thu 21/08/2014

Visual Arts reviews, news & interviews

Bright Lights, Brilliant Minds: A Tale of Three Cities, BBC Four

Fisun Güner

Eight seconds in and my toes were already curling. Perhaps it was the authority with which the voiceover delivered some juicy clunkers. “If you wanted to be an artist in 1908, Vienna is where you’d come to make your name” it intoned. Wow, who’d bother with Paris, eh? Picasso, you idiot, messing about with Cubism in a Montmartre hovel when you could have been sticking gold leaf on your decorative canvases, à la Klimt. Or perhaps it was James Fox’s predilection for banal generalities – cut-...

Edinburgh Art Festival: Scotland to outer space

Caroline Boyle

Like a canny political campaigner, the Edinburgh Art Festival offers “something for everyone”. In this singular year for Scotland, the festival weaves together strands concerning the independence referendum, the Commonwealth and the centenery of the beginning of the First World War. It also provides an introduction to a host of other ideas and artistic worlds. It's contemporary art that takes centre stage and its flagship is Generation. This multi-venue show takes over the imposing rooms...

The Beauty of Anatomy, BBC Four

Florence Hallett

If the idealised human body forms the heart of the classical tradition in Western art, the close study of nature is its lifeblood. It is inevitable...

Ryoji Ikeda: spectra, Victoria Tower Gardens

Peter Culshaw

The extraordinary beams of light shooting miles into the air from Victoria Tower Gardens may be the most viewed piece of conceptual art ever. Spectra...

Art of China, BBC Four

Florence Hallett

If, like me, you switched this on feeling sheepish about your sketchy knowledge of Chinese art, you would have welcomed as a ready-made excuse the...

What Lies Beneath: The Secret Life of Paintings

Florence Hallett

From mystery men to missing whales, paintings can reveal unexpected secrets

First World War Galleries, Imperial War Museum

Marina Vaizey

An imaginative refit with 14 new galleries to tell the story of The Great War

First Person: Curating Shelagh Wakely

Sarah Kent

On mounting a show which gives a forgotten artist the recognition she deserves

Malevich, Tate Modern

Fisun Güner

An exhilarating exhibition following the arc of the Russian modernist's career

Virginia Woolf: Art, Life and Vision, National Portrait Gallery

Marina Vaizey

The Bloomsbury writer's brilliance distilled in a powerful and deeply moving exhibition

Six of the best: Art


theartsdesk recommends the half-dozen top exhibitions

Mondrian, Turner Contemporary/ Tate Liverpool

Fisun Güner

Two exhibitions offer an overview of the modernist artist, yet he still eludes us

The Golden Cockerel, Diaghilev Festival, London Coliseum

David Nice

Musical values outstanding, decor and dance not bad in tribute to Diaghilev opera-ballet

Ryan Gander: Make every show like it's your last, Manchester Art Gallery

Mark Sheerin

A mischievous display from the sculptor, painter, photographer, prankster and storyteller

Gallery: International Exchanges, Tate St Ives

Fisun Güner

Connections explored in an exhibition that takes a fresh look at the St Ives group

Digital Revolution, The Curve, Barbican

Sarah Kent

A trip for techies down memory lane, plus a glimpse at the 'interactive' future

Making Colour, National Gallery

Florence Hallett

An exploration of colour brings art and science together, but it's an uneasy relationship

Dennis Hopper: The Lost Album, Royal Academy

Jasper Rees

Actor's black and white images are a bustling Sixties time capsule

Bridget Riley: The Stripe Paintings, David Zwirner

Fisun Güner

The more one looks the more one can admire rather than love the artist's passionate exactitude

Franz West: Where is My Eight, Hepworth Wakefield

Mark Sheerin

Survey of late Viennese artist may be the most tantalising show you'll see this year

The Human Factor, Hayward Gallery

Fisun Güner

An exhibition of contemporary sculpture featuring the human figure tries hard to be cool

Extracts: John Tusa - Pain in the Arts

Ismene Brown

Arts must stop moaning and politicos must trust the public's love of art, says culture chief

Art and Life: Ben and Winifred Nicholson, Dulwich Picture Gallery

Florence Hallett

Intense personal relationships fuelled the creativity at the heart of British modernism

British Folk Art, Tate Britain

Sarah Kent

A glorious array of fabulous things without pretension, side or subtext

Marina Abramović: 512 Hours, Serpentine Gallery

Fisun Güner

When did the New York-based performance artist become such a cornball merchant?

Kenneth Clark: Looking for Civilisation, Tate Britain

Fisun Güner

An exhibition that offers an insight into the man who educated a nation about art

John Deakin and the Lure of Soho, Photographers' Gallery

Florence Hallett

The chronicler of bohemian London is revealed as a mass of contradictions

William Forsythe: Nowhere and Everywhere, Old Municipal Market, Brighton

Mark Sheerin

A highlight of Brighton Festival 2014's visual arts programme proves a popular success

The Story of Women and Art, BBC Two

Florence Hallett

Amanda Vickery's mission to rescue female artists from centuries of misogyny

Footnote: A brief history of british art

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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