fri 03/07/2020

Visual Arts Features

theartsdesk in Florence: Hating the Sin, Loving the Sinner

william Ward

Perhaps the longest-lasting, the oddest – and almost certainly the most gratuitous – battle still busy raging with its roots in the ideological conflicts of the past century is the one regarding the artistic output of Italy’s engagement with Fascism.

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The Company of Strangers: How the Royal Academy Was Founded

Charles Saumare

Since becoming Secretary and Chief Executive of the Royal Academy of Arts almost exactly five years ago, I have become increasingly interested in why it was established. In particular, I almost inevitably got interested in the so-called Laws which govern its operation as a binding constitution.  

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Opinion: Who needs a top photography prize which champions non-photographers?

Fisun Güner

Last night, someone who’s never professionally held a camera won the prestigious Deutsche Börse Photography Prize at the Photographers’ Gallery. John Stezaker is a collagist. Since the Seventies he’s been slicing found photographic images, often of Hollywood stars, to make new composite images. His work, pleasingly old-fashioned both technically and aesthetically, harks back to the Dada/Surrealist collages and photomontages of figures such as Hannah Höch and Joseph Cornell.

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theartsdesk in Tripoli: Photographing a Revolution

Terry Friel

The most striking thing about the first photographic exhibition to specifically address post-revolution Libya is that there is no blood. Libya: A Nation Reborn is situated in the marbled ballroom of Tripoli’s five-star Corinthia Hotel – a long way from the dust, sweat and blood of the streets – and poignantly lays out the reality of the revolution. And its costs.

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theartsdesk in Philadelphia: In the house of an American Medici

Markie Robson-Scott

MoMa and the Met, the Whitney and the Guggenheim – all very fine, but if you crave something different when in NYC, it’s worth braving Penn Station’s circles of hell to get a train to Philadelphia (takes just over an hour) to visit the mind-boggling Barnes Foundation. This private art collection, worth around $30 billion, is in a league of its own.

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theartsdesk in Johannesburg: Black Diamonds at the Wits Museum

Thembi Mutch

The new Wits Museum in Johannesburg is located in an old Shell petrol station and stands on the corner behind a vast glass frontage. The winner of the 2012 VISI architecture award, it is big, akin to the Guggenheim in its sense of architectural swagger, and aglow with beckoning wonders. And, at noon on a Saturday, it is empty.

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theartsdesk in Kiev: The International Biennale for Contemporary Art

Fisun Güner

Giving his press conference speech at the opening of Kiev’s first international art biennale, David Elliott, the seasoned British curator charged with its organisation, looked exhausted, though far from triumphant and more than a little irate. “It’s not the way I usually handle things,” he said. He had opened his speech with an apology – some of the exhibits were still not ready.

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Intimate Exposure: Marilyn Monroe 50 Years On

Sarah Kent

It’s 50 years since Marilyn Monroe died alone on the night of August 4, 1962, from swallowing too many sleeping pills. The sad story soon became the stuff of legend. When they found her, she was still slumped over the telephone receiver; she had been ringing around, desperately trying to get help. Rumours soon spread about her relationship with Senator Robert Kennedy and possible access to state secrets, which gave rise to far-fetched conspiracy theories implicating the CIA in her death.

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Bruce Lacey: Art's Great Adventurer

Kieron Tyler

“Bruce Lacey has had this unbelievable career,” says the Turner prizewinning artist Jeremy Deller. “His is an alternative version of British art history - people didn't seem to know that Bruce has intersected with British history. I felt he deserves to be looked at again." Deller has put his energies into a documentary, exhibition and film season, all celebrating this influential, but largely unsung and unique British artist.

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theartsdesk at Land's End: The Penzance Convention

Mark Hudson

Standing in Tate St Ives with the sun gleaming on the Atlantic, you wonder who they are, all these chilled, nonchalantly now people. Through the great curved window, the sun is setting over the barren headland of the Land’s End peninsular, the landscape that inspired Barbara Hepworth, Ben Nicholson et al.

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