Programmes for the royal hunting lodge

Jonathan Brown on A study of the paintings made for Philip IV’s Torre de la Parada

You can’t tell this book by its cover. The subject is the creation of a royal hunting lodge known as the Torre de la Parada, situated in the mountains of El Pardo, a vast game reserve north of Madrid. The structure itself was small, consisting of nine rooms. Like almost all of the buildings commissioned by Philip IV (reigned 1621-65), the Torre has been destroyed. Were it not for the pictorial decoration, executed for the most part by Rubens and assistants with a small contribution by Velázquez, the Torre would have faded into oblivion.


Wed, 11 Mar 2015 16:55:00 GMT

A romantic, peaceful Middle East lives again with the Thea Porter fashion show

Anna Somers Cocks on “Thea Porter, 70s Bohemian Chic”, Fashion and Textile Museum in London, until 3 May

For anyone young in the late 1960s and early 70s, the exhibition of Thea Porter’s clothes at the Fashion and Textile Museum in London (until 3 May) is pure nostalgia. There are those sumptuous fabrics again, the flowing abayas and kaftans so infinitely more romantic than the dolly mini dresses the straights were wearing at the time. The music is the Stones, the Doors, the Kinks, the Beatles, and all that is missing for a complete Proustian anabaptism is the once ubiquitous smell of weed, grass, pot, hash, kif or whatever you called it.


Wed, 11 Mar 2015 08:21:00 GMT

Actions speak louder than words

Nate Freeman on João Maria Gusmão and Pedro Paiva present muted films in Milan

When the Lisbon-based artists João Maria Gusmão and Pedro Paiva were choosing a name for their beguiling and potent new retrospective at HangarBicocca in Milan, they found themselves intrigued by the word papagaio—Portuguese for parrot, the bird that repeats whatever it's told. The trick of false mimicry is easy, so to do the concept one better, Gusmão and Paiva have the parrot on screen totally silent, despite having familiar words—in this case "good morning"—said aloud for the bird to repeat dumbly.


Thu, 17 Jul 2014 15:21:00 GMT

The philosophy of bowls in Dresden’s ruined castle of the Electors

Anna Somers Cocks on “The Things of Life/The Life of Things [Franco Vimercati]”, Residenzschloss (Royal Palace), Dresden, until 27 July

A supremely elegant exhibition has opened on the piano nobile of the semi-derelict castle in Dresden of the Electors of Saxony (until 27 July). No one has visited these rooms for 70 years, which barely survived the bombing on 13,14 and 15 February 1945. It is an exhibition of the photographs of the Italian, Franco Vimercati, who died in 2001. His studies, all in black and white, are of glasses, bottles, but most often a battered soup bowl of vaguely antique appearance, which he presents in every gradation of shadow and definition.


Tue, 06 May 2014 15:16:00 GMT

Scratching below the surface of Lucio Fontana

Claudia Barbieri Childs on “Lucio Fontana Retrospective”, Musée d’Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris, until 24 August

Lucio Fontana’s “spatial concept” slash paintings are now such a staple in gallery shows and art sales that they seem almost clichéd as an expression of Modern art cutting to the quick, discarding the detritus of culture and history. But the Musée d’Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris’s current survey of the artist proves there is more to Fontana than that. Raised in a comfortably middle-class Italo-Argentinian family of monumental sculptors, Fontana arrived at the Arte Povera movement via a classical training and forays into primitivism, futurism, abstractionism—and fascism.


Mon, 05 May 2014 03:49:00 GMT

An artist’s album actually worth listening to—and we have the title track

Cristina Ruiz on Scandinavian artists Elmgreen and Dragset's first vinyl record, released as part of "Biography", at the Astrup Fearnley Museet, Oslo, until 24 August

Anyone who has heard a conceptual artist making music may regard Elmgreen and Dragset’s latest initiative with a degree of trepidation. All too often artists’ musical offerings tend to be an all-out assault on auditory sensibility which suck every ounce of pleasure out of the experience of listening. Happily the Scandinavian duo, who have just released their first vinyl album entitled “Too Late”, are bucking this trend.


