McTear's art auction could 'Quench' the thirst of collectors

Next week, McTear's auction house in Scotland will host a sale of fine contemporary art.

The sale of 375 different artworks will take place on Wednesday July 14, and boasts a wide variety of pieces from some of the leading contemporary artists of today.

Perhaps, the leading name at the auction, and the one to look out for, is controversial Scottish Painter John Howson OBE who has a wide range of art pieces up for sale.

Howson shot to mainstream prominence in the late 1990s, as the official artist of the 1993 Bosnian civil war. Firstly, with the image he painted used by pop group The Beautiful South on their 1998 number one album "Quench."

Later in that same year, he made further headlines with his own uniquely designed stamp. Commissioned to celebrate the millennium, the stamp depicted the Queen's silhouette emerging from a smoke filled industrial chimney stack.

Amid growing concern over the design, Buckingham Palace released a short statement.

"The Queen approved the stamp but noted that her head appeared to be coming out of a chimney. We recognise that it is not practicable to ask Royal Mail to pulp the stamps. Their design is a matter for Royal Mail."

Since then Howson has continued to delight art fans and court controversy alike. In 2009, he was appointed Officer of the Order of the British Empire (OBE) in the 2009 Birthday Honours list, by an obviously very forgiving Queen.

Today, his work is owned by a diverse range of art collectors.

While the private collections of Mick Jagger, Madonna and David Bowie boast Peter Howson works, in 2008, it emerged that five Howson paintings were in the possession of a convicted criminal and were auctioned off as part of a proceeds of crime order.

It was the second time that year that Howson's works had been seized by a Scottish court.

Next week's auction represents a rare and fantastic opportunity to invest in the unique paintings of one of Britain's most underrated artists.

"Masquerade Oil on canvas", signed and dated 1989 offers one such example. The image depicts a ageing man in portrait, wearing a clown costume and against a red sunset background.

The painting comes from Peter Howson's early work, touching on his enduring theme of masculinity. It currently has an estimate of £9,000-12,000, based on its age and scarcity.

Alternatively, the auction offers classic examples of Peter Howson exploring more diverse themes in his work.

Peter Howson's "Tiger" Estimated Price £8,000 - 12,000

"Tiger" an oil on canvas painting, offers a different side to Howson's work, which appears to explore the themes of nature found in the classic verse of William Blake's poem, "Tiger Tiger".

This piece carries a pre-sale estimate of £9,000-12,000.

However, one of the most prominent pieces of display will be Howson's "The Tribute Portrait of Michael Jackson" using oil on canvas. This painting, featured in numerous national newspapers, has also been made into a highly popular limited edition print.

The coverage given to the painting, coupled with the status of Michael Jackson, could see a final auction price well above its £10,000 - 12,000 estimate.

Peter Howson's tribute

to Michael Jackson

While the estimates attached remain relatively low, Peter Howson's OBE work has a track record of exceeding expectations once on the auction block.

In 2008, a Sotheby's auction at Edinburgh, put his "Three Faces of Eve" collection of three acrylics on canvas up for sale. 

The collection carried  a high end estimate of £150,000.

However, this price was doubled with the collection eventually selling for £300,500.  

Elsewhere, at a 2007 Sotheby's auction in London "The Last Temptation of St Anthony" sold for £102,000 above its low-end estimate price of £60,000.

At the lower end of the Peter Howson art market, his controversial painting "The Crucifixion" sold for £19,700 at a Christie's auction in 2008.

This figure exceeded the low end estimate price of £12,000.

With these figures in mind, next week's auction at McTear's could prove a very interesting one for Peter Howson art collectors and enthusiasts alike.


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