sat 23/05/2015

Visual Arts reviews, news & interviews

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

Sarah Kent

Glasgow-based Corin Sworn is the fifth winner of the Max Mara Art Prize for Women. Every two years a British artist is chosen on the basis of a proposal, rather than existing work. The fashion house then supports the project with funding, a bespoke, six-month residency in Italy and, following the Whitechapel Gallery show, an exhibition at the Collezione Maramotti in Reggio Emilia, where the HQ of the family-run business is located.It's an extremely enlightened form of patronage, but its...

Edmund de Waal: I Placed a Jar, Brighton Festival

Florence Hallett

What strange things netsuke are. Tiny sculptures, usually made from wood or ivory and depicting anything from figures, to fruit to animals, they were first made in the 17th century as toggles to attach pockets and bags to the robes worn by Japanese men. For as long as they have existed they have been considered highly collectible, and perhaps it is this, and the rapturous appreciation they inspire in their devotees, that to me at least makes them seem hopelessly, unspeakably kitsch.Listening to...

Tough & Tender: Sheila Rock's English...

Sheila Rock

I had never really photographed landscape. But I spent many wonderful weekends in Suffolk and Norfolk along the coast. This project began when I just...

Rachel Kneebone, Brighton Festival

Mark Sheerin

In an oft quoted moment of self-deprecation, WH Auden once described his own face as looking like “a wedding cake left out in the rain”. But the poet...

DVD: National Gallery

Jasper Rees

A heretical thought. Films released on the big screen are designed to be devoured in one swallow. But if ever a three-hour epic was made for...

Modigliani, Estorick Collection

Florence Hallett

A trailblazer of the avant-garde captivated by the art of the past

Nathan Coley, Brighton

Mark Sheerin

Questions of faith and the Brighton bombing preoccupy the Scottish artist

Cornelius Johnson, National Portrait Gallery

Florence Hallett

A forgotten artist eclipsed by Van Dyck as portrait painter to Charles I

John Wood and Paul Harrison, Carroll/Fletcher

Sarah Kent

The Laurel and Hardy of the art world venture from comedy to failed utopian dreams

Sonia Delaunay, Tate Modern

Sarah Kent

Eclipsed by her painter husband, the artist is finally receiving full recognition

YZ Kami, Gagosian Gallery

Marina Vaizey

Hypnotically arresting portrait and abstract paintings that play with variation and repetition

Jo Baer, Camden Arts Centre

Sarah Kent

The Minimalist who rejected abstraction for figurative painting. Or did she?

Ellen Altfest, MK Gallery

Mark Sheerin

An artist out of step with much of the art of her times paints canvases as charged as altar panels

Ravilious, Dulwich Picture Gallery

Marina Vaizey

The ravishing and gently surreal works of one of Britain's greatest watercolourists

theartsdesk in New York: On Kawara at the Guggenheim Museum

Markie Robson-Scott

A powerful meditation on time through dating, mapping and listing

Brighton Festival: The Locations That Make the Festival

Thomas H Green

A colourful guide to the 10 varied spaces inhabited by this year's eclectic festival

theartsdesk in Bilbao: Niki de Saint Phalle at the Guggenheim Museum

Fisun Güner

Brides, whores and nanas: the visceral works that draw on the artist's difficult life

Painting Paradise: The Art of the Garden, The Queen's Gallery

Marina Vaizey

From Eden to an embodiment of the power of the state: the garden in myth and reality

10 Questions for Artist Marcus Coates

Thomas H Green

Eccentric visionary talks birds, shamanism, intoxicated animals and the Brighton Festival

Defining Beauty: The Body in Ancient Greek Art, British Museum

Fisun Güner

More than the sum of its parts: an exploration of how the human form was perfected

Wellington: Triumphs, Politics and Passions, National Portrait Gallery

Marina Vaizey

A masterly portrait of the Iron Duke that draws out a contradictory personality

Joshua Reynolds, Wallace Collection

Florence Hallett

The portraitist's experiments in paint buckle under the weight of too much information

Alexander McQueen: Savage Beauty, Victoria & Albert Museum

Sarah Kent

A romantic 'hero-artist' or just a designer with a melancholic imagination?

Richard Diebenkorn, Royal Academy

Fisun Güner

One of the greats of postwar American painting in a breathtaking survey

Gift Horse, Fourth Plinth

Fisun Güner

An equine skeleton with connections to the City takes up residence in Trafalgar Square

Inventing Impressionism, National Gallery

Marina Vaizey

A fresh take: the commercial story behind the success of an avant-garde movement

theartsdesk in Calais: Simon Faithfull – To the Bottom of the World and Back

Sarah Kent

Online messages sent from elsewhere by an artist who loves the sea

Goya: The Witches and Old Women Album, Courtauld Gallery

Florence Hallett

Enigmatic works on paper, reunited for the first time since the Spanish artist's death

Sculpture Victorious, Tate Britain

Marina Vaizey

Technical innovation often coupled with meaningless extravagance

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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