fri 18/08/2017

Visual Arts reviews, news & interviews

James Hamilton: Gainsborough - A Portrait review - an artistic life told with verve and enthusiasm

Marina Vaizey

James Hamilton’s wholly absorbing biography is very different from the usual kind of art historical study that often surrounds such a major figure as Thomas Gainsborough (1727-1788).

Matisse in the Studio, Royal Academy review - a fascinating compilation

Marina Vaizey

A 19th-century silver and wood pot in which to make chocolate, pertly graceful; 17th-century blue and white Delftware; a Chinese calligraphy panel; a 19th-century carved wooden god from the Ivory Coast; a bronze and gold earth goddess from South-East Asia. These are but a tiny sampling from the multitude of objects with which Matisse surrounded himself in his studio(s).

The Best Exhibitions in London


A Handful of Dust, Whitechapel Gallery ★★★ From macro to micro, the seduction of dust knows no bounds. Until 3 SeptAlbertto Giacometti, Tate Modern...

Trajal Harrell: Hoochie Koochie, Barbican review...

Sarah Kent

Two performers rush down the stairs and sweep through the audience, their designer outfits splaying out as they speed elegantly around the gallery...

Rose Finn-Kelcey: Life, Belief and Beyond, Modern...

Sarah Kent

Rose Finn-Kelcey was one of the most interesting and original artists of her generation. Yet when she died in 2014 at the age of 69, she could have...

Enter theartsdesk's Young Reviewer of the Year Award


In association with The Hospital Club's h.Club 100 Awards, we're launching a new competition to find a brilliant young critic

The Encounter, National Portrait Gallery review - dazzlingly evocative drawings

Florence Hallett

An unexpected glimpse inside the artists' studios of the past

theartsdesk in Antwerp: Richard Deacon says nothing

Mark Sheerin

Art and life are irreconcilable in the British sculptor's solo show

theartsdesk at Les Rencontres d'Arles: breadth and depth at the veteran photo festival

Bill Knight

The world in focus at inspirational annual photography event

The Exhibition Road Quarter review, V&A - an intelligent and much needed expansion

Marina Vaizey

One of the country's great museums gets a makeover

Sargent, Dulwich Picture Gallery review - wonders in watercolour

Marina Vaizey

The great portraitist lets his hair down

Portraying a Nation, Tate Liverpool review – an inspired juxtaposition

Sarah Kent

Two artists hounded by the Nazis for their unflinching portrayal of the German people

National Gallery of Ireland review - bigger and better

Marina Vaizey

Dublin celebrates the reopening of its refurbished art gallery with Vermeer

Fahrelnissa Zeid, Tate Modern review - rediscovering a forgotten genius

Sarah Kent

How a major 20th century painter was erased from history

A Handful of Dust, Whitechapel Gallery review - grime does pay

Sarah Kent

From macro to micro, the seduction of dust knows no bounds

Michelangelo: Love and Death review - how to diminish a colossus

Alison Cole

Earnest and worthy cinematic documentary fails to bring the glorious artist to life

Grayson Perry: The Most Popular Art Exhibition Ever! Serpentine Gallery

Sarah Kent

The man in a frock reflects on a divided Britain and makes kitsch okay

The Discovery of Mondrian review - the most comprehensive survey ever

Florence Hallett

Marking 100 years of De Stijl, The Hague celebrates a local hero

Jean Arp: Poetry of Forms review - subversive pioneer honoured in Holland

Alison Cole

A celebratory retrospective in Otterlo is heading for Margate

Hokusai: Beyond the Great Wave, British Museum

Florence Hallett

The final years of Japan's greatest artist

The Most Expensive Paintings Ever Sold


Works by Basquiat and Lichtenstein have joined an exclusive list. Who else is on it?

Highlights from Photo London 2017 - virtual reality meets vintage treasure

Bill Knight

Our resident photographer rummages through a mixed bag

Visual art at Brighton Festival - disturbing, playful, but ultimately rudderless

Mark Sheerin

A depleted art strand lacks direction

57th Venice Biennale review - riveting and bewildering

Alison Cole

Extreme art trek provides enough high points to justify the foot sores

Canaletto & the Art of Venice, The Queen's Gallery - preview

Florence Hallett

One of the world's great collections reveals the secrets of an 18th-century master

Alberto Giacometti, Tate Modern

Marina Vaizey

An ample and moving encounter with a visionary modernist

Picasso: Minotaurs and Matadors, Gagosian

Alison Cole

Bullish Picasso still fascinates in Sir John Richardson’s richly curated show

Pink Floyd: Their Mortal Remains, V&A review – from innocence to experience and beyond

Adam Sweeting

Brilliantly inventive exhibition revisits a half-century of the Floyd

theartsdesk at The Hospital Club


Announcing a new partnership with the most creative club in London

Footnote: A brief history of british art

The National Gallery, the British Museum, Tate Modern, the Victoria & Albert Museum, the Royal Collection - Britain's art galleries and museums are world-renowned, not only for the finest of British visual arts but core collections of antiquities and artworks from great world civilisations.

Holbein_Ambasssadors_1533The glory of British medieval art lay first in her magnificent cathedrals and manuscripts, but kings, aristocrats, scientists and explorers became the vital forces in British art, commissioning Holbein or Gainsborough portraits, founding museums of science or photography, or building palatial country mansions where architecture, craft and art united in a luxuriously cultured way of life (pictured, Holbein's The Ambassadors, 1533 © National Gallery). A rich physician Sir Hans Sloane launched the British Museum with his collection in 1753, and private collections were the basis in the 19th century for the National Gallery, the V&A, the National Portrait Gallery, the original Tate gallery and the Wallace Collections.

British art tendencies have long passionately divided between romantic abstraction and a deep-rooted love of narrative and reality. While 19th-century movements such as the Pre-Raphaelite painters and Victorian Gothic architects paid homage to decorative medieval traditions, individualists such as George Stubbs, William Hogarth, John Constable, J M W Turner and William Blake were radicals in their time.

In the 20th century sculptors Barbara Hepworth and Henry Moore, painters Francis Bacon and Lucian Freud, architects Zaha Hadid and Richard Rogers embody the contrasts between fantasy and observation. More recently another key patron, Charles Saatchi, championed the sensational Britart conceptual art explosion, typified by Damien Hirst and Tracey Emin. The Arts Desk reviews all the major exhibitions of art and photography as well as interviewing leading creative figures in depth about their careers and working practices. Our writers include Fisun Guner, Judith Flanders, Sarah Kent, Mark Hudson, Sue Steward and Josh Spero.

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