Wednesday, 30 April 2008

Sci-Fi Film Festival

Iron Man (2008)If you happened to notice some human-sized rubber aliens on the Underground today, don't panic! It wasn't Red Ken's cronies from City Hall out to threaten electors. It was merely a promotion for Sci-Fi London, the UK's only dedicated sci-fi and fantasy film festival, which opened today and continues until 4 May. Animation fans watch out for Dragon Hunters. And note the release date of Iron Man: 2 May; you'll find a review on the festival website (title link). Among its many gizmos, the festival again hosts the Arthur C Clarke Awards for best sci-fi novel. The finalists are:
The Red Men: Matthew de Abaitua, Snow Books
The H-Bomb Girl: Stephen Baxter, Faber & Faber
The Carhullan Army: Sarah Hall, Faber & Faber
The Raw Shark Texts: Steven Hall, Canongate
The Execution Channel: Ken MacLeod, Orbit
Black Man: Richard Morgan, Gollancz.
May the force be with you.

Mucha in Spain

Alphonse Mucha - The Virgin of the Lillies (1905)The viewer's silhouette in this photo, which I've adjusted because it was overexposed, gives us an idea of the scale of Alphonse Mucha's The Virgin of the Lillies (1905). There are two versions (CLICK and scroll down to see them side-by-side). This is one of the exhibits in a major Spanish touring exhibition of Mucha's art, opened today at the Fundación la Caixa in Madrid in association with The Mucha Foundation (CLICK). Mucha is sadly neglected in the UK, where Art Nouveau tends to be seen as trivial and pretty-pretty; but cheap prints of his works are widely available in high street shops and his style influenced more than one British LP cover (title link).

Top 10 Offensive Ads

Left: British Heart Foundation ad; Right: The Sun ad (both 2007)The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) has released its Top 10 most offensive adverts of 2007. The usual suspects complained about these two harmless ads: British Heart Foundation (No 7 with 122 complaints) and News Group Newspapers Ltd The Sun (No 10 with 56 complaints). These complaints were not upheld by ASA. It did uphold 774 complaints against a Department of Health advert showing a smoker's face hooked by a fish hook to symbolize nicotine addiction (title link). So DoH is the winner of the Most Offensive Advert Stakes 2007. Well done, Government. Another trophy for Gordon Brown's mantelpiece. Nice to know Brits find your propaganda so offensive. N.B. in 2007 ASA received a record 14,080 complaints, the most common of which were against violence and misleading claims about being green.

Head Lice Art!

Head Louse (magnified)Meet the star of the show. Yes, that little fellow. It's a head louse, one of many that are helping to stretch the boundaries of art! Seven Jerry twits from Berlin have infested themselves with these parasites and wear plastic shower caps so as not to lose their little friends. They in turn are being hosted by the Museum of Bat Yam - I'm not making this up, folks; honest - in Israel. It's like Big Brother, except you don't actually see the stars of the show: the lice. All you see are seven fruitcakes wearing shower caps eating their meals, brushing their teeth, scratching their heads and so on. Stretch the boundaries of art? Till the elastic snaps. Twang!

Tuesday, 29 April 2008

Grand Theft Auto Crime

Screenshot from Grand Theft Auto IV (2008) I.C. enhancedLast night's midnight release of Grand Theft Auto IV has already sparked a minor crime wave in the UK! In Croydon, south-east London, a "light skinned black man aged about 21 ... wearing a light grey hooded top" stepped out of a queue waiting to buy the game and stabbed a passerby for no apparent reason. Just another homicidal paranoid schizophrenic loose on London's streets, I guess (CLICK). And in Yorkshire, two white thugs broke the nose and jaw of a teenager who had just bought the game, which they stole (CLICK). What did Coxsoft Art say a month ago about the release of Manhunt 2? It "will no doubt be played by every 7-year-old in the ghettos as soon as older brother steals a copy" (CLICK). So much for Europe's PEGI classification (title link). But the artwork is great.

Another X-ray Find

Left: Elizabeth Vernon, Right: X-ray of Henry Wriothesley (16th Century)This is at least the third time I've covered news of an X-ray discovery of a painting overpainted with a different or revised work, but this is the first time we can clearly see what the X-ray revealed. Art historians from Bristol University believe that the "ghost" on the right is a portrait of Henry Wriothesley, Shakespeare's only known patron. The portrait on the left - the overpainting - is of his wife, Elizabeth Vernon, the Virgin Queen's maid of honour. I've expanded the image and enhanced it slightly, for a clearer picture.

Foxit Reader

Foxit Reader 2.3 LogoHaving moaned about Adobe's "Acrobat" Reader last Sunday (CLICK), I thought I should point you in the direction of the alternative: Foxit Reader 2.3 (title link). If you must read grossly overweight bed-ridden pdf files, this is the program to use. It's a fraction of the size of Adobe's time-waster - 2.55Mb download size against 20Mb for Acrobat -, no trouble to install and displays pdf files like lightning. It was highly recommended to me by more than one person, and I've been using it - very occasionally - for a year. The latest version can handle Vista® (another bummer). I'm using my copy with Windows 98 SE. As you can tell, I'm not one for keeping up with the Joneses! What do they know?

