Art market news

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A ceramic stripy cat was the surprise sale of the David Hockney auction last week.

The big surprise of Bonhams’ David Hockney sale last week was the discovery of an early ceramic of a well-fed, stripy cat, dated 1955, when the artist was an 18-year-old student in Bradford (see below). Paintings by Hockney from this period are rare; ceramics are virtually unheard of. So how does this cat add to our understanding of Hockney’s development as an artist? Is it evidence of a brief flirtation with craft over fine art studies? A remnant of his schoolboy facility for cartoons? Perhaps an early example of his fondness for decorative stripes? Bonhams offered no information about it apart from a tentative £5,000 to £7,000 estimate, which was duly hammered as it fetched a goodly £33,600 – enough to tempt more Hockney ceramics out of the woodwork, if there are any.

Experts are scratching their heads about a painting by William Henderson (born 1941) that emerged in a sale of works from the BAT (formerly Peter Stuyvesant) collection in Amsterdam last week. The jazzy abstract Brixton Music, 1978, was estimated to fetch 1,000 euros, but fell eventually to a Dutch collector for a staggering 61,000 euros. British dealers at the sale had never heard of Henderson before, and even the Tate, which has a comparable work to Brixton Music in its collection, had no record of him beyond the fact that he was living in Brixton in the 1980s. Henderson has, however, been a regular exhibitor at the Royal Academy summer shows, where his paintings are priced in the lower thousands, and is a member of the Royal Watercolour Society and the London Group.

Art and antiques events next weekend are embracing the royal wedding, and using it as a promotional tool. The Harrogate Antique and Fine Art Fair, which opens on Thursday, will lay on its own royal wedding cake, large-screen television broadcasts, and an afternoon street party. There will also be displays of royal memorabilia and books. Butchoff Antiques has a silver gilt christening cup by royal goldsmith Thomas Heming, presented by King George III to his godson in 1773, and antiques dealer Roger de Ville presents Staffordshire pottery Victoria and Albert marriage pieces.

Meanwhile, in New York, the Art and Antiques League of America Show has produced a long list of items with British royal connections, including a 17th-century coat of arms made for Sir Robert Spencer, Prince William’s forebear, on offer for $16,000, and a 19th-century woolwork picture of the royal yacht, HMY Victoria and Albert, at $8,000.

As demonstrations mount from New York to Hong Kong for the release of the Chinese artist Ai Weiwei, who was detained at Beijing airport last month and has not been seen since, business in his art work continues apace. At Phillips de Pury & Co, a set of 24 coloured prints of the Olympic “Bird’s Nest” pavilion, which Ai designed, were offered with a £70,000 estimate. Four had been damaged, announced the auctioneer, and would be replaced by the artist, but there was no guarantee when that would be. Nevertheless, bidders pushed the price up to £142,250.

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