Mon, 31 Mar 2014 08:45:00 GMT

Lies, inconvenient truths and the peril of the sublime

Anna Somers Cocks on Memory of Fire: Images of War and the War of Images, by Julian Stallabrass, ed Photoworks, 228pp, £19.95 (pb)

This is a demanding book: it demands that we tune our moral sense and wake up to the realities behind visual images, because, willy nilly, we are exposed to more of them now than were created in all the previous history of mankind. It is also a denunciation of our wars from Vietnam onwards. If the first casualty of war is truth, here we have first-hand accounts of how the truth of war can be turned into a lie by a photograph—or its absence.


Mon, 31 Mar 2014 07:29:00 GMT

Little uproar 100 years on

Paul Carey-Kent on “Uproar! The First 50 Years of the London Group, 1913-63” at the Ben Uri Museum & Gallery, London, until 2 March

This mixed bag of 39 paintings and 11 sculptures provokes several questions. Why are they here – in the modest St John’s Wood premises of London’s Jewish Museum of Art? The 50 chronologically arranged works celebrate the centenary of the still-extant artists’ exhibiting society, the London Group, the glory years of which were its first 50. Only the works by Bomberg and Kossoff are owned by the Ben Uri Gallery, but its chairman claims the common aims of the group and the gallery in supporting potentially marginalised artists, especially migrants.


Tue, 18 Feb 2014 15:15:00 GMT

Silence for the ceramic cylinders

Bonnie Kemske on “On White: Porcelain Stories from the Fitzwilliam Museum” at the Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge, until 23 February 2014

It takes patience to come to terms with Edmund de Waal’s ceramic installations and museum interventions; it takes the very silence or “stopping still” that he often talks about in his work. Greeted by three immaculate white vitrines holding numerous thin porcelain cylinders, de Waal’s true medium, the visitor to this exhibition must negotiate their way into a depth of form and meaning that the artist seems reluctant to reveal.


Thu, 19 Dec 2013 13:30:00 GMT

Transcending a nation’s horrors

Sophie Rou Davies on “Madre” at the Museo Nacional de Bellas Artes, Argentina, until 28 February 2014

“Unflinching” may be the art critic’s favourite overstatement, but the word is apt for “Madre” at the Museo Nacional de Bellas Artes in Buenos Aires. This photo essay by the celebrated Argentine photographer Marcos Adandia captures the faces of the mothers whose sons and daughters “disappeared” during the military dictatorship of the 1970s and 1980s, the later years of which became known as the “Dirty War”.


Wed, 18 Dec 2013 16:15:00 GMT

No need for a commentary

Jon Whiteley on “Daumier: Visions of Paris” at the Royal Academy of Arts, London, until 26 January 2014

The catalogue of the current exhibition of Daumier’s work at the Royal Academy is a welcome addition to the literature. If one had to choose only one book on Daumier, it would not be this but, with four lively essays by Catherine Lampert, Michael Pantazzi, Judith Wechsler, and Edouard Papet, it usefully supplements what has been written before, notably in the catalogue of the memorable 1999-2000 exhibition to which both Wechsler and Papet contributed.


Thu, 12 Dec 2013 13:00:00 GMT

Too original to be pigeonholed

Humphrey Wine on “François-André Vincent (1746-1816). Un artiste entre Fragonard et David” at the Musée des Beaux-Arts, Tours, until 19 January 2014, then at the Musée Fabre, Montpellier, 8 February -11 May 2014

An artist reborn before his due date! So often monographic exhibitions tie in with a centenary of an artist’s birth or death that one might have expected that devoted to François-André Vincent (1746-1816) three years hence. Fortunately the organisers have dispensed with this convention. Instead the catalyst has been a more significant event, namely the publication by Arthena of Jean-Pierre Cuzin’s catalogue raisonné of the artist’s work – hence an exhibition hand-list, but no exhibition catalogue as such.


