wed 13/11/2019

Visual Arts reviews, news & interviews

Tutankhamun: Treasures of the Golden Pharaoh, Saatchi Gallery review - worth its weight?

Katherine Waters

In 1922 Hussein Abdel-Rassoul, a water boy with Howard Carter’s archaeological dig in the Valley of the Kings, accidentally uncovered a step in the sand. It proved to be the breakthrough for which Carter, on the hunt for the final resting place of King Tutankhamun, was looking.

The Best Exhibitions in London


 Bridget Riley, Hayward Gallery ★★★★ A comprehensive celebration of the artist's 70-year career. Until 26 Jan

George Stubbs: 'all done from Nature',...

Katherine Waters

Artist George Stubbs liked horses. The MK Gallery’s exhibition “all done from Nature” will try to convince you that he also cared about people....

Lucian Freud: The Self-Portraits, Royal Academy...

Sarah Kent

Lucian Freud died in 2011 after a career spanning some 70 odd years. Over the decades, he painted and drew himself repeatedly, creating a fascinating...

Bridget Riley, Hayward Gallery review - the...

Florence Hallett

“People collect diamonds because they sparkle; or they sit on a bench in Cornwall and look out to sea”. At the Hayward Gallery for the opening of her...

Hogarth: Place and Progress, Sir John Soane’s Museum review - state of the nation

Katherine Waters

Magnificent show of Hogarth's despair at his fellow citizens and a divided England

Pre-Raphaelite Sisters, National Portrait Gallery review – a fascinating glimpse behind the scenes

Sarah Kent

Spotlight on the women and their role in the Brotherhood

Rembrandt's Light, Dulwich Picture Gallery review - a film-maker out of time?

Florence Hallett

A novel collaboration between curators and cinematographer Peter Suschitzky

Anna Maria Maiolino: Making Love Revolutionary, Whitechapel Gallery review – a gentle rebellion

Sarah Kent

A career that evolves from silent resistance to celebration

Gauguin Portraits, National Gallery review - me, myself and I

Florence Hallett

The French artist didn't revolutionise portraiture, he was too interested in himself

Into the Night: Cabarets and Clubs in Modern Art, Barbican review - great theme, disappointing show

Sarah Kent

Artists's clubs - a vibrant topic dryly realised

Kara Walker: Fons Americanus, Tate Modern review – a darkly humorous gift

Sarah Kent

A subversive fountain that flips history on its head

William Blake, Tate Britain - sympathy for the rebel

Katherine Waters

Vast and satisfying show for a visionary and iconic artist

Van Gogh’s Inner Circle, Noordbrabants Museum review - the man behind the art

Katherine Waters

Light on paintings, heavy on the biography

Peter Doig, Michael Werner review - ambiguous and excellent

Katherine Waters

First, second and third-guesses encouraged

Tim Walker: Wonderful Things, V&A review - a bracing full-body immersion

Florence Hallett

An exuberant tribute to London's 'palace of dreams'

10 Questions for author Martin Gayford

Marina Vaizey

The prolific writer on his love of art and jazz, and what makes a good writer

Foragers of the Foreshore - London's mudlarks on show

Adrian Evans

The director of Totally Thames introduces this year's festival, including an exhibition of mudlarks and their finds

Artists in Amsterdam, Dulwich Picture Gallery review - a slight but evocative sketch

Florence Hallett

Amsterdam was Europe's economic hub in the 17th century, a fact reflected in its art

Edinburgh Festival 2019 reviews: Below the Blanket / Samson Young: Real Music

David Kettle

Two Edinburgh shows meld music, sound and visual art to beguiling effect

Black Sabbath: 50 years, Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery review – not heavy going

Guy Oddy

Half a century of metal is celebrated in Sabbath's home city

Helen Schjerfbeck, Royal Academy review - watchful absences and disappearing people

Katherine Waters

Retrospective of Finnish artist turns on mortality and absence

Beuys' Acorns, Bloomberg Arcade London review – not much to look at, but important all the same

Sarah Kent

An installation that could make a difference

Yorkshire Sculpture International review - Hepworth and Moore loom large

Florence Hallett

A new festival seals Yorkshire's bid to be Britain's home of sculpture

Olafur Eliasson: In Real Life, Tate Modern review – beautiful ideas badly installed

Sarah Kent

The Danish artist who opens our eyes to climate change

Takis, Tate Modern review - science and art collide

Florence Hallett

Sculptor of magnetism, light and sound gets his first major UK retrospective

Les Rencontres d’Arles 2019 review - strength in tradition

Bill Knight

To celebrate its 50th year, the photography festival takes a long view

BP Portrait Award 2019, National Portrait Gallery review - a story for everyone

Marina Vaizey

The annual prize takes the pulse of contemporary portraiture

theartsdesk in Treviso - cultural patronage, Italian style

David Nice

High-level attention to detail in the Fondazione Benetton's support for the arts

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.

Close Footnote

Advertising feature


Subscribe to

Thank you for continuing to read our work on For unlimited access to every article in its entirety, including our archive of more than 10,000 pieces, we're asking for £3.95 per month or £30 per year. We feel it's a very good deal, and hope you do too.

To take an annual subscription now simply click here.

And if you're looking for that extra gift for a friend or family member, why not treat them to a gift subscription?


Get a weekly digest of our critical highlights in your inbox each Thursday!

Simply enter your email address in the box below

View previous newsletters

latest in today

Gold Digger, BBC One review - Julia Ormond tackles those mid...

A tip of the hat to Julia Ormond for boldly going where many an actress might have chosen not to. In this new...

Le Mans '66 review - nicely revved up

For a sports movie to work for more than just the fans, it has to have drama off the pitch, track or field, with characters to root for, personal...

Pavlů, Prague SO, Inkinen, Cadogan Hall review - exhilaratin...

The Prague Symphony Orchestra are in town, their Cadogan Hall...

Ant Middleton and Liam Payne: Straight Talking, Sky 1 review...

“What is wrong with us? What are we doing here?” Liam Payne asked the camera, as we neared the end of his jaunt round picturesque...

Book extract: Second-Hand Time by Svetlana Alexievich

Between 1991 and 2012, Belorussian journalist and oral historian Svetlana Alexievich travelled the countries that constituted the former USSR...

CD: DJ Shadow - Our Pathetic Age

DJ Shadow, made famous in 1996 With Endtroducing…, an album made entirely of samples, and the originator of a sound that was...

'The Academy and I': composer and viola-player Sal...

I was 13. It was a Saturday, and Mum was working. On this occasion she asked if I’d like to come along and bring a book. I was wearing a dress I’d...

Vampire Weekend, O2 Academy, Birmingham review – clean-cut A...

By the time Vampire Weekend reached Birmingham on their latest UK jaunt, they had unfortunately managed to mislay their support band, the...

Roméo et Juliette, LSO, Tilson Thomas, Barbican review - sur...

So much was fresh and exciting about Michael Tilson Thomas's years as the ...