The Art Market: Old Masters

Georgina Adam on the generous saviour of Domenichino’s ‘St John the Evangelist’

A secretive hedge-fund manager, Chris Rokos of Brevan Howard, is understood to be the generous saviour of Domenichino’s great baroque painting of “St John the Evangelist” (1620s), which is now on view at the National Gallery of London. The painting sold at Christie’s last December for more than £9.2m (est. £7m-£10m) to a US buyer but its export was deferred. At that point a new buyer – believed to be Rokos – came forward to buy the painting and lend it to the National Gallery. Rokos’s fortune was estimated at £90m last year by the Sunday Times Rich List; he did not return requests for comment.

Meanwhile, the Financial Times can reveal that the Prince of Liechtenstein is the buyer of an Old Master painting also initially barred from export. Cornelis van Haarlem’s “Saint Sebastian” was bought last year by the prince’s curator Johann Kraftner, who found it “hanging high up on a wall in a freezing castle in Scotland”, during a tour of British country houses with the London dealer Simon Dickinson. Its export licence was initially deferred but as no UK buyer could be found to buy the painting at £1.5m, it has now gone to the princely collections.

This year marks the 400th anniversary of the death of Caravaggio, the baroque painter whose intense contrasts of light and shade and dramatic foreshortening had an immediate and lasting impact on painting. The artist’s tumultuous short life was no less dramatic, punctuated with frequent brawls as well as the killing that forced him into exile from Rome. In London on Tuesday, Whitfield Fine Art unveils a major show of works by his contemporaries entitled Caravaggio’s Friends and Foes. About half of the 26 paintings are not for sale, having been loaned by museums and private collections, including a dramatic “Self Portrait” from 1606 by Caravaggio’s bitterest enemy, Giovanni Baglione, who sued him for libel in 1603. From the National Trust’s Attingham Park comes the poignant “Three Boy Martyrs” by Caravaggio’s follower Lo Spadarino. Alongside these loans are works for sale, including a newly rediscovered “Saint Sebastian” by Caravaggio’s friend, the Dutch painter Louis Finson. Prices range from €100,000 to €2.5m (£86,165-£2.1m) and the show, accompanied by a scholarly catalogue, continues until July 23.

Some of the gallery stock of the London dealer Michael Hue-Williams Fine Art Ltd is being sold over the internet by insolvency managers Charterfields, including pieces by Andy Goldsworthy, Vik Muniz, Brancusi and the Campana Brothers. The art is offered on a first-come basis, with no estimates or time-frame. The works are put online as the company finds them, says Charterfield’s administrator Jessica Bright. According to his former publicist, Hue-Williams has bought back some pieces on the site.

His firm, which ran the huge, elegant Albion gallery in Battersea, went into administration last April, leaving a trail of debts, and the space was closed. At the time, Hue-Williams said he would reopen in smaller, more central premises before the end of the year but, so far, this has not happened. Repeated attempts to contact Hue-Williams failed.

A spat has broken out over a work commissioned for this year’s World Cup in South Africa, which was withdrawn from Phillips de Pury’s Africa sale in New York last week. The work, a tapestry by the French-based, Sudan-born artist Hassan Musa, was withdrawn after he obtained an injunction against the vendor, United Brands, in a Berlin court.

United Brands sells sports and lifestyle items and the Musa work was one of several to be commissioned from African artists for use on posters marking the Fifa competition. According to Musa, the agreement was that the work would be shown in South Africa during the tournament and only sold afterwards; he was also furious that his original was edited for the poster, removing its borders. So he took out the injunction when the tapestry was sent for sale at Phillips, with an estimate of $10,000-$15,000 (£7,000-£10,500).

However, Renata Bauer of United Brands said the agreement was to show the posters, not the originals, in South Africa. “We also made it clear to [Musa] that the whole collection of Fifa artworks may be exhibited together after the auction sale. The interest in the works is highest in the immediate run-up to the World Cup, not after it,” she told the Financial Times; however, the company is returning the tapestry to Musa and not taking further action.

Phillips’ Africa auction made just over $1.4m, falling short of its low estimate: the top price went to the Anglo-Nigerian artist Yinka Shonibare for a typically brightly garbed mannequin on a unicycle. It sold for $108,100 (est. $80,000-$120,000). Shonibare’s commission for the Fourth Plinth in Trafalgar Square, London, is being unveiled this Monday.

Lost in Tokyo? It is notoriously difficult to navigate the city’s art scene, and to find the tiny galleries tucked down alleyways with westerner-confusing Japanese addresses. Now there is Tokyo Art Beat, an application for iPhone, which gives names of shows, opening times and even a GPS map to get you there – in English and Japanese. And the firm also offers a New York app with the same services, including a list of opening receptions. See and

Georgina Adam is editor-at-large of The Art Newspaper

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