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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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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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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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