he first arrived in England.

Paul Manship's sculpture Diana, from 1921, is also a witness to its age: the booming economy of the Roaring Twenties, when skyscrapers were soaring in the New York landscape. As Alastair Smart writes on page 44, Manship was the go-to guy for sculptural commissions in New York during that time – his most famous work is Prometheus at the Rockefeller Centre. Although overlooked during the era of big abstract sculptures, Manship's work has now come to be regarded by connoisseurs as exemplary for its craftmanship.

Finally, we celebrate two pioneers: Eric 'Winkle' Brown, described by the author James Holland as the greatest ever British aviator, and Maureen O'Hara, the Hollywood queen of Technicolour. In these pages, you can read all about their lives and legacies.

Enjoy the issue."

Lucinda Bredin

  1. Bhupen Khakhar (India, 1934-2003) Man in Pub Man in Pub

    Page 8

    Love in a cold climate

    Even in bleak 1970s Britain, Bhupen Khakhar found colour and light. Amit Chaudhuri applauds his painterly inventions

    Bhupen Khakhar first visited Britain in 1976. It wasn't a good time for Britain; its economy had long been hovering around breaking point, and it had emerged only two years earlier from the three-day week, a period of extreme austerity, curtailed electricity ...

  2. Page 10

    Beauty and the beast

    A beauty with a crunching right hook, Maureen O'Hara was adored by John Ford. What will a lost cache of letters reveal about their relationship, asks Neil Lyndon

    Anybody paying attention to Maureen O'Hara in John Ford's Oscar-winning film The Quiet Man (1952) must surely sense that something extraordinary is going on between her and the camera ...

  3. Page 12

    Changing tack

    After a traumatic war, Günther Uecker was determined to remake modern art from scratch. To effect this transformation, as Francesca Gavin explains, he reached for a bag of nails

    If Günther Uecker owns one material in contemporary art, it is the nail: nails are vital in much of the 86-year-old artist's work. Years after he started working with this ...

  4. Page 13

    My favourite room
    Steven Berkoff

    How Steven Berkoff made his directorial debut in a building with
    a railway turntable – the Roundhouse

    Seldom have I felt such an atmosphere as I did when I first walked into the Roundhouse. The majestic circular structure, built in 1847 for a railway turntable, is topped by a curved roof, which allows the light in from its crown, and is ...

  5. KAWS B. 1974 T.N.O.N. - I

    Page 16

    KAWS and effect

    The New York graffiti artist KAWS found his inspiration among Tokyo's pop-culture obsessives, as Matthew Wilcox discovers

    "I started doing SpongeBob paintings for Pharrell. Then I started doing smaller paintings, which got much more abstract. SpongeBob was something I wanted to do because, graphically, I love the shapes."

    KAWS – aka Brian Donnelly – is one of the most sought-after urban ...

  6. Page 19

    Full medal jacket

    Captain Eric 'Winkle' Brown was Britain's greatest pilot, flying 487 different planes over three decades. James Holland pays tribute to a legendary aviator whose medals are being offered at Bonhams

    Captain Eric 'Winkle' Brown had faced danger many times. During his first flying experience as a teenager, he had been flown upside down just inches off the ground by ...

  7. John Constable R.A. (East Bergholt 1776-1837 London) Flatford Lock on the Stour looking towards Bridge Cottage

    Page 26

    Special Constable

    Andrew McKenzie marvels at a tiny canvas that bears all the hallmarks of the artist's finest work

    At just under seven by ten inches, this small canvas conveys all the brilliance of Constable's full-scale masterpieces. Remarkably for such a small sketch, it has more in common with the artist's relatively finished six-foot sketches than it does with ...

  8. Paul Howard Manship (1885-1966) Diana 38 1/4in high on a 1 1/2in marble base

    Page 29

    Bronze age

    Paul Manship had the artistic world at his feet – but fell from fashion. Alastair Smart still finds much to admire in his Art Deco sculptures

    Who was the most popular American sculptor in the first half of the 20th century? For those a little sketchy on their dates, Augustus Saint-Gaudens died in 1907, so it wasn't him. David Smith ...

  9. Page 31

    From rags to riches

    There's a car in the fountain and a pile of rags in the chapel at Blenheim Palace. Lucinda Bredin talks contemporary art with Edward Spencer-Churchill

    You might think some things never change: the sun will come up, the UK will have its place at the world's top table and the stately homes of England will continue to express ...

  10. An exceptional Imperial gilt-bronze and cloisonné enamel 'elephant' tripod incense burner and cover Qianlong (3)

    Page 47

    Burning desire

    The exotic scent of incense drifted through every aspect of life under the Qing emperors, as Frances Wood explains

    Filling temples, palace halls and courtyards with white smoke and its intoxicating scent, incense has been at the heart of Chinese Imperial ritual for thousands of years. By the time the Manchu Qing Dynasty seized power in the mid-17th century, the ...

  11. Page 49

    Hard core

    Tom Kemble, head chef at the Michelin-starred Bonhams Restaurant, reinvents tarte Tatin, the famous apple dessert

    Many much-loved foods and sauces have been created by accident – crisps, Worcester sauce, Eton Mess, crêpes Suzette – but none have a more colourful story behind their creation than tarte Tatin. This luscious caramelised apple tart is now a benchmark for any French or French-inspired ...

  12. Page 52

    Inside Bonhams
    Great leap forward

    A Chinese revolution has revitalised the global art market, Ingrid Dudek tells Lucinda Bredin

    I first moved to China in 1999 and immediately realised that everything we thought we knew about the country was ten years out of date," says Ingrid Dudek, Bonhams' Director of Modern and Contemporary Art, Asia.

    It was the year that more than 20 Chinese artists ...

  13. Page 55

    Moving mountains

    Over the centuries, Iran has bridged civilisations. Barnaby Rogerson guides us through its many kingdoms

    I knew about the indigo fields of a Safavid carpet, the lustreware tiles, the jewel-like intensity of Ilkhanid court illuminations, the improbable length of Fatih Ali Shah's beard and how the eyebrows of a beloved youth etch a bow on the forehead. But after ...

  14. E. Charlton Fortune (1885-1969) Untitled (Monterey) 26 x 34in overall: 33 1/2 x 41 1/2in (Painted circa late 1920s)

    Page 62

    Fortune favours the waves

    Isobel Cockerell describes how E. Charlton Fortune found herself beside Monterey Bay

    In the early hours of 18 April 1906, a devastating earthquake shook San Francisco, destroying most of the city and killing thousands of inhabitants. As dawn broke, a young art student picked her way through the rubble with her mother. Her house, her art school, and virtually all ...

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