fri 27/11/2015

Visual Arts reviews, news & interviews

Visions of Paradise: Botticini's Palmieri Altarpiece, National Gallery

Florence Hallett

The strikingly architectural space that forms the upper portion of Botticini’s Palmieri altarpiece is well-suited to an entrance, forming as it does a sort of triumphal arch heralding great things beyond. And so it is that for years this painting hung over the entrance to the National Gallery’s Sainsbury Wing, oddly well-placed, but in truth of course, entirely out of place. In its new, albeit temporary position, we have a better sense of how this painting might have been seen some 500 years...

Susan Philipsz: War Damaged Musical Instruments, Tate Britain

Sarah Kent

Tate Britain’s Duveen Galleries are currently filled with a hauntingly beautiful sound installation by Susan Philipsz (main picture). The Scottish artist won the Turner Prize in 2010 for a sound piece that didn’t really work at the Tate. Intended to be heard under the bridges spanning the River Clyde in Glasgow, the recording of Philipsz's fragile voice singing sad folk songs was largely drowned out by ambient noise.This time, though, she has been able to design the installation especially for...

High Spirits: The Comic Art of Thomas Rowlandson...

Marina Vaizey

“High Spirits” is a multi-layered title: the caricaturist Thomas Rowlandson (1757-1827) was himself a heavy gambler and a heavy drinker, continually...

Susan Hiller, Lisson Gallery

Sarah Kent

This is Susan Hiller’s first exhibition since her Tate retrospective in 2011, and as it includes work from the 1970s to the present, it can also be...

Masters of the Everyday: Dutch Artists in the Age...

Marina Vaizey

What is it about Vermeer? Just mention the name and there will be queues around the block. It’s true that there are a handful of other artists with...

Portraits from the 2015 Taylor Wessing Prize


Browse our gallery of the best images from the annual photography prize at NPG

Alexander Calder, Tate Modern

Fisun Güner

Masterful and pioneering: the American artist’s kinetic sculptures

Toshiba Gallery of Japanese Art, Victoria & Albert Museum

Marina Vaizey

Varied achievements of a remarkable civilisation shine in this renovated space

The World of Charles and Ray Eames, Barbican

Marina Vaizey

Full heritage of America's pioneers of design celebrated

Chantal Akerman: NOW, Ambika P3

Sarah Kent

The most important European director of her generation - but have you heard of her?

Imagine… Antony Gormley: Being Human, BBC One

Marina Vaizey

Memorable encounter with sculptor Antony Gormley finds the 'Imagine...' strand in convincing form

David Jones, Pallant House Gallery, Chichester

Florence Hallett

Celebrated as a poet but forgotten as a painter: a timely reappraisal of a master of word and image

theartsdesk in Mons: The turbulence of Verlaine

Mark Sheerin

Belgium's European Capital of Culture celebrates the French poet it imprisoned

Sonica 2015, Glasgow

David Kettle

Installations, music-sensitive light shows and a percussion/movie mash-up

In Sol LeWitt's head is a machine that makes art

Fisun Güner

Retrospective of conceptual artist's Wall Drawings at Fundaçion Botín in Santander

The Face of Britain by Simon Schama, BBC Two

Marina Vaizey

Virtuoso journey through British portraiture concludes with artists depicting themselves

Jean-Etienne Liotard, Royal Academy

Marina Vaizey

Master chronicler in line and colour offers a beguiling glimpse of the age of reason

Lee Miller, Imperial War Museum

Marina Vaizey

A fashion muse turned war photographer, and a surreal imagination turned to the horrors of the death camps

Six of the best: Art


theartsdesk recommends the half-dozen top exhibitions

Giacometti, National Portrait Gallery

Florence Hallett

A lifetime of portraiture reveals a secret double life

Peter Lanyon, Courtauld Gallery

Marina Vaizey

Glorious and dynamic: the great postwar English artist's gliding paintings

Risk, Turner Contemporary

Sarah Kent

An exhibition that interprets its theme far too widely, but there's still plenty to enjoy

Jimmie Durham, Serpentine Gallery

Sarah Kent

The American artist who casts a quizzical eye over everything we hold dear

Frank Auerbach, Tate Britain

Marina Vaizey

Rough and vivid, these paintings are the opposite of idealised, but nonetheless seductive

Goya: The Portraits, National Gallery

Fisun Güner

So much drama and emotion - an exhibition that pulses with life

Turner Prize 2015, Tramway, Glasgow

Fisun Güner

Will the house renovators win? Or is it the Turner Prize that needs a makeover?

Ben Rivers: Earth Needs More Magicians, Camden Arts Centre

Sarah Kent

Where does freedom lie? Beautiful films that suggest ways to escape the humdrum life

Ai Weiwei, Royal Academy

Fisun Güner

The Chinese activist is more powerful as a symbol of dissidence than as an artist

The World Goes Pop, Tate Modern

Florence Hallett

The boundaries of Pop art redrawn in a compelling global account

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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Help us to rediscover a Rubens masterpiece

Rubens conservation appeal

The Flemish master Peter Paul Rubens was among the greatest artists of the 17th century: inventive, ambitious, and prolific, his work has come to epitomise the Baroque style. As a charity, the National Gallery needs your help to restore one of his most beautiful oil sketches, The Birth of Venus. With your support, not only will The National Gallery be able to complete the work necessary to restore this sketch, they will also be able to undertake scientific and curatorial analysis, which will enhance the understanding of Rubens’s work.

Donate via the National Gallery’s Just Giving page today

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