wed 01/10/2014

Visual Arts reviews, news & interviews

Turner Prize 2014, Tate Britain

Fisun Güner

When did Big Ideas make a comeback at the Turner Prize? Did they ever go away? In its 30-year history it seems that everything that wasn’t painting has been labelled “conceptual art”. But we know that labels can be very misleading, and the “conceptual” in “conceptual art” obviously need not apply. Walking through the mind-maze of this year’s exhibition of four shortlisted artists, particularly the work of Dublin-born Duncan Campbell, one feels at the mercy of a lot of portentous theorising...

Ming: 50 Years That Changed China, British Museum

Marina Vaizey

Here be dragons, and plum blossoms in moonlight, model chariots, 15th-century paper money, weaponry and armour, embroidered robes, blue and white porcelain, vivid portraits of the court eunuchs, obese emperors and impassive empresses. There is many an unexpected subject, too: the most tenderly rendered depiction of a giraffe, a gift from the ruler of Bengal for the Imperial menagerie, with the animal dwarfing his devoted attendant. These are but a sampling of the hundreds of artefacts in...

theartsdesk in Bamberg: Top Town, Top Orchestra

David Nice

As a town of 70,000 or so people, Bamberg boxes dazzlingly above its weight in at least two spheres. The Bamberg Symphony Orchestra, risen to giddy...

Constable: The Making of a Master, Victoria...

Marina Vaizey

This revelatory exhibition goes in search of the revolutionary magnificence which infused Constable’s compelling landscapes through an unusual prism...

Was it right to censor Exhibit B?

Fisun Güner

So, Exhibit B, the controversial “human zoo” using black actors to re-enact the role of ethnographic exhibits – semi-naked, chained, silenced by...

Anthony Caro: The Last Sculptures, Annely Juda

Marina Vaizey

New formulations and materials preoccupied the late sculptor to the end

theartsdesk in Cadaqués: Inside Dalí

Markie Robson-Scott

A Catalan fishing village is the world capital of Surrealism

The Real Tudors, National Portrait Gallery

Florence Hallett

A modest but groundbreaking display brings together portraits of a great dynasty

Jasper Johns: Regrets, Courtauld Gallery

Fisun Güner

A rich and multifaceted body of work that offers a modern twist on the memento mori

Francesca Woodman: Zigzag, Victoria Miro

Marina Vaizey

An exhibition that lends new insights and depth to the late photographer's work

British Art at War: Bomberg, Sickert and Nash, BBC Four

Marina Vaizey

Andrew Graham-Dixon begins an excellent trilogy about World War One artists with Paul Nash

Late Turner: Painting Set Free, Tate Britain

Fisun Güner

Turner was a brilliantly radical artist, but was he of his time or outside it? Both, of course

The Rules of Abstraction with Matthew Collings, BBC Four

Marina Vaizey

Revelation of early Swedish woman artist opened magpie survey of abstract art

Constable: A Country Rebel, BBC Four

Marina Vaizey

Tradit Tory or true revolutionary? Alastair Sooke ponders John Constable's heritage ahead of major V&A exhibition

Horst: Photographer of Style, Victoria & Albert Museum

Sarah Kent

The man who turned fashion photography into art

Time, Weather, Place: Folkestone Triennial 2014

Fisun Güner

Headless 'terror' chickens, a naff baroque beach hut, and digging for gold

First Person: Disabled artists take on the world

Jo Verrent

Introducing Unlimited, the Southbank's festival of work by deaf and disabled artists

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

Fisun Güner

Does James Fox have anything interesting to say? Judging from this series, no

Edinburgh Art Festival: Scotland to outer space

Caroline Boyle

Anticipating the independence referendum, questions of Scottish identity fill the air

The Beauty of Anatomy, BBC Four

Florence Hallett

Adam Rutherford's exploration of Leonardo and the dark art of human dissection

Ryoji Ikeda: spectra, Victoria Tower Gardens

Peter Culshaw

It's not a UFO – it's the most extraordinary artwork in London

Art of China, BBC Four

Florence Hallett

Andrew Graham-Dixon's series offers so much more than the title suggests

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

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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