fri 03/02/2023

Visual Arts Features

theartsdesk in Amsterdam: Reopening of the Rijksmuseum

Fisun Güner

The Rijksmuseum is reopening after 10 years. What took it so long? Escalating costs, contractual problems, a protracted battle with the cycling lobby (this is Amsterdam, after all). I’m sure there’s more, but one whole decade’s worth? It’s a long time to go without a national museum that represents the best of Dutch art to the Dutch people, and to the world.

It’s easy to forget what a spectacular Medievalist fantasy the building actually is

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theartsdesk in Florence: The Springtime of the Renaissance

Jasper Rees

It’s an instinct of curators to put the pieces back together, to reintroduce works of art which time and market forces have scattered to the four winds. In recent memory, exhibitions have reunited in one space all of Monet’s haystacks, Cézanne’s card players and, in the case of the National Gallery’s momentous Leonardo show, both versions of The Virgin on the Rocks. A new exhibition opened this week in Florence which takes the business of synthesis to the next level.

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Parting Shot: Michael Winner, 1935-2012

Jasper Rees

Michael Winner was always proud to call himself a film director but his filmography is notably short of quality moments.

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theartsdesk at the London Art Fair: Debate

Fisun Güner

“The new job of art is to sit on a wall and get more expensive,” the late Robert Hughes once said. In a recent interview with The Wall Street Journal, gallerist and dealer Larry Gagosian was particularly revealing. “I wish I was in luxury goods,” he confessed, “because then I could just call the factory and say, ‘I need 10,000 more of whatever’” – though he did add that he couldn’t, because “then it’s not art, it’s something else.”

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Art Rock: The best and worst songs about artists

Fisun Güner

That ultimate art rocker David Bowie is 66 today. The Victoria & Albert Museum is opening with a major survey of Bowie the style icon this spring. What’s more, he’s just released a new single, with an album following in March. Fittingly, for an art school idol, he once wrote a song about his favourite artist Andy Warhol (“Andy Warhol looks a scream / Hang him on my wall / Andy Warhol, Silver Screen / Can't tell them apart at all”).

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theartsdesk in Lille: Flemish Landscape Fables - Bosch, Bles, Brueghel and Bril

Fisun Güner

If hell doesn’t exist for us in the 21st century, at least not in the literal rather than the Sartrean sense, than how should we read the fabulous visions of 16th-century Flemish artists such as Hieronymus Bosch? As proto-Surrealism? As the outpourings of a mind unique in its insights into the torments of the soul and seeking expression in the inexpressible?

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Yuletide Scenes 5: Hunters in the Snow

Fisun Güner

The great Flemish painter Pieter Bruegel the Elder was instrumental in developing landscape painting as a genre in its own right. Hunters in the Snow, 1565, is one of five surviving paintings (Bruegel painted six) in his cycle depicting The Labours of the Months. Populated by villagers, peasant workers, farmers, hunters and children, each painting is of a panoramic landscape at a different time of year.  

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Yuletide Scenes 4: Mystic Nativity

Sarah Kent

I’ve always loved this painting in the National Gallery by Sandro Botticelli. The jewel-like colours and exquisite clarity of detail create a consoling sense of lucidity, as though everything has been revealed to be alright.

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Yuletide Scenes 3: Snow Falling in the Lane

Mark Hudson

Christmas might not seem the most appropriate time to ask you, dear reader, if you’ve ever suffered a nervous breakdown. Yet for many this festival of conviviality amid the darkest hours of the year exacerbates a sense of loneliness and desperation. The break in routine, so welcome for most of us, can become a swift passage to the mental abyss.

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Yuletide Scenes 2: The Adoration of the Magi

Steven Gambardella

Rubens's gigantic masterpiece loudly contradicts the folkloric silent night. This typically muscular painting is deafening in its depiction of the commotion around the holy family when the Magi arrive to offer gifts to the divine king of Christian belief.

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