mon 25/01/2021

Visual Arts reviews, news & interviews

Best of 2020: Visual Arts

Theartsdesk

Unhappy as it is to be ending the year with museums and galleries closed, 2020 has had its triumphs, and there is plenty to look forward to in 2021.

Lynette Yiadom-Boakye, Tate Britain review - enigmatic figures full of life

Sarah Kent

A person in a brown polo neck turns away, looking down (pictured below right). The encounter feels really intimate; we are almost breathing down this beautiful neck and exquisitely painted ear. Yet the subject retains their privacy; you can’t even be sure if this is a man or a woman.

Tracey Emin / Edvard Munch, Royal Academy review...

Sarah Kent

Even before going to art school, Tracey Emin discovered the work of the Norwegian expressionist Edvard Munch. And even though he was born 100 years...

Zanele Muholi, Tate Modern review - photography...

Sarah Kent

Hail the Dark Lioness (Somnyama Ngonyama in Zulu) is a powerful celebration of black identity. These dramatic assertions of selfhood are more than...

Michael Clark: Cosmic Dancer, Barbican Art...

Jenny Gilbert

It must be tough being Michael Clark, subject of one the largest retrospectives ever dedicated to a choreographer still living. Post-punk’s poster...

Sin, National Gallery review - great subject, modest show

Sarah Kent

A small gathering can't do justice to this fabulous topic

Bruce Nauman, Tate Modern review - the human condition writ large in neon

Sarah Kent

How to make great art out of almost nothing

Artemisia, National Gallery review - worth the wait

Florence Hallett

A glorious celebration of one of the great baroque painters

Hold Still, National Portrait Gallery review - snapshots from lockdown

Marina Vaizey

An online exhibition offers a glimpse of life in Britain now

My Rembrandt review - hard cash and hubris

Florence Hallett

Characters historical and contemporary mingle in an entertaining portrait of the art world

George IV: Art & Spectacle, The Queen's Gallery review - all is aglitter

Marina Vaizey

A sumptuous display from the Royal Collection heralds a top class reopening

Khadija Saye: In This Space We Breathe, 236 Westbourne Grove review - a celebrated series finds new resonance

Florence Hallett

The artist's most celebrated works launch a new public art project in west London

The Golden Age of Modern Spanish Art, Colnaghi review - the sun shines in the City of Light

Florence Hallett

A celebration of little known Spanish painters as the London art world emerges again

Visual Arts Lockdown Special 4: half-way houses

Katherine Waters

Some galleries prepare to reopen, others remain closed; online still offers riches

Celia Paul: My Studio, Victoria Miro review - sublime isolation

Florence Hallett

One of the great painters of our time responds to life in lockdown

Shirley Baker: A Different Age, James Hyman Gallery review - the old at leisure

Florence Hallett

A little-known photographer and an overlooked subject take the spotlight

Explore Soane review - the museum restored and in 3D

Florence Hallett

Two favourite rooms remain accessible via a digital twin

Christo (1935-2020) - 'Beauty, science and art will always triumph'

Florence Hallett

One of the great visionaries of our era, Christo believed absolutely in art for art's sake

Dalí Theatre-Museum, Figueres, virtual tour review - tantalising but unsatisfactory

Florence Hallett

The magic of Dalí's private world is lost in its virtual form

Visual Arts Lockdown Special 3: gigapixel Rembrandt, magic mushrooms, and more

Florence Hallett

The best art online this week

Unto the Last: Two Hundred Years of John Ruskin, Watts Gallery–Artists' Village, review - a breath of fresh air

Florence Hallett

The former home of Victorian artists GF and Mary Watts is a restorative treat, even online

XXI presented by ARTCELS, HOFA Gallery review - art as investment

Florence Hallett

Jeff Koons, Damien Hirst, Banksy and more come together in a depressing investment portfolio

Visual Arts Lockdown Special 2: read, search, listen, create

Katherine Waters

Our pick of visual arts during lockdown

Painting the Modern Garden: Monet to Matisse, Royal Academy, Exhibition on Screen/Facebook Premiere - a hardy perennial returns

Florence Hallett

Monet's garden at Giverny provides an escape back to a hit exhibition from 2016

Van Eyck: An Optical Revolution, Museum of Fine Arts, Ghent online review - capturing the unrepeatable

Florence Hallett

A short but evocative guided tour of this exceptional exhibition goes online

Visual Arts Lockdown Special 1: DIY art, Russell Tovey's chat show, and guided tours online

Florence Hallett

Our pick of the visual arts during lockdown

Rebuilding Notre-Dame: Inside the Great Cathedral Rescue, BBC Four review - a race against time

Florence Hallett

A year after the devastating fire, the cathedral's future is still uncertain

10 Questions for Irina Nalis

Joe Muggs

Multidisciplinary thinking at a multidisciplinary festival in a time of crisis

Léon Spilliaert, Royal Academy review - a maudlin exploration of solitude

Sarah Kent

The world seen through the eyes of melancholy

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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