Top Ten UK – The Best Art Blogs

25 November 2013 § 2 Comments

When is a blog not a blog? Perhaps when it is an ‘online magazine‘ or ‘digital review’? So where do you start with any sort of ‘Blog’ review list? Who do you exclude? Should ‘true’ blogs just be individual or non-profit making? Perhaps not linked to larger organisations like the TATE gallery for example, where they act as promotional tools. It’s all a bigger issue than I was willing to address here, so my sole limitation was that the blog/mag/review should feature contemporary art at least regularly.

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I try to take a look around and see what my ‘competitors’ are up to in the blogosphere but find it hard to track down many good art blogs. Google ‘Top Art Blogs’, limited to the UK and the last 12 months, and you will find no collective listings. Zero.

Take off the restrictions and you will get a few from 2009/10. At least half are no longer operating or haven’t posted for at least six months. When I checked one of these ‘Top Ten’ lists it included blogs like Amelia’s Magazine. God bless Amelia – and her blog is probably very good at what it does – but I decided that if that’s a top ‘Art (and Design) Blog’ then it was time for a new top ten. So here goes…

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1. CONTEMPORARY ART BLOGS

The contemporary art blog of all blogs. Neatly designed, an ever changing up to date compilation of the best from 100 other blogs!

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2. THE ART NEWSPAPER

Not so much a blog, more an online version of the newspaper. But high quality content as you would expect!

Baxter, Chodzko

Baxter, Chodzko

3. CONTEMPORARY ART DAILY

International (although US based) including plenty of UK shows. An impressive selection of reviews  of contemporary art exhibitions updated daily. I like the ‘random exhibition’ button – this time I got IAIN BAXTER&, Adam Chodzko at Raven Row.

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4. AESTHETICA 

Another blog with significant backing, being tied to the important art & design publication of the same name.

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5. UK STREET ART

The only place for street art info. Great design, layout and well written. Categories include for example Street Art, Graffitt & Banksy!

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6. FRIEZE

As you would expect of the leading UK art magazine publisher and top art fair organiser their blog is clear an interesting. Wouldn’t you think they could manage more than a couple of posts a week though with all their resources?

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7. ART IN LIVERPOOL

Not much use unless you’re in Liverpool perhaps, but well designed, informative, wide ranging and well written.

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8. CRITICISMISM

Written by Mark Sheerin, this is the one of the only two blogs in the list written by an individual (the other is CELLOPHANELAND). I tried hard to find more but few have any longevity and/or quality. Varied content but includes many of his own interviews with top, mostly UK, artists like Jeremy Deller, Gavin Turk and Martin Creed.

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9. 1000 Words Magazine

Is it a blog or is it a magazine? This is really an ‘online’ magazine. It also runs masterclasses with notable photographers, has developed a wide and international following. Includes essays, reviews and interviews.

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10= CELLOPHANELAND

Julie Eagleton’s wide ranging arts, lifestyle and culture blog always has something interesting – even if art is not one of the main topics. Expect anything from interviews  (section currently being updated) from the likes of Francis Ford Coppola to the latest exhibition at the V&A.

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10= THE FLANEUR

Tenth equal with C-LAND just because they both are broad-ranging sites covering art, culture and more. What’s more the Art section here doesn’t always feature contemporary art. Nice blog though!

Agree/disagree? Know any more worthy of inclusion at the top of the pile? Then please let me know.

gold or gamble – portraits as investment

29 September 2010 § 2 Comments

I have just been reading the last part of a very (perhaps overly) long six-part ‘art market blog’ by Nicholas Forrest (link) on the value of portraits as ‘art market currency’. The basic premise of the feature is that art can be divided in to two markets that behave differently – one market is based on portraits, the other on contemporary art. He equates this duality with the financial markets where gold behaves in a different way to the fiat (ie: trust, paper) currency market.

In respect of gold he says: ‘The market for classical figurative works of art resembles the gold standard because of the intrinsic value many of these works …. Regardless of what happens to the art market or to the artists reputation, such [works] will always have value; just as currency backed by gold will always have value regardless of what happens to the economy of the country.’

On the other hand for contemporary art the value ‘is dictated by the galleries who sell the work…. Just like with fiat currency, if people lose faith in a contemporary artist then their work is severely devalued, or even rendered worthless.’

