The Fine Art Society is a haven not only from the noise and glitz of London’s Bond Street but from life itself. To enter its portals is to be transported to a world from another era; its hushed galleries decked with tranquil, often pastoral scenes are an opportunity for quiet reflection.
This June, a portrait of the Dalai Lama (Compassion, second picture) goes on show there. The lenticular photograph hanging on the second floor of the building is the work of Chris Levine and is one of six editions of pictures being sold (for between £60,000 and 80,000) to raise money for charities working with communities affected by last year’s earthquakes in Nepal.
The picture is part of an exhibition (Monday June 6 to Thursday July 7) of over 50 works – taken from The Fine Art Society’s 1,000-strong stock by mainly British 19th- and 20th-century artists – to mark the celebration of the gallery’s 140th anniversary.
Described as “the best shop in London” by Walter Sickert (whose painting Tipperary, £135,000, is one of three works by the artist for sale in this exhibition), The Fine Art Society once attracted such large crowds to the most popular shows of the 19th century that the traffic in Bond Street was brought to a standstill. Established in 1876 by a group of art lovers, some of whose descendants are now shareholders in the company, the gallery is London’s oldest art dealership. Two artists in particular loom large from the early decades of the company, which was set up to sell and publish prints: James McNeill Whistler and Samuel Palmer.