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‘Dedicated Followers of Fashion’

  • November 19, 2023
  • 9 min read
‘Dedicated Followers of Fashion’

by Anthony J Lester

Those who are familiar with the BBC’s Fake or Fortune? (Series 11 started on 26thSeptember)presented by Fiona Bruce and London art dealer Philip Mould, will be aware of the significances of a painting’s provenance. Often the story behind the work of art can be as alluring as the work itself.

If a painting or in fact, any object, has a connection with a celebrity, there seems to be hundreds of consumers willing to do battle over the piece. We were reminded of this on the evening of 6th September when Sotheby’s proffered 59 of Freddie Mercury’s most intimate personal effects. On the rostrum was Oliver Barker, a master at cajoling buyers to part with more money than they anticipated. To one bidder he articulated: “Come on, it’s worth the price. It’s Freddie’s!”

Such enticement resulted in Mercury’s 7cm silver Tiffany moustache comb commanding a hair-raising £152,400, against an estimate of £400-£600 and a silver snake bangle worn by him in the mid-1970s fetching £550,000, over 60 times its top estimate. The only anticlimax was Freddie’s Yamaha Grand Piano. Sotheby’s placed a bullish appraisal of £2,000,000 to £3,000,000 on it but the new owner had to part with a more modest, £1,742,000!

When I was a teenager (oh, that’s over 60 years ago!) my favourite commercial art gallery was the Fine Art Society. Established in 1876, the gallery occupied a magnificent space at 148 New Bond Street where it pioneered one-man exhibitions, one of the most notable being in 1880 of James McNeill Whistler’s etchings of Venice. The New Bond Street space closed in 2018, however, the firm is now entrenched at 25 Carnaby Street (entrance on Marlborough Court), W1F 7DE – best to make an appointment as, from time to time, the gallery is unmanned. Set over three floors of an elegant Georgian townhouse, their current show, simply entitled, 20th Century, runs until 10th November and tenders an eclectic mix ranging from Macduff, a fine etching of 1922 by James McBey (1883-1959) to Will Maclean’s (b. 1941) mixed media construction of 1995, Coastal Sistra. Among the other highlights, I particularly covet the robust, painterly brushwork of Pumpkin on bowl and Marrows, two arresting oil paintings by Imants Vecozols, who was born in Latvia in 1933.

Carnaby Street, of course, was the birthplace of Swinging London in the 1960s with independent fashion designers such as Mary Quant, Sally Tuffin and the “King of Carnaby Street”, Glasgow-born John Stephan, opening shops there. Such is the street’s notoriety that in 1966 The Kinks released “Dedicated Follower of Fashion”, which contains the line “Everywhere the Carnabetian Army marches on, each one a dedicated follower of fashion.”

Now, take a brisk walk to Savile Row, Mayfair, and you enter a very different fashion chronicle – high-quality bespoke tailoring for men. Built in the 1730s and named after Dorothy Savile, who was married to the architect Richard Boyle, it was in the late 18thcentury that tailors started business in the area, initially in nearby Cork Street, then in the early 19th century in Savile Row. Firms such as Gieves & Hawkes (1 Savile Row), who have held a Royal Warrant since 1809 and H. Huntsman & Sons (11 Savile Row), who, in 1886, earned a Royal Warrant as Leather Breeches Maker to HRH the Prince of Wales (later Edward VII) remain masters of their craft. However, Savile Row offers much for the art connoisseur too.

Situated in a former townhouse built in the 1730s, Pilar Corrias, 2 Savile Row, W1S 3PA, mount, until 4th November, new paintings by Shanghai-based artist Cui Jie (b. 1983). In this, the artist’s second solo show with the gallery, Jie presents large, bold acrylic compositions inspired by the glass and steel façades of iconic superstructures around the world. 

Born in Tokyo in 1969, Pilar Corrias, opened her first gallery in London in 2008 and has now expanded with an impressive, new, 5000sq.ft. flagship space at 51 Conduit Street, W1S 2YT, on the corner with Savile Row. The gallery’s inaugural exhibition runs until 16thDecember and offers a recent series of paintings and works on paper by LA-based artist Christina Quarles (b. 1985). Her vibrantly coloured, textured compositions feature distorted, often naked, human forms and frequently capture couples in erotic and somewhat implausible poses!

Another American artist, Avery Singer (b. 1987), mounts her first UK solo outing at the baronial space of Hauser & Wirth, 23 Savile Row, W1S 2ET. Taking place until 22ndDecember, Singer reflects upon her personal experience of the 9/11 terrorist attacks on New York’s World Trade Centre and in her large-scale paintings she combines manual and digital airbrush techniques, liquid and solid masking and complex layering processes.