Thu, 12 Dec 2013 12:05:00 GMT

Mollusc magnificence

Caroline Bugler on “Pearls” at the Victoria and Albert Museum, until 19 January

Qatar is now a developing Middle Eastern cultural hub with shiny skyscrapers and gleaming new museums, but for centuries it was the hub of the natural pearl trade. Kokichi Mikimoto’s invention of the cultured pearl in the early 20th century put paid to that profitable industry. A poignant black and white film documenting the last-ever pearl dive in Qatar in 1972 shows a boatload of fishermen plunging into the waters of the Arabian Gulf to gather oysters from the seabed.


Thu, 14 Nov 2013 15:45:00 GMT

Shopping, by George!

Caroline Bugler on “Georgians Revealed: Life, Style and the Making of Modern Britain” at the British Library (until 11 March)

How do you make an exhibition visually exciting when so many of the works on show are monochrome pages of minute type or throwaway items such as adverts, tickets or receipts? The British Library has come up with a clever solution by commissioning a series of collages consisting of enlarged details of Georgian prints with a few tongue-in-cheek modern additions, which serve as backdrops to the objects in the display cases.


Mon, 11 Nov 2013 12:20:00 GMT

Smyrna Revisited

Philip Mansel on “Smyrna in the 18th and 19th Centuries: a Western Perspective” at the Fondation Arkas, Izmir (until 29 December)

Pictures can be more valuable as historical records than creative expressions - especially if they depict places, or people, which have since become unrecognisable. The impressionists’ Paris has changed relatively little. Istanbul and Izmir, however, have been transformed since they were painted by Orientalists. At the Arkas Art Center, Izmir, “Smyrna in the 18th and 19th Centuries: a Western Perspective” is the first major historical exhibition held on Smyrna (until 29 December).


Wed, 06 Nov 2013 16:07:00 GMT

Donald Judd, painter without a brush

Pac Pobric on “Donald Judd: Stacks” at the Mnuchin Gallery (until 7 December)

Donald Judd was a relatively unknown artist when Bruce Glaser interviewed him, Frank Stella and Dan Flavin on WBAI-FM, a New York public radio station, in February 1964. Though he had had a solo show at the Green Gallery the previous December, the only other had been at the Panoras Gallery in 1957. At the time, he was better known as a critic than as an artist, and he felt somewhat insecure about his works: some time after the Panoras show, he referred to it as a “stupid” exhibition.


Wed, 06 Nov 2013 15:59:00 GMT

The ennobler of human life

James Yorke on “James Wyatt: Architect to the Crown and Designer of Complete Interiors” at Sybil Colerfax & John Fowler, London (until 6th December)

Colefax and Fowler in association with the Georgian Group are celebrating the bicentenary of James Wyatt (1746-1813) with an exhibition at 39 Brook Street, in the Yellow Room, which was created by his nephew, Jeffry Wyatville between 1821 and 1823. It has been designed by George Carter and includes furniture from Heveningham Hall, Suffolk, a series of watercolours of Wyatt interiors painted this year by Royston Jones, silver by Matthew Boulton and an architectural model of Fonthill Spendens.


Mon, 04 Nov 2013 14:00:00 GMT

Aiming too high

Sophie Rou Davies on “Meetings/Tensions: Latin American Contemporary Art” at the Museo de Arte Latinoamericano, Buenos Aires (until 10 February 2014)

The Museo de Arte Latinoamericano de Buenos Aires’s wide-ranging exhibition “Meetings/Tensions: Latin American Contemporary Art” is a double-edged sword, delighting the visitor with the sheer breadth of artistic styles on display and confusing her by jamming too much in. The curators say that the exhibition, which is laid out on seven “conceptual axes” which include Postmodernism, Conceptualism and Neo-Dadaism, aims to show continuity and tradition between artists and movements.


Thu, 31 Oct 2013 12:10:00 GMT

The German Wild West

Donald Lee on “Tecumseh, Keokuk, Black Hawk: Portrayals of Native Americans in the Times of Treaties and Removal” at the Albertinum, Dresden (until 2 March 2014)

The long and sad history of the North American Indians - from the arrival of Europeans in the 16th century, through the miseries of their degradation and displacement to recent attempts to make amends for their maltreatment - is well known to Americans, Canadians and, to some extent, the British. It may come as a surprise to some readers then that, uniquely among continental Europeans, Germans have also taken a long and deep interest in the American Indians.


