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  • Writer's pictureBeyond the Canvas

Musings on (online) auctions and the timelessness of Morandi's still lives

Updated: Jul 31, 2023

I have been to a couple of auctions in London and I thought there was something uniquely intriguing about the whole process. The theatrical antics of the auctioneer (the Tobias Meyers and Oliver Barkers of this world), the palpable tension in the room when the most anticipated pieces are unveiled and people start bidding for them - it's an exciting ritual. But that's all on hold for the foreseeable future, and online auctions allow auction houses to (more or less) carry on with their business and investors to bid from the comfort of their home. Win/win.

But auctions are a pretext, I saw this piece in the news this morning and I immediately knew I wanted to write about it. The first reason is sentimental because Giorgio Morandi and I share the same birthplace, Bologna. His home and study are a mere 5' walk from where I grew up so he's an artist I feel a strong cultural and emotional connection with. The second reason is that I believe his work is timeless and universal, which perhaps explains why this sublime still life fetched $1.6M in New York last week.

Inspired by the masters of the Italian Quattrocento, Morandi's iconic compositions share the same coherent structure and apparent simplicity. His work was also heavily influenced by Cezanne (whose wasn't) and we see this in the purity of the forms he painted time and time again, almost obessively and to the point of near abstraction despite always staying loyal to his representational style. I am spellbound by the subtle intensity of the powdery tones of the greys and the pinks in this Natura Morta from 1951. And although it feels like time is suspended, as it probably should be in a still life, through his relentless investigation of this genre Morandi breathed life into these jugs and vases turning them from simple everyday objects into powerful symbols of the depth and honesty of his lifelong research.

Giorgio Morandi, Still Life (1951)

Photo Sotheby's

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