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My art week

Dear old John Pargiter often gives us the lowdown on his sporting week and as there have been three developments in mine I thought I might share them with you.

On Monday the ex-cricketer and now artist Jack Russell popped round. I now have three of his works and admire his sense of composition and inner light.

I also admire anyone who makes a success of two careers but I had to observe that generally it’s better for an artist to die young without selling a painting.

Jack’s work sells well, it’s sensibly priced and will appeal to cricket lover or art appreciator alike. He may run into the sort of critical and connoisseur jealousy that Ted Seago and now Ken Howard experience as the price of popularity but should ignore this.

I am not a huge fan of second career artists like Bob Dylan and Miles Davis but Jack is a naturally talented painter. Buyers will in some cases want to talk cricket with him as I did, noting how much more accessible cricketers are than footballers.

Secondly, in my art course on British modernism we covered two of the great World War One artists, Christopher Nevinson and Paul Nash.

Nevinson is well known for Paths of Glory which when first shown had censored plastered all over it.

His images of the trenches have contributed to the Wilfred Owen view that there was little glory out there serving King and Country.

Paul Nash went to the Slade who were initially reluctant to enrole him as his figurative work was poor.

He enlisted and just before the first battle of Ypres returned home as he was wounded.

Almost all of his regiment were wiped out on Hill 60.

He too painted some dystopian views of warfare.

He got round the problem of constraint on painting a dead British soldier with depiction of stunted trees which also suited his landscape style well.

The surrealist movement never came to the UK thought it branched our from the Cafe Voltaire in Zurich all over Europe and reached the United States.

Paul Nash is generally regarded as our best national surrealist-style painter.

Finally I’m reading Dark Side of the Boom by Georgina Adam. 

It’s an expose of the practices and excesses of the modern art world and after reading it any buyer would be wary of purchasing any piece of modern art.

Auction houses’ procedures, like financial inducements to third party guarantors to reach a key level in bidding, would never be tolerated  in more regulated markets.

Dealers will for example buy up all the paintings of an award winning art student. They arrange a high bid for one work at auction then offer the rest piecemeal at discounted prices way above the amount they paid.

The Chinese have been slow to have an art presence so generous subsidies exist to build a museum space with other high end retail outlets. A museum confers certain legitimacy on a collection. There are also exchange controls of China limiting payments to $50,000 but buyers get round this by several lower payment from various accounts. It’s a workable form of money laundering.

Sadly the old fashioned collector is a thing of the past and much of the world’s great art is in vast storage warehouses never to be seen by the public or even its owner. I have not finished the book but my only criticism is that forgery, false attribution and unethical business practice are nothing new.

As I always say – buy something you like, hope but do not expect it to rise in value and enjoy it as an aesthetic but not investor experience. High dealing costs, no income generated, the shifting status of artist’s reputation all make it a highly speculative investment.