Cliff Holden

Documents: 2004


From The Times of Wednesday 15th December 2004:-

If the price is right . . . Our critics offer their wish lists to Santa

FOR £5 one of those history rulers would come in handy since Iím hopeless with dates. Then I could take down the scrawled crib sheet that Iíve nailed above my desk.

For £50 I could have my own pair of ice skates. All winter I could sail about Londonís temporary ice rinks, soaring past exquisite faÁades and elegant colonnades, revelling anew in their architectural glories.

For £500 a piece of music might be commissioned from an upcoming Royal Academy student, a little canticle perhaps to the pleasures that artists can offer.

In the studio of David Inshaw, an artist I interviewed earlier this year, I saw a little painting of a barn owl caught for a second, like a ghost, in the glare of the headlights. If he didnít sell it in his ensuing show at Agnews, I think £5,000 would secure it.

For the same amount, a print with an otherwordly aura by Chris Bucklow, that I saw in the collection of the art dealer Ivor Braka, would please me.

But if some generous person had £50,000 to spend, I might hint that they should go back to the same source to get me a deliciously luscious Matthew Smith portrait. Otherwise they could visit the gallery of Sam Fogg whose exhibition of medieval stained glass included the most delicately beautiful and illuminating art works.


IT MAY come as a terrible shock to you (or maybe not), but the art world just does not do £5. Even the humblest mass-produced mug commemorating some show is likely to cost you about £10.

But Iíd think of a Tate Gallery publication, David Peters Corbettís Edward Burne-Jones in the British Artists series (£8.99). Well illustrated in colour, it presents a fresh and original perspective on Burne-Jones as an artist who can still speak to the 21st century.

For £50 my personal favourite is to be found at the Hermitage shop in Somerset House. Inspired by the current exhibition of revolutionary ceramics from Russia, the Lomonosov Porcelain Factory has reissued a number of classic designs. I would recommend the three sets of coffee cup, saucer and plate, two designed by Malevich and one by Stenberg, at £15 each.

At £500 Iíd go for The Bride, in the David Jones show at Wolseley Fine Arts, a magical, mysterious wood- engraving dating from 1930 ó beautiful, packed as is the artistís way with layers of significance, and rare enough to more than justify the price.

At £5,000, Iím drawn to a painting in the show at the Boundary Gallery devoted to the Borough Group, an alliance of David Bombergís pupils in the immediately postwar years. There are several London views from that period by Cliff Holden. But the one I like best costs only £4,500: Looking from the Borough combines an angular, Bomberg-like approach to form with a range of rich greeny-blue colours which suggest an unholy marriage with one of Bombergís pet hatreds, the lush Neo- Romantics of the time.

At £50,000 Iíd still tend towards little pictures. Walter Sickert is one of my favourite painters, so I think that given a chance to run wild, I would probably go for the Fine Art Societyís enchanting townscape Dieppe, Place du Quesne (1903), an oil on panel, at a mere £45,000. That should leave an unexpected £5,000 for some extra bagatelle.


John Russell Taylor is Art Critic of The Times.

[Page last updated: 8th March 2005]

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