Liverpool Biennial 2016

12 July 2016 § Leave a comment

‘… fictions, stories and histories taking viewers on a series of voyages through time and space, drawing on Liverpool’s past, present and future’ – Liverpool Biennial Guide

Liverpool Biennial 2016 Toxteth

If this summary makes this years Liverpool Biennial sound rather complicated, well, actually it is. And that is not all. When you add on exhibitions at the Tate, the John Moores Prize exhibition, Bloomberg Contemporaries and a whole series of fringe events that run alongside then it all becomes rather bewildering.

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The aforementioned Biennial ‘voyages’ actually take the form of six ‘episodes’ namely: Ancient Greece, Chinatown, Children’s Episode, Monuments from the Future and Flashback.

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The Tate is a good starting point for all this with a new vision of Ancient Greece. Reflecting on the neoclassical architecture throughout the city contemporary artists have been invited to exhibit alongside exhibits largely taken from the famous Blundell collection of Greek artefacts.

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It is fine, but better is to visit the Tate’s other current exhibitions: the excellent Francis Bacon: Invisible Rooms which has been cleverly placed alongside Maria Lassnig – both using the body, often distorted, deformed, ageing or fragile.

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Across town at the impressive redbrick Victorian Cains Brewery is a selection of episodes arranged around the hall and in to Andrea Angelidakis’ spiral Collider installation. In the centre is the film Dogsy Ma Bone from Marvin Gaye Chetwynd, made with local children over recent months and inspired by Betty Boop’s A Song A Day and Brecht’s Threepenny Opera. The whole looks rather like a student degree show although there are excellent individual works.

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Around the corner at the Blade Factory is a highlight, a ‘Flashback’ from Mark Leckey. His film Dream English Kid draws on scraps of film, TV archive and ephemera, recreating events from his life between the seventies and nineties in a compelling dream-like sequence.

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Another highlight was Lara Favaretto’s Momentary Monument: The Stone (2016) in Rhiwlas Street, Toxteth – a monument to destroyed community.

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Two more ‘ Flashback’ artists are being exhibited at FACT. Lucy Beech’s new film Pharmakon shows downstairs whilst upstairs there are a series of interesting films and installations from Krzysztof Wodiczko, who has been working with the homeless and marginalised.

The Open Eye Gallery at Mann Island has devoted the downstairs gallery to Koki Tanaka’s ‘flashback’ revisiting of an 1985 protest march. It was not particularly gripping, but upstairs were a series of clever, witty and thought-provoking videos by Ramin Heirzadeh, Rokni Haerizadeh & Hesam Rehmanian.

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Up at the historic and important ABC (scandalously being allowed to fall derelict) is a ‘Flashback’ – a rather ponderous film from Giraud & Siboni and a selection of sculptures. Better, and out of the biennial at the adjacent Walker, is the 2016 John Moores Painting Prize exhibition. Won by the likes of Peter Doig, Rose Wylie, Sir Peter Blake and John Hoyland the quality is, as expected, exceptional. Michael Simpson was this years winner of the £25,000 cheque.

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Bloomberg’s New Contemporaries at the Bluecoat was rather disappointing, but at least the courtyard is a great place to relax with a coffee away from the hustle and bustle. Of the associate artists we particularly loved Lindsey Bull at the India Buildings.

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Outside the biennial, as well as the Tate, Walker & Bluecoat why not try going a little farther? There are Sir Peter Blake’s Dazzle Ferry, Crosby Beach for Antony Gormley’s Another Place or the Lady Lever Art Gallery at Port Sunlight

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Whilst the actual biennial ends up as rather a curatorial mess, it really does not matter that much. Ignore the rather muddled theme, just get out and about, explore the city and some great venues – in and out of the biennial. You are sure to find some surprising gems along the way.

Liverpool Biennial is at various venues until  16 October 2016

Art Visionaries by Mark Gertlein & Annabelle Howard

13 January 2016 § Leave a comment

This post is also published at CELLOPHANELAND* (link here)

Art Visionaries is the latest publication from Laurence King Publishing, specialists in publications on the creative arts. This handsome and substantial softcover carefully lists seventy five of the ‘most influential figures in the history of art’ with an admirable clarity. Each artist is introduced on a double spread with a full page illustration of a key work and then a few hundred words that attempts to explain both their significance and artistic lives.

