wed 29/06/2016

Visual Arts reviews, news & interviews

Painters' Paintings, National Gallery

Marina Vaizey

The huge and gorgeous Titian, The Vendramin Family, c.1540-c.1560, displays a frieze of males of all ages, three or four generations – and an adorable lap dog held close by the youngest boy – in marvellously sumptuous costume. The painting is surrounded with portraits by an ardent admirer of Titian's, Anthony van Dyck, our interest in the Titian deepened by the fact that Van Dyck once owned it. It is but one of the stars of this fascinating sampling of the collecting habits of artists...

The Switch House, Tate Modern

Marina Vaizey

Here comes the Switch House. The 10-story new build attached to the Gilbert Scott Bankside power station that was the first instalment of Tate Modern in 2000 opened to the public this weekend. Tate Modern’s expansion became almost a necessity as the original estimate of two million annual visitors became five million. Designed by the Basel-based duo of Herzog and de Meuron, also responsible for the original Tate Modern, it is an astonishing building which is intended, much more overtly than its...

Alex Katz, Serpentine Gallery

Sarah Kent

Black Brook, 2014, is sublime. Two bands of acid-green grass frame a horizontal band of deep-violet water that appears to have hidden depths. Dotted...

Whitstable Biennale 2016

Mark Sheerin

As if to signal a coming of age, this year's Whitstable Biennale has a theme: The Faraway Nearby. And so for the first time artists have a guiding...

Yayoi Kusama, Victoria Miro

Marina Vaizey

Pure euphoria! The lady, a mere 87, her stature diminutive, her hair and lipstick a blazing scarlet, is a painter, but also a draughtsman, a sculptor...

Found, The Foundling Museum

Sarah Kent

Geldof’s rubbish and Hendrix's staircase: history, memory and the value of things

Venice Architecture Biennale 2016

Hugh Pearman

Reality bites: icon buildings abandoned for mass migration and a global housing crisis

theartsdesk in Bilbao: The School of Paris at the Guggenheim Museum

Florence Hallett

Exceptional loans from New York make a familiar story sparkle with life

10 Questions for Photographer Tanya Habjouqa

Thembi Mutch

The award-winning photographer talks about her new book, 'Occupied Pleasures'

Jeff Koons: Now, Newport Street Gallery

Sarah Kent

More is always more when evoking the American Dream

Sunken Cities: Egypt's lost worlds rediscovered


Forgotten for over 1,000 years, eerily evocative treasures take centre stage at the British Museum

Grayson Perry: All Man, Channel 4

Jasper Rees

More whimper than bang as insightful series on modern masculinity ends in the City

The Best of Photo London 2016

Bill Knight

Our very own lensman gives the verdict on the UK's biggest photography fair

Painting with Light, Tate Britain

Florence Hallett

How early photography revolutionised the way that painters saw the world

Six of the best: Art


Our pick of the best exhibitions to see now

Mona Hatoum, Tate Modern

Sarah Kent

The pain of life in exile provides powerful subject matter

Alberto Giacometti, Sainsbury Centre for Visual Arts, Norwich

Marina Vaizey

A one-of-a-kind artist gains context and depth surrounded by his contemporaries

John Piper, Pallant House Gallery, Chichester

Florence Hallett

Intimately connected to his paintings, the artist's textiles remain mysterious

Sicily: Culture and Conquest, British Museum

Alison Cole

For centuries, invading armies, migrants and merchants have shaped the art of Italy's southern outpost: can an exhibition do it justice?

Mapplethorpe: Look at the Pictures

Sarah Kent

A fame-obsessed manipulator or a self-effacing observer of the New York gay scene?

James McNeill Whistler: Prints, The Fine Art Society

Marina Vaizey

Master of rendering states and moods revealed in gem of a show

Conceptual Art in Britain 1964-1979, Tate Britain

Sarah Kent

A lacklustre evocation of an exciting, radical period

10 Questions for Artist Clare Woods

Florence Hallett

The sculptor turned painter talks about her monograph, working with her husband, and the artists who inspire her

Magical Surfaces: The Uncanny in Contemporary Photography, Parasol Unit

Sarah Kent

Making it and faking it: two generations transcend the everyday

Dutch Flowers, National Gallery

Alison Cole

Paintings that capture the dramas and anxieties of an age

Franciszka & Stefan Themerson, Camden Arts Centre

Sarah Kent

The Polish couple whose brilliant books have had a lasting influence on British design

Zaha Hadid: 'The most extraordinarily gifted architect of her generation'

Hugh Pearman

The fierce, funny and brilliant Baghdad-born trailblazer remembered

Strange and Familiar, Barbican

Marina Vaizey

A fascinating view from without: world photographers on British identity

Highlights from the Portland Collection, Harley Gallery, Welbeck

Marina Vaizey

In the heart of Nottinghamshire, a new gallery showcases unimaginable treasures

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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