sat 15/08/2020

Visual Arts Reviews

The Art of Russia, BBC Four

Josh Spero

If Andrew Graham-Dixon's arts career ever goes belly-up, there is surely a microphone with his name on it at Radio 4, so warm and confident and trustworthy is his voice. Judging, however, by his new three-part programme on BBC Four, The Art of Russia, there is no chance of this happening soon.

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Medieval and Renaissance Galleries, V&A

Fisun Güner Detail of the 's-Hertogenbosch choir screen from the V&A's new Medieval and Renaissance Galleries

From the façades of whole buildings to rosary beads intricately carved in ivory to depict the minuscule forms of ghouls and corpses, the Victoria & Albert Museum’s Medieval and Renaissance Galleries tell the extraordinary story of 1,300 years of European art, design and architecture.

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Pictures Reframed: Leif Ove Andsnes & Robin Rhode, QEH

ismene Brown

We watch and listen simultaneously so much today that it hardly seems blasphemous for a superlative pianist to decide to conceive an evening of piano music plus video installation. Leif Ove Andsnes has doubts about the transmittability of classical music to a general audience today - he calls the status quo into question, and he may be right.

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Candy Gothic: Tim Burton, MoMA, New York

Graham Fuller

Though he has yet to make a perfect film, the director Tim Burton’s choice of Gothic and fantasy subjects and his deadpan, post-expressionist approach to them rightfully designate him an auteur of considerable genius. His 14 movies to date have earned him a cohesive retrospective at New York’s Museum of Modern Art.

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Mutate Britain: One Foot in the Grove

joe Muggs The site by night

A 15ft aardvark constructed from raw timber with a light-up robotic face and gigantic hands is climbing up one of the support pillars of the Westway, next to the body of a full-sized helicopter the front of which has been shaped into a grinning skull. Life-size rearing horse torsos made of white marble-like resin, with real horse skulls instead of heads, are mounted on the wheels of Victorian perambulators, while a man rides a clanking, hissing, fire-spitting motorised beast with stamping...

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Kienholz: The Hoerengracht, National Gallery

Mark Hudson

The National Gallery is on a roll. Having enjoyed the surprise hit of the autumn with The Sacred Made Real, an exhibition of 17th-century Spanish religious art, the gallery now makes its first foray into installation art with by far the grungiest work ever to cross its portals: The Hoerengracht, a walk-through portrayal of Amsterdam’s red light district by the American sculptors Ed and Nancy Kienholz.

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David Hockney, Nottingham Contemporary

Fisun Güner

Nottingham Contemporary is Britain’s newest art gallery. Built deep into a sandstone cliff in the city’s oldest site, its sturdy, squat exterior is clad in scalloped gold and pale green panels. Resembling your granny’s old net curtains, the green pre-cast concrete is moulded with a pattern of 19th-century lace, paying homage to the city’s Victorian traditional industry.

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What Is Beauty?, BBC Two

Josh Spero

As questions go, "What is beauty?" is quite possibly only second to "What do women want?" in the frequency of its asking and in the difficulty of its answer. As the first programme in BBC Two and BBC Four’s Modern Beauty season, What Is Beauty? features Matthew Collings skirting around the edges of an answer and in doing so inadvertently...

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Points of View: Capturing the 19th century in photographs, British Library

sue Steward Printing Kodak, 1890: female staff mass-producing albumen prints made using eggwhites from 100 chickens in the yard

“Photography is a refuge for failed painters,” declared the French poet, Charles Baudelaire around 1862. Yet photography took over a century to become a genuine family member of the art world. The British Library was slow to capitalise on the visitor value and historical significance of the vast photo-archive that it accumulated over the birth-period of this new artform. But its spectacular debut exhibition has burst open the vaults containing over 300,000 images, and now presents a...

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Ed Ruscha: Fifty Years of Painting, Hayward Gallery

Mark Hudson

West Coast pop art always was a poor relation to the world-beating New York original. Beside the Big Apple titans – Andy Warhol, Roy Lichtenstein and Claes Oldenburg – LA painters such as Ed Ruscha, Robert Irwin and John Altoon remained essentially local figures. Or that’s certainly the way it has looked from this side of the pond.

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