wed 28/02/2024

Visual Arts reviews, news & interviews

Sargent and Fashion, Tate Britain review - portraiture as a performance

Sarah Kent

At the turn of the 20th century, London’s smart set queued up to get their portraits painted by American-born artist John Singer Sargent. Sitting for him was a performance, a way to show the world just how rich, glamorous, clever or important you were. And everything – from the pose to the hair, jewellery and clothing – was stage-managed to create the best impression.

Zineb Sedira: Dreams Have No Titles, Whitechapel Gallery review - a disorientating mix of fact and fiction

Sarah Kent

The downstairs of the Whitechapel Gallery has been converted into a ballroom or, rather, a film set of a ballroom. From time to time, a couple glides briefly across the floor, dancing a perfunctory tango. And they are really hamming it up, not for the people watching them – of whom they are apparently oblivious – but for an imaginary camera.

Yoko Ono: Music of the Mind, Tate Modern review...

Sarah Kent

At last Yoko Ono is being acknowledged in Britain as a major avant garde artist in her own right. It has been a long wait; last year was her 90th...

Unravel: The Power and Politics of Textiles in...

Florence Hallett

Judy Chicago created Birth Project in the 1980s, recognising with typical perspicacity that the favouring of “the paint strokes of the great male...

When Forms Come Alive, Hayward Gallery review -...

Sarah Kent

Under the guidance of director Ralph Rugoff, the Hayward Gallery seems hell bent on reducing art to the level of fun for all the family. And as...

Entangled Pasts 1768-now, Royal Academy review - an institution exploring its racist past

Sarah Kent

After a long, slow journey from invisibility to agency, black people finally get a look in

Barbara Kruger, Serpentine Gallery review - clever, funny and chilling installations

Sarah Kent

Exploring the lies, deceptions and hyperbole used to cajole, bully and manipulate us

Richard Dorment: Warhol After Warhol review - beyond criticism

Alice Brewer

A venerable art critic reflects on the darkest hearts of our aesthetic market

Dineo Seshee Raisibe Bopape: (ka) pheko ye / the dream to come, Kiasma, Helsinki review - psychic archaeology

Hannah Hutchings-Georgiou

The South African artist evokes the Finnish landscape in a multisensory installation

Paul Cocksedge: Coalescence, Old Royal Naval College review - all that glitters

Alastair Davey

An installation explores the origins of a Baroque masterpiece

Issy Wood, Study for No, Lafayette Anticipations, Paris review - too close for comfort?

Mark Kidel

One of Britain's most captivating young artists makes a big splash in Paris

Mark Rothko, Fondation Louis Vuitton, Paris review - a show well worth the trip across the Channel

Mark Kidel

Abstraction with emotion and soul in a landmark retrospective

Women in Revolt!, Tate Britain review - a super important if overwhelming show

Sarah Kent

Women protesting with all their might in both art and life

A World in Common: Contemporary African Photography, Tate Modern review - pulling out the stops to address issues around cultural identity

Sarah Kent

Thirty-six African artists reconnect with their heritage in dramatic and moving images

El Anatsui: Behind the Red Moon, Tate Modern review - glorious creations

Sarah Kent

As this Turbine Hall installation shows, the Ghanaian artist can cope with vast scale

RE/SISTERS: A Lens on Gender and Ecology, Barbican review - women fighting to protect the environment

Sarah Kent

Eco-warriors and art as activism

Hiroshi Sugimoto: Time Machine, Hayward Gallery review - a Japanese photographer uses droll humour to ask big questions

Sarah Kent

Bringing the dead to life and looking at the world before and after humans

Turner Prize 2023, Towner Eastbourne review - four contestants strike a sombre mood

Sarah Kent

Art that reflects on social ills

Philip Guston, Tate Modern review - a compelling look at an artist who derided the KKK

Sarah Kent

How to appear daft while addressing the dark side

Sarah Lucas: Happy Gas, Tate Britain review - overcrowding muffles the voice of the wildest of the YBAs

Sarah Kent

Too many bunnies spoil the sculpture broth

Marina Abramović, Royal Academy review - young performers stand in for the absent artist

Sarah Kent

This pioneer of performance art is the first woman to show in the main galleries

Beatriz Milhazes: Maresias, Turner Contemporary review - the taste and sight of Brazil

Hannah Hutchings-Georgiou

A retrospective of the Brazilian artist's career transports us to Rio de Janeiro

Differently Various, The Curve, Barbican review - a step in a shared direction

Saskia Baron

Richly engaging exhibition by artists who have experienced brain injuries

Anselm Kiefer: Finnegans Wake, White Cube Bermondsey review - an awe-inspiring show

Mark Kidel

Germany's greatest living artist draws from Joyce

Jean Cooke: Ungardening, Garden Museum review - a cramped show of airy and spacious paintings

Sarah Kent

Adapting to difficult circumstances and painting against the odds

Extract: Bacon in Moscow by James Birch

James Birch

Art crosses the Iron Curtain in this complex memoir of suspicion, espionage and opportunity

Manchester International Festival exhibitions review - a new arts centre puts Manchester firmly on the cultural map

Sarah Kent

A host of giant inflatables, tricky balancing acts and a licence to print old master engravings - what's not to like?

Brian Clarke - A Great Light, Newport Street Gallery review - a British master proves his worth

Mark Kidel

Stunning stained glass and immensely inspiring collages

Carrie Mae Weems: Reflections for Now, Barbican review - going from strength to strength on an epic journey

Sarah Kent

Photographs and videos that take inequality in America to task

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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