He makes three concluding points summarised as:

1. The long-term value is linked to the extent to which one can disassociate the work of art from the artist, and the extent to which one can assign value to the actual characteristics of the art object as an independent entity.

2. Portraits have a future-proof intrinsic value because of their status as historical documents. It is this sort of intrinsic value that makes the portrait a good candidate for use as currency.

3. It is possible to take a strategic and mathematical approach that virtually guarantees success over the long-term. This sort of approach requires discipline, patience and objectivity.

It is an excellent article but there are some huge holes in the debate. He only really looks at two very limited parts of the art market – classical portraits and contemporary art. Portraiture itself, even in Classical times was not evenly spread over both time and space. Modern and contemporary portraits are ignored even when they fulfil his criteria as ‘documents’. Is a modernist portrait by Van Gogh or Matisse not as safe an investment as a ‘Classical’ portrait? It is not clear if sculptural portraits, etchings, pencil sketches etc are included in the argument (he usually refers to classical paintings). The reasoning for ignoring other artwork that could be considered as ‘historical documents’ – such as commissioned paintings of places, events and perhaps animals, – is not given. Portraits are selected as ‘a genre’ that will always have a value – but what about, and why not, other genres? Are they actually as stable in value as is suggested? Portraits too have had period where they were deeply unfashionable and had little value – including quite recently. Further, is the contemporary art market really controlled by the galleries?

I also have some problems with point 3 : an ‘approach that virtually guarantees success.’ What!? Please Nicholas, give us just a little clue in to the methodology of this amazing ‘strategic and mathematical approach’ to a sure-fire fortune. Unfortunately this is something that was not given over the course of the six posts.

I do have a reason for making these points however and it is that this line of argument has a certain appeal. Classical portraiture as a genre seems not bo be liable to the boom and bust cycles that bedevils some parts of the market, although it could be said that the same might apply to 19th century railway engravings or 18th century dog etchings. It could also be argued that a part of the market that can be considered to act in the same as gold is rather pointless, unless you have lots of empty wall space to fill – why not buy gold instead?

The main point is of course where purchased within a portfolio portraiture could create a stable ‘core’. If their value could be shown to be more stable than other parts of the market then this would be useful. From my position – admittedly outside the Classical art market – I have not seen this stability clearly enough – I would need to see much more evidence that portraits are the ‘way to go’. Until then I will stick to the – admittedly difficult – task of looking for works that should appreciate in value and where a stable value can be viewed as a useful ‘failure’!

gallery assistants – are they exploited?

2 September 2010 § 2 Comments

Andy Freeberg - Pace Wildenstein

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Courtesy of the Leg of Lamb blog my attention was drawn to an interesting set of pictures by American photographer Andy Freeberg. Entitled Sentry: Gallery desks in Chelsea they illustrate a series of attendants desks in New York Galleries. Hilariously just the very tops of the actual assistants heads are visible behind these oversize monstrosities. 

Almost identical in size, form and colour (white of course!) the images beautifully point out the total lack of creative imagination shown by the modern white cube galleries. Are these the very institutions that purport to demonstrate their artistic and creative credentials with the latest in cutting edge contemporary art; our arbiters of artistic taste; the places that select the best so that we don’t  have to? 

 

Any Freeberg - Sonnabend

In reality these are – largely – highly cautious and conservative institutions that take no risks and present art that other galleries have developed and established. Taste established and market created the ‘big business’ of these highly commercial spaces decides where the money lies and ‘scoops up’ the best. Sanitised, polished and beautifully presented it is packaged up for the wealthy to admire, and hopefully purchase at a nicely inflated price. 

All exaggerated of course, but largely true. If there is any lesson for a collector here it would be to try to avoid the larger galleries for investment purchases. Prices here are as high as they ever get. Search the smaller galleries to try and catch the best before they move onward and upward, buy from the artists direct or use a consultant (like us!). 

Andy Freeberg - Mitchell Innes & Nash

I digress. Back to the gallery assistant. We joke about what they do – paint their nails, check the i-phone and plan their evenings. They of course actually do these things – quite a lot – but also do a lot more, mostly menial and dull tasks. For the details I will simply point you towards a nice Frieze article from a couple of years back, but what is less well known is that they are, in most cases, not being paid. I don’t mean that they are just being paid a relatively small amount. I mean nothing. Not a penny. 

