24 February 2016 § Leave a comment
I am usually rather sceptical about anything featuring numbered selections. Nowadays hardly anything seems to reach the pages of a magazine or a TV screen without being reduced to a seemingly arbitrary list. At best it can be of modest help where information has been distilled from something extensive or complex but at worst is simply a pointless exercise made with minimal critical judgement. The title of 100 Works Of Art That Will Define Our Age therefore aroused suspicion. How much selection was there? Was there really a nice round number? Could, or should, ’100’ just have been left off?
Numerical gripes aside this is an exceptional book. It is a formidable task to attempt to scroll forwards in time and make a judgement on how a future population will have judged art of the present day or indeed judge the art of your own era. It would also be easy to get bogged down in an almost endless series of semantic or philosophical questions but Grovier however delicately navigates this minefield with humour and skill.
He notes that Vincent Van Gogh’s contemporary view of his own ’Starry Night’ was that it was a dreadful ‘failure’ and by slipping in frequent insights such as this Grovier lets us glimpse at how the defining views of the art of the past and present are ever fluid.
We see how the artists of today continually draw from the past and how meanings flow in two directions. Great art never finishes but instead forever participates having the power to alter the art of the past as well as to influence the future.
Grover actually creates a definition of ‘Our Age’ by selecting art from about 1990 to 2010 leaving a certain amount of critical weight to have already been applied. The notorious Saatchi Sensation exhibition from 1997 already seems an age ago and a handful of works like Damien Hirst’s ‘Shark’ and Marc Quinn’s Self are naturally included. Many others like Olafur Eliasson’s Weather Project for the Tate Turbine Hall, Jeff Koons’ Puppy, Marina Abramovic The Artist is Present and Tracey Emin’s ‘Bed’ seem natural choices, neatly included in sections with titles like ‘Is All Art Nostalgic’ and ‘Can Art and Life ever be in Sync?’.
At the same time one does wonder whether the likes of Jeff Wall, Cristina Iglesias, Walid Raad, Sean Scully and Sheela Gowda really define our age. I dont think so, and it is a stretch to think that as many as a hundred works can possibly define an age. If we look back another thirty years to Pop art how far do we see beyond a handful of names like say, Warhol and Lichtenstein? Who knows even if the period 1990 to 2010 will ever make its mark on history or fade in to a forgotten mist?
However, as one progressed through the book, the pleasure in looking back at some of the great works of our era and reading Grovier’s beautifully written and insightful analyses will dissolve all doubts. It reads easily and gently expands our appreciation of works that we perhaps doubted or misunderstood. It may, or may not, in the end include the works that define our age but perhaps it is best viewed simply as an exemplary record of memorable recent art.
For more information visit www.thamesandhudson.com
21 November 2013 § Leave a comment
Arriving in Venice for the biennale as a newcomer you will no doubt immediately pick up a copy the official biennale ‘map’. You will open it up. And open it again. And again. Flapping in the Mediterranean breeze you will now have the equivalent of about 8 sides of A4 covered with maps and lists of venues and events.
All very intimidating. How, what, where? There will be a temptation to try and rush around, seeing as much as possible. It all looks too much – and then there is Venice to be enjoyed along the way as well. The good news is that its not nearly as complex as it looks and a few simple rules will help you make the most of even a short stay.
1. Avoid the Peak Season. Unless you want to attend opening events try to travel away from peak summer season. Venice is always busy but the biennale will be much quieter September to November and flights and hotels may be cheaper. Don’t forget when you are planning that the biennale closes Mondays.
2. Fly to Venice. Obvious no? Well not really, the likes of Easyjet and Ryanair actually fly to Treviso an hour or so up the road. Instead fly direct to Venice airport. I go BA from Gatwick.
3. Take the Ferry. Also seems obvious, but from Venice airport you could save some money and go by bus to the edge of town, then take a Vaporetto to your hotel. Dont bother. Spend a small amount more and take the Alilaguna ferry from the airport direct to San Marco or Rialto (amongst other destinations). Its quicker and you get a wonderful cruise across the lagoon for free. For convenience buy a return trip and an unlimited pass on the Vaporetti (for the duration of your stay) in the airport terminal.
4. Book a convenient hotel. Check out the stops for the various airport ferries and book a hotel within a short stroll. All bags need to be carried down the passageways so, unless you get a private boat to your hotel with its own landing stage, travel light! Between the Rialto and San Marco they tend to be pokey and expensive so avoid this area but there is plenty more in districts like San Polo or Castello which are still very convenient. Avoid the Lido unless you have more time and want a beach.
5. Do the official biennale first. It comprises two main areas. The Giardini (gardens) has the major national pavilions in wooded gardens plus the main curated pavilion and is probably the best for the first day. You will need at least a half day for a good look plus a tea/lunch break. Arsenale, the second main area, is best left for the next day unless you want to go cross-eyed looking at art.
