James Ensor in London this autumn

Lot 19 Ensor, Le Pisseur

This September, Sotheby’s will offer for sale a private collection of prints by Belgian artist James Ensor. It will be one of the most comprehensive of its kind ever to come to auction. Ensor is perhaps best known as “the painter of masks”, an epithet which has often overshadowed his achievements in printmaking, which will be represented in 78 lots in Sotheby’s sale of Prints & Multiples in London on 27 September 2016.

The image above is Le pisseur, an etching from 1887 (estimate £5,000 – 7,000 / €6,000 – 8,400 ). Ensor is paying homage to the eponymous drawing by Jacques Callot, now in the Uffizi, Florence. While Callot shows his pisser as a street jester, Ensor depicts a smart gentleman in a top hat urinating on a wall scrawled with the phrase ‘ENSOR EST UN FOU’ (Ensor is a madman); a rather literal response, perhaps, to his many critics.

Ensor will be back in the art calendar later this year. In the autumn the Royal Academy of Arts in London will stage ‘Intrigue: James Ensor by Luc Tuymans’ (29 October 2016 until 29 January 2017), which will bring together some 70 paintings, drawings and prints by the artist. As the exhibition’s title suggests, it will be curated by Belgium artist Luc Tuymans.

Exhibition and auction at Sotheby’s

Sotheby’s Brussels, rue Jacques Jordaens 32, 1000, Thursday 8 – Friday 9 September 2016

Sotheby’s London, 34-35 New Bond Street, W1A 2AA, Friday 23 – Monday 26 September 2016

The auction will take place in London at 10.30am on Tuesday, 27 September 2016

Exhibition at the Royal Academy of Arts

‘Intrigue: James Ensor by Luc Tuymans’, 29 October 2016 until 29 January 2017

Read more of my writing on art here.

Do ‘Something Amazing’ this week

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This Thursday (1 September 2016) live and simultaneously in six locations across England and Scotland, limited edition works by artist Stuart Semple will be distributed free of charge. But there’s a twist. Participants are invited to do ‘something amazing’: to give the work away. The works in question are limited edition balloons, created by Semple in collaboration with The Fertility Partnership.

The public art project, entitled Something Amazing, aims to increase egg donations at the Partnership’s clinics,  and invites all women to consider how it might feel to be infertile, or unable to conceive, and the amazing gift they could potentially give.  Every year, around 2,000 children are born in the UK as a result of donated eggs, sperm or embryos. But in the UK there aren’t currently enough egg donors and a woman can wait up to two years for an egg.

The locations, revealed for the first time today, are as follows…

  • Chelmsford: High Street
  • Glasgow: Royal Exchange Square
  • London: Golden Square
  • Nottingham: Bridlesmith Gate
  • Oxford: Radcliffe Square
  • Southampton: West Quay

More on the project will be published at www.sharesomethingamazing.com 

Read my catalogue essay for Semple’s recent show at Fabien Castanier in LA here and my review of his last London show at Delahunty here

For more on Stuart Semple see stuartsemple.com

For more on the Fertility Partnership see www.thefertilitypartnership.com

Read more of my writing on visual art here

Cottons Notting Hill – Restaurant review


With an established base in Camden for over 30 years, and a more recently opened outpost in trendy Shoreditch’s Boxpark, Cottons is a firmly established player in London’s Caribbean scene. This new, more upmarket, offering on Notting Hill Gate is the latest addition to the small chain.

I recently checked it out for VADA – click here to read the full review.

Tempted? Right now you can win a free cocktail at Cottons  – details over on VADA here.

POP FACT: The branch of Cottons in Exmouth Market closed on October 2014 and is now home to Coin Laundry – check out my review of Coin Laundry here.

To read a selection of my writing on food and drink click here.

Playing to the Gallery

I recently re-read Grayson Perry’s book Playing to the Gallery. Here it is photographed on top of my mid-century modern chest of drawers. I like to think that Perry would appreciate the nod to the “vanity of small differences” that he so eloquently describes in the book. I also got it out of my local library (and in the process managed to accrue a 25p overdue fine), a detail that I think would make Perry smile.

I was inspired to re-read it in part by his recent Channel 4 series on the contemporary construction of masculinity, and in part by the fact that I’m attempting to set up an interview with him (more on that story later).

The book is based on his 2013 Reith lectures for the BBC – you can still listen to them here – and takes a walk around the contemporary art world, with Perry as your questioning and often comedic tour guide. Despite being an accessible read, Perry’s writing is colourful and filled with metaphor. Here’s his rather wry take on the status on craft that particularly tickled me:

“If you think of contemporary art as the vibrant city centre of culture with all the young, happening, trendy things going on, and you think of the old masters as this beautiful mellow landscape in the distance, then craft is probably thought of as a suburb that you drive through on the way to your second home.”

The following quote that Perry cites from Tracey Thorn, lead singer with Everything But The Girl, says all that needs to be said about the use of irony in contemporary art (she also uses one of my favourite words – “eschewing”):

“It is difficult for people in the arts to be entirely sincere about things without looking like they have not thought about it properly. The problem with irony is that it assumes the position of being the end result, from having looked at it from both sides and having a very sophisticated take on everything. So the danger of eschewing irony is that you look as though you’ve not thought hard enough about it and that you’re being a bit simplistic.”

If, like me,  you can’t get enough of Grayson you’ll be eagerly awaiting his new book on masculinity, The Descent of Man, which will be published by Penguin in October 2016. However, it seems somehow fitting to Perry’s worldview that this blog is about an old book, not a new one.

Perry book spread

The White Horse, Duns Tew – Review

The White Horse

I recently checked out this handsome seventeenth-century inn with rooms for VADA. On the edge of the Cotswolds between Banbury and Bicester, The White Horse Inn in the village of Duns Tew is a stylish boutique retreat with a contemporary feel, where the food is the star. Read my review over on VADA here.

Read more of my lifestyle writing – including more hotel reviews – here.

Read more of my writing on food and drink here.

The White Horse Inn, Duns Tew, Oxfordshire, OX25 6JS / dunstewwhitehorse.co.uk