In a system of ‘internships’ the galleries take advantage of the excess of art-oriented courses in London and New York and offer three to six month placements where, ostensibly, these students/graduates are placed to ‘learn the trade’. In reality they usually spend tedious and long hours compiling databases, checking lists and stuffing envelopes. I call it shameless exploitation. The wealthy galleries should be ashamed. Can they not together create a system whereby there is a widely agreed minimum daily rate – not a lot, perhaps just £30-40 a day? No, of course they will not. Another reason to avoid the big galleries perhaps?

pordenone montanari – postscript

18 August 2010 § Leave a comment

I stumbled upon some more information regarding the rather dubious ‘discovery’ of Italian ‘genius’ Montanari – please see my post from 16 August entitled Pordenone Montenari – genius or senile dauber? I was checking out the artmarketblog of Nicholas Forrest when I read his post regarding some alternative art hedging ventures. Here is his summary dated 3 August 2010, which is itself based on an Art Newspaper article dated 6 July 2010:

Over in India, another innovative art investment project has been started by an Indian entrepreneur. Indian investor Arun Rangachari, chairman of venture capital firm DAR Capital, has purchased the rights to the entire life’s work of a reclusive Italian artist by the name of Montanari, who has lived in seclusion for the past 18 years. Rangachari is building up an art collection, of which the work of Montanari will play a significant part, with the intention of setting up an art fund in the future. Before selling any of the paintings, Rangachari plans to increase the value of Montanari’s work by holding exhibitions and building a foundation dedicated to the artist’s work. According to artnewspaper.com ‘His (Rangachari’s) first art investment consists of 40 paintings by the Italian artist Americo Montanari, with the option to buy many more……..When asked why his art fund would succeed when other ventures, including Indian-based funds, had recently failed he said: “Our entry level will be affordable, we’ll be focusing on artists who have not yet built a reputation and we will have no hidden costs, everything will be up front, so we’ll be quite different from everyone else.”

Apart from the artists first name (a mistake I assume) this is basically the same story ‘broken’ by the Observer on Sunday. Interestingly rather than the farcical assertion (Observer) that 500 paintings had been purchased for an assumed £5-10 million there seem to be just 40 ‘with options’.

His knowledge of art? This from the Art Newspaper: “I don’t know anything about art at the moment. I’ve just started learning,” said Rangachari whose other business interests range from media technology and commercial agriculture to adventure sports, Bollywood films and the theatrical rights to the Indian Premier League (ie showing cricket on large screens in public venues).

So here we have the real story. Let me summarise quite bluntly: a wealthy financial speculator, with no knowledge in art,  has bought a number of almost worthless paintings with the plan to hype them up into something of value, before selling them on to gullible investors aspart of an investment fund.

For my personal view on his future ‘art fund’ please arrange the following words in to a popular phrase: with a dont barge-pole it touch.

If you like this post please make a comment or like it. If you like the blog please subscribe for regular updates (top right of page). Many thanks! akuta 

london galleries autumn preview

17 August 2010 § Leave a comment

The mid-summer lull in the London gallery schedules allows a moment for contemplation on what looks like a very mixed bag of Autumn shows. I just cannot quite work myself up in to a frenzy of excitment about this motley assortment of old hands and uninspiring newcomers.

Starting with public galleries the blockbuster Gaugin will undoubtedly be the major event of 2010 and amazingly his first major UK exhibition for 5o years.  The Tate Modern promises that the exhibition will explore ‘the role of the myths around the man.’ Starts 30 September – stick it in the diary! Arrive after the 12 October and see what Ai Weiwei has installed as the 11th Turbine Hall commission. Recently involved in the Beijing Olympic stadium and then almost beaten to death for his political views he has said: ‘Everything is art, everything is politics. You can call it art or you can call it politics, I don’t give a damn.’ Should be interesting. 

Over at Tate Britain the schedule, starting 8 September, is totally underwhelming. Eadweard Muybridge (yes, correctly spelt) was a the 19th century photographer who ‘proved that a horse can fly’ with multiple images and anticipated the coming of cinema with the zoopraxiscope. He also travelled and documented America of the time. Just about worth dropping in. 

