Issue 55, Summer 2018

Editor's Letter: Lucinda Bredin

"Unlike James Dean, almost every rebel does have a cause. It's why they put their head above the parapet in the first place. But rebellion takes many forms – from those who make nonconformity their life's work to those who embark on a mission to stretch boundaries, whatever the cost. Then some fall out of society into trouble through a personality defect.

Take the case of swashbuckling National Treasure Sir Francis Drake. It seems plain as a pikestaff that the buccaneer's initial motive was straightforward greed. Had he followed in his father's footsteps, Drake would have led a quiet life as a gentleman farmer. However, led astray by his cousin John Hawkins, he spent his youth instead as a pirate, raiding Spanish galleons in the Caribbean and returning with booty worth more than £100,000 (perhaps £15 million in today's money).

But forget the slave-trading and smuggling: as naval historian Sam Willis points out on page 26, Drake's most egregious act of rebellion was in the way he polevaulted into the nobility. Drake's portrait, on offer in July's Old Masters sale, shows Drake as he saw himself: a gentleman of property, resplendent in armour and ruff, equipped to defeat foes on the foredeck – or at court.

Jean Dubuffet was in the family business as a wholesale wine merchant until, aged 41, he devoted himself to painting. Dubuffet didn't just rebel against his family – he rebelled against the entire canon of art. As Alastair Smart describes on page 32, Dubuffet wanted art to be a direct projection of a person's psyche, rather than observations of nature. The movement he founded, Art Brut, tapped into a longing for the raw, far removed from stultifyingly overcivilised elite art. Given the surge in the market for his work, Dubuffet's visceral passion still speaks to today's collectors.

Finally, do come to see our exhibition of Alexander Golovin's set designs for Stravinsky's Le Rossignol, one of the most revolutionary operas ever. It was deemed so shocking that it lasted only one performance in Russia, but Golovin's exquisite watercolours are reminders that rebels forge the path to progess."

Enjoy the issue.

Lucinda Bredin

  1. Page 4

    Bed bound

    Frank Auerbach's work and life are rooted in London, but paradoxically his works have a universal appeal. John McDonald explains why

    Cast a glance at the pages of Studio International during the 1960s and it is easy to spot the most-fashionable artists of the era. They are painters of Colourfield and Hard-Edged Abstractions, Pop Artists, Kinetic Artists, Minimalists and ...

  2. Page 12

    Sailor of the century

    Merchant, pirate and hero of the Armada, Sir Francis Drake was no mere man of his time. As Sam Willis argues, Drake defined the era

    It is one of the great storeys of British history and, sadly, one that sensible historians routinely disparage: that, as his nation faced existential peril at the hands of its mortal enemy, Sir Francis Drake ...

  3. King Kong,  RKO Pictures, 1933,

    Page 14

    Beauty and the beast

    Young actress is seduced by primitive brute – the story is old, but King Kong gave it a terrifying new twist. Dick Alston tells how the monkey movie scaled the box-office heights

    When director Merian C Cooper hinted to budding starlet Fay Wray that she "was going to have the tallest, darkest leading man in Hollywood", Wray assumed – naturally – that he ...

  4. Page 17

    Looming marvellous

    Tapestries are now as likely to be found in a contemporary art gallery as in a dusty stately home. Timothy Wilcox takes up the thread

    For the monarchs of the Middle Ages, tapestries were the ultimate status symbol. So much so, that they were carried through the streets, like walking strip cartoons, to dazzle and entrance the grateful populace. Now ...

  5. Page 20

    Brut strength

    Dismissing establishment art, Jean Dubuffet was hailed as an aesthetic pioneer. Alastair Smart enjoys the provocations of the wine merchant who created Art Brut

    As the Second World War broke out, Jean Dubuffet was running a struggling wine merchants' business in the neighbourhood of Bercy, on Paris's Right Bank. He was 38 and following a family tradition; both his ...

