fri 09/10/2015

Visual Arts reviews, news & interviews

Goya: The Portraits, National Gallery

Fisun Güner

The brute nature of man in times of war, religious persecution and hypocrisy, and the destructive power of superstition. Francisco de Goya’s fame today largely rests on such themes, and they go a long way to explain just why he’s often considered the first modern artist. But Goya was also a remarkable portraitist, an official painter to the Spanish court, and one of art's great sensualists. And though we don’t have the famous nude and clothed Maja, which hang side-by-side in the Prado, the...

Turner Prize 2015, Tramway, Glasgow

Fisun Güner

What’s going on? It seems the Turner Prize judges not only ran out of Scots to nominate this year, but actual artists. The socially enterprising architect-design collective Assemble don’t even call themselves artists so what must they make of the novelty of being shortlisted for the UK’s premier contemporary art prize? I’ve no doubt they’re delighted, especially since they appear favourites to win, but what a turn up.  Perhaps far more of a novelty though, is the lack of Glasgow School of...

Ben Rivers: Earth Needs More Magicians, Camden...

Sarah Kent

Filmmaker Ben Rivers is drawn to outsiders and misfits, people who prefer solitude over society and live in shacks in the sticks rather than...

Ai Weiwei, Royal Academy

Fisun Güner

Ai Weiwei’s first major survey in the UK is a better looking exhibition than I had anticipated, but what it gains in looks it sadly lacks in...

The World Goes Pop, Tate Modern

Florence Hallett

There’s no sign of Oldenburg, Warhol or Lichtenstein and British pioneers Eduardo Paolozzi and Peter Blake are notably absent from this gritty vision...

Drawing in Silver and Gold: Leonardo to Jasper Johns, British Museum

Fisun Güner

Dazzling shades of grey: virtuoso drawings explore a largely forgotten art

An Open Book: Chantal Joffe

Fisun Güner

The lives of artists, confessional poetry, and a cold bath with John Updike

The Gap: Selected Abstract Art from Belgium, Parasol Unit

Florence Hallett

Luc Tuymans brings an artist's eye to a survey of two generations of Belgian artists

Soup Cans and Superstars, BBC Four

Marina Vaizey

Panorama of Pop art from Alastair Sooke ahead of the Tate Modern show

An Open Book: Bruce McCall

Marianka Swain

The distinguished writer and illustrator talks compensatory learning and the lure of Atlantic liners

An Open Book: Conrad Shawcross

Florence Hallett

The sculptor talks about his fascination with Charles Babbage and Ada Lovelace and about the big ideas that inform his work

An Open Book: Quentin Blake

Fisun Güner

From a biography of Rimbaud to Annie Proulx's collage-like prose, we delve into the celebrated illustrator's literary tastes and habits

Shirley Baker, Photographers' Gallery

Florence Hallett

A forgotten photographer of the northern slums is rediscovered

Alice Anderson, Wellcome Collection

Sarah Kent

The artist who wraps the world in gleaming copper wire – but to what end?

theartsdesk in Oslo: From heritage to art now

Fisun Güner

A dynamic art scene in Norway's capital is giving London and Berlin a run for their money

Out of Chaos: Ben Uri - 100 Years in London, Somerset House

Marina Vaizey

Powerful paintings that explore the Jewish émigré experience

Joseph Cornell: Wanderlust, Royal Academy

Fisun Güner

The beguiling tone poems of an American artist

Six of the best: Art


theartsdesk recommends the half-dozen top exhibitions

Linneaus Tripe, Victoria & Albert Museum

Marina Vaizey

Pioneer photographer who had an empathetic understanding of the Indian subcontinent

Imagine... Jeff Koons: Diary of a Seducer, BBC One

Fisun Güner

Just what is it that makes the kitsch-meister American artist so different, so appealing?

Gallery: Philip Jones Griffiths' Vietnam


The reportage of the Welsh photojournalist is being celebrated in a new exhibition

Richard Dadd: The Art of Bedlam, Watts Gallery

Mark Sheerin

The Victorian artist who created an unforgettable world of fairies

Barbara Hepworth, Tate Britain

Florence Hallett

Long-awaited retrospective liberates the sculptor from Henry Moore association

Imagine... Frank Gehry: The Architect Says Why Can't I?, BBC One

Marina Vaizey

Portrait of the artist with a passion for questioning everything

Philip Guston, Timothy Taylor Gallery

Fisun Güner

Small but powerful survey of the American artist's late figurative paintings

Gallery: Christina Broom's Soldiers and Suffragettes


Images from a new exhibition and book celebrate the unsung pioneer of UK press photography

Bridget Riley: The Curve Paintings 1961-2014, De La Warr Pavilion

Mark Sheerin

Later works offer calmer, more sensual pleasures, but Riley remains an optical magician

Fighting History, Tate Britain

Florence Hallett

A desperate effort to prove that history painting is alive and well only saps what life is left

Carsten Höller: Decisions, Hayward Gallery

Sarah Kent

Disappear down the endless walkway and, like Alice, enter another world

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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