How lockdown forced the rarefied art world to reconsider the premium it places on privacy

Could it be that the private world of art is now profiting from public visibility? Colin Gleadell investigates

Andreas Gefeller window installation at Atlas
An Andreas Gefeller window installation at Atlas Credit: Andreas Gefeller

Street level art galleries with large windows have had an advantage during lockdown, as clients can view work from outside. Photography specialist Atlas Gallery, for instance, has hung mosaic-like images by the German artist Andreas Gefeller in the windows of its central London premises and made sales in the region of £8,000 to £25,000.

Peer UK, too, on Hoxton Street, east London, has taken advantage of its floor-to-ceiling windows and the roomy pavement outside to entertain a large audience throughout lockdown with a sound-based installation by Savinder Bual. Pineapple Project, priced at £40,000, consists of nine instruments whose strings are plucked by the leaves of rotating pineapple tops.

The sound is audible on any smartphone with access to the gallery website or the QR code which the gallery can provide. Meanwhile, Lévy Gorvy, which normally operates from a first-floor space in Bond Street, has opened a street level gallery in a former Pret A Manger nearby, which was forced to close because of the pandemic.

A display of large-scale work by the Chinese artist Tu Hongtao – the artist’s first exhibition in the UK – sold out, with the largest, mural-size painting (priced at $500,000) going to the Long Museum in Shanghai.

Street view of the Enrico Castellani pop up installation by the Lévy Gorvy Gallery in the vacated Pret a Manger in Albemarle Street, Mayfair   Credit: Stephen White & Co

Now, the gallery has installed work by the late Enrico Castellani, best known for shimmering, relief-style shaped canvases that have sold for as much as £3.8 million at auction, in the same premises. The works on view here are among the last cast aluminium works Castellani made before he died and have never been seen in public before.

They will be priced from $150,000 to $900,000 each. 

Second World War memorabilia 

During the Second World War, Australian commandos obtained special dispensation to contravene the Geneva Convention (which prohibits the improper use of flags) when they made by hand a Japanese flag to fly from their boat.

One of the two Japanese flags displayed aboard the Krait during its hazardous 4,000-mile round trip Commando raid, in September 1943, on Japanese-occupied Singapore Harbour Credit: DIX NOONAN WEBB 

The flag was intended as a decoy, to protect them from enemy aircraft during Operation Jaywick, a brave scheme in which the troops disguised themselves as local fishermen and paddled across Singapore harbour carrying limpet mines to blow up Japanese ships there – a turning point in the war. The flag, together with medals awarded to Lt H E Carse, are to be auctioned in an online sale by Dix Noonan Webb on Thursday, with an estimated value of £20,000 to £40,000.

Sign up for the Telegraph Luxury newsletter for your weekly dose of exquisite taste and expert opinion.