Rachel Whiteread Drawings is the other choice – but why? Her casts of varied spaces, apart from being a direct steal from Bruce Nauman are getting tedious. Now she says this:  ‘A lot of the works that I’ve been making over the years have been part of a cyclical process. I often feel a cycle is incomplete and need to tread the same path again.’ So now having run out of (someone else’s) ideas all she can do is more of the same again, but this time in drawings. Keep well away! The Gagosian, Daniels Street, is taking advantage with their own Rachel Whiteread exhibition on the 7 September – and I don’t see any reason to bother with this one either.  

The Turner Prize 2010 exhibition is of course at Tate Britain too – from 5 October. Calming down in its old age but an interesting selection. Dexter Dalwood and Angela de la Cruz painting, sound artist Susan Philipsz and the multi-disciplinary Otolith Group. I like Dalwood but the inventive Otolith Group have to be my favourite.

The second part of Newspeak: British Art Now opens at the Satchi on 27 October. Despite the overwhelming mediocrity of the show it is strangely compulsive viewing, and there is a particularly nice cafe. Apart from that I can not wait to update my critics Saatchi league table from my previous posts

Egon Schiele

The Royal Academy’s Treasures of Budapest starts on 25 September. Although there will be the opportunity to save the air fare to Budapest it doesn’t seem to be a show-stopper, but worth a visit. It promises Raphael, El Greco, Manet, Monet, Schiele and Picasso amongst others. 

And now for something completely different? How about the Barbican with Future Fashion: 30 years of Japanese Fashion. Not ‘art’ but could be spectacular. 

Of the smaller Galleries the Camden Arts Centre always seems to have something interesting. On 23 September Rene Daniels’ opens. His interesting work is ‘permeated through and through with writing, word games, literary references, visual puns, and allusions to art movements, institutions, and mass media.’ 

Of the private galleries Hauser & Wirth’s opens its expansive new Savile Row space on the 15 October with a Fabric Works of Louise Bourgeois – hardly inspirational, but I look forward to seeing the gallery. Of their other exhibitions the Piccadilly branch has the first posthumous show of Jason Rhoades’ opening 24 September. The exhibition features ’1:12 Perfect World’, Rhoades’ scale model of his groundbreaking 1999 exhibition, ‘Perfect World’ in Hamburg. Ho-hum. 

At Haunch of Venison there is the strange choice of Loud Flash: British Punk on Paper, starting 24 September, which nevertheless looks like it may be quite interesting. Meanwhile do not miss the excellent Joana Vasconcelos and quirky animal-stuffer Polly Morgan whose exhibitions are currently on until the 25 September! 

At the White Cube, Masons yard Christian Marclay opens on the 15 October: ‘Over the past 30 years, Christian Marclay has explored the fusion of fine art and audio cultures, transforming sounds and music into a visible, physical form through performance, collage, sculpture, installation, photography and video.’ Meanwhile over at WC Hoxton on 13 October Mark Bradford’s ‘multi-layered collaged paintings incorporating materials found in the urban environment’. Both may be worth a look but hardly captivating.  

 

Jacco Olivier

The pick of the rest are Jacco Olivier at Victoria Miro from 7 September – Olivier fuses colourful paintings with video – his works are delightful and fascinating. Finally Marina Abramovic is at the Lisson – god knows what we will see from the ‘grandmother of performance art’ but it is well worth a detour! 

There we go – the best of the autumn? Not great and, in respect of painting very lop-sided. The public galleries mostly with retrospective painting, the private with, well all sorts from taxidermy to performance but pretty much steering away from anything on canvas . No demand? No talent? Are the private galleries out of sync with what the public wants – or is it the Public galleries? I will leave you to ponder the mystery…. 
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the folk outsider naive craft painting revival?

12 August 2010 § Leave a comment

A previous post on Harry Hill the Idea Generation Gallery briefly discussed the term outsider art. This was mainly in respect to some basic ‘outsider’ credentials of Hill’s work. In retrospect however the term is rather difficult to use so briefly and I have been itching to expand on this brief mention, but focusing on contemporary art and adding traditional crafts into the mix.

Grayson Perry - Walthamstow Tapestry 1995

 

This is not an overview of ‘outsider’ art since the terms attached to it are so broad, have been so widely misused and applied in a casual manner. Outsider, Naive, Folk, Visionary, Neuve Invention, Art Brut, Marginal, Intuitive are all variously used in connection with it, and have been used in varying ways in different places. Raw Vision has done a good job of definition on their website, even if the  terms are frequently misused elsewhere.