Thu, 17 Oct 2013 11:00:00 GMT

Between control and freedom

Kareem Estefan on Iran Modern at the Asia Society, New York (until 5 January 2014)

Now and then, geopolitics moves at lightning speed, making one wonder which tempo is more manufactured: the suddenly effective drive of high-level diplomacy or the customary standstill in efforts toward rapprochement. In the weeks leading up to and including the United Nations General Assembly, official relations between the US and Iran appeared to take a sharp turn. Seeking to mend ties his predecessor severed, the newly elected Iranian president, Hassan Rouhani, sent Rosh Hashanah blessings to Jews around the world, freed a number of prominent political prisoners, published a conciliatory op-ed in The Washington Post, and made known his optimism about a private epistolary dialogue with President Obama.


Wed, 02 Oct 2013 09:31:00 GMT

Sculptors first

David Ekserdjian on The Springtime of the Renaissance: Sculpture and the Arts in Florence, 1400-1460 at the Musée du Louvre, Paris (until 6 January 2014)

The Louvre is currently hosting a mind-bogglingly wonderful exhibition devoted to the art of the Early Renaissance, above all but not quite exclusively as it was practised in Florence. Many of the most spectacular loans come from Florence itself, which may mean that the impact it made at its previous venue, that city’s Palazzo Strozzi (where I did not see it), was fractionally less dazzling. On the other hand, even there it is not usually possible to admire Ghiberti’s Saint Matthew (Orsanmichele) and Donatello’s Saint Louis of Toulouse (Santa Croce) cheek by jowl, nor indeed to see them in the company of all manner of major pieces both celebrated and obscure from both sides of the Atlantic.


Mon, 30 Sep 2013 16:10:00 GMT

Matthew Day Jackson’s good taste

Pac Pobric on Matthew Day Jackson: Something Ancient, Something New, Something Stolen, Something Blue, Hauser & Wirth, New York (until 19 October)

Eclecticism is everywhere in contemporary art. Few artists today would say that they work exclusively in a single medium and much of the art being shown in New York’s contemporary galleries is “multimedia”: painting and sculpture and sound and video and everything else all mixed up together. Proponents say that this approach broadens horizons and allows for new ways of thinking, which is certainly true of the process.


Mon, 16 Sep 2013 15:05:00 GMT

Slightly out of tune

David Murdoch on “Stradivarius”, Ashmolean Museum, Oxford (until 11 August)

Within the last 30 years there has been a number of specialist exhibitions displaying celebrated violin makers’ work. A large exhibition of Antonio Stradivari’s instruments was held in Cremona in 1987. Now a more select group is being exhibited in Oxford, and most of them were not available for the 1987 exhibition. One important feature common to all the exhibits is that they are all in outstanding preservation, and, a large number come from Stradivari’s “Golden Years”, namely 1700-1720.


Tue, 06 Aug 2013 09:45:00 GMT

Melancholic Modernism

Pac Pobric on "Koloman Moser: Designing Modern Vienna 1897-1907” at the Neue Galerie, New York (until 2 September)

In an 1898 review of the second Viennese Secessionist exhibition, the critic and playwright Hermann Bahr wrote that the designer Koloman Moser was “Austrian through and through” in that “his inventions seem to dance, to hover”. Yet the enthusiasm Bahr found in Moser’s work was troubled: “occasionally one perceives a gentle melancholy, like the merest shadow of a cloud, but it’s gone in an instant.” But a hushed disquiet crops up in the work again and again, as becomes quite clear throughout Moser's current exhibition at the Neue Galerie.


