tue 15/06/2021

Visual Arts reviews, news & interviews

Pre-Raphaelites: Drawings & Watercolours, Ashmolean Museum review - a rich array

Dora Neill

Drawing is the cornerstone of artistic practice, but is often overshadowed by "higher" forms of visual art, such as painting and sculpture. When we walk into an art gallery, we find ourselves gravitating towards the large, impressive oil paintings. They are considered the "main event", the best representation of art and its history – but is this really the case?

Dark Days, Luminous Nights, Manchester Collective, The White Hotel, Salford review - a sense of Hades

Robert Beale

Did you wonder what all those creative musicians and artists did when they couldn’t perform in public last winter? Some of them started making films.

The Making of Rodin, Tate Modern review -...

Florence Hallett

Undoubtedly the strangest thing in this exhibition dedicated to Rodin’s works in plaster is a rendition of Balzac’s dressing gown, visibly hollow,...

Matthew Barney: Redoubt, Hayward Gallery review...

Sarah Kent

The focal point of Matthew Barney’s Hayward exhibition is Redoubt, a two-and-a-quarter-hour film projected on a giant screen that invites you to...

David Hockney / Michael Armitage, Royal Academy...

Sarah Kent

David Hockney has a new toy, an app designed specially for him that allows him to work on an iPad with fine brushes. He spent the first five months...

Eileen Agar, Whitechapel Gallery review - a free spirit to the end

Sarah Kent

An important female surrealist gets her first retrospective

Turner's Modern World, Tate Britain review - the universal artist

Florence Hallett

The great painter resists the confines of his own era, despite Tate's best efforts

Points of Departure, Brighton Festival 2021 review - Ray Lee's harbour-based sound art impresses

Thomas H Green

At Shoreham's working port, something strangely wonderful is happening

Rachel Whiteread: Internal Objects, Gagosian Gallery review - apocalyptic sheds

Markie Robson-Scott

A triumphant change of direction from the queen of casting

This is a Robbery: The World's Biggest Art Heist, Netflix - the last word (for now)

Florence Hallett

Three decades on and the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum mystery is still hot

Prix Pictet: Confinement review - a year in photographs

Florence Hallett

Prize-winning photographers respond to the pandemic

Pioneering Women, Oxford Ceramics Gallery online review - domestic pleasures

Marina Vaizey

A survey of female potters explores ancient ubiquity and the allure of pure form

Best of 2020: Visual Arts

Theartsdesk

Our critics reflect on their favourite exhibitions of 2020

Lynette Yiadom-Boakye, Tate Britain review - enigmatic figures full of life

Sarah Kent

When is a painting not a portrait?

Tracey Emin / Edvard Munch, Royal Academy review - juxtapositions that confuse rather than clarify

Sarah Kent

Similar themes, different sensibilities

Zanele Muholi, Tate Modern review - photography as protest

Sarah Kent

Pictures so confrontational they knock you sideways

Michael Clark: Cosmic Dancer, Barbican Art Gallery review - mould-breaker, ground-shaker

Jenny Gilbert

A crash course in the life and times of an iconoclast and muse

Sin, National Gallery review - great subject, modest show

Sarah Kent

A small gathering can't do justice to this fabulous topic

Bruce Nauman, Tate Modern review - the human condition writ large in neon

Sarah Kent

How to make great art out of almost nothing

Artemisia, National Gallery review - worth the wait

Florence Hallett

A glorious celebration of one of the great baroque painters

Hold Still, National Portrait Gallery review - snapshots from lockdown

Marina Vaizey

An online exhibition offers a glimpse of life in Britain now

My Rembrandt review - hard cash and hubris

Florence Hallett

Characters historical and contemporary mingle in an entertaining portrait of the art world

George IV: Art & Spectacle, The Queen's Gallery review - all is aglitter

Marina Vaizey

A sumptuous display from the Royal Collection heralds a top class reopening

Khadija Saye: In This Space We Breathe, 236 Westbourne Grove review - a celebrated series finds new resonance

Florence Hallett

The artist's most celebrated works launch a new public art project in west London

The Golden Age of Modern Spanish Art, Colnaghi review - the sun shines in the City of Light

Florence Hallett

A celebration of little known Spanish painters as the London art world emerges again

Visual Arts Lockdown Special 4: half-way houses

Katherine Waters

Some galleries prepare to reopen, others remain closed; online still offers riches

Celia Paul: My Studio, Victoria Miro review - sublime isolation

Florence Hallett

One of the great painters of our time responds to life in lockdown

Shirley Baker: A Different Age, James Hyman Gallery review - the old at leisure

Florence Hallett

A little-known photographer and an overlooked subject take the spotlight

Explore Soane review - the museum restored and in 3D

Florence Hallett

Two favourite rooms remain accessible via a digital twin

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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