Art Visionaries by Mark Gertlein & Annabelle Howard Lawrence King PublishingThe copy is well written and one can only admire the self control and skill required to abstract the life of say, Picasso, in to such a brief and highly readable summary. The writers manage to include snippets of interest and plenty of snappy quotes, useful even for those who may feel that they already know these artists well. “Nobody can own this project, nobody can buy the project, nobody can possess the project or charge for tickets” stated Christo & Jean-Claude, whilst Kasimir Malevich observed “I have dragged myself out of the rubbish pool of academic art“.

A further double page spread illustrates more key works with a useful graphic artistic timeline. The extra illustrated pages allocated to each artist are nice but perhaps a double-edged sword. Whilst allowing images of more than one key work it still cuts short a deeper analysis. As an example Gerhard Richter, not unusual as an artist who went through a number of styles in his lifetime, does not get any of his abstract works featured.

Art Visionaries by Mark Gertlein & Annabelle Howard Lawrence King PublishingAlthough it is not immediately clear from either the cover, this is a list of 20th century artists. There is also an almost total absence of artists from China, Africa, Asia and Oceania, along with Native and Folk artists and, although not stated anywhere, this volume therefore represents ’western art’ only. Fine, but really this should be clear in the cover notes or introduction.

To me there was a bias towards American artists and with the exception of Frida Kahlo, Nam Jun Paik, Yayoi Kusama, Mona Hatoum and Gabriel Orozco the remaining entries being Western European and Russian. The Brits do not do so well either – Henry Moore, Francis Bacon and Andy Goldsworthy are the only ones other than Hirst and Whiteread in who make it in.

Art Visionaries by Mark Gertlein & Annabelle Howard Lawrence King PublishingThere were some tough choices at either end of the century. Gaugin & Cezanne for example probably died too early in the 20th century to deserve entry but it is harder with those like Munch, who was a key influence for the Fauvists, exhibited with them and worked until his death in 1944 but perhaps harshly does not find himself included. At the end of the century had the artists working in the 1990’s yet done enough?

Art Visionaries by Mark Gertlein & Annabelle Howard Lawrence King PublishingIt is of course a thankless task to condense a roll call of thousands down to any sort of ‘popularity contest’ and everyone will find some of their favourites excluded and will disagree with some of those included. There are difficult choices, Italian Futurist Filippo Marinetti is featured but Vorticist Wyndham Lewis misses out. Unforgivably Max Ernst doesn’t feature and neither do Man Ray, Kurt Schwitters or John Baldessari – all true visionaries, whilst a number of mediocre but worthy artists are included. Personally I could have done without Rachel Whiteread, Mona Hatoum, Anish Kapoor, Jeff Wall and Sophie Calle. Richard Long is surely better than Andy Goldsworthy and aren’t other Arte Povera artists more deserving than Alighiero Boetti.

Art Visionaries by Mark Gertlein & Annabelle Howard Lawrence King PublishingInterestingly, other than on the cover there is no mention of ’Visionaries’. This is quite a powerful word and implies rather more than a list of big name artists from a specific era. A typical relevant definition is ‘a person with the ability to imagine how a country, society, industry etc will develop in the future’. If that was the case with any of the included artists it was neither evident or elucidated by the text. Despite discovering the fact that the book is actually part of the publishers ‘Visionaries‘ series (Architects, Design, Photography etc that are strangely not mentioned anywhere in the book) the impression is left that the title does not represent any sort of driving force behind the selection process.

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Even if Art Visionaries could have been something more – perhaps a more detailed analysis of those artists like Picasso, Duchamp and Beuys who could have been perhaps considered as most ‘visionary’ – this is nevertheless an excellent, highly enjoyable and nicely designed volume well worth a place on your bookshelf.

For more information visit Laurence King Publishing

Adrian Ghenie – Golems at Pace London

18 July 2014 § Leave a comment

Adrian Ghenie is one of the chief figures of The Romanian ‘Cluj School’ – comprising artists like Victor Man, Mircea Cantor and Ciprian Muresan – a painter who’s star has been rising exponentially since his relatively recent arrival on the art scene. His latest exhibition, Golems at Pace London, provides ample evidence of why he is so highly regarded.

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The golem is an animated anthropomorphic creature from Jewish folklore, created entirely from inanimate material; a doer of terrible deeds. Ghenie’s reference here is the creation of a radical idea in society – in this case Darwin’s – let loose to change the socio-cultural environment. Darwin’s personal story holds a special fascination for Ghenie; the skin condition and vomiting that afflicted him, his luxuriant beard and Victorian attire all afford a rich source of textural possibilities that reveal themselves in this series of portraits.

