First, a frank admission: I’m a sucker for Miles Davis art – just as I am for Miles Davis music.
So I approached the small Miles Davis exhibition in London last weekend with keen anticipation. It was definitely worth the trip, if slightly underwhelming.
Miles Davis art: the venue
The show, curated by Balmain Fine Art, from North Yorkshire, was mounted in the circular ground floor corridor of London’s Royal Albert Hall – a suitably monumental setting for a Miles Davis art exhibition.
The show comprised over 50 pieces – a few paintings and prints, but mainly drawings, in pencil, biro and felt-tip. Most pieces were signed, with the familiar “Miles1” signature; a few were stamped with the signature/red Mandarin characters logo of the Miles Davis Estate.
The pieces in the collection ranged in price between £2,000 and £9,500. Most were in the £3-4,000 range.
Miles Davis art: paintings
There were some very desirable pieces of Miles Davis art on display.
Particularly impressive was the exhibition’s key artwork, Shape Shifter, an oil on canvas, provenance “Jo Gelbard New York”, priced at £9,500 (pictured at the top of this review).
I’m partial to Miles Davis oil paintings, especially those, like Shape Shifter, with an African aesthetic. They never fail to evoke emotion. Admittedly, the emotion is often fear. Just as I wouldn’t have risked speaking out of turn at a Miles Davis gig, I approach the best Miles Davis art with trepidation.
Miles’ African period is dominated by a vibrant colour palette and bold, textured brushstrokes. At its best, this type of Miles Davis art manages to fuse the figurative with the abstract: it takes you a while to realise that you are looking at human faces.
Miles Davis art: limited edition prints
Ezzthetique, a limited edition seriagraph, published by the Miles Davis Estate, is also very tempting. The print, #210 in an edition of 300, wasn’t hand-signed, but carried the Estate’s stamp. It was priced at £750 (presumably including the black frame).
Seahorses, another limited edition seriagraph (#170 in an edition of 300), was disappointing. Its colour palette is uncharacteristically timid, its composition unusually vague for a Miles Davis painting.
The drawings – the bulk of the Miles Davis art on display in London – didn’t do much for me, however. I find most of the paintings bold, vivacious, engaging. But fewer drawings excite me – many are too inconsequential, tentative, unconvincing for my taste.
Miles Davis art – provenance, curation, conclusions
The provenance of the Miles Davis art in the London show was variously stated as: the Miles Davis Estate, Miles Davis Estate Europe, Giulia (also expressed as “Gilulia”) Trojer New York, and Jo Gelbard.
While the curation and commercialisation of this small exhibition of Miles Davis art wasn’t perfect, it reaffirmed my admiration for the paintings and prints: Miles Davis, giant of twentieth century music, was also an accomplished painter – a key member of the rock art elite.
Copyrights: illustrations: Shape Shifter and Ezzthetique © Miles Davis Estate; Royal Albert Hall photo © Rock Art Editions 2015; text © Rock Art Editions Ltd 2015. Unauthorised reproduction prohibited.