Previous Posts: April 2011


April 20 2011

Image of Superlative-itis

Picture: Sotheby's

How many hyperbolic superlatives can you fit into an opening paragraph? In their catalogue entry, Sotheby's goes for the record over Jeff Koons' $20-30m Pink Panther:

Representing the highest tier of Jeff Koons' artistic achievement, Pink Panther from 1988 is immediately identifiable as a masterpiece not only of the artist's historic canon, but also of the epoch of recent Contemporary Art. It conflates the classic themes that define Jeff Koons' output - materiality and artificiality, eroticism and naivety, popular culture and rarefied elitism – and is, quite simply, the model expression of one of the most innovative and influential artists of our times. The elite edition of three plus one artist's proof is immensely illustrious: one version is housed in the Museum of Modern Art, New York and another resides in the Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago. Following the spectacular successes of major exhibitions at Versailles; Neue Nationalgalerie, Berlin; the Metropolitan Museum of Art; the Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago; and the Serpentine Gallery, London in the past two years alone, Jeff Koons' critical reputation today is virtually unmatched. As one of the salient works from a period of astounding development within his career, Pink Panther is a sculpture of enduring art historical significance, and its appearance at auction affords an exceedingly rare opportunity.

Someone should write a Google Translate programme for this sort of thing. 

Compare the above with Sotheby's more restrained and readable opening paragraph for their catalogue entry for Titian's Sacra Conversazione, which holds the auction record for a work by Titian at $16.8m: [More below]

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Meanwhile in Australia... (again)

April 20 2011

Image of Meanwhile in Australia... (again)

Picture: Sydney Morning Herald

The Australian equivalent of the UK's BP Portrait Award is called the Archibald Prize, and very prestigious it is too.

There is, however, an antidote to the seriousness of the Archibald Prize, a parody called the Bald Archy Prize, worth $5000AUS. This year's winner is 'Bad Ass...ange' by Xavier Ghazi, above, showing Julian Assange... well, see for yourself. View the other entries here.

I think we really need to have an equivalent in the UK - the PB Portrait Award anyone? Suggestions for what PB could stand for please...

Does this painting 'accost' you?

April 20 2011

Image of Does this painting 'accost' you?

Picture: Robert Tong

Last week, Sylvia Goodman's nude painting, above, was removed from display in a civic centre in California, over fears that it 'created a hostile work environment'. One employee had complained 'about being accosted by the painting every day in the work environment'. 

After the predictable row, the picture is now back on display

'Miro's Turds'

April 20 2011

Image of 'Miro's Turds'

Picture: Fundacio Joan Miro

If you thought my earlier post on Miro's Pubes was in bad taste, try Martin Gayford's entertaining review of Tate's new Miro exhibition, titled, 'Miro Tate Show Has Fanciful Blobs, Squiggles, Earthy Turds'. It begins:

There’s a certain amount of crap in the new exhibition, “Joan Miro: The Ladder of Escape,” at Tate Modern in London.

That doesn’t prevent it from being a fine show, which not only contains many of the artist’s most celebrated works, but transforms your ideas about him.

Indeed, the crap is part of the point. It appears unforgettably in the title of the 1935 painting “Man and Woman in Front of a Pile of Excrement” [above]. As the critic Robert Hughes pointed out in his book “Barcelona,” that’s an extremely Catalan subject. Miro (1893-1983) was a most Catalan artist -- industrious and anarchic, mystical and earthy.

Art History Futures - Iran

April 20 2011

Image of Art History Futures - Iran

Picture: Global Post

Opponents of the regime in Iran are finding ways to criticise the government through art, according to the Global Post, despite the tough censorship rules.

In the nearly two years since the June 2009 presidential election, artists say that it seems fewer and fewer permits to produce art — be it music, photography or painting — have been granted to applicants. In Iran, artists are officially required to have permits from the Ministry of Islamic Culture and Guidance to work professionally.

But many have ignored these restrictions, creating and exhibiting their work underground.

Despite this effort to control freedom of expression, there is a flourishing of art in Iran, some of it pointed in its critique of the government and the clerical establishment. This kind of dissent is also often delivered with a flourish of humor that pokes fun at the ruling clerical establishment.