Ghetto London To Vote

Siân Berry, Boris Johnson, Red Ken and (below) Brian PaddickOne day left till the London elections. Here are the only mayoral candidates worth considering. Not so much The Good, The Bad And the Ugly as The Pretty, The Jester, The Knackered and The Gay, namely Siân Berry, Boris Johnson, Red Ken and Brian Paddick. Regardless of dodgy dealings in City Hall - now flooded! -, the Muslim Council of Great Britain has instructed the faithful to vote for Red Ken, so our chance of ejecting him is slim. The Eastern-bloc invaders tend to be poof-bashers, so Brian doesn't stand an earthly. Bouncy Boris, the working man's public schoolboy, shown here wrestling a heckler at Smithfield meat market, is neck and neck with Red Ken, so he might oust the old pest. And Siân, well, she's Green and pretty and in England might succeed; but this isn't England. This is Ghetto London. No chance. My two votes won't go to any of them, because they all signed up to an amnesty for London's estimated one million illegal immigrants. So much for Law & Order, which is what we so desperately need. As for Assembly members, they can't be bothered to canvass. So another two votes lost. I'll sit this one out, not because I'm apathetic, but because nobody has earned my vote.

Monday, 28 April 2008

Made in China

The Snow Lion Flag of the Tibetan Government-in-exileHow's this for free enterprise? According to Hong Kong newspaper Ming Pao, a Chinese factory in Guangdong has been manufacturing Tibetan flags and shipping them abroad for Free Tibet protests. Police were called in when workers recognized the flag on TV and twigged they were making a flag banned in China. Whoops! Red faces in Guangdong. And red faces among protestors, who didn't know they were supporting the Chinese economy when they bought their Tibetan flags! I wonder how many years the factory owner will get.

Sweet Nothings

L'iris d'Or LogoCongratulations to Brit. photographer Vanessa Winship for winning the L'iris d'Or and being named Sony World Photography Awards Photographer of the Year 2008, worth $25,000. Click the title link and look for L'iris d'Or Winner 2008 to view her portrait of two glum little girls: Sweet Nothings.

Hockney in Chicago

David Hockney - Woldgate Lane to Burton Agnes (2007)I've never thought highly of David Hockney's work, but I must admit he's mellowing into a rather pleasant landscape painter in his old age. Annely Juda Fine Art put this Hockney - Woldgate Lane to Burton Agnes (2007) - up for sale at Art Chicago 2008. Don't all rush at once; the fair closes today. Shame about the join in the middle.

Grand Theft Auto IV

Screenshot from Grand Theft Auto IV (2008)Grand Theft Auto IV hits the shops tomorrow or at midnight tonight in some areas. Pre-release reviews are excellent, but parents be warned it has an 18 classification in the UK and "Mature" in the USA. If this graphic is anything to go by, the computer artwork is top notch. (To hell with the game play; it's the art that counts!) There's a distinct touch of Alfred Hitchcock in this shot: North By Northwest?

Sunday, 27 April 2008

Olympic Child Abuse

Pupils in Beijing's Shichahai Sports School (2007)While I'm on the subject of the Olympic Games (next post down) here's another reason I think this money-wasting, planet-plundering jamboree should be cancelled permanently or be better policed. Look at this lineup of grim-faced Chinese cherubs straining to dangle with style in a painfully unnatural pose. They are the next generation of Olympians in Beijing's Shichahai Sports School. This isn't sport. This is child abuse.

Harmony In Alaska

Qi Feng An, Di An, Qing Liu and Zhe An (China) - Arctic Village (2008) photo: Tula BeltonMy online visit to the World Ice Art Championships at Fairbanks, Alaska, is late this year. Maybe that's not a bad thing, considering Tibetian protestors have been giving the Olympic torch the raspberry around the world (and more power to their elbows). Unlike the Olympic jamboree, ice art in Alaska is apolitical, and the People's Republic of China has enjoyed unprecedented success with this entry: Arctic Village (2008) by Qi Feng An, Di An, Qing Liu and Zhe An, photo by Tula Belton. It won the Governor's Choice Award, the Artists' Choice Award and gained 2nd place in the Multi-Block Classic Realistic category. At first glance you might not think it's as good as previous winners I've featured (CLICK, CLICK, CLICK), but look closely. There are creatures swimming in that block of ice: a polar bear, fishes, a seal! How on earth...? And can you think of a better way of promoting Green issues than this? Click the title link to view a larger image and to browse the entries.

Artes Mundi Prize

N S Harsha - Come Give Us A Speech (2007-8) and The School Within (2008)Oh Gawd, here we go again. The Welsh determination to outdo the Turner Prize by means of its £40,000 Artes Mundi Prize, awarded every two years, has produced another bummer. Indian "artist" N. S. Harsha grabs the loot for a body of work which includes this piffle, actually a pair of piffles: Come Give Us A Speech (2007-