Mon, 05 Aug 2013 16:15:00 GMT

Home from home

Pac Pobric on Enrique Martínez Celaya's "The Pearl" at Site Santa Fe, until 13 October

“Every once in a while, we get requests that only a space like ours can accommodate,” says Irene Hofmann, the curator at Site Santa Fe. Enrique Martínez Celaya’s new project at the museum, The Pearl, which opened on 13 July, is one such exhibition. Taking over the entirety of the gallery’s 12,000 sq. ft exhibition space (the site of a former beer warehouse), the artist has designed an immersive installation that explores our understanding of home and memory.


Tue, 16 Jul 2013 12:06:00 GMT

Omnia Vanitas

Alessandro Allemandi on “Riotous Baroque: From Cattelan to Zurbarán” at Guggenheim Bilbao, until 6 October

The exhibition presents a unique way of looking at art and art history by exploring the parallels between Baroque and contemporary art. The curator Bice Curiger presents around 100 works drawn from museums, galleries and private collections that are unrelated and displayed in a non-chronological way, as demonstrated in the subverted title “From Cattelan to Zurbarán”. The curatorial thesis compares the exuberant driving forces of contemporary art with the great popular themes of the Baroque, inviting visitors to unravel the conceptual links between works that speak different artistic languages from across time.


Tue, 09 Jul 2013 17:15:00 GMT

Melodies unheard are sexier

Oliver Soden on “Vermeer and Music: the Art of Love and Leisure” at the National Gallery, London, until 8 September

This exhibition is a triumph of lighting design – both inside and outside of the frames. Marjorie Wieseman has beautifully organised 25 pictures (chosen for their evocations of Dutch Golden Age musical culture) in four pleasingly dark rooms; the works glow in their frames and are carefully spotlit from above in such a way that they do not reflect a blinding dazzle. Similar spotlighting occurs within the paintings.


Thu, 27 Jun 2013 16:55:00 GMT

The man in the red velvet hat

Jamie Mulherron on “Nello Splendore Mediceo: Papa Leone X e Firenze” at the Museo delle Cappelle Medicee, until 6 October

For all Vasari's fresco cycle in the Palazzo Vecchio, for all Pietro Santi Bartoli's series of prints on his life and exploits, and for all the many excellent things in this exhibition, Giovanni de' Medici, Pope Leo X (1475-1521), remains an inscrutable character. We never get a feel for him as we do with his predecessor Julius II through anecdotes (such as his beating of Michelangelo), or even his of relation the Grand Duke of Tuscany, Cosimo I (1519-74), whose personality comes over in abundance in the many portraits and allegories of him.


Thu, 27 Jun 2013 16:30:00 GMT

Restored to memory, but not to Germany

Bernhard Schulz on “Bronze Age: Europe without borders from the fourth to the first millennium BC” at the State Hermitage Museum, St Petersburg until 8 September

Human history can also be viewed in terms of the speed at which knowledge is disseminated. The further back we look, the slower the transfer processes we observe. Knowledge and use of bronze took one and a half millennia to travel from the Middle East to Egypt and from there via central Europe to the northern part of the continent. Bronze, an alloy of nine parts copper and one part tin, became the material used for weapons, cult objects and everyday objects for centuries.


Thu, 27 Jun 2013 15:45:00 GMT

Free Associations

Laurie Rojas on “Apestraction” at the Freud Museum, London, until 1 September

“Apestraction” at the Freud Museum in London shows works by the Mexican-born, Berlin-based artist Damian Ortega (b. 1967). Originally a political cartoonist, Ortega is now associated with conceptually-driven sculpture and installation “school” of his teacher, Gabriel Orozco. Often playful and spectacular, Ortega’s work is mostly driven by a curiosity about how things work. In the context of the Freud Museum the work takes an esoteric, intimate and enigmatic turn.


Wed, 26 Jun 2013 15:50:00 GMT

Monster Movement

Alain Quemin on “Dynamo: a Century of Light and Motion in Art, 1913-2013” at the Grand Palais, Paris, until 22 July

For the first time, the Grand Palais has dedicated all of its exhibition space—around 3,700 sq. m on two levels—to this show of works by nearly 150 artists. The result is worthy of the means. The subtitle of the exhibition, “A Century of Light and Movement in Art, 1913-2013”, explains the perspective adopted by the organisers. A fundamentally historic stance is maintained throughout, whereas a lighter, more whimsical approach could also have suited the nature of many of the works on show.