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The exhibition consists of a collection of new figurative works of Charles Darwin shown alongside the ‘Darwin Room’, an installation that consists of an assemblage of meticulously sourced 19th century furniture, wooden floor boards and wall panels. Taking the room’s composition from Rembrandt’s Philosopher in Meditation Ghenie has created a three-dimensional environment that perhaps at first glance resembles a two-dimensional painting. Led in by an assistant with torch one reaches a dark and gloomy and life-sized room that evokes an intriguing physiological atmosphere of anxiety and comfort. The only light is that of the ‘light of reason’ which shines brightly through a small, solitary window – the room therefore a prototypical site for visionary thought within European history.

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The installation itself devoid of figures. These are supplied by the impressive artworks in the adjacent room. Portraits of 20th century figures whose actions indelibly changed the course of history are a recurring theme in Ghenie’s work and to him the publication of The Origin of Species represents such an inflection point – his ideas stolen by despots and dictators and misappropriated.

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Ghenie presents himself in Self portrait as Charles Darwin, 2014 and he himself becomes the arbiter of scientific change, the cliché of the tortured intellectual, and the anamorphic threat of the Golem; the idea let loose to reek havoc. All of these elements are present in Ghenie’s Bacon-esque brush strokes. He highlights an era that questioned man’s significance, the existence of God, and the question of Creationism —through a use of paint that suggests the anamorphic nature of identity through the evolution of scientific understanding.

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These works however are not just introverted intellectual exercise or conceptual navel-gazing, they are visually stunning and beautifully executed. The merging of impressive technique with rigorous artistic thought process provides the viewer with a rich and stimulating experience that will enhance Ghenie’s reputation not only critically but in the auction houses of the future.

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Adrian Ghenie – Golems is at Pace London until 25 July 2014

beyond the human clay at james hyman

16 June 2011 § Leave a comment

Quick last-minute reminder! James Hyman’s latest exhibition is well worth catching before it closes on the 18 June. The exhibition marks the 35th (?!) anniversary of RB Kitaj‘s seminal ‘Beyond the Human Clay’. This championed the artists of the School of London and presented drawing as central to all their work – both abstract and figurative.

The current show features an important pop-art work by Kitaj – the Bells of Hell as well other School of London works that include a Leon Kossoff self-portrait, two nice Eduardo Paolozzi sculptures and a Francis Bacon edition. Presented alongside, and nicely complementing it, are much more recent works by contemporary artists which ‘attempt to grapple with the human condition.’ These include Jenny Savile, Peter Doig, Chris Ofili and the Chapman Broters.

A neat little show with a number of interesting works that recalls an important era in British art – and apologies for not giving you a little more warning!

Beyond the Human Clay,  until 18 June 2011 at James Hyman Fine Art, 5 Savile Row, London W1S 3PD

http://www.jameshymanfineart.com/

kick off for the 2011 sales season

8 February 2011 § Leave a comment

The next few days sees the first big art auctions of the year. Today, the 8 February Sothebys kick off with their evening Impressionist & Modern sale followed by their day sale tomorrow when Christies also have their evening sale.  Looking Closely is an extra Sothebys evening sale on Thursday 10 February which follows Christies day sale. The major Sothebys & Christies Contemporary sales follow on the 16 & 17 February.

Georgina Adam in the Financial Times (link to article) summarises this weeks sales nicely (so that I dont have to!), but it is the Looking Closely sale that Sothebys have slipped in to the schedule that really catches the eye. This is an exquisite private collection from the estate of Swiss collector George Kostalitz, who died last year. Collected carefully in the period 1960-90 it is a beautifully formed collection, made with a great eye for the best work.

An exquisite Dali portrait of Eluard is one of the most important surrealist works to come up at auction for years, estimated up to £5m –  but dont be surprised if it goes for £10m. Two portraits of Lucian Freud are included, the first being a 1964 triptych painted by Francis Bacon estimated at up to £9m, while amonst three Freuds on offer is a self-portrait painted when staying at Ian Fleming’s Jamaican villa, Goldeneye. Five stunning Marc Chagall feature, two of which were commissioned directly from the artist. They are all estimated at £2m or so and surely will go for much more. The sale estimate is £39-55m, but it will be surprise to me if it does not soars much higher.

The highest estimated work in all these sales is at Sotheby’s evening sale Picasso La Lecture at £18m – a tender portrait of his muse Maries Therese it is ‘only’ a small oil on board, but it is still unlikely that the estimate will prove to be too elevated.

Overall I am sure that we will see as very strong result at the sales continuing the ‘recovery’ in the market suggested by good results in 2010 – including Christies recent announcement of its record-breaking year. There will be a high proportion of lots sold, some broken records and sale estimates exceeded – especially at Sothebys – and let’s hope that this signals a good start to 2011!

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