sun 22/04/2018

Visual Arts reviews, news & interviews

The Best Exhibitions in London


All Too Human, Tate Britain ★★★★ Bacon and Freud dominate but don't overwhelm in a fleshy century of painting. Until 27 Aug

Monet and Architecture, National Gallery review - a revelation in paint

Marina Vaizey

Art historians can so easily get carried away looking for a thesis, a scaffolding on which to hang theories which can sometimes obscure as much as reveal. Not so here: as near perfect as might be imagined, this is a beautifully laid out, fresh look at a master painter, that lights up the National Gallery's basement exhibition space.

Helaine Blumenfeld: Britain’s most successful...

Rupert Edwards

Sexy is an overused word in the arts but it’s an adjective you can’t help applying to some of Helaine Blumenfeld’s voluptuous marble sculptures as...

10 Questions for Artist Brett Goodroad

Thomas H Green

Brett Goodroad (b. 1979) is an artist and painter based in San Francisco. Born and raised in rural Montana, in 2012 he received the Tournesol Award,...

Michael Rakowitz: The Invisible Enemy Should Not...

Katherine Waters

Fifteen years ago on a cold grey Saturday in mid-February, Trafalgar Square was filled with people marching to Hyde Park in opposition to the...

America's Cool Modernism, Ashmolean Museum review - faces of the new city

Marina Vaizey

Landmark show offers pioneering images of a nation searching for identity

Picasso 1932: Love Fame Tragedy, Tate Modern review - a diary in paint?

Florence Hallett

Biography prevails in a compelling account of the artist's year of wonders

Joan Jonas, Tate Modern review - work as elusive as it is beautiful

Sarah Kent

The pioneer of performance art who disguises her presence

'There's a poetry in painting that gives endless possibilities'

Alexandra Baraitser

Painter Alexandra Baraitser on curating her sixth exhibition, 'Silent Painting'

Tacita Dean: Portrait, National Portrait Gallery / Still Life, National Gallery review - film as a fine art

Sarah Kent

Films whose beauty is more akin to painting than to cinema

Victorian Giants, National Portrait Gallery review - pioneers of photography

Marina Vaizey

Artistic searches, technical advances fuel the discoveries of the Victorian age

Murillo: The Self-Portraits, National Gallery review - edged with darkness

Katherine Waters

Exquisite exhibition prompted by Murillo's two self-portraits considers what can survive time's wreckage

theartsdesk in Korea: national pride and candour

Peter Quantrill

Music and art without borders in a country cut in half

All Too Human, Tate Britain review - life in the raw

Florence Hallett

Bacon and Freud dominate but don't overwhelm in a fleshy century of painting

Another Kind of Life, Barbican review - intense encounters with marginal lives

Sarah Kent

Life on the margins brought centre stage in international photography anthology

Mark Dion: Theatre of the Natural World, Whitechapel Gallery review - handsome installations

Sarah Kent

The artist as explorer manqué

Emil Nolde: Colour Is Life, National Gallery of Ireland review - boats, dancers, flowers

Katherine Waters

Comprehensive overview of neglected German Expressionist with a troubling past

Andreas Gursky, Hayward Gallery review - staggering scale, personal perspective

Marina Vaizey

Space and light at the refurbished Hayward: huge views, artful manipulation from the German photographer

Charles I: King and Collector, Royal Academy review - a well executed display of taste

Marina Vaizey

Collection of the king's Old Masters is sumptuously brought back together

Come to Dust: Glenn Brown, Gagosian Gallery review - seductive and disturbing

Sarah Kent

Old masters given freakish new life

Lumiere London review - London in a different light

Katherine Waters

Artichoke curate luminous installations and projections round the capital

Selma Parlour: Upright Animal, Pi Artworks review - incandescent colours

Mark Sheerin

Opaque paintings evoke Renaissance perspective, classical architecture and satellite landscapes

Art UK, Art of the Nation review - public art in a private space

Katherine Waters

Digital catalogue of the nation's art distilled by five artists' choices

Winnie-the-Pooh: Exploring a Classic, V&A review - nostalgic family fun

Marina Vaizey

The remarkable reach of a children's classic

From Life, Royal Academy review - perplexingly aimless

Florence Hallett

A lacklustre account of a defining practice in western art

Rose Wylie: Quack Quack, Serpentine Gallery - anarchy at 83

Sarah Kent

The octogenarian who paints with the fresh eye of a child

Modigliani, Tate Modern review - the pitfalls of excess

Katherine Waters

Blockbuster show of the bad boy of the Paris scene succumbs to surface

The Machines of Steven Pippin, The Edge, University of Bath review - technology as poetry

Sarah Kent

Art and engineering combined into a potent mix

Lake Keitele: A Vision of Finland review, National Gallery - light-filled northern vistas

Marina Vaizey

One of the National Gallery's most popular postcards comes under the spotlight

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.

Close Footnote

Subscribe to

Thank you for continuing to read our work on For unlimited access to every article in its entirety, including our archive of more than 10,000 pieces, we're asking for £3.95 per month or £30 per year. We feel it's a very good deal, and hope you do too.

To take an annual subscription now simply click here.

And if you're looking for that extra gift for a friend or family member, why not treat them to a gift subscription?


Get a weekly digest of our critical highlights in your inbox each Thursday!

Simply enter your email address in the box below

View previous newsletters

latest in today

Ibragimova, Tiberghien, Wigmore Hall review – light, bright...

The Brahms violin sonatas make a perfect spring evening recital. The Second and Third were...

Rasheeda Speaking, Trafalgar Studios review - unsettling com...

Conflict and comedy can be unpredictable bedfellows, and Chicago...

Home From Home, BBC One review - Johnny Vegas as everyman he...

Home From Home, written by newcomers Chris Fewtrell and Simon Crowther, first saw life as a pilot in the BBC’s Landmark Sitcom Season in...

CD: Willie Nelson - Last Man Standing

Willie Nelson turned 85 at the end of April, a few days after releasing his latest album and a rare set of self-penned new songs, Last Man...

theartsdesk on Vinyl: Record Store Day Special 2018

Record Store Day 2018 – Saturday April 21 – is upon us. It should really be Record Shop Day 2018 as this is the UK but let’s not quibble. Instead...

10 Questions for Courtney Pine: 'How do you express rag...

Over 30 years after he made his debut as a solo artist, woodwind multi-instrumentalist Courtney Pine is still Britain’s most prominent...

Bat Out of Hell, Dominion Theatre review - the Meat Loaf mus...

Back by feverishly popular demand, Jim Steinman’s mega-musical...

True Horror, Channel 4 review - a Ronseal approach to ghost...

As if the real world wasn’t scary enough... Ghost stories are en vogue at the moment, and after the BBC’s hit-and-miss Requiem...