Tracey Emin Everyone I Have Ever Slept With 1995

 

Most interesting to me is the steady resurgence in interest not only in the more ‘traditional’ definition of this art but its latest incarnation within recent contemporary art. The deeply unfashionable nature of the naive/folk/craft tradition within the post-war art scene was especially attractive as a basis for rebellion for some British artists of the 1990’s. The award of the Turner Prize to Grayson Perry in 2003 brought this theme to the fore and, despite her disgust at the award to Perry, Tracey Emin’s wall-hangings and tent also betray the same craft origins.

Harry Hill has already been discussed and there are many other artists that could be added to the list of those who draw on, or are inspired by the same traditions. In particular are those painters of ‘amateurish’ style whose star has been on the ascendant in recent years. Coming to mind immediately is Alice Neel (above) with her current retrospective at the Whitechapel. Neel uses a casual style to portray the famous as well as marginalised and vulnerable of society – immigrants, children and the elderly. The title of the exhibition, Painted Truths, demonstarates the widely held view that this more natural ‘folksy’ style somehow allows Neel a deeper psychological insight in to he mind of the sitter. The portraits cerainly reveal a fragility and the paintings are delicate and sensitive. Interestingly Neel herself led a troubled life which included mental breakdown and attempted suicide.

Karen Kilimnik

 

Karen Kilimnik’s loose and ‘awkward’ style, is outwardly similar although she paints not from life but using appropriated images of celebrity. She is currently showing at Sprueth Magers, London. Elizabeth Peyton paints small, intense and colourful portraits of friends, celebrity and monarchy. Like Kilimnik and Neel she has found broader acceptance only since the 1990’s. More recently there are artists like Ryan Mosley who combines multiple traditions to create mysterious quasi-mystical worlds and Lynette Boakye who produces naive and dark portrait of imaginary characters, have also appeared on the scene amongst many more.

Harry Hill - Time is Running Out

 

None of this adds up to a movement, and many of the artists have of course been successful and well established for many years. Nevertheless the trend is there for all to see – the Whitechapel has had major shows featuring Neel and Peyton in the last twelve months, Kilimnik was at the Serpentine a couple of years back and features in the current Saatchi imagazine, which also includes a substantial article entitled ‘The Folk Spirit in Contemporary Art’. Last but not least, the subject of the original posting, Harry Hill manages a few pages in the latest isue of Tate etc. I could mention many more artists and more exhibitions, but it is clear that the influence of these traditional and ‘outsider’ styles is here to stay – at least for a while yet with investment in this area less speculative and more reliable.

If you liked this post please make a comment or like it. If you like the blog please subscribe for regular updates (top right of page). Many thanks! akuta

newspeak at saatchi – who do the critics love?

6 August 2010 § Leave a comment

The agony is over, here is what you have all been waiting for. As promised yesterday this is the result of my scrupulously unscientific survey to discover which artists shown at Newspeak (part 1), were most highly – and poorly – regarded by the critics. Saatchi has chosen his top artists in the UK, and here are the critics top nine of those. So this is la creme de la creme? See what you think.

1 William Daniels (5). Paintings of his own still-lives that have been themselves created with paper and household bits and pieces. They question originality, authenticity and cultural worth. ‘Outstanding’ (Standard). ‘Heartfelt and uncanny’ (Independent). ‘Delightful and very, very collectable’ (me!).

2.Littlewhitehead (4). It Happened in the Corner. A group of life-sized hoodies gather threateningly, backs towards us, in a  corner of the gallery. ‘Ominous and unsettling’ (Guardian).  Personally I ignore  hoodies gathered in corners and this time was no exception.

3= Ged Quinn (3.5). Allegorical landscapes in the style of Poussin/Lorrain containing strange references from recent history. ‘Thought-provoking, witty and multi-layered’ (Guardian). These works allow repeated close examination and have great appeal.

3= John Wynne (3.5). An army of loudspeakers occupy a whole gallery, building in to a monumental pile in the corner. A pianola plays its punched card at ultra-slow page and random sounds are interspersed in the soundtrack. A delicate balance between order and disorder, both visually and aurally, that is totally captivating.

