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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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I’m a little embarrassed by how few female artists this blog has featured in recent weeks, so here’s a Picture of the Week by arguably Britain’s greatest living artist.  No tokenism here though, this is stunning…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Who? Bridget Riley

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To the best of my knowledge, this is only the second English language review of the Prado’s ambitious Goya in Times of War exhibition thus farAs such, I feel the weight of such an important duty rest heavily on my shoulders – I only hope I can do both you, my dear reader, and the exhibition justice.

 

Dos de Mayo

 

First and foremost, some (highly significant) context.  Madrid’s magnificent Prado gallery already houses the greatest Goya collection in the world, but this is its first retrospective proper in over a decade.  The occasion?  Nothing less than the 200-year anniversary of the most evocative date in Spanish history: the 2nd of May 1808

This famous uprising against French oppressors – not to mention the bloody revenge exacted the following day – retains legendary status for the Spanish people and inspired some of Goya’s greatest work.  However, as we shall come to see, our friend Goya was somewhat more equivocal in his treatment of the events than many of his compatriots.

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Mexico 1968

Who?  Pedro Ramirez Vazquez, Eduardo Terrazas, and Lance Wyman

What?  Mexico 1968 Olympics Poster

Where?  The V&A Museum of Childhood

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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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***You can find part one of this post here.***

Proudly nested just behind the elegant facade of the University of Manchester, just yards from where Ernest Rutherford did some very important stuff with atoms and what-have-you (yes, in Manchester, not Cambridge), lies the Manchester Museum.

Manchester Museum

Now, I don’t want to be superficial, but the obvious place to start with MM is size.  The range of exhibits fall perhaps somewhere in the middle of London’s British Museum and Natural History Museum.  However, if the Manchester Museum were to meet these bigger boys down a dark alleyway and say something inadvised about their parentage then I think it would be our Lancashire friend left with the bruised brickwork and broken wooden cabinets.

On the other hand, what might be genuinely lacking in breadth (and occasionally quality) is more than made up for in charm.  And I certainly don’t mean that as a patronising pat on the head.

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If Hitler Had Been a Hippy How Happy Would We Be

It appears that the Chapman brothers have been stirring up a little controversy recently with some work ripping off some dead Austrian artist.  It’s really very unlike them.

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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 »

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