6. Satellite National Pavilions. Dont even think of doing them all! Ask for recommendations, read reviews and search the internet and cut down the list to the best half dozen. The alternative is walking up six flights of stairs in annoyingly remote locations just to find some dismal government sponsored propaganda.
7. Plan your visits. Although Venice is small it can take longer than you think to get around, especially when Vaporetti (ferries) are involved. It is also very easy to get lost and a 5 minute detour can quickly become half an hour. Map your stops and try and fit in the satellite pavilions en route to the larger attractions.
8. Its not just the biennale! Major (and minor) galleries take advantage of the biennale to have their own shows, not on the official guide. Again be very careful which ones you put on your schedule and check how long they run. Many only ‘pop up’ for a few weeks.
9. And More. The Venice institutions also put on extra shows. Amongst many don’t miss: Punta della Dogana & Palazzo Grassi (both owned by Christies’ Francois Pinault) with their contemporary exhibitions; The Guggenheim – Peggy’s extraordinary Modernist collection; The Fortuny Palace – a wonderfully diverse collection with a curated show blended in amongst it, all in an extraordinary dream-like location; Gallerie dell’Accademia – pre 19th century masterworks; Ca Rezzonico – museum of 18th century Venice that usually hosts a top contemporary exhibition.
10. Add a touch of luxury. Time visits to avoid meals at the Giardini and Arsenale – try local spots nearby. Later escape the crowds and drop in to the smart hotels for some luxurious relaxation time. The Hotel Gritti Palace has a perfect canal-side terrace whilst the roof terrace of the Danieli has breathtaking views. Of course they’re expensive, but you don’t have go wild.
There’s lots more of course – but I’ll let you have fun finding out the rest yourselves!
- The Venice Biennale 2013 – The Encyclopaedic Palace (akickupthearts.wordpress.com)
- Featuring: Venice Biennale (eyegawker.wordpress.com)
- The Encyclopedic Palace – Venice Biennale 2013 (lareviewofbooks.org)
- Biennale/Venice (nicholasjonespd.wordpress.com)
- Venice, architecture and the beautiful biennale (paulsmith.co.uk)
- City Scene: Venice (bryanmarshall13.wordpress.com)
11 November 2013 § 2 Comments
Most reviews of the Venice Biennale are posted soon after its opening in June/July. This is all very well for those writers who enjoy being in a sweaty summertime Venice thronged with tourists and queueing with the crowds to gain access to the most interesting pavilions. True, there are some exhibitions that only ‘pop-up’ for the first month or so of the biennale and naturally all the sleb-studded parties also only happen around opening time but on the whole it is a time I avoid like the plague.
I prefer to let the hubbub settle down and visit later in the year. With the end of the 2013 Biennale on the 24 November there is a big window of opportunity for take a trip during a quieter period when not only is the weather less hot and humid but there are fewer tourists, hotel prices are lower and tables are available at the best Osterias.
Last but not least of course you can take advantage of the prior reviews to plan visits to the best pavilions whilst avoiding the (too-frequent) time-wasting exhibitions in multitudinous back-alleys that you have just walked in circles for 30 minutes trying to find.
In the official Biennale there are, as usual, a plethora of dud pavilions. Surprisingly these include giants like Germany with an OK installation with a maze of interlocking stools by Ai Weiwei and little else, France with Anri Sala pointlessly punning on Ravel/Unravel – geddit? – and the USA where Sarah Sze has filled the pavilion with a student-like mess of bits and pieces.
Japan had chosen a very neat display of conceptual work from Koki Tanaka featuring collective tasks and collaborative acts in order to examine a new post-tsunami Japanese reality. For example groups of five musicians, writers or potters were asked to create a work together, the process being filmed whils other projects, reminiscent of sixties Ono & Fluxus were perhaps ‘Precarious Tasks #3 Walk from city to its suburbs’.
Vadim Zakharov’s brilliant Russian pavilion has a besuited businessman perched on a high rafter throwing peanut husks upon the public below whilst in the adjacent room gold coins are showered upon the ladies (only!) below who prolong the golden shower by collecting the coins in to a bucket which is raised – by another suited gent – and emptied on to a conveyor belt. A perpetual cycle of greed and exploitation is completed by the willing participants.
Jeremy Deller however has stolen the Giardini ‘show’ with ‘English Magic’. He cleverly weaves together truly diverse aspects of British society to create a witty and topical vision of one version of a national mythology. Amongst a number of threads Prince Harry’s appalling shooting of two rare hen harriers is revisited with a giant bird carrying off a passing Land Rover whilst Abramovich’s obscene yacht is cast in to the Venetian lagoon by Willaim Morris. There is of course a Deller trademark tea room – the ‘TEA’ spelt out in palaeolithic arrowheads – seeming much more relevant in an international location where it’s Britishness is self-evident.