Full story here. Worth a click.

New Fragonard Museum

April 19 2011

Image of New Fragonard Museum

Picture: Didier Rykner, La Tribune de L'Art

A new Musée devoted to Fragonard has opened in Grasse, France. The museum is funded by the family owners of Fragonard perfumes. More here. Museum website ici.  

Lighting the National Gallery

April 19 2011

Image of Lighting the National Gallery

Picture: National Gallery; 'Interior of Room 32' by G. Gabrielli

The National Gallery is switching to LED lighting. They say:

As it did 20 years ago with the introduction of a new balanced warm and cool tungsten illumination, the National Gallery, London, is once again proving itself a leader in the area of lighting systems for galleries. Over the next two years, LED (Light Emitting Diode) lighting will be installed throughout the Gallery, which will significantly reduce its carbon emissions and improve the quality of light in the picture galleries.

More details here.

Personally, I'm a sucker for daylight, and lots of it (as above). The best gallery in this respect is the Royal Museum of Fine Arts in Brussels. I was glad to see the other day that the Wallace Collection will be introducing more daylight in their refurbishment of the Great Gallery. The original roof had been filled in during the 1970s, when they installed air conditioning. 

Tate's anti-Lowry bias - 'It's about class'

April 19 2011

Image of Tate's anti-Lowry bias - 'It's about class'

So says Jonathan Jones in the Guardian, who has the best analysis so far of why the Tate doesn't hang enough paintings by J S Lowry.

If I, as an art dealer, eschewed certain artists because they were too popular, I'd go bust very quickly. 

Don't drop it, John

April 18 2011

Image of Don't drop it, John

Picture: Press TV

John Curtis, Keeper, Department of the Middle East at the British Museum, carries the Cyrus Cylinder back to London. More here.  

'He painted and painted and painted'

April 18 2011

Image of 'He painted and painted and painted'

Picture: Mercer Gallery, Harrogate

The first exhibition on John Atkinson Grimshaw for over thirty years has opened at the Mercer Gallery in Harrogate. Says The Guardian:

Lionised by Victorian society for his delicate studies of twilit landscapes, and portrayed in studio photographs as an aesthetic dandy, the artist was in fact dogged by debt, an opulent lifestyle beyond his means, and the premature deaths of 10 of his 16 children.

"He painted, painted and painted," said Jane Sellars, curator of the Mercer gallery in Harrogate, where the exhibition has opened. "He painted to pay bills, painted keep his family together, and painted in lieu of rent on his palatial homes."

The exhibition closes 4th September 2011. More at the museum website here

Stolen Goya & El Greco recovered

April 18 2011

Image of Stolen Goya & El Greco recovered

Police in Spain have recovered two pictures by El Greco (La Anunciacion, detail above), and La Aparaicion de la Virgen del Pilar by Goya. They had been missing since the late 1990s.

More here. If I can find better photos, I'll put them up.

Meanwhile, in Australia...

April 18 2011

Image of Meanwhile, in Australia...

Any work of art featuring nudity could be censored under new proposals before the Australian Senate. The Sydney Morning Herald reports:

Artists could be forced to have their work classified before being displayed and some work could be blacklisted despite being legal, if recommendations to a federal inquiry into Australia's film and literature classification scheme are accepted.

The Senate inquiry, launched by the conservative Christian Guy Barnett, has heard submissions calling for any film containing full frontal nudity to be refused classification; artworks and books showing nudity to be classified; and all artworks to be restricted to certain age groups. ''Artistic merit'' should be abandoned when classifying art.

Full story here.

Don't worry, it's only a replica

April 18 2011

Image of Don't worry, it's only a replica

Pictured is British Museum director Neil MacGregor handing over a replica of the Museum's Cyrus Cylinder to the National Museum of Iran. MacGregor was in Tehran at the closing ceremony of an exhibition devoted to the Cylinder, a 6th century BC Persian declaration praising the Achaemenid King, Cyrus the Great.

The loan had been the subject of some controversy, and was extended by three months. There had even been rumblings in Iran that the Cylinder should not be returned to the Britain. So it's a relief to read:

“Today, it is sad to see the Cyrus Cylinder departing from its homeland, but it should travel around the world, providing the opportunity for all nations to see it,” Presidential Office Chief of Staff Rahim-Mashaii said during the ceremony. 

