Monday, October 25, 2010

Recent Reads - October 2010

Team of Rivals by Doris Kearns Goodwin

A large part of this biography of Lincoln deals with the run up to the 1860 Republican presidential nomination and the stories of the three men who were his rivals: Senator William H. Seward, governor Salmon P. Chase and William Bates. We get loads of domestic and period detail - so much so that the actual nomination battle comes as an anti-climax. Lincoln comes across as a likable character, clumsy and folksy with a common touch and a talent for anecdotes, but a shrewd operator. And a man of principle - an attribute common to a lot of the politicians in those days. The roles these erstwhile rivals came to play on his new administration is the main theme of the book. Enda Kenny please take note.

Jim Thompson - the Unsolved Mystery by William Warren

He went out for a walk in the Malaysian jungle and never came back. This book tries to weave a mystery out of the Thai silk magnates disappearance but fails because there isn't a single clue to go on. The banal truth is that he probably fell down one of the innumerable ravines and the disorganised searches never found him.

Hitch-22 by Christopher Hitchens

Petty, point-scoring and self-aggrandising confection from the debased currency that is Hitchens. It veers from fawning adoration (Amis, Fenton et al) to blinkered hatred (Clinton, Ted Kennedy et al). Yet for all that it's an entertaining read. The section on Edward Said shows an interesting ambivalence and the early chapter on his mother (who committed suicide) is quite touching.

Consider the Lobster and Other Essays by David Foster Wallace

I've long wanted to tackle David Foster Wallace but was loth to embark on a 900 page novel so I thought a book of his essays might be a good starting point. And, despite the tricksy typography and the rampant footnotage, I wasn't disappointed. Here's a writer who can move from porn conventions to English usage, from shock jocks to Dostoyevsky, from lobster abuse to radio hosts and retain his dry, lucid and sardonic tone. There are elements of gonzo journalism here but he is a finer phrase maker than Hunter S. Thompson and has a more intellectual bent.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Oliver Sears Gallery

With all the gloom about and many galleries closing down it's heartening to see a substantial recent addition to the Dublin gallery scene - the Oliver Sears gallery on Molesworth Street. It's housed in a beautiful Georgian building that used to be the Ib Jorgensen gallery - across the road from the Masonic Lodge. It had a very successful Stephen Lawlor show a few weeks ago and last night a huge crowd turned out for an eclectic show by the sculptor Patrick O'Reilly. Oliver Sears is a class act and we enjoyed generous helpings of champagne as we checked out O'Reilly's strange mix of styles. Here a conventional but well-wrought bronze Pegasus, there a weird confection that looked like large iced caramels, outside an elegant silver tower made from tin cans, a hefty curved bull and many more surprises. Bemusing and entertaining - check it out. The crowd were mature and up market - I noticed the Gate's Michael Colgan really enjoying the champagne. There were lots of artists in attendance including Hughie O'Donoghue (Sears hottest property) and the very amiable Keith Wilson. Sales were't great but sculpture is notoriously slow to sell. O'Reilly is popular and has been doing well at auction.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

This Sporting Life - October 2010

• Who gives a flying fuck whether that potato-headed pussy hound Wayne Rooney stays at Manchester United or goes to an even richer club for even more money. The whole English football scene is so bloated and decadent that it’s impossible to engage with it. From time to time the old-fashioned decencies of a modest club like Everton overcome ones' cynicism but these moments are few and far between.

• Lar Corbett gets hurler of the year – probably on the basis of his hat trick in the All-Ireland Final but well deserved for his form throughout the year. His finest moment was that crucial match winning point against Galway in the quarter final – a match Tipp came very close to losing. Cometh the hour.

• For sheer intensity it’s hard to match the Heineken Cup and Munster and Leinster’s matches last weekend were up there with the best of them. Going against stereotype Leinster’s win was a heroic rearguard action while Munster’s was a 6-try massacre. Munster loaded to the gunwhales with grizzled veterans refused once again to be written off. I just wonder if they can repeat these feats of derring do on a consistent basis. Surely this season is a last hurrah for a whole host of them. Long term tips are Leinster and Leicester.

• The Ryder Cup – what a drama. And not just because I had a substantial sum riding on that phlegmatic Norn Ironer Graham McDowell. And aren’t you weary of Tom Humpheries’ bi-annual pop at the event, complete with mandatory references to Pringle sweaters. Yawn, yawn.

Workforce wins the Arc - how can such a thing be. I had his Derby written off as a freak. Horses eh

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Dead Artists Liven up Adam's Auction

In marked contrast to the recent de Vere event there was a very lively and successful auction at Adam's last night. There was a decent crowd and some lively phone bidding. I noticed John de Vere lurking in the wings -taking note no doubt of where he went wrong. Adam's clientele are noticeably different to those you see at Whyte's and de Vere's - there's a lot of old Dublin professional money about, unaffected perhaps by the recession. You see it in the clothes (brogues, waistcoats, old jewelry etc.) and the general air of confident entitlement. There are a lot of husband and wife teams and a fair percentage of older women.

Adam's has always stuck to the more conservative and traditional side of the art market and were often regarded as a little old-fashioned compared to Whyte's and even de Vere. They have however a loyal following who don't follow contemporary trends and consider the presence of a painting in an Adam's auction as a kind of imprimatur. I stayed for the first 100 lots and 86 of these sold - most of them well above their lower estimates. These works were mostly safe conservative landscapes, portraits and still lives by dead artists such as Frank Eggington, Charles Grierson (who?), Frank McElvey Nath. Hill and Charles Lamb. A good quality Paul Henry went for €72K. The most adventurous works sold were the two Colin Middletons for €11.5K and €13.5K - one of these was well below mediocre. Most of the living artists on view did badly although there were good reasons in a few cases. A huge unwieldy Shinnors triptych was withdrawn at €45K, an overpriced John Doherty at €24K and a truly dire Blackshaw at €22K. Even the normally reliable Camille Souter failed to sell and was withdrawn at €7K. A number of early and poorly framed O'Malley's also failed to sell.

Overall though this auction showed that there's a decent market for safe paintings by reputable names - preferably dead.