gerhard richter at the tate

11 October 2011 § Leave a comment

It would be rather superfluous to attempt a full review of this highly anticipated exhibition with so much having been written about it already. Everything that I have read is flattering, and with good reason, this is probably the best show of the year.

The full range of Richter’s genius is on show here – from delicate, yet iconoclastic, portraits of his family to the huge brightly coloured abstracts for which he has become most famous.

Here is a painter who examined the possibilities of painting, even when deeply unfashionable, and repeatedly revealed radically new ways to challenge assertions that painting was dead. He confronted Duchamp head on with his own ‘nude descending a staircase’ and blank panes of glass; he blurred photographs and used found imagery; he declined to use colour, then used it randomly in coloured squares or huge abstracts ; he got political and also claimed to say nothing. The Tate meanwhile guide us through his range of work and styles with great imagination and sympathy.

I don’t need to say anything more except that this is a fine exhibition about the ‘world’s greatest living artist’ – and whatever you do don’t miss it!!

Tate Modern until 8 January 2012.

records tumble at christies and sothebys

30 June 2011 § 1 Comment

Peter Doig - Red Boat

Shrugging off global economic worries this weeks contemporary art sales broke a series of records and confirmed the faith that buyers seem to have in the art market. Christies kicked off on Tuesday evening with an £80m total – their second highest ever. Star of the show was Francis Bacon’s Study for a Portrait which topped £18. A bunch of Warhols sold steadily with Mao, at £7m, the top lot, a nice Peter DoigRed Boat soared over its £1.4 low estimate to fetch £6m and a brilliant Lucien FreudWoman Sitting – made £4.7m.

Lucien Freud - Rabbit on a Chair

Kay Saatchi cleared out her attic and amongst her lots were a group of five very pretty Freud drawings. They all sold at around triple low estimate – perhaps because they were nice, perhaps due to a provenance beginning with Saa….. Losers were Chris Ofili whose two works went unsold (along with two of three in the day sale) – looks like the elephant dung bubble has burst?

Wednesdays Christies day sale was steady at £13m. The surprise of the day was that the two main offerings from Tracey Emin failed to sell – an appliqued blanket Something Really Terrible at £100-150k and a neon When I Go to Sleep  at £40-60k. Clearly the current Hayward show did not seem to inspire anyone (see my recent review). Meanwhile a nice batch of Picasso ceramics (in the contemporary sale?) flew out at £9-44k against estimates of £2-20k.

Sigmar Polke Dschungel

Over at Sothebys yesterdays evening sale cruised through the previous London Contemporary sale record to reach £109m. It was helped through the previous £95m mark from 2008 by the addition of the amazing Duerckheim Collection. A who’s who of German post-war art there were fabulous works from the likes of Sigmar Polke, Blinky Palermo, Georg Baselitz and AR Pencke. Gerhard Richter was particularly well represented with a good wonderful overview of his varied ouevre – colour charts, grey paintings, ‘abstrakte bilde’, photo-paintings and so on – the prices reflecting the high quality as they frequently doubled estimates, 1024 Farben at £4.2m the top lot. Polke’s auction record was broken three times in quick succession with a rare spot painting Dschungel  making £5.7. Palermo, Lupertz and Baselitz records were also set.

 

Gerhard Richter - Schwestern

In the rest of the sale Bacon (again) was top dog with Crouching Nude, at auction for the first time reaching £8.3m. Back nearer earth Ged Quinn‘s maintained his right to be in such exalted company with sales at £110k and £180k (Christies) against estimates of £60-80k.

Following hard on the heels of the recent impressionist and modern auctions where the total of the  ‘big two’s’ evening sales was the third highest on record the art market seems to have survived the financial meltdown in reasonable health. All eyes are now on Frieze and the October sales!

tate programme announced for 2011

30 September 2010 § Leave a comment

The key shows for the 2011 have just been announced by the Tate. At Tate Britain Watercolour traces the medium from its beginnings, ‘through to William Blake and JMW Turner, right up to Patrick Heron and Tracey Emin.’ The exhibition starts on the 16 Feb 2011. It is interesting to have a show on an unfairly criticised and oft-neglected medium, but why is Tracey Emin there (again) when her links with watercolour are pretty tenuous and less worthy of examination than many, many other fine artists? Somebody please tell the Tate that we do not need the names of Hirst, Emin et al thrown about in order to draw us to the exhibitions.

The summer 2011 blockbuster is Joan Miró at Tate Modern. apparently the first Miró retrospective in London for over 50 years it opens on the 14 April. I shall look forward to seeing lots of his surrealistic early works, but Miro lived a long life, dying at over 90 years of age, and it will be more fascinating to assess the quality of his later work, usually regarded as inferior. Will the show provide any new insights?

Talking of surrealism Tate Liverpool shows René Magritte from 24 June to 16 October, and following, among others, Paul Nash at Dulwich and the Surreal House at the Barbican it looks like a good run for art from the subconscious. Magritte is a fascinating artist but will a whole show be just one bowler hat too many? Meanwhile how about an exhibition of the rather neglected Max Ernst sometime soon? 

The Autumn arrives with the apocalyptic destruction of John Martin on 21 September 2011, closely followed by a fascinating Gerhard Richter survey at Tate Modern on 6 October 2011. We have hardly been starved of Richter in recent years but a big show will be very welcome and will be certain to cement his position as one of the leading post-war artists.

Overall, not a bad selection and plenty to look forward to, but is it all rather safe and, dare I say ‘old-fashioned’? There are more shows yet to announce but just where are the exciting new artists? Where is the very best and latest in contemporary art? Hopefully in shows yet to be revealed but don’t hold your breath!

Incidentally the images shown above are not necessarily in the exhibitions – although I hope that they are!

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