The American artistic invasion currently taking place in Savile Row continues at Waterhouse & Dodd, 2nd Floor, 16 Savile Row, W1S 3PL (viewing by appointment only) with the work of Jon Schueler (1916-1992). Born in Milwaukee, he started painting in 1954 and in 1957 visited Scotland, where he later set up a studio near Mallaig, on the northwest coast. On view until 5th November, Schueler’s vibrant, gestural skyscape cloud paintings created between 1956 and 1990 are priced from £7,000 to £50,000.

A short walk away Ordovas, 25 Savile Row, W1S 2ER, present Endless Variations, the first exhibition dedicated to the work of two artistic icons of the 20th century – Francis Bacon (1909-1992) and Pittsburgh-born, Andy Warhol (1928-1987). On display until 15thDecember, it includes four painting by Bacon and three by Warhol, including his first seminal self-portrait, executed in 1963-1964. Complementing these are rare photographs and archive material, together with an illustrated catalogue.

Having surveyed these diverse exhibitions, why not be extravagant and have lunch at Sartoria (Italian for tailor), 20 Savile Row, W1S 3PR. Opened in 1998, this stylish restaurant serves classic and contemporary Italian dishes, inspired by Calabria and the surrounding areas of Italy. Like the street’s bespoke suits, it’s not cheap but, as they say, “You get what you pay for.”

Of course, the capital’s most important ‘art hub’ is Cork Street, just metres from Savile Row. Founded in 1923 the Redfern Gallery, 20 Cork Street, W1S 3HL has been in the Street since 1936 and currently presents two displays. Centenary Exhibition: Part 2 The Red Studio (ends 27th October), features work by gallery artists, includes The Hand Mirror(£3,500), a fine tempera painting by David Tindle, RA (b. 1932) and Catherine Kurtz’s (b. 1969) oil on board Red I (£2,000). The other, continuing until 26th October, coinciding with the publication of Norman Stevens: The Complete Prints, proffers prints by Stevens (1937-1988), a lifelong friend of David Hockney.   

Who knows of an artist born in 1931 called Rose Phipps? I suspect not many. Miss Phipps attended the Royal College of Art where she gained a first-class degree, won the Life Drawing and Painting Prize and a Scholarship to Rome.

In 1959 she met the artist Roger Hilton (1911-1975), a pioneer of abstract art. Although twenty years his junior, they married six years later, however, he suppressed her artistic endeavours, her assignment being to bring up their two sons and look after him. That said, Rose did paint sporadically but after Roger’s death she resumed her artistic passion with gusto. In 1977 Rose Hilton mounted her first solo show at the Newlyn Gallery, Cornwall and the following year at the Plymouth Art Centre. In 1989 she joined David Messum and up to 2018 held 15 solo shows at Messum’s Cork Street gallery. Since her death in 2019, there has been a considerable resurgence of interest in Rose Hilton’s œuvre and until 27thOctober David Messum Fine Art, now trading from 12 Bury Street, St. James’s, SW1Y 6AB, present 99 creations from the Artist’s Estate. Prices for her arresting, joyful pictures start at £685 for drawings and top £38,500 for her large oils on canvas.

Another female artist whose paintings are in high demand is PJ Cook (b. 1945), who returns for her sixth solo show with Panter and Hall, 11-12 Pall Mall, SW1Y 5LU. Using tinted gesso, Cook’s highly idiosyncratic paintings have been purchased by the likes of Jackie Collins, Billy Connolly, Peter Gabriel, Billy Joel, Nicholas de Rothschild and Toyah Willcox. On view until 20th October, her images (£1,850-£18,850) are not only skilfully painted but have thought provoking messages – Fire in the Forest (£4,850) relates to the many wildfires generated by climate change, while Talking Heads (£18,850), encapsulates a large crowd of people of every colour, gender and size – Cook’s desire for all humans around the world to have a loving dialogue with each other.

Finally, I am frequented asked, which auctioneers can I recommend? That’s difficult because there are quite a few. However, one is Chiswick Auctions, who have two London salerooms – Barley Mow Centre, W4 4PH and Roslin Square, 1 Roslin Square, Roslin Road, W3 8DH. They have over 20 specialist departments and hold around 80 sales per year. Forthcoming sales include Interiors, Homes & Antiques (24th October); Asian Art (6th& 7th November); Watches (14th November); Worldwide Stamps & Postal History (23rdNovember); 19th & 20th Century Photographs (30th November); Modern British & Irish Art(12th December). Every Tuesday and Thursday between 10am-4pm the firm hold valuation days at 1 Roslin Square.

Anthony J. Lester, FRSA

lesterartcritic@eyeonlondon.online

Pumpkin on Bowl, oil on canvas by Imants Vecozols (b. 1933), The Fine Art Society

Burden Of Yer Own Making, 2023, acrylic by Christina Quarles (b. 1985), Pilar Corrias © Christina Quarles

Beach II, oil sketch on canvas (£9,850) by Rose Hilton, David Messum Fine Art

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