sun 08/12/2019

Visual Arts Reviews

Frieze Art Fair, Regent's Park

Josh Spero Damián Ortega's globe constructed from rocks of different sizes and colours at Kurimanzutto Gallery

Contemporary art can, unsurprisingly, become dated pretty quickly – the clue is in the name. Another of Damien Hirst’s mirrored cabinets of pills or of Gavin Turk’s piss-takes of Andy Warhol at the Frieze Art Fair in Regent’s Park is hardly the sort of sight which will enthuse hardened art-gallery goers.

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Alexander Ponomarev: Sea Stories, Calvert 22

Sarah Kent Moored in Venice: One of Alexander Ponomarev's brightly festooned submarines

As well as being a great artist, Leonardo da Vinci designed machine guns, tanks and cluster bombs and worked out how to build a submarine; but so appalled was he by the potential of this last invention that he coded his notes to prevent anyone using them to instigate what he called "murder at the bottom of the seas".

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Turner Prize 2010, Tate Britain

Fisun Güner

There may be some who feel this year’s shortlist for the Turner Prize has done little to forge ahead with anything new, innovative and different. And then there may be others who will welcome the rather more established artists on this year’s list, that is those who have continued to steadily develop their practice for well over a decade, with no great surprises, such as Angela de La Cruz and Dexter Dalwood.

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The Genius of British Art, David Starkey, Channel 4

Fisun Güner Forgetting the rest of art history, David Starkey cunningly tries to convince us that the Tudors invented the portrait

“Henry VIII is the only king whose shape we remember,” David Starkey tells us in the first of a new series of “polemical essays” on British art. To demonstrate, he reduces the king’s form to its bare Cubist geometry. He sketches a trapezoid for the chest – an impressive 54 inches in life, as attested by his made-to-measure suit of armour; two “chicken-wing” triangles for the puffed sleeves; two simple parallel lines for the wide-apart legs. Oh, and a small, inverted triangle for the codpiece...

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Salvator Rosa: Bandits, Wilderness and Magic, Dulwich Picture Gallery

Sarah Kent Salvator Rosa's self-portrait 'Philosophy' provides 'a glimpse of the self-promotional flair that would spark a personality cult'

Mount Vesuvius blew its top in 1631, spewing molten lava into the sea and filling the air with ash clouds that reached as far as Constantinople. The eruption and accompanying earthquakes killed 3,000 people and caused widespread devastation, all of which made a lasting impression on the 16–year-old Salvator Rosa. As an artist he was to specialise in darkly tempestuous landscapes filled with menace in which small figures are dwarfed by towering cliffs, or beset by bandits, while storm clouds...

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Gauguin: Maker of Myth, Tate Modern

Judith Flanders 'Self-portrait with Manao tu papau' by Paul Gauguin

Gauguin has always been the poor relation in the art-legend sweepstakes. Unlike Van Gogh, there is no heartwarming story of overcoming lack of technical facility; no ghoulishly enjoyable story of genius crushed by madness. Instead, there is a story that veers from irritating to deeply unattractive: a businessman and Sunday painter, Gauguin acquired his technical skills across a range of art forms with almost insolent ease, before abandoning his wife and children in poverty to flee to...

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Treasures from Budapest: European Masterpieces from Leonardo to Schiele, Royal Academy

Fisun Güner 'Sleeping Girl': 'A smile plays on her lips as if she is dreaming of a lover, whose scent, perhaps, she can still smell'

Treasures from Budapest – phew! It’s overwhelming. One staggers out quite cross-eyed and wobbly-kneed. There are over 200 works, for heaven’s sake. And so many Virgins: sweet-faced Italian Madonnas, austere Eastern European Madonnas, pallid German ones. There’s a tiny, exquisite yet unfinished Raphael Madonna, known as The Esterházy Madonna, since much of the collection of Old Masters shown here was amassed by Prince Nikolaus II Esterházy. Oh, and there’s the stubby-nosed,...

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Sellars and Viola's Tristan und Isolde, Royal Festival Hall

Igor Toronyi-Lalic

People always overlook how much of a hippie Richard Wagner was intellectually. His philosophical stance differs little from that of Neil from The Young Ones. It's a side of Wagner you can't get away from in Tristan und Isolde, with its endless railing against temporal realities and its search for universal oneness - yeah man, oneness.

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Diaghilev and the Golden Age of the Ballets Russes, 1909-1929, V&A

Judith Flanders

Museum shows don’t often evoke a sense of smell, but without even trying, this Ballets Russes exhibition has visitors’ nostrils flared. The show is – intentionally – a feast for the eye, and even for the ear, with ballet scores (sometimes rudely overlapping) playing in every room. But smell?

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The Body in Women’s Art Now: Flux, Rollo Contemporary Art

Sarah Kent 'Squiggles of paint energising the canvas seem to embody her sexual excitement': Cecily Brown's 'New Louboutin Pumps'

Flux, the second in a trio of exhibitions devoted to images of women by women, immediately grabs your attention with an in-your-face animation by Swedish artist Natalie Djurberg. Clay figures enact grotesque stories that have a nasty, fairytale edge. A naked mother plays with her five children until, one after another, the youngsters climb into her vagina and disappear.

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