More here

The new 'Turner Contemporary' in Margate

April 17 2011

Image of The new 'Turner Contemporary' in Margate

Brian Sewell doesn't like it.

Of Turner Contemporary, the words "elegant", "inspiring" and "spectacular" have been used by its protagonists, but this cluster of super-industrial sheds on the site of the Georgian boarding-house in which Turner occasionally stayed is an unsympathetic and abrasive assault on its neighbours. Lacking their occasional ventures into architectural whimsy and instead constructed in the idiom of the modern warehouse and the factory and seeming gigantic in scale, David Chipperfield's Turner Contemporary might be unnoticeable on the fringe of Heathrow or the outskirts of Slough, but in poor old Margate its featureless and gleaming bulk is alien, brutal and bleak. Its presence is as aggressive and threatening as that of a hyena in a sheepfold, nothing about it announces a benign purpose, nothing speaks of art and welcome; its only invitation is to the local graffitisti.

In The Sunday Times...

April 17 2011

Image of In The Sunday Times...

Picture: The Estate of L S Lowry

...are two intriguing bits of artworld news, which I shall liberate from behind the paywall.

Richard Brooks has both stories: the first is that the trustee of L S Lowry's estate has refused the Tate permission to copy a work by Lowry, in protest at the museum's refusal to display more of his paintings. Brooks reports that although the Tate owns 23 Lowrys it has only shown one, Industrial Landscape, and then only briefly.

Tate curator Chris Stephens is quoted as saying;

'What makes Lowry so popular is the same thing which stops him being the subject of serious critical attention. What attracts so many is a sort of sentimentality about him. He's a victim of his own fan base.'

I find this statement bewildering.

The other piece of news is gossip - that the favourite to become the new V&A Director is the German Martin Roth, 56, currently running the Kunstsammlung in Dresden.

Update - 21.4.11: Roth got the job - many congratulations to him.

A 'retro-academic soft-porn fantasy'

April 15 2011

Image of A 'retro-academic soft-porn fantasy'

Jonathan Jones has an interesting take on Holly, Louis Smith's head-turning picture shortlisted for the BP Portrait Award. Jones was one of the judges.

I wonder if the same assessment applies to Van Dyck's Cupid and Psyche, below? 

World first for Art History News!

April 14 2011

Image of World first for Art History News!

Picture: Me

I learnt at tonight's opening of Dutch Landscapes at the Queen's Gallery that from tomorrow visitors will, for the first time, be allowed to take photographs inside the gallery of any object they like. 

I asked if I could jump the deadline - and behold, above is the first photograph legitimately taken by a member of the public inside the Queen's Gallery, and published online for your viewing pleasure. The picture is the Royal Collection's Cupid and Pysche by Van Dyck. [More below]

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Rembrandt heads East

April 13 2011

Image of Rembrandt heads East

Picture: Hyde Collection

A Rembrandt rarely seen in Europe will be lent to the Louvre's forthcoming exhibition, Rembrandt and the Face of Jesus. Christ with Arms Folded belongs to the Hyde Collection in Glenns Falls, NY. The exhibition runs from 21.4.11 to 18.7.11.

'The one that got away' - a newly discovered Rothko at Christie's

April 13 2011

Image of 'The one that got away' - a newly discovered Rothko at Christie's

Christie's will offer a previously unknown painting by Mark Rothko on May 11th, proving that you can even make discoveries with modern art. 'Untitled No.17', painted in 1961, was bought directly from the artist, and had never been heard of or seen since:

“It’s one of the very few that got away,” said David Anfam, London-based art historian and the author of “Mark Rothko: The Works on Canvas.” “It went to a private collection soon after it was made and those collectors just kept a very low profile.”

The estimate is $18-22m. More here. Earlier this year, another newly discovered work by Andy Warhol made $17.4m. Sod finding lost Old Masters - I need to make find me one of these lost modern things. 

BP Portrait award shortlist announced

April 13 2011

Image of BP Portrait award shortlist announced

Guess which one the media have picked up on? Yup - the one with the naked model handcuffed to a rock (aka, Holly). More here

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