Art Exhibition: The Book of Neil Gaiman by Lorna May Wadsworth

Lorna May Wadsworth installs striking portraits of Neil Gaiman at Shapero Rare Books and Shapero Modern

Big Neil at Shapero Modern

Friday 30th October – Friday 13th November 2020

Shapero Modern, 41-43 Maddox Street, London, W1S 2PD

Shapero Rare Books, 106 New Bond Street, London, W1S 1DN


Renowned contemporary artist Lorna May Wadsworth (artist in residence for the Amazon Prime series Good Omens) will be exhibiting The Book of Neil Gaiman at Shapero Rare Books located in its new first floor space on New Bond Street and Big Neil at newly opened Shapero Modern in an exciting short-term exhibition.

Wadsworth rose to prominence in the contemporary art world before she had completed her postgraduate course at the prestigious Royal Drawing School, with a series of notable works, including portraits of the Rt. Hon. Lord Blunkett and the former Archbishop of Canterbury, Rt. Hon. Lord Williams. One of her most acclaimed works, a monumental portrait of the late Margaret Thatcher, was completed from five life sittings. The resultant painting is one of the most commanding and respected formal portraits of a modern British Prime Minister.

The Book of Neil Gaiman, alongside two Good Omens portraits at Shapero Rare Books

Author Neil Gaiman (American Gods, Neverwhere, Coraline), shown in these works at both Shapero spaces, is one of the most treasured storytellers of our time. In Big Neil Wadsworth has captured Gaiman ‘god sized’, in a 2 metre large head, echoing his epic early novel American Gods. In casting Neil as the omnipotent narrator Wadsworth echoes the adoration in which he is held by his fans; an ardent fervour usually associated with rock stars, not those who sit atop the New York Times bestseller list.

Accompanying this, Wadsworth’s portrait The Book of Neil Gaiman is a life-size rendering of the author’s head suspended in layers of sun-bleached wax, crafted upon a piece of prehistoric bog oak which lay forgotten within the cold dark earth for thousands of years. The double-sided portrait, of both the front and back of his head, is manifested within the form of something almost book shaped. It is a piece which seems both ancient relic and other worldly. Indeed, time is contained and condensed within this dark, dense tome which will never open.

The Book of Neil Gaiman at Shapero Rare Books

Also at Shapero Rare Books, Wadsworth will exclusively unveil her preparatory studies which reveal the fascinating progress of developing this technique, inspired by the wax Fayum mummy portraits of the dead.

Wadsworth has always challenged the portrait tradition and a recurrent theme throughout her work is the inversion of the gendered gaze. Highlights from her career include her contemporary interpretation of Leonardo’s Last Supper fresco and her dazzling portraits of such celebrated sitters as actors David Tennant and Sir Derek Jacobi, award winning film maker Richard Curtis and an other former Prime Minister, the Rt. Hon. Tony Blair.

Shapero Rare Books & Shapero Modern CEO Bernard Shapero with the artist Lorna May Wadsworth

‘What is a Print?’ by Gallery Director Tabitha Philpott-Kent

Artists have long supplemented their larger practice by making prints: original works, usually on paper, created in numbered editions and produced in collaboration with some kind of press.

There are many different types of prints, and the process is constantly evolving, but below our Gallery Director Tabitha explores the four most common techniques you will hear about:


Using an etching needle, an artist scratches an image onto a metal plate covered with wax. This plate is then submerged in acid, which eats into the metal exposed by the scratched lines. The longer the plate is left in the acid, the deeper and darker the line will be. The plate is cleaned, inked, and cleaned again, leaving only the incised lines filled with ink. Dampened paper and a protective cloth are placed over the plate, which is squeezed through an etching press — the pressure forcing the paper into the etched lines to pick up the ink. The image is printed in reverse, and an indentation, known as the ‘plate mark’, is left by the plate’s edges.


The artist draws onto stone or a plate (often metal, but other materials can be used) using a grease-based medium — normally special lithographic crayons, or greasy ink known as tusche. The plate is then treated with a chemical solution that ensures the image will attract printing ink, and that blank areas repel ink and attract water. A solvent fixes the image, and the surface is dampened with water. Oil-based ink is then applied to the stone with a roller, adhering only to the image. Finally, the plate is placed on a lithographic press and covered with damp paper and board — a pressure bar ensuring force is evenly applied across the image. The image is printed in reverse, with separate plates used for complex images and multiple colours. This technique allows the artists to freehand draw which makes the final work much more painterly.

Screenprint/ Silkscreen

An image is cut into a sheet of paper or plastic film, creating a stencil. This stencil is then placed in a frame, which has a layer of fine mesh stretched across it, forming a ‘screen’ (initially silk was used, hence one will often see the term Silkscreen). A sheet of paper is placed below the screen, and ink is pushed through the stencil from above, using a rubber blade or squeegee. Only cut-out portions of the stencil print. In addition to stencils, a photographic image can be reproduced on the screen using light-sensitive gelatins. This technique has the effect of layered paint.