Wed, 26 Jun 2013 15:45:00 GMT

Houghton homecoming

John Leigh on “Houghton Revisited: the Walpole Masterpieces from Catherine the Great’s Hermitage” at Houghton Hall, Norfolk, until 29 September

When, in 1779, Robert Walpole’s superb collection of Old Masters was sold to Catherine the Great, its departure is said to have unleashed a national outcry. No doubt prompted by an uncharitable mixture of Schadenfreude and sour grapes, reports that the collection had been dashed to pieces in a shipwreck en route duly ensued. In 1838, long after the works had safely landed at the Hermitage, John Sell Cotman, with possibly the only painting ever to have been inspired by a rumour, lent this wholly unjustified fantasy some substance by depicting the cargo descending picturesquely to its watery grave.


Fri, 14 Jun 2013 15:30:00 GMT

Poland can do better

Julia Michalska on "Polish Art Now Presented by Abbey House" at the Saatchi Gallery, London, until 9 June

On the face of it, an exhibition of Polish contemporary art hosted by the Saatchi Gallery can only help to bolster the burgeoning art scene in Poland. But “Polish Art Now” (until 9 June) does the country no favours. Some visitors might be led to believe this is a Saatchi show—like those of contemporary Chinese art in 2008 or Russian art this year—but the space is rented and has virtually nothing to do with the Saatchi team.


Thu, 06 Jun 2013 16:00:00 GMT

The Prada Biennale show: Creative Energy turned into Dead Fetishism

Franco Fanelli on "When Attitudes become Form: Bern 1969, Venice 2013", Ca' Correr della Regina, until 24 November

Think of all the most famous examples of Arte Povera, Process art and Conceptual art: the ones illustrated in the histories of contemporary art, some of them the seminal images of their time. Well, most of them were all together in the Bern Kunsthalle from 22 March to 27 April 1969 (then in the Museum Haus Lange in Krefeld and the ICA in London the same year) in an exhibition that was to make history.


Mon, 03 Jun 2013 17:00:00 GMT

The key is inside

Donald Lee on De l'Allemagne, 1800-1939: de Friedrich à Beckmann, Musée du Louvre, until 24 June

This is an extraordinary exhibition. In the first place, the numbers attending have taken the Louvre by surprise. By the time of writing, it had been seen by more than 50,000 people since opening on 28 March (on average, 4,400 visitors a day), 81% more than anticipated. It is hard to say why this has become a blockbuster, except, perhaps, the novelty of it: here are 200 works of art, almost all of which will be unfamiliar to the general public, French and international.


Wed, 08 May 2013 13:38:00 GMT

David Bowie, patron saint of gender bending

Duncan Fallowell on “David Bowie is”, the Victoria & Albert Museum, London, until 11 August (pre-booking strongly advised)

British Rock burst upon the world with a spectacular ferocity comparable to that of the Ballets Russes 50 years earlier. The Russian ballet created complex intellectual works of collaborative genius—rock was always more individualistic and star-driven—but both were powerful performance arts that revolutionised taste, and rock music had much the greater impact on social and political change. (There is a big exhibition that ought to be mounted somewhere: British Rock 1963-93—from the Beatles to Dance.


Wed, 08 May 2013 10:32:00 GMT

A master of colour, line and Christian devotion

William E. Wallace on “Federico Barocci: Renaissance Master of Color and Line”, St Louis Art Museum, and “Federico Barocci: Brilliance and Grace”, the National Gallery, London, until 19 May

Federico Barocci (1526-1612) has not been a well known artist. Even specialists might have been hard pressed to name one of his masterpieces or more than a half dozen pictures. Barocci was born and lived in Urbino, a charming city in the Italian Marche far removed from the artistic centres of Florence, Rome and Venice. One might, therefore, legitimately ask why Federico Barocci deserves a major international loan exhibition – the first monographic showing of his paintings and drawings outside Italy.