  6. Page 22

    My favourite room
    Don McCullin

    Don McCullin recalls his life-changing visit to Syria's famous Roman ruins

    I have been to the ruins of Palmyra in Syria several times since my first visit in 2006 – and was there again just a few months ago to photograph the destruction wreaked by ISIS. That first time was for a book on the ruins of the Roman Empire ...

  7. Page 30

    Making a scene

    Stravinksy's first opera played for just a single night, but Alexander Golovin's fantastical designs for it remain. Claire Wrathall explains

    Going through her father's possessions after his death in Hong Kong in 1968, Masha Engmann came upon a set of 30 drawings in watercolour, gouache, ink and pencil, unframed and wrapped in newspaper.

    Exquisitely wrought in the ...

  8. Page 33

    Travel
    Temples of Basel

    Away from the feverish deal-making of the annual art fair, Georgina Adam finds a city that brims with culture

    For anyone who works in the art trade, Art Basel – the modern and contemporary art fair that is held every June in Switzerland's
    third biggest city – is the high point of the year. With almost 300 top-flight galleries exhibiting everything ...

  9. Page 47

    Platform
    Bank on art

    Even tough-minded global financiers get the value of art, as Mary Rozell explains to Lucinda Bredin

    Stating the obvious, I say to Mary Rozell, the Global Head of the UBS Art Collection, surely the primary purpose of a bank is to make money. So why has a hard-nosed financial corporation sunk loads of money into buying art – more than 30 ...

  10. Jack B. Yeats R.H.A. (Irish, 1871-1957) Donnelly's Hollow 61 x 91.5 cm. (24 x 36 in.) (Painted in 1936)

    Page 55

    Body and soul

    In one corner, a pugilist with unusually long arms. In the other, Ireland's greatest painter. Maev Kennedy tells the story of an epochal boxing match and an exceptional work of art

    On some road-weary evening, driving back from a journalistic outing to the south-west and before hurling my little yellow Citroën Dyane into Dublin rush-hour traffic, I would often ...

  11. Page 56

    Driving force

    John Surtees was World Champion both on motorcycles and in racing cars, but the vehicle closest to his heart was the rare BMW 507 Count Agusta bought him. Doug Nye explains

    The late, great John Surtees CBE was the most competitive man I have ever known – and, having been involved with motor racing for more than 50 years, I've ...

  12. Page 59

    News

    Ghana party

    On the occasion of the 2018 CHOGM (Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting), Bonhams held a celebration of modern and contemporary Ghanaian art at the Knightsbridge saleroom. Hosted in partnership with international law firm Hogan Lovells, the UK-Ghana Chamber of Commerce, and art writer Nana Oforiatta Ayim, the event was an opportunity to view work by some of Ghana ...

  13. Page 60

    Wine
    Tuscan risorgimento

    It is one of the oldest storeys around: rebels kick at the Establishment, make their fortune, then join the Establishment. Whether it's rock stars buying country estates or soixante-huitards becoming bankers, the pattern is the same. In wine, the picture is only slightly complicated by the fact that the rebels originally came from impeccably establishment backgrounds. But they too ...

  14. Page 70

    Around the globe

    Andrew Currie highlights a selection of Bonhams sales worldwide

    Los Angeles
    Cradle to the brave

    The Plains Indians have long gripped the imagination of the world. Cheyenne, Blackfoot, Comanche – these names conjure up the wide open spaces and nomadic tribal life which have come to represent Native Americans in literature, art and, of course, on the screen. The Bonhams Native ...

  15. Page 72

    Cometh the hour

    James Stratton, Head of Clocks, talks to Andrew Currie about how he wound up at Bonhams

    One Tuesday afternoon in May 2011, Bonhams Head of Clocks James Stratton opened an email from one of the company's European representatives. "The attached image was tiny and a little blurred," James recalls. "There was an ordinary suburban mantelpiece – a vase of flowers ...

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