Visual Arts reviews, news & interviews
It’s far too easy to think about the history of art as a series of class acts, with one superlative achievement following another. Exhibitions tend to encourage this view, and the notion of a superstar artist is key to persuading us that the latest blockbuster is unmissable. We know that the artists with the biggest reputations were not always celebrated in their own lifetimes, but just as the characterisation of the great artist as a lone genius is misleading and fanciful, this one-room...
Described by the Tate as the Laurel and Hardy of the art world, John Wood and Paul Harrison are best known for appearing in superbly timed, comic videos using their own bodies to explore spatial relations. Projected over the concrete stairwell of the Carroll/Fletcher gallery 100 Falls (pictured below right) is excruciating to watch. A black-clad figure in a white room disappears from view up a wooden ladder. Seconds later he plummets down to crash land in a crumpled heap on the floor....
The National Gallery, the British Museum, Tate Modern, the Victoria & Albert Museum, the Royal Collection - Britain's art galleries and museums are world-renowned, not only for the finest of British visual arts but core collections of antiquities and artworks from great world civilisations.
Holbein_Ambasssadors_1533The glory of British medieval art lay first in her magnificent cathedrals and manuscripts, but kings, aristocrats, scientists and explorers became the vital forces in British art, commissioning Holbein or Gainsborough portraits, founding museums of science or photography, or building palatial country mansions where architecture, craft and art united in a luxuriously cultured way of life (pictured, Holbein's The Ambassadors, 1533 © National Gallery). A rich physician Sir Hans Sloane launched the British Museum with his collection in 1753, and private collections were the basis in the 19th century for the National Gallery, the V&A, the National Portrait Gallery, the original Tate gallery and the Wallace Collections.
British art tendencies have long passionately divided between romantic abstraction and a deep-rooted love of narrative and reality. While 19th-century movements such as the Pre-Raphaelite painters and Victorian Gothic architects paid homage to decorative medieval traditions, individualists such as George Stubbs, William Hogarth, John Constable, J M W Turner and William Blake were radicals in their time.
In the 20th century sculptors Barbara Hepworth and Henry Moore, painters Francis Bacon and Lucian Freud, architects Zaha Hadid and Richard Rogers embody the contrasts between fantasy and observation. More recently another key patron, Charles Saatchi, championed the sensational Britart conceptual art explosion, typified by Damien Hirst and Tracey Emin. The Arts Desk reviews all the major exhibitions of art and photography as well as interviewing leading creative figures in depth about their careers and working practices. Our writers include Fisun Guner, Judith Flanders, Sarah Kent, Mark Hudson, Sue Steward and Josh Spero.
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