Without breaching social distancing guidance or government requirements, from the safety of your mobile phone via Instagram videos, you too can watch a series of short films showing well-known dealers’ personal art collections in their own homes. The dealers’ passion for their collections shines through, as does their love of gardening and even cooking.
Philip Mould started the trend with his ‘Art in Isolation’ videos on Instagram and YouTube from his 17th-century home Duck End in Oxfordshire. Filmed by his son Oliver, he is halfway through a series of 20.
Mould already has a large following thanks to his BBC show Fake or Fortune? and his appearances on Antiques Roadshow so his series has “gone gangbusters” as he puts it and he has had more than 130,000 views across various platforms, including Instagram and YouTube.
The publicity has helped Mould in a number of ways. With the help of eagle-eyed viewers he said he has “discovered hidden things which have delighted me” including being able to identify an unknown group of musicians which he has owned on and off for decades. A historian recognised it from the film and research is underway.
He has also had some interest from viewers wishing to buy some of the works which has in turn encouraged sales of similar works in the gallery.
Would he ever sell anything from his home? “Never intentionally – but opportunities arise, space is limited, and needs must.”
Old Master dealer Derek Johns has been able to demonstrate his fantastic art collection, his wonderful garden and even his cooking skills in a series of Instagram video posts.
He explains his style is “lighthearted and slightly mad” and features a number of pictures of plants and flowers alongside the real specimens growing in Johns extensive garden such as wild tulips. In one episode he shows the elder plant and later how he has turned it into pesto for a bowl of spaghetti.
Johns is continuing with his posts with the help of colleague Ellida Minelli who works on the videos remotely.
Father and son art dealers Simon and Milo Dickinson form a double act in their 'Wortley Art in Isolation' videos.
The pair were inspired by Philip Mould’s videos. Milo adds: “At Sunday lunch we were all saying how we were enjoying Philip's videos and we took inspiration to have a go ourselves. I was planning on filming my father but my brother-in-law Luke (who is a film director) pushed me aside and told me to co-host with him. Our first video was not meant to be aired but was such a howling failure that I decided to put it up because I think everyone needs laughter right now, even if it is at our expense.”
The videos feature Simon Dickinson’s house and garden and some of the follies he has built over the last thirty years.
Dickinson’s house is crammed with thirteen people including three children but between the chaos the three are filming every few days and upload them straight away without editing.
Milo Dickinson said: “The reaction has been great and a lot of people from all over the world have told us that they are sitting at home watching and enjoying them. My father has had such a wonderful time collecting these objects and it is great to share some of their stories and try and bring them to life. My father is an obsessive collector and has been buying paintings, sculptures, drawings, shells, Renaissance medals and you name it, for over fifty years. There is plenty of material to work with!”
So far the films have attracted 6000 views via Milo’s Instagram “which is a lot considering my limited reach” he says.
The most popular item to feature so far is a stone finial from the medieval Palace of Westminster, most of which was destroyed in the fire of 1834. Simon Dickinson bought it at a Sotheby’s auction more than 15 years ago.
After it featured in their video, Luke Syson, the director of the Fitzwilliam Museum, suggested it should be kept indoors to protect it.
The collection is not for sale because Milo describes it as his “inheritance”.
He has also started a blog called Art Uncovered (www.milodickinson.com) during lockdown where he goes into more depth on the garden, the follies and other art-related stories in their films.
Up in Scotland, McEwan Gallery has launched a series called ‘Art in Highland Isolation’ from Rhod McEwan’s home in Royal Deeside in Aberdeenshire. McEwan’s Scottish Highlands home was built in 1902 by a Swiss artist and serves as his home and gallery.
McEwan is overcoming his camera-shyness to broadcast. “I'm not enjoying being in front of camera but present circumstances are making us seek pastures new,” he says.
He adds: “The fact that our gallery is in our home which made me think I should make the most of it. Not many gallerists are able to continue working in their gallery in the lockdown, so I'm fortunate in this regard.”
Fellow dealer Mould was a catalyst for his own endeavours, McEwan explains: “I had a plan at the start of the year to tackle social media in all its guises. Lockdown accelerated my plan and then it was a matter of feeling brave enough to actually get out there and talk! Philip Mould's live videos, brilliantly done, spurred me on.”
So far the reaction has been good but McEwan believes the best part of his videos is the soundtrack: Mendelssohn's Fingal's Cave.
McEwan couldn’t do it without his trusty team: Archie (his 6-year-old junior curator) and Bisket the dog (floor manager) and Yue Hong McEwan his “very patient” wife behind the camera.
Any sales that he makes on his website during the coronavirus crisis, McEwan is donating 5% of the sale price (under £3000 and on a sliding scale for those valued above this) to carers.
In keeping with the ‘at home’ theme Modern British art dealer Freya Mitton has started a collection of posts showing artworks bought from her over the years in their new ‘home’ – on the walls of her clients and friends and even in her own home.