5= Eugenie Scrase (3). Well who would adam and eve it? The School of Saatchi winner has slipped in with her ‘readymade’ park railings that bend under the imagined impact of a lump of tree-trunk. Brain Sewell in the Standard hits the nail on the head when he says ‘wait and see’  whilst the Guardian agrees –  is she a ‘Duchampian magpie or a total chancer?’ She is definitely a very lucky girl – will it hold?

5= Hurvin Anderson (3). His large canvases flirt between abstraction and figuration. There is a sense of disorientation and displacement and they ‘evoke colour and space in a way that recalls Peter Doig’ (Independent). I can already see these on the wall at Christies in a few years time!

7= Barry Reigate (2). Cartoonish paintings with Basquiat, Koons and Walt Disney all rolled into one. Messy, undeniably eye-catching but a bit ho-hum.

7= Goshka Macuga (2). Mme Blavatsky (a 19th century theosophist) floats, parlour-trick style, above two chairs. To quote the Saatchi, she ‘..emits a transendental aura, channelling the dark art of inspiration from beyond’. Macuga is a well-established artist who does not need our help, and with this waste of space she wont get it!

7= Rupert Norfolk (2). With Guillotine has ‘rendered duplictous a machine designed for cutting things in two… little short of genius’ (Independent). Also has a neat checked rug with trompe-l’oeil creasing.

Please see next post for the bottom of the chart!

The Publications were: The Times, Sunday Times, Independent, Guardian, Standard, FT and Daily Telegraph. The number of positive reviews to a maximum of 7 are shown in brackets. I will update the chart after Newspeak (part 2) opens at the end of October.

If you liked this post please make a comment or like it. If you like the blog please subscribe for regular updates (top right of page). Many thanks! akuta

a review of reviews – newspeak: british art now at the saatchi gallery

5 August 2010 § Leave a comment

In Chelsea on a fine and sunny day there seemed to be no reason not to take a casual stroll around the Saatchi Gallery just off the Kings Road. It is an impulse in which I am not alone – last year the Saatchi had two of the three most visted shows in the UK. Having always championed young british talent, infamously of course at Sensation! in 1997, Charlie has recently cast his eye in the direction of the Middle East, USA, India and China. Now back with British artists there was great anticipation of what this exhibition – part one of two (the second to open 27 October) – would reveal.

However, what particularly interested me was how the major critics from the UK nationals have made of this exhibition. More, I was intrigued in the different ways they have viewed it. What are the stand-out works here? What then is the future of British art? Which artist is worth investing in?

John Wynne - Untitled

 

Saatchi has never been one for understatement; The Triumph of Painting, The Shape of Things To Come, Sensation! All imply a definitive judgment and invite contradiction. The title Newspeak was no exception and was roundly attacked. This Orwellian word represents a reductive language whilst Saatchi proudly speaks of ‘expanding and multiplying’ visual languages. The fact that only two of 29 artists shown are under thirty prompted others to call it ‘Oldspeak’ whilst Brian Sewell (Standard) brilliantly and humorously compares Orwell’s (and Saatchi’s) Newspeak with the ‘jargon and jabberwocky of present-day artspeak’ in the gallery handbook.

Once addressing the exhibition the writers, almost in unison, branded it unco-ordinated – ‘a mess… the contents of someone’s attic’ (Independent), ‘underwhelming to overambitious’ (Guardian), ‘scattergun and unfocused’ (FT). The quality was perceived as indifferent; ‘some good, some mediocre, some ghastly’ (FT), ‘one or two instances of inspired brilliance’ (Guardian), ‘20% is really very good’ (Independent’), ‘Not quite but nearly’ (Times), ‘… in such feeble company three works are perhaps outstanding’ (Standard).

Strangely, despite this criticism, to a man (and woman) the critics were loath to criticise Saatchi. On the contrary, he was generally congratulated as one who stands head and shoulders above other public British gallery curators as one willing to take a chance. He treads (and buys) where others fear and is rightly lauded for it.

With broad agreement then that the exhibition only produced a smallish proportion of worthwhile work one would assume that this accord would extend – broadly – to which pieces these were. Wrong, wrong, wrong.  Of the seven reviews (Independent, Guardian, Telegraph, Standard, Sunday Times, Times and FT) only one artist only each ‘scored’ with 5 and 4, three got 3, four got 2 (despite one being labelled a ‘genius’). In all no less than nineteen of the 29 artists received positive comments. Varied works were variously described as  ‘litter, ‘fit for the bonfire’, ‘disgusting’, ‘a joke’ or ‘the work of an infant’ whilst at the same time being praised by other critics – hilarious! I will name names and provide a ‘league table’ in the next posts!

