thu 23/01/2020

Visual Arts Reviews

Franz West, Tate Modern review - absurdly exhilarating

Sarah Kent

Franz West must have been a right pain in the arse. He left school at 16, went travelling, got hooked on hard drugs which he later replaced with heavy drinking, got into endless arguments and fights, was obsessed with sex and, above all, wanted to be an artist but hadn’t been to art school. His life reads like a bad novel or Hollywood’s idea of the tortured genius struggling to make his mark in a world indifferent to his talents.

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Phyllida Barlow: Cul-de-sac, Royal Academy review - unadulterated delight

Sarah Kent

It doesn’t get better than this! Phyllida Barlow has transformed the Royal Academy’s Gabrielle Jungels-Winkler Galleries into a euphoric delight. Entering the space, you have to turn right and process through the three galleries; but by closing the end door to create the cul-de-sac of the title, Barlow has turned this somewhat prescriptive lay-out into a theatrical experience.

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John Ruskin: The Power of Seeing, Two Temple Place review - inside the mind of a visionary

Marina Vaizey

The power of seeing was the bedrock of John Ruskin’s philosophy. In the bicentenary of his birth, a revelatory exhibition at Two Temple Place in London opens out the idea and makes it manifest through both his own work and the treasures of his collection.

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Don McCullin, Tate Britain review - beastliness made beautiful

Sarah Kent

I interviewed Don McCullin in 1983 and the encounter felt like peering into a deep well of darkness. The previous year he’d been in Beirut photographing the atrocities carried out by people on both sides of the civil war and his impeccably composed pictures were being published as a book. 

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Pierre Bonnard: The Colour of Memory review, Tate Modern - plenty but empty

Florence Hallett

“Slow looking” is the phrase du jour at Tate Modern, an enjoinder flatly contradicted by the extent of this exhibition, which in the history of the gallery’s supersized shows counts as a blow-out.

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Christian Dior: Designer of Dreams, Victoria & Albert Museum - sumptuous

Katherine Waters

The heart of the V&A’s sumptuous Christian Dior: Designer of Dreams is a room dedicated to the workmanship of the fashion house’s ateliers.

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Fausto Melotti: Counterpoint, Estorick Collection review - harmonious things

Katherine Waters

For an artist whose cerebral and frequently playful works reference physics, myth and music, Fausto Melotti’s artistic education was appropriately heterogeneous.

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Bill Viola/Michelangelo: Life Death Rebirth, Royal Academy review - empty rhetoric versus focused intensity

Sarah Kent

Its a preposterous act of hubris, isn’t it? Pairing large scale video installations by American artist Bill Viola with drawings by Michelangelo can’t possibly illuminate our experience of either art form; or can it?

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Best of 2018: Art

Florence Hallett

Exhibitions routinely claim to be a once in a lifetime experience, but there can be no doubt about the prince among them this year, the Royal Academy’s spectacular Charles I: King and Collector.

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Edwin Landseer / Rachel Maclean, National Gallery review - a juxtaposition of opposites

Sarah Kent

Familiarity breeds contempt, which makes it difficult to look at Edwin Landseer’s The Monarch of the Glen (pictured below). The reproduction of this proud beastie on T-towels, aprons, jigsaws and biscuit tins blinds one to the subtle nuances of the original painting.

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