Wed, 08 May 2013 08:21:00 GMT

Why and how art was suddenly born 40,000 years ago in Europe

Colin Renfrew on “Ice Age Art: Arrival of the Modern Mind”, the British Museum, London, until 26 May

Art was born suddenly, about 40,000 years ago, in the Ice Age of Europe. That art could be so old was not indeed realised until 1879, when the cave paintings of bison at Altamira in North Spain were first recognised and authenticated. The cave paintings of France and Spain can only be visited there, at the famous sites like Lascaux (in the Dordogne) and Altamira. But the remarkable small carvings on bone or ivory which are found in such caves, often of animals or the celebrated “Venus” figurines of nude women, are more portable, and they have been found more widely .


Wed, 08 May 2013 08:18:00 GMT

Boxing à la français

Carey Gibbons on “George Bellows (1882-1925): Modern American Life”, Royal Academy of Arts, London, until 9 June

This is the first monographic exhibition of the American artist, George Bellows, 1882-1925, in 30 years and the first ever in Britain. Although Bellows’ artistic career was ended in 1925 by his early death, aged 42, he produced an oeuvre that is remarkable for its variety of style and subject matter. His work was exhibited frequently and rewarded with positive reviews and prizes during his lifetime, but Bellows has received little recognition after his death, largely due to the focus on the Abstract Expressionists at the expense of earlier American modernists.


Wed, 08 May 2013 08:13:00 GMT

The big names from Glasgow cannot tell the story alone

Peter Crack on “Bellini, Botticelli, Titian: 500 years of Italian Art”, Compton Verney, Warkwickshire, until 23 June

This didactic display of 40 works on loan from the Glasgow Museums sticks to a well worn path. The organisers have chosen to trumpet the presence of three artists—Bellini, Botticelli and Titian—all born within 60 years of each other. Otherwise, the exhibition tells the story of Italian art from the 15th to the 19th century, in traditional, chronological order. An isolated St Lawrence, of around 1370–75, by the Sienese artist, Niccolò di Buonaccorso, the start of the exhibition, represents the new dawn in Italian painting.


Wed, 08 May 2013 07:51:00 GMT

Painter of a vanishing and vanished world

John Chu on “George Catlin: American Indian Portraits”, National Portrait Gallery, London, until 23 June

In the summer of 1830, the American painter George Catlin (1796-1872) embarked upon the first of five journeys deep into the Indian territories that stretched west of the Mississippi River. Having abandoned a burgeoning law career and failed to establish himself as a society portraitist, this Pennsylvanian was busily reinventing himself as an artist-ethnographer possessed of an urgent mission to document the “looks and modes” of the Native American peoples before they were overtaken by the geographic encroachments of the United States.


Wed, 08 May 2013 06:47:00 GMT

Preening and posing

Clare Backhouse on “Painted Pomp: Art and Fashion in the Age of Shakespeare”, the Holburne Museum, Bath, until 6 May

This one-room exhibition concentrates on nine full-length portraits that represent the pomp of elite English clothing in the early 17th century. Alongside these articles of Jacobean dress, information panels invite us to imagine the expense and labour involved in constructing such appearances in real life. Commissioned from the artist William Larkin (around 1580- 1619), the portraits are thought to celebrate a dynastic marriage between the Howard and Cecil families in 1614.


Wed, 08 May 2013 06:43:00 GMT

Rodin, first and foremost

Clare Heath on “Moore Rodin”, the Henry Moore Foundation, Perry Green, Hertfordshire, until 27 October

Set within the sculpture park of Henry Moore’s 50 acre-estate in rural Hertfordshire, this exhibition brings together Moore’s sculptures with works by Auguste Rodin. To my mind, the Frenchman comes out on top. Seeing Rodin’s majestic Burghers of Calais, 1889, cast 1908, transported from its site outside the Houses of Parliament to Moore’s self-landscaped grounds gives an opportunity to reconsider this work.