An image is sketched on a block of wood before the surface is carved into with gouging tools. The resulting raised portions of the block are then coated in ink using a roller. A sheet of paper is placed on top and pressure is applied, leaving an impression of the block’s raised areas in reverse. Woodcut is the oldest printmaking process

Original Print or Copy?

Original prints are distinct works independent from any other body of the artist’s work, an image that is made and then transferred to paper via ink as many times as the edition requires. Fine art prints result from a close collaboration between the artist and the print studio. Printers — the people who work with the artist to produce an edition — are highly skilled technicians, and are often artists in their own right, they are typically referred to as Master Printers.

As a result they are true works of art, and as important to the artist’s oeuvre as drawings or other works on paper.

An original print is a unique artwork, it is generally produced as a limited number of impressions, known as an edition, and each print is given an edition number, typically written as a fraction — for example, 24/50. The number to the right of the slash indicates the edition size while the figure to the left is the individual print’s number. Numbering the print is often done by the print studio.

An artist may also produce a limited number of artist’s proofs, often marked A/P, that are identical in nature to the standard edition. Here again, fractions may be used to indicate the total number of proofs, and the print number (e.g. A/P 1/4). Other proofs may be made at an earlier stage, as the artist and printer develop an image or test different compositions. These are known as state proofs, trial proofs or colour proofs. These can be unique, with differences in colour combinations, paper types or size.

There are often proofs reserved as a gift for the printer, these are known as Printer’s Proofs and will often have PP written on them.

When the image is perfected, a proof is made and signed B.A.T. (an abbreviation of the French bon à tirer, or ‘ready to print’). The rest of the edition is matched to this image, which is unique and traditionally kept by the printer.

Hors commerce is French for 'before trade.' You may see this on a print as H.C. These proofs are typically reserved for the publisher, but are often released into the market as well.

Are all prints signed? What does it mean if I find a print without an artist’s signature?

The majority of the prints sold are signed — though not all prints are issued with a signature. Warhol and Picasso both stamp-signed some of their prints, and some larger portfolio editions were only signed on the title page. Don’t be alarmed if a print is only initialed. It doesn’t mean that it is worth less — indeed, some artists only initial their prints.

How should I care for my print?

How you frame your print is the most important long-term decision you make when it comes to caring for and keeping the piece. Make sure you go to a reputable framer: it’s worth paying for a print to be properly mounted using the right materials and use UV perspex or glass.

Three key tips: if a print has bright colours, don’t hang it in direct sunlight; ensure a print is kept away from any source of moisture; don’t trim the sheet to try to fit it into a smaller frame.

‘The Artist in their Studio’ by Gallery Manager Costanza

Artists’ studios are the perfect place to see and understand the creative process that makes an artist unique. Studios can be small and tidy places or big messy warehouses, as well as everything in between. When you enter an artist’s studio, you are entering into their most intimate and private world. This is why artist studios are so special and why they are often inaccessible.

One of the most well-known artist studios is The Factory, where Andy Warhol created his artworks.  It was not only a place to create work, but also somewhere to meet the many important people who came to pay court, and a space where he managed the process of creating art and print-making.

Andy Warhol had always been interested in printmaking in order to pursue his goal to ‘industrialise’ art. The process of printing multiple copies of the same image is also art according to Andy Warhol. In The Factory, he explored and refined the screen printing technique creating his most famous masterpieces.

However, an artist’s studio is not necessarily a confined space. It can include different environments, even city streets.  Keith Haring started his art in streets and in underground walkways until the opening of POP SHOP, a shop/gallery in which he could sell his art.

For Haring, printmaking was a fertile ‘middle-ground,’ a natural bridge between his unique works and the reproduction of his imagery on affordable apparel, posters, buttons and other commercial products. Haring experimented with numerous printmaking techniques throughout his career, even as he was investigating diverse media in his unique work, and simultaneously seeking alternative channels for promoting and sustaining the accessibility of his increasingly popular imagery.

Artist’s studios can also be collective spaces. Artists such as Barbara Hepworth and Henry Moore, who had a prolific career with printmaking, were frequent visitors of the Curwen Press Studio in London.  The studio was the focal point of print creators and makers in London in the 20th century. Very quickly, it became the centre of culture and art among all artists in London, with the studio becoming space where artists were given the opportunity of learning about printmaking techniques under the guidance of skilled experts.

Here great artists like Barbara Hepworth and Henry Moore had the chance to acquire the skills of printmaking and create the many of their renowned prints.

Click here, or on any of the artist images to see all the available prints in our Mayfair Gallery

Shapero @ Frieze Masters 2018

Claes Oldenburg, Profile Airflow, numbered 68/75 signed, titled and dated in pencil
Claes Oldenburg, Profile Airflow, numbered 68/75 signed, titled and dated in pencil

We are delighted to be exhibiting once more at Frieze Masters in London’s Regent’s Park this week. This annual showcase of art, from ancient antiquity to the late 20th century, has become one of the key events on the international art scene, featuring galleries from all over the world.

