Blocks From the Met Breuer, a New Gallery Show Also Aims to to Steer Younger Viewers to the Old Masters

Colnaghi has joined with Ben Brown Fine Arts to present the historic works side by side with Modern masters during Frieze and TEFAF New York

Saint Francis of Assisi
Pedro de Mena, Saint Francis of Assisi. Courtesy Colnaghi

It’s no secret in the art trade that drawing art historical connections between different generations helps legitimize Modern artists while also stoking market interest in their predecessors.

In that vein, the venerable Old Masters purveyor Colnaghi has teamed up with fellow London gallery Ben Brown Fine Arts for a new show titled “Textura: Materiality From Old Masters to Modernity” that will be held at Colnaghi’s recently opened townhouse space at 30 East 78th Street on New York’s Upper East Side from May 3 to 10.

The show, which will overlap with both the Frieze Art Fair and the spring edition of TEFAF New York, will present rediscovered and rarely seen Old Master works by such artists as Luca Giordano, El Greco, and Pedro de Mena alongside Modern masterpieces by Antoni Tàpies and Miquel Barceló. Both of the latter Spanish painters are known to have been heavily influenced by art history and religion.

Among the other highlights of the show is a polychrome sculpture of the kind popularized by the Met Breuer’s recently opened show “Like Life: Sculpture, Color, and the Body (1300—Now),” which runs through July 22. On view there is de Mena’s Ecce Homo (circa 1674-85) and La Roldana’s The Entombment of Christ (1700-1701), both acquired by the Metropolitan Museum of Art from Colnaghi, as well as three other important polychrome sculptures recently sold by the gallery.

El Greco, <i>The Stigmatisation of St. Francis</i> Courtesy Colnaghi

El Greco, The Stigmatisation of St. Francis Courtesy Colnaghi

De Mena, one of the most celebrated sculptors of the Spanish Golden Age, was known for enhancing his expert carvings with glass eyes, human hair, rope, and other unexpected materials. In its show, Colnaghi will display Saint Francis of Assisi, a polychrome sculpture by de Mena.

The prices for the Colnaghi works range up to seven figures, with the de Mena sculpture priced over $1 million.

Colnaghi notes an uptick of collector interest in polychrome sculptures of late, from institutions in particular but also on the private collecting side. Though it’s still seen as a “relatively new” area for collectors, it offers “great value” at prices up to about $2 million, says Colnaghi CEO Jorge Coll.

In addition to the two examples sold to the Met, Colnaghi has sold these works to the San Diego Museum of Art, the Detroit Institute of Arts, the Birmingham Museum of Art, the Minneapolis Institute of Art, the Meadows Museum (Dallas), LACMA, the Toledo Museum of Art, and the Hispanic Society of America.

In addition, Coll says, “more and more clients coming on board, and its an area of the Old Masters market that has a high percentage of contemporary collectors. There’s also a community of collectors in Northern Europe, and recent interest from Asia.”


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