SIMON TAIT'S DIARY
The bank’s own Sexton Blakes
To get the venerable Bank of England to admit that there have been credible forgeries of its banknotes is one thing, to persuade them to make an exhibition of some of them is something else. A new gallery that has just opened in the bank’s museum devoted to banknotes from the Ming Dynasty to the latest fiver does just that. In fact there have been forgeries as long as there have been banknotes, and the Old Lady of Threadneedle Street has waged a constant battle to defeat the makers of funny money with complex watermarks and tiny secret codes – in the 18th century forging notes was such a serious offence it carried the death penalty. Among the Sexton Blakes are notes made by concentration camp prisoners with which the Nazis intendedto flood Britain and bust the wartime economy. And there’s this less than convincing, you might think, £50 note. It doesn’t take Sherlock Holmes to see that it started life as a white fiver, and it was discovered when it was used to buy a cow at a country fair in 1850. Whether or not the cow purchaser got away with it is not recorded.
Andy Warhol is remembered for many things, chiefly as the high priest of Pop Art, but seldom as the gifted figurative artist he was. A new art gallery in Pimlico plans to reverse this perception with its inaugural exhibition opening on November 3. Haynes Fine
Art in Pimlico Road has brought together 27 Warhols from his formative years, mostly drawings and illustrations from the 1950s. This delicious ink tempera on paper called Bird in a Nest was drawn in about 1956 when he was in his 20s, and could be yours for £24,500. Tony Haynes, MD of the dealership, is understandably gleeful about his coup. “They offer a unique opportunity to acquire a piece of Pop Art history by one of the world’s most famous artists. These are fantastic entry- level works for new collectors and rare one-off pieces for seasoned buyers” he says.
It’s sometimes hard to see why we need to make works of art the subject of export bans, their place in British history not always being crystal clear and the money required to keep them here national budget challenging. But here’s a thing, its usefulness or its aesthetic quality perhaps not obvious, whose historic value to is palpable. It is Queen Victoria’s coronet designed by Prince Albert as a wedding present and made from diamonds and sapphires given to her by her uncle William IV. It was put together by the goldsmith Joseph Kitching for £415. When Albert died in 1861 the queen refused to attend the opening of Parliament for five years, and when she did she wore this coronet instead of the crown. In the 1920s George V and Queen Mary gave it to their daughter as a wedding present, and later it was sold to a dealer who has sold it on to a foreign buyer for £5m. Now the culture minister Matt Hancock has made it the subject of an export stop to enable someone – or more likely somewhere – here to raise the cash plus £1 in VAT, and they have until December 27.
Getting the message
I love the Guildhall Art Gallery and the way it uses its collection to tell stories that don’t ostensibly have anything to do with art. Here’s a new one, with this delightful James Tissot from 1873 called The Last Evening. So what is the exhibition about? Not grief as bad news is delivered, not the solicitude of passenger ships crews, not the uncertainty of migration. No, this show opening on September, in collaboration with King’s College London and the Courtauld, celebrates the 150th anniversary of... The Transatlantic Cable. It took nine years to lay the cable, at a ton per kilometer, and its completion was marked by the first telegram, from Queen Victoria to President Buchanan, and the exhibition covers all that. I’d still like to know what the message is that’s being passed on by the telegraphist in the suspiciously raffish “co-respondent’s” shoes...
Reading Gaol was Oscar Wilde’s nemesis. He spent two soul-destryoing years there in the 1890s and wrote De Profundis and The Ballad of Reading Gaol there –
Each narrow cell in which we dwell Is a foul and dark latrine,
And the fetid breath of living Death Chokes up each grated screen,
And all, but Lust, is turned to dust
In Humanity’s machine.
and this is one of the cells, photographed by Rob Hayes. Its comes as a surprise to know that the prison was only decommissioned in 2013. But the National Trust in partnership with Artangel is organising tours until October 29. They must be prebooked, and you can get one via www.readingarts.com/whats-on/ tours-reading-gaol.
Norman Parkinson’s fashion photographs were a way mark for the mid-20th century, but they have also become an inspiration for contemporary artists. In their exhibition of plaster cast models at the Union Club in Soho, After Parkinson, Kathy Dalwood and Alice Mara draw on Parky’s work for their sculpture. Mara does the buildings used for locations, Dalwood the people, and she researched 500,000 negatives and 3500 original prints to make pieces like this. The exhibition, organised with the Cavaliero Finn Gallery and Norman Parkinson Archive, is on until October 2.