sat 23/02/2019

Visual Arts reviews, news & interviews

Don McCullin, Tate Britain review - beastliness made beautiful

Sarah Kent

I interviewed Don McCullin in 1983 and the encounter felt like peering into a deep well of darkness. The previous year he’d been in Beirut photographing the atrocities carried out by people on both sides of the civil war and his impeccably composed pictures were being published as a book. 

Pierre Bonnard: The Colour of Memory review, Tate Modern - plenty but empty

Florence Hallett

“Slow looking” is the phrase du jour at Tate Modern, an enjoinder flatly contradicted by the extent of this exhibition, which in the history of the gallery’s supersized shows counts as a blow-out.

Christian Dior: Designer of Dreams, Victoria...

Katherine Waters

The heart of the V&A’s sumptuous Christian Dior: Designer of Dreams is a room dedicated to the workmanship of the fashion house’s ateliers....

The Best Exhibitions in London


Bill Viola/Michelangelo: Life Death Rebirth, Royal Academy ★★★★ An American video artist meets an old master. Until 31 MarCourtauld Impressionists:...

Fausto Melotti: Counterpoint, Estorick Collection...

Katherine Waters

For an artist whose cerebral and frequently playful works reference physics, myth and music, Fausto Melotti’s artistic education was appropriately...

Bill Viola/Michelangelo: Life Death Rebirth, Royal Academy review - empty rhetoric versus focused intensity

Sarah Kent

An American video artist meets an old master

Best of 2018: Art

Florence Hallett

Reputations restored and revised: a look back at some of this year's best art shows

Edwin Landseer / Rachel Maclean, National Gallery review - a juxtaposition of opposites

Sarah Kent

The Monarch of the Glen refreshed by a Scottish political satirist

Māris Briežkalns Quintet, EFG London Jazz Festival 2018 review - a Rothko symphony

David Nice

Latvian players and composers homage a great artist they can call their own

Edward Burne-Jones, Tate Britain review - time for a rethink?

Katherine Waters

Wide-ranging exhibition of idiosyncratic English artist, both loved and loathed

Klimt/Schiele, Royal Academy review - the line of gauntness

Maev Kennedy

Elegance and brutality converge in drawings from the Albertina Museum, Vienna

The new V&A Photography Centre review - a new museum to make us proud

Marina Vaizey

'Collecting Photography: From Daguerreotype to Digital' launches the V&A's latest project

Lost Treasures of Strawberry Hill review - a brave attempt to recreate an important collection

Sarah Kent

150 items returned to their Gothic Revival home

Modern Couples, Barbican review - an absurdly ambitious survey of artist lovers

Sarah Kent

Exhibition revises the notion of the artist as lone genius, but reveals little else

Mantegna and Bellini, National Gallery review - curated for curators

Florence Hallett

An intriguing tale undone by loose ends

Elmgreen & Dragset, Whitechapel Gallery review – when is a door not a door ?

Sarah Kent

Reality games played by this artist duo in real time and space

The Everyday and the Extraordinary, Towner Art Gallery, Eastbourne review - the ordinary made strange

Sarah Kent

Old favourites revisited with pleasure at show of familiar objects transformed

Oceania, Royal Academy review - magnificent encounters

Katherine Waters

Powerful introduction to the art of the Pacific Islands

Space Shifters, Hayward Gallery review - seeing is not always believing

Sarah Kent

Sculptures that trick the eye and gladden the heart

Videogames: Design/Play/Disrupt, V&A review - gaming for all

Alfred Quantrill

A comprehensive look at gaming present and future has surprisingly broad appeal

Turner Prize 2018, Tate Britain review - a shortlist dominated by political issues

Sarah Kent

Identity politics, fake news, colonialism and racism addressed in film and video

Courtauld Impressionists: From Manet to Cézanne review - much loved treasures, seen afresh

Marina Vaizey

Favourite paintings from the Courtauld Gallery reveal the collector's eye

I object, British Museum review - censorship, accidental?

Katherine Waters

Exhibition on dissidence and subversion doesn't allow objects to speak for themselves

Renzo Piano, Royal Academy review - worth the effort

Sarah Kent

Church spires informed the shape of the Shard

h 100 Awards: Art, Design and Craft - making art public

Florence Hallett

Showcasing the strength of British visual culture, and the people bringing it to public attention

h 100 Young Influencers of the Year: Marina Gerner on Russian art

Marina Gerner

The second finalist in theartsdesk's award in association with The Hospital Club reviews Revolution at the Royal Academy

Roderic O’Conor and the Moderns, National Gallery of Ireland review - experiments in Pont-Aven

Katherine Waters

Friendship and rivalry among the Post-Impressionists

theartsdesk in Riga - 43,290 Latvians sing and dance for their country

David Nice

Individual souls conjoined with a passionate belief in peace and music achieve miracles

Frida Kahlo: Making Her Self Up, V&A review - appearances aren't everything

Katherine Waters

Sumptuous exhibition prioritises image over artist

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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