Art World Roundup: a bowl bought for $35 sells at Sotheby’s for $721k, London galleries look forward to first gallery weekend, and more

Art World Roundup: a bowl bought for $35 sells at Sotheby’s for $721k, London galleries look forward to first gallery weekend, and more
Blue and white “floral” bowl, Ming Dynasty, Yongle Period. Courtesy of Sotheby’s.

In this week’s Art World Roundup, the National Portrait Gallery in London has pledged to increase the number of women represented in their permanent collection while a small bowl found at a yard sale for $35 turned out to the a 15th century treasure. Also, an Italian court has evicted a school established by Steve Bannon from a 13th century monastery, galleries across London prepare for the city’s first ever gallery weekend, and Amplifier has called on artists to submit their designs for their #Vaccinated poster campaign.


Reframing narratives means revisiting women in the NPG collection

Given research done in recent years, it might not surprise you that only 12 percent of the National Portrait Gallery’s collection of works is by women, but it might be a little more surprising that even in an institution devoted to depictions of people, only 25 percent of their permanent collection portrays women. This week the National Portrait Gallery (NPG) in London, which is currently closed for a three-year renovation project, announced a three-point plan to begin rectifying the underrepresentation of women within their collection, both in terms of sitters and artists. One facet of the plan is to properly research the women already included in the NPG’s collection, a task that has not been well done before now according to NPG curator Flavia Frigeri. Secondly, the NPG will begin acquiring works of significant women in history to fill out gaps in the museum’s collection. The final prong of the plan is the NPG’s pledge to commission more works by contemporary women artists. The project, called Reframing Narratives: Women in Portraiture, will be conducted in partnership with Chanel. The announcement coincides with Women’s History Month and a series of interviews released by the museum with prominent women including Sarah Gilbert, lead scientist on the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine; Amika George, a period poverty campaigner; and Kanya King, founder of the Mobo Awards. According to The Guardian, Frigeri hopes that when visitors are welcomed back to the NPG after its renovations are completed in 2023, the collection will be visibly more balanced.

London’s National Portrait Gallery. Courtesy Wikimedia Commons.


One man’s trash is an auction treasure

You never know what you might come across at a yard sale and a Ming dynasty-era bowl that just sold at Sotheby’s for $721,800 proves it. The small bowl was bought for just $35 by an eagle-eyed buyer at a flea market in Connecticut who thought the bowl looked a little extraordinary. They brought the bowl to Sotheby’s to have it appraised the result was an Antiques Roadshow-style moment. It turned out that the bowl dated back to the 15th century and was made for the Yongle court of the Ming Dynasty. Only a handful of works like the bowl are known to exist and reside in the collections of the National Palace Museum in Taipei, the British Museum, the Victoria and Albert Museum, and the National Museum of Iran in Tehran. The bowl held a pre-sale estimate of $300,000 to $500,000 but those estimates were shattered during the March 17th auction. “Today’s result for this exceptionally rare floral bowl, dating to the 15th century, epitomizes the incredible, once in a lifetime discovery stories that we dream about as specialists in the Chinese art field,” Angela McAteer, head of the Chinese works of art department at Sotheby’s New York, said of the bowl following the auction. “Upon viewing the bowl for the first time, our team immediately recognized the quality of this undisputed gem, and it is a reminder that precious works of art remain hidden in plain sight just waiting to be found.”

Blue and white “floral” bowl, Ming Dynasty, Yongle Period. Courtesy of Sotheby’s.


Italian court revokes lease for Bannon’s school for “modern gladiators”

In 2017, former chief White House strategist for the Trump administration Steve Bannon and business partner Benjamin Harnwell were granted a 19-year lease to use a 13th century Italian monastery for a new school. The duo had plans to open an institution that would train “modern gladiators” in a “Judeo-Christian tradition.” However, those plans have been halted after a tribunal handed down a 40-page ruling this week that formally revoked that lease, evicting the would-be school from the Monastery of Trisulti. According to the ruling, the eviction was based on “public interest” and found that Bannon and Harnwell lied on their application concerning their intentions for the site and their ability to maintain the 800-year-old monastery. Bannon responded in characteristic fashion, calling the decision a “joke which brings further shame on Italy’s already-stained judiciary in the eyes of the whole world.” Bannon continued in a statement saying “we refuse to be stopped by the corrupt bureaucracy that infests Italian government and hurts the Italian people.” Meanwhile, Nicola Zingaretti, president of the Lazio region of Italy and where the monastery is located, praised the court’s decision. Promising to restore the historic site, Zingaretti continued saying “we want it to become one of the symbols of the Italian rebirth.”

A photo of the Monastery of Trisulti amongst a forest Art World roundup
The Monastery of Trisulti in Italy. Courtesy Wikimedia Commons.


London galleries band together for first ever gallery weekend

The summer is a shining beacon of hope for normalcy for people across the UK with the promise that lockdown will be significantly, if not totally, relaxed. For London galleries, the summer will also bring the city’s first ever gallery weekend. Galleries are tentatively able to reopen in April, but the gallery weekend, scheduled for June 4th through 6th, will be a weekend to revive galleries across England’s capital and reintroduce them to the community. Gallery weekends are popular in many European cities, but London hasn’t held one due to the spread-out nature of its galleries. However, after a pared down Frieze in 2020 and a year of lockdown, galleries across the city were open to the idea after a grassroots venture, called London Gallery Weekend, reached out. Ultimately, 80 galleries, ranging in size, are set to participate in the debut event. To accommodate the unique strata of galleries in the city, each day of the weekend will focus on a different area of galleries. On Friday, galleries in Soho, Fitzrovia, and Mayfair (categorised as Central) will partake in the festivities. Saturday will feature galleries in East London while Sunday will turn to South London establishments. Gallery fees will fall between £300 and £3,000 per gallery, depending on its size, so that smaller galleries are able to partake alongside larger, more established galleries. “We had been talking about Frieze last year, it was almost like a moment of reacknowledgment of the art scene after this massive lockdown in London, and there was this really nice moment where, although it was very local, people were out and about visiting galleries again,” Jeremy Epstein, co-founder of Edel Assanti gallery who spearheaded the gallery weekend, told Artnet News. “I think we all felt like, given the size of our city and how many people engage with the museum system, we would love to see our galleries more visited.”


Amplifier puts out call for artist for #Vaccinated campaign

After the pandemic set in a year ago, Amplifier, a non-for-profit design lab, called on artist to create posters to raise awareness about the spread of COVID-19 and honour those on the front lines of fighting the virus. That call brought in more than 10,000 submissions and the organisation released a series of 160 artworks as a result. Using that same tactic, Amplifier is now asking for submissions from artists for posters that encourage viewers to get the coronavirus vaccination. The #Vaccinated campaign will consist of 100 posters selected by Amplifier from submissions. Amplifier will be distributing a total of $100,000 in awards for winning submissions. Alongside the poster series, the #Vaccinated campaign will also hold Instagram Live sessions with doctors to offer information and dispel concerns about receiving the vaccination. Cleo Barnett, executive director of Amplifier, told Artnet News that the posters will be distributed to millions of people. “There is a long history of racism within the medical field and the science field, looking at eugenics and medical testing on Black and brown bodies,” Barnett continued. “It’s going to be really important to collaborate with a diverse group of artists to address any of these questions and create artwork inspired by the research out there.” Amplifier is taking submissions, the guidelines for which can be found here, for #Vaccinated through April 20, 2021. “Amplifier’s job is amplify the most important movements of our time,” said Barnett. “If you’re an artist, an illustrator, or a designer, your voice really does matter, and the artwork that you’re creating does contribute to our collective future.”