An entertaining story here about how some well-meaning Victorians unwittingly misled millions of people for nigh-on 150 years:

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Introducing the first in an occasional series drawing your attention to some of the most interesting merchandise available from the gift shops of our galleries and museums…

William Morris bottle

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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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***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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Think of this as an accompaniment to Picture of the Week: i.e. anything that doesn’t fit neatly under that heading will get squeezed into this one instead.  I suspect we’ll be featuring mainly museum exhibits, but I may come up with the occasional sculpture, installation or what have you…  First up:

Phillips Economic Computer

What the hell is that?  Good question.  It is, in a nutshell, an attempt at creating both a model and clear visual representation of national economics in action – using, of course, the universal language of dyed water.

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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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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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