So, how about the future of British art. Well, all the critics all agreed that it was bit of a ‘hotchpotch’ with some ‘instances of inspired brilliance’ or ‘genius’ even. There was surely then a general consensus about what this uneven view represented about what is happening in this area? Nope. Not even close. The Guardian and FT do not even bother to decide. Charles Darwent (Independent) quite enjoyed the exhibition and, presumably (he does not quite say), feels that the outlook is promising. Richard Dorment (Telegraph) worried that Saatchi’s teaming with Philips de Pury weakened any message. Rachel Campbell-Johnson (Times) thought that there was plenty of room for optimism whilst Waldemar Januszckak (Times) felt Britain still has talent.

I will leave the last thought for Brian Sewell (Standard). If thought somewhat stuffy and old-fashioned in some quarters, he is still without doubt one of the most perceptive and insightful critics around. Wise enough to see though the ‘weasel words’ of artspeak he has the courage to criticise where others sit on the sidelines. Ignore what he has to say at your peril;

‘The rest of Newspeak [other than three works] is at best cliche, kitsch and the ironic subversion that is the joke so often played by the post-modernist. It demonstrates how swiftly the energy of the YBA’s evaporated, leaving no useful legacy for their successors, nothing on which they could build. One might reasonably conclude British art is dead.’

Go Brian!  I look forward to part 2 in October and see if more of a consensus emerges.

If you liked this post please make a comment or like it. If you like the blog please subscribe for regular updates (top right of page). Many thanks! akuta

fiona banner flies in to tate britain

4 August 2010 § Leave a comment

The Duveen Galleries at Tate Britain have in the last few years paid host to some excellent sculptural commissions and they are always well worth a look. Last year the glossy black aluminium tubing of Eva Rothschild’s Cold Corners bounced around floors and walls, lightly but effectively filling the space. This summer, and until January 2011, the galleries are home to the latest works by Fiona Banner. Entitled Harrier and Jaguar they are her largest yet and occupy the gallery in a wholly different way.

The Harrier is suspended nose-down from the ceiling. On close inspection faint hand-painted feathery traces evoke its namesake – the harrier hawk. This particular bird of war clearly has been captured and trussed, ready for plucking and the pot. The Jaguar meanwhile has been stripped and polished. It lies belly-up, helpless and trapped, the reflections acting as a moving mirror of our ourselves and the surrounding space.

It is hard to put in to words the feeling that these giant planes evoke as you walk around the space. One moment they seem imposing, large and frightening before, from a different angle you suddenly realise that they look relatively small, comfortably contained in what is after all just a rather grand hallway.

One soon realises that it is this duality of experience that emanates throughout the display. There is a simultaneous repulsion and attraction in delicate balance, which shifts by degrees as we move around the gallery. After all these are fighter jets, built with one very specific purpose in mind, and yet there are here displayed for us to view – helpless, emasculated, strung up and laid out – as works of art and objects of beauty. The Jaguar reflects our gaze. We are not only looking at the object , but are inseparable from it. Unable to disassociate ourselves we are implicit in its very purpose and meanings. The difficulty in defining the feelings evoked is exactly what Banner had in mind, she says “this work is more about how people react, rather than a big black and white statement.”

It makes for uncomfortable viewing at the moments we observe these amazing objects for what they are – killing machines. At other times you marvel at their sheer aesthetic beauty. It seems appropriate to recall Marcel Duchamp‘s 1912 comment to Constantin Brancusi the sculptor, as he admired an elegant wooden airplane propeller “It’s all over for painting. Who could better that propeller? Tell me, can you do that?”.  Quite.

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Link to Sky News. http://news.sky.com/skynews/Home/video/Fiona-Banner-Tate-Britain-Exhibition-Displays-Fighter-Jets-That-Were-Built-For-War-But-Are-Serving-As-Art/Video/201006415656160?lid=VIDEO_016021_War+Planes+Turned+Into+Modern+Art&lpos=UK+News_1&videoCategory=UK+News

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