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Wow, a giant!  Not quite.  Don’t be misled, those are actually very small houses…

Like doll’s houses?  Exactly like doll’s houses…  Collected by the British artist Rachel Whiteread over two decades and kept in her basement ever since, the doll’s houses now get their chance to be centre stage.

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This is the second in an occasional series on the right and proper way to behave in an art gallery.  But I really made a terrible error before.  Because this is Art Gallery Etiquette 101, lesson 1.  Really, this is it…

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Read the papers: modern life is symbolised by the recalcitrant mosquito swarm of the paparazzi; the beleaguered celebrity constant prey to the hordes of vicious fucks with the telephoto lenses.  And well, yeah, they are.  But then they also have their bodyguards, expensive lawyers, millions of pounds in their back pockets from selling the non-pap photos of their firstborn, plus an apparently incurable desire to eat in restaurants that happen to have hordes of those vicious paparazzi fucks outside.  You win some, you lose some.

Tate Modern’s sporadically fascinating new photography exhibition – Street & Studio: An Urban History of Photography – tells another story though: the control that a photographer can wield over the lives of those who have neither resources nor power.  This mastery is a truly double-edged sword.  The documentary evidence of cruelty, war, poverty and pestilence has often proved a vital catalyst for social change.  On the other hand, the intrusion into the personal misery (or even just mundanity) of those whom are otherwise nameless, penniless and occasionally also oblivious to their role as subject, raises some weighty ethical concerns.

 

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The Ambassadors

Who?  Hans Holbein the Younger

What?  Portrait of Jean de Dinteville and Georges de Selve.  More commonly known as The Ambassadors.

Where?  The National Gallery, London

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Every so often the art world sneaks out advance warning of an exciting new exhibition on its way to us.  Today was one of those days, with London’s National Gallery releasing details of its fantastic-sounding Renaissance Faces: Van Eyck to Titian. 

 

Moroni\'s The Tailor

 

 

 

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There is perhaps just one of the many ‘achievements’ of Tony Blair’s New Labour administration that has proved uncontroversial and universally popular.  It also happens to be the only one that directly relates to this blog: the 2001 decision to abolish entry fees to a number of the UK’s major museums and art galleries.

How wonderful then to see the Times living up to its reputation and asking for us plebs to be charged again to ‘encourage quality’ in a recent article their web editors have signposted under “Intellect R.I.P.”:

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I ventured out of my artistic comfort zone this week to visit the new exhibition of John Currin paintings at Sadie Coles HQ.  Located in the part of London where you get looked down upon if you’re only driving a Rolls Royce, this is the sort of small private gallery where you have to ring a bell and then await judgment on your worthiness or otherwise for entry.    (I snuck in behind someone much cooler and much richer-looking than I.)  It goes without saying that the air of exclusivity I find so unsettling in such places is also a vital ingredient in the seduction of those with the heavier wallets and shiner credit cards.

Currin’s work has intrigued me since I came across it in Matt Collings’s This is Modern Art some years ago.  His eerie juxtaposition of fleshy, painterly nudes and their grotesque, disproportionate bodies were greater than the sum of their parts, at least in their capacity to remain memorable long after viewing.  From interviews, Currin doesn’t necessarily come across as much of a thinker, so I suspect that the spotlight he shone on media misogynism and female body dysmorphia may have been unintentional (he just likes breasts), but it’s there all the same.  Having not seen his work in the flesh before, the new exhibition certainly sounded worth a visit. 

(Note: don’t click to read more if you’re likely to be easily offended…)

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Everyone knows that the first rule of art galleries is as follows: You do not commune with others in any voice louder than a whisper.

The importance of this rule has nothing to do with showing any kind of reverence to the works of art shown (they really won’t be offended).  Nor is it even about ensuring your dozing gallery guard can continue to receive their much-needed beauty sleep.  Nope, this rule is about something far more fundamental to the human experience: not looking stupid.

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Desmet 

As is often the case when I find myself in a relatively unfamiliar place, a recent weekend in Manchester simply seemed too good an opportunity to miss for sampling at least some of the city’s culture (that is, in addition to the city’s music and the cricket ground).  I hastily acknowledge my habit can reveal an unappealing air of desperation at times – am I really that keen to just go see some art, any art? – but repeated self-examination reveals the sad truth: I actually like this stuff.  Other people have exotic beaches or glittery nightclubs to excite them – I’m genuinely thrilled by the chance of that one great painting I’ve never come across before leaping out at me.

On this occasion, a lot of long hard Googling came up with the Whitworth Art Gallery to explore.  A solid-sounding collection of prints, wallpapers, textiles and, erm, watercolours, my interest was truly piqued by two complementary exhibitions showing now and until the start of August. Read the rest of this entry »

 

The very, very first in a regular series:

Who?  Charles Sheeler

What?  Ballardvale

Where?  Dulwich Picture Gallery

When?  On show as part of the small-but-fascinating Coming of Age: American Art, 1850s to 1950s until 8 June 2008.

Why?  Because I took home a postcard of this having seen the exhibition recently and every time I’ve looked at it since the colours seem more perfect and the angles more dynamic.  Not a powerful picture as such, but an incredibly assured one. 

And an exhibition that is well worth seeing by the way, tracing America’s emergence as an ‘art power’, following the dramatic influence of the European avant garde, and ending up with New York effectively overtaking Paris.  A little extra exposition on the walls would not have been unwelcome though.

 

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