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.

Graphic Design Visionaries by Mark Gertlein & Annabelle Howard Lawrence King Publishing

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

spotted at frieze 2012

18 October 2012 § Leave a comment

Another uninspiring Frieze his year. I suppose that once the art world has – like every year – built it up to be the London event of the year there is only one result: some degree of disappointment. Despite this Frieze of course remains the best UK contemporary art fair and a must visit to try at catch a whiff of the zeitgeist of the contemporary art market. Here are a few of the things that caught our eye this year. No particular reason. No particular order. No analyses of who sold what. And most definitely no ‘who was seen where’ nonsense.

A small oil by NY artist Amy Bennett. At Galleri Magnus Karlsson

One from handful of skilful watercolours by Maria Nordina – also at Galleri Magnus Karlsson.

The best from a roomful of large and impressive Jonas Wood pieces at David Kordansky.

A melting Paul McCarthy White Snow Head at Hauser & Wirth.

A Gavin Turk neon door.

Julian Opie‘s rather neat sculptures – and a mosaic.

One of a few large and impressive Wolfgang Tillmans images.

A dissection of a curator made of cake.

Something made of some substance made by somebody South American (I think?)

And outside, in the rain a pretty Yayoi Kusama from Victoria Miro.

yayoi kusama at tate modern; now & future japan; hyper japan

24 February 2012 § 1 Comment

I’m turning Japanese, I think I’m turning Japanese,  I really think so….. It seems that there are all sorts of Japanesey things happening here in London pretty much at the same time – the Yayoi Kusama exhibition at Tate Modern being the highlight of course.

yoko ono - mend piece

Opening soon Now & Future JAPAN supports orphaned children from the Tsunami and features a work by Yoko Ono repeated from 1966 – Mend Piece – where visitors are invited to join in by repairing broken china. A fund-raising auction takes place alongside – see website for details. Please try to support it.

Meanwhile, starting today at Earls Court, Hyper Japan is UK’s biggest celebration of Japanese ‘culture, cuisine and cool.’ I will try and drop in if only to say konishi wa to Satoshi Miki – director of those unforgettable classics Instant Swamp and Turtles are Surprisingly Fast Swimmers (see it!) and to check out the World Cosplay Summit (Cosplay being anime/manga/video dressing up – don’t ya just love it!).

Talking about someone who loves dressing up Yayoi Kusama‘s big solo exhibition at Tate Modern kicked off a couple of weeks ago. I do like Kusama, but I was not overly excited about the prospect of some 14 rooms chock full of her trademark spots. However this was a prospect that I has seriously misjudged and Yayoi, bowing deeply, I apologise. Like many, I am sure, I have been far too ready to assign her to the ‘it’s just lots of spots’ category (even the Tate get carried away in the foyer – image above!) but here was a timely reminder of all the wonderful, innovative and varied work that she has made over a long – and still continuing – highly influential career.

A prodigy and already exhibiting in her teens Kusama moved quickly from oils to every variety of works on paper and the first rooms of the exhibition show stunning imagination and variety. Quickly even Japan was too small for her. She soon decided, whilst only still in her mid twenties that ‘For art like mine… questioning what we are and what it means to live and die… [Japan] was too small… My art needed a more unlimited freedom and a wider world.’  

So off she went to the USA first having made contact with Georgia O’Keefe – one of the most influential painters of that time: this was no shrinking violet but a hugely determined artist. She quickly switched now from the compulsive and repetitive Infinity Nets to sculpture-making, her Accumulation Sculptures covering everyday objects with repeating forms. Her huge influence on the avant-garde of pop art being clear if I simply tell you that a boat sculpture was exhibited as the ‘One Thousand Boats Show’ in a room pasted on all sides with repeating silkscreen images (of the same boat from above) a full three years before Warhol created his ‘Cow’ wallpaper and that her stuffed objects predated those of Claes Oldenburg.

Her work continued to evolve rapidly. She featured herself in her own collages, photographs and films, putting the artist at the centre of the work – a tactic we are now (overly?) familiar with a la Emin, Abramovic, Gormley etc – but back then highly original. She threw herself in to happenings, performances and installation ‘environments’. As if she had not yet done enough she returned to Japan where she briefly set herself up as an art dealer before, deeply troubled, she checked herself in to an asylum where she remains to this day. As you may have guessed even this did not stop her with production of collages, sculpture, painting and installation still continuing apace.

If anyone has forgotten, or did not realise, just how influential and original Kusama really was then this excellent and comprehensive exhibition is a real must-see. A highly surreal, visual treat right through until the final two room-sized installations; one an infra-red/day-glo world of multi-coloured spots that float before your eyes, the other a mirrored space containing infinitely reflected tiny multi-coloured lights. Dazzling in every way – and the kids will love it too!

Yayoi Kusama at Tate Modern until 5 June 2012

Now & Future JAPAN at 39 Dover Street, London W1S 4NN from 3 – 9 March 2012

Hyper Japan at Earls Court 24 – 26 February 2012

serpentine gallery expansion hits jackpot

1 July 2011 § Leave a comment

An astonishing 4.3 million (myown total from Sothebys gross results) – around double auction estimates – was raised this afternoon for the upcoming extension to the Serpentine gallery. Forty-six top contemporary artists including the likes of John Baldessari, Olafur Eliasson, Fischli & Weiss,  Antony Gormley, Jeff Koons, Yayoi Kusama and Rachel Whiteread had generously donated works to be auctioned alongside Sothebys contemporary art day sale.

Top lot was John Currin‘s Edwardian which raised £713k. Other significant amounts raised included £540k from Richard Prince‘s Untitled and £373k from a work by Takashi Murakimi.

Apparently the new space is to be called the Serpentine Sackler Gallery and will be located in Kensington Gardens, a short distance from the current gallery which lies close to the Serpentine in Hyde Park. It is due to open in 2012, and will be renovated and designed by Pritzker-Prize winning architect Zaha Hadid. The plans include an adjoining pavilion to be used as a social space and restaurant. 

John Currin - Edwardian

If it is anywhere near as good as the Serpentine has been over recent years at presenting interesting exhibitions of contemporary art it will be a great new addition to London’s art world. I am looking forward to the opening – oh, and any invitations to the opening party most welcome!

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