This year we will have on display on our Stand (G21) an exciting selection from Shapero Modern, including Claes Oldenburg’s seminal vehicle for Pop Art, Profile Airflow from 1968 (featured above) and works by Roy Lichtenstein.  Please click the image here to view our Fair Catalogue for Frieze Masters 2018.

Frieze Masters 2018 | Fair Catalogue
Frieze Masters 2018 | Fair Catalogue
LICHTENSTEIN, Roy. Imperfect Diptych from the Imperfect Series, signed and numbered 21/45
LICHTENSTEIN, Roy. Imperfect Diptych from the Imperfect Series, signed and numbered 21/45

Amanita – Preview evening

On Thursday 2 June, Shapero Modern hosted the preview of its new show, Encyclopaedia, by Kazakh Moscow-based artist Amanita. Here are the photos of that amazing evening!

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Launch of Shapero Modern

Natural Selection, the inaugural exhibition of Shapero Modern, is presented in the newly refurbished gallery at Shapero Rare Books, a company with an internationally renowned expertise in rare natural history prints and other works on paper.


Tuesday 26 November – 18 December, 2014

Private view: 25 November, 6 – 8.30pm

Taxidermy demonstration: 26 November, 10am – 5pm

Shapero Modern is delighted to present as its inaugural exhibition, Natural Selection, a group show highlighting the importance of the study of nature from the Seventeenth Century to the present day. In particular, it examines how artists have sought portray the animal kingdom, and brings together more than twenty artists working in a variety of media, including engravings drawn from the Shapero archive.

The largest body of work comes from Andy Warhol (1928 – 1987) in the form of his celebrated Endangered Species series, of which five will be on display. Created in 1983, it comprises ten colour silkscreen prints portraying animals that were at risk of extinction, including the Siberian tiger, the San Francisco silverspot and the iconic bald headed eagle. Using brilliant colour characteristic of his signature style, and poignant expressions suggestive of the animal’s fate, the artist created a dynamic tension between art and reality.

Warhol’s fluorescent colours are in direct contrast to some of the older works on display, particularly the engravings of Albertus Seba (1665 – 1736), which depict fantastical creatures conjoined at the head. And while the celebrated pop artist embraced artificiality, two of the other featured artists, Jaap Sinke and Ferry van Tongeren, strive for the opposite in their artfully created taxidermic works. It is telling that the atelier in which their creations are made is called ‘Darwin, Sinke and van Tongeren’ in homage to Charles Darwin this seminal tract, On the Origin of the Species, proposed the theory of natural selection, from which this show derives its title.

Sinke & van Tongeren have created a number of works especially for the exhibition, including Snake Heraldry, 2014, a disturbing collation of large, poisonous snakes, including a cobra, a black mamba, a python, an adder and an anaconda. Mesmerising and frightening in equal measure, it offers the viewer the opportunity to see the intrinsic beauty of these deadly reptiles from which they would normally recoil.

Another work, Specimen Jars, 2014, depicts a lounge of lizards crawling from a row of Seventeenth Century specimen jars, while Throne, 2014, presents a blue-eared pheasant, two lilac-breasted rollers and three rare European bee-eating birds arranged around a carved wooden throne. In addition, the artists have created a number of photographic works, Called “empty birds”, these are taken when the artists bathe the skins of birds after tanning them. During that time they begin to float, creating a graceful ‘water ballet’ effect.

A similarly unsettling aesthetic pervades Polly Morgan’s taxidermy. Her sculpture SUNNY SIDE UP, 2011, features a tiny quail chick standing in a puddle of its own blood in a shattered light bulb, its throat braced towards the severed glass, hinting at a final act of violence to free itself from an impossible situation.

Other works include Apes, 1908–9, an exquisite and extremely rare lithograph by Edvard Munch (1863 – 1944), and Jeff Koons’ playfully kitsch Puppy Vase, 1998, a sculpture of a pampered and grumpy looking ornamental dog that looks as if it has just been ejected from the lap of its well- heeled lady owner, which seems to question our relationship with animals – are they really our ‘friends’?

Tabitha Philpott-Kent, of Shapero Modern gallery, says: ‘The show brings together works that capture nature in all forms. Our relationship with the animal kingdom is largely unexamined – being the dominant species it is taken for granted. As with most things, it is artists who make us see it in another way.’

For more information, contact Mark Inglefield at Albany Arts Communications M: + 44 758 4199 500

About Shapero Modern:

Shapero Modern, which focuses on contemporary prints and works on paper, was launched under the guidance of Tabitha Philpott-Kent in the spring of 2014. Philpott-Kent brings ten years’ experience in this field, having worked in the print departments of Bonham’s and Sotheby’s, and more recently at the Marlborough Gallery. Shapero Modern will stage four to five exhibitions a year, each with a curatorial theme.

A fully illustrated catalogue featuring all the works will accompany the exhibition.

Jaap Sinke and Ferry van Tongeren will offer a unique chance to witness the art of taxidermy at Shapero Modern gallery in Mayfair this month. The demonstration will take place throughout the day on November 26th, and members of the public are welcome to drop by anytime between 10am and 5pm.