thu 31/07/2014

Visual Arts reviews, news & interviews

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 news that some monuments synonymous with Chinese culture are relatively recent discoveries. It seems unthinkable that the terracotta army guarding the burial site of China’s first Emperor Qin Shi Huang was the stuff of legend and rumour until 1974, but it turns out that much of the 22-square-mile area occupied by the memorial is still to be explored...

What Lies Beneath: The Secret Life of Paintings

Florence Hallett

The doctoring of political images became something of a tradition in the last century, with Stalin, Hitler and Mao all airbrushing their enemies from photographs. The latest infrared technology has revealed that something similar may have happened during the English Civil War, with a portrait of Oliver Cromwell apparently having been painted over with an image of the Parliamentarian Sir Arthur Hesilrige, who fell out with Cromwell when he became Lord Protector in 1653. At first glance, the...

First World War Galleries, Imperial War Museum

Marina Vaizey

The Imperial War Museum is one of the most extraordinary museums in the world. Its contents and presentation triumph over the three words of its...

First Person: Curating Shelagh Wakely

Sarah Kent

I’ve curated nearly 70 exhibitions in my time. The most challenging was Elizabeth Frink’s retrospective at the Royal Academy. Weighing in at several...

Malevich, Tate Modern

Fisun Güner

The year 1915 was a big one for Kazimir Malevich, as it was for the course of modern art. It was the year the Black Square was first exhibited (June...

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

Hernan Bas: Memphis Living, Victoria Miro

Mark Sheerin

A sense of theatre pervades the American artist's bold and spectral paintings

Building the Picture, National Gallery

Florence Hallett

It wasn't all about Madonnas. Italian Renaissance artists also knew how to paint architecture

Maria Lassnig, 1919-2014

Fisun Güner

The Austrian artist is best known for her stark, psychologically probing self-portraits

Body & Void: Echoes of Moore in Contemporary Sculpture, Henry Moore Foundation

Marina Vaizey

A rich anthology of artists whose work echoes the forms and themes of Moore

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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