The central Giardini pavilion and the Arsenale meanwhile I found to be rather a mess. The attempt to illustrate the thematic Encyclopaedic Palace coming a cropper with a confusion of self-taught and outsider artists alongside more conventional names – big and small.
Elsewhere around town the exhibits from Iraq, Ireland & Cyprus, Wales, Lithuania and Angola stand out from the multitude. Rudolph Stingel is worth seeing at the Palazzo Grassi where he has carpeted almost every inch of the walls and floor with oriental rugs. Buy a twin ticket for the other Pinault exhibition at the Punta della Dogana. The wonderland of the Palazzo Fortuny is always worth a visit – this time with an Anton Tapies exhibition.
There is much more of course whilst watching over the whole event from its waterfront perch on the island of San Giorgio Maggiore is the giant pink inflatable sculpture Alison Lapper Pregnant by Marc Quinn. Eye-catching and impressive.
- Featuring: Venice Biennale (thelastphotographer.wordpress.com)
- Venice Biennale, Part Two (akronartmuseum.wordpress.com)
- Venice Biennale 2014: Morocco to Participate with First Pavilion (archdaily.com)
- Featuring: Venice Biennale (eyegawker.wordpress.com)
- venice biennale – part II: arsenale (art925.wordpress.com)
- Day 11: 5th October: Venice Biennale (warwickstudentinvenice.wordpress.com)
- Venice Biennale (tellinotherstories.wordpress.com)
11 July 2011 § 2 Comments
Amazingly I have now been blogging my way through the London art scene for a whole year now. I thank all those of you – some 20,000 – who have bothered to read my assorted ramblings.
Meanwhile, thanks to the nice people at WordPress, there are all sorts of reports and analyses to discover what the great British public (clearly in this case a notch above the average!) really are interested in. Which blogs were most read, the search terms you used to find the site and what you had for breakfast? I shall reveal all….
OK, not your breakfasts, but you get my drift – there is an awful lot of analysis available and there are all sorts of statistical traps to tumble in to, the chief one being that any ‘visitor’ analysis reflects what I have actually written about eg: Marc Quinn would not be on the list because I did not write about him. Another problem is that even if I wrote about ‘Picasso’ daily who who click my blog amongst the zillions of Picasso search results? Treat the ‘charts’ below with caution but you never know they may actually reveal something?
1. Most visited and searched of the year, by a mile, was Pordenone Montenari, an unfortunate recluse who was rocketed in to the news by an Indian fund manager who thought that he could make a quick buck by promoting him as a newly discovered genius – he isn’t (image above).
2. I spent a couple of spare hours compiling a brief list of art-related humorous quotes and jokes. Sadly it trounced many deeply considered blogs of serious critical analysis and was second most searched. Oh well…
3. Amazingly Wolf Vostell came in third. I wrote just one feature about him and commented that he was sadly ignored in the annals of post-war art. Obviously not by many hundreds of you! Exhibition curators take note…
4. Ah, then comes the first contemporary artist – clearly it will be Emin, Hirst or Banksy perhaps? No, it is Eugenie Scrase, the oft- ridiculed winner of TV’s School of Saatchi. Ignore the power of TV at your peril. Worth a flutter if she ever gets a solo gallery show.
5 & 6. Perhaps we shall now get on to some serious art? Nope. Next is Ben Wilson the ‘chewing gum artist’. Well, he is quite interesting. Picasso slips meaninglessly in at 6th before the next half-dozen places. These are taken by contemporary artists of which I have featured literally hundreds, many of them mentioned numerous times. I have covered all the emerging artists championed for example by Saatchi and the top commercial galleries. Are these the ‘cream’ of those featured? Is too little being written about them? Should we take more notice of them in the future?
9. Alison Jackson. Hilarious and sometimes disturbing photos that ‘depict our suspicions’. Wry comments on our relationship with celebrity.
10. Wangechi Mutu. Striking paintings and collages referencing cultural identity.
11. Michael Fullerton. A brilliant show at Chisenhale and with work in British Art Now 7, his star is rising fast.
12. Following closely behind was Ida Ekblad, young and inventive Danish multi-media artist.
13. Clare Woods paints the strange, dark world of urban undergrowth.
Following close behind are Littlewhitehead and Toby Ziegler. A little farther back is Damien Hirst – perhaps surprising he’s not higher, but then again he does get rather a lot of column inches written about him.
Biggest surprise? Perhaps the fact that Tracey Emin is not on the list – or in fact even in the top 50 artists – despite the fact that my Love is What You Want Hayward review appears on the first couple of pages on a Google search and that I have featured her regularly when in contrast eg: Olivier and Ekblad I featured just once. Emin perhaps is not what you want?
So there we have it. After a year of careful and deep intellectual musing on the complexities of the contemporary art scene what you really were most interested in were an Italian recluse and a few jokes. Now where did I hear about that one legged, reclusive, dwarf, artist?