mon 31/08/2015

Visual Arts reviews, news & interviews

Soup Cans and Superstars, BBC Four

Marina Vaizey

Pop went the easel, and more, as we were offered a worldwide tour – New York, LA, London, Paris, Shanghai – of the art phenomenon of the past 50 years (still going strong worldwide). We were led by a wide-eyed interlocutor, the bright-eyed and bushy-tailed Alastair Sooke, to the throbbing beat of – what else? – pop music, Elvis and much else besides.Sooke protested a bit too much, doing down the previous big deal in modern art, Abstract Expressionism, in order to enhance the revolutionary...

An Open Book: Bruce McCall

Marianka Swain

Polo played in surplus First World War tanks; zeppelin-shooting as a gentlemanly leisure pursuit; the mighty vessel RMS Tyrannic, proud host of the Grand Ballroom Chariot Race and so safe "that she carries no insurance". These are just some of Canadian satirical writer and artist Bruce McCall’s ingenious retro-futurist creations. Slyly merging meticulous realism and madcap fantasy, they depict – with parodic faux-nostalgia – a world that never quite existed in order to comment on the one that...

An Open Book: Conrad Shawcross

Florence Hallett

From complex machines, whirring busily but with no useful function, to structures that allude to the fundamental building blocks of the universe,...

An Open Book: Quentin Blake

Fisun Güner

Quentin Blake, illustrator, cartoonist and children’s author, has, to date, illustrated over 300 books. He is most famously associated with Roald...

Shirley Baker, Photographers' Gallery

Florence Hallett

When a photographer is as little known as Shirley Baker, it is probably only natural that we scour her work for clues to the personality behind the...

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

James Turrell: Lightscape, Houghton Hall

Marina Vaizey

The American artist plays with perception in a mind-altering display of his light sculptures

Agnes Martin, Tate Modern

Sarah Kent

Ravishing paintings perfectly poised between conceptual clarity and sensuousness

Grayson Perry: Provincial Punk, Turner Contemporary

Fisun Güner

The overexposed artist with pots, frocks and comforting clichés about Britain

Perspectives: War Art with Eddie Redmayne, ITV

Marina Vaizey

Oscar-winning actor proves that he did learn something as a Cambridge art history student

Corin Sworn: Max Mara Art Prize for Women, Whitechapel Gallery

Sarah Kent

Impostors and stolen identities explored in an installation inspired by the Commedia dell’Arte

Edmund de Waal: I Placed a Jar, Brighton Festival

Florence Hallett

The ceramic artist and author talks about pots, words and the burden of memory

Tough & Tender: Sheila Rock's English Seascapes

Sheila Rock

Best known for her punk portraits, the American photographer introduces a gallery of images from a very different love letter to England

Rachel Kneebone, Brighton Festival

Mark Sheerin

The artist's porcelain sculptures are both lyrical and macabre

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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