Wed, 08 May 2013 05:37:00 GMT

Two ways, one movement

Catherine Spencer on “Pistoletto Politico”, Luxembourg & Dayan, London, 12 February-12 April; Giuseppe Penone, the Whitechapel Art Gallery, London, until 11 August

The overlap of the Michelangelo Pistoletto exhibition “Pistoletto Politico” at Luxembourg & Dayan and Giuseppe Penone’s Bloomberg-commissioned Spazio di Luce, 2012, at the Whitechapel Art Gallery allowed formal and conceptual comparison to be made between them. The burnished steel surfaces of Pistoletto’s Mirror Paintings from the 1960s, four of which featured in “Pistoletto Politico”, explore the mirror’s incorporation and exclusion of the viewer, correlating its ability to unify, multiply, and split the subject with the contradictions of political consciousness.


Wed, 08 May 2013 05:30:00 GMT

Washing away the past, transforming the present

Julie Solovyena on “Gaiety is the Most Outstanding Feature of the Soviet Union: Art from Russia”, the Saatchi Gallery, London, until 9 June

“Gaiety is the Most Outstanding Feature of the Soviet Union: Art from Russia” brings together works by artists who are Russian, or of Soviet origin, more often than not now working outside of the country, notably Yelena Popova, Daniel Bragin and Dasha Fursey. There are also those, such as Jānis Avotiņš, who belong to the so-called “networked” Russia from former Soviet satellites. Contemporary Russian art is paradoxical, as it is made by artists whose national identity is often shaped and reflected by their physical distance from the homeland that often seems all too eager to reject them.


Wed, 08 May 2013 04:20:00 GMT

Ancient Romans? Folks just like us

Jane Masséglia on “Life and Death: Pompeii and Herculaneum”, the British Museum, London, until 29 September

British Museum curator Paul Roberts and his team have constructed a lively and accessible exhibition which leads the visitor through a model Roman house, before its sudden destruction by Vesuvius’s eruption of AD79. The “Life” of the exhibition title is primarily domestic. Aside from for a series of objects illuminating the role of women in the public life, the opening space, given over to commercial life, feels brief and lacks atmosphere.


Wed, 08 May 2013 03:24:00 GMT

Art in exile: haunted by a house

Niccola Shearman on “Schwitters in Britain”, Tate Britain, London, until 12 May

This exhibition is part of the Tate's occasional series on the British context of international artists, and it tracks an artist whose sheer creative resilience turned the deprivation of exile into a scavenger hunt. Leaving Germany in the wake of the Degenerate Art exhibition of 1937, Kurt Schwitters first settled in Norway before arriving in Britain in 1941, only to be interned on the Isle of Man as an enemy alien.


Wed, 08 May 2013 02:12:00 GMT

Communications in cloth

Elizabeth Kutesko on “Yinka Shonibare, MBE, Fabric-ation”, the Yorkshire Sculpture Park, Wakefield, until 1st September

“Fabric-ation” is about Yinka Shonibare’s ideas of cloth as a system of cultural signs and ethnic stereotypes. With more than 30 exhibits, all made between 2002 and 2013, it is the largest exhibition of his work to date. It includes sculpture, photography, film, painting, music and performance, as well as textiles. Shonibare’s recent public sculpture, especially his Nelson's Ship in a Bottle, 2010, displayed in Trafalgar Square, London from 2010 to 2012, was a suitable, large scale preamble to this Yorkshire Sculpture Park (YSP) show, where his two open-air pieces, the six-foot Wind Sculptures make their debut.


Wed, 08 May 2013 01:03:00 GMT

The Palais de Tokyo presents an esoteric underbelly

Julie Solovyena on “Cold Sun”, Palais de Tokyo, Paris, until 20 May

Soleil Froid The Palais de Tokyo presents an esoteric underbelly “Cold Sun”, Palais de Tokyo, Paris, until 20 May When the Palais de Tokyo re-opened last April after a massive renovation and extension, its ambitions flew high. It would set off on a mission to present challenging, experimental and forward-thinking art. The Palais, the former 1937 World Fair building, has also been a cinema, an archive and a squat.


Wed, 08 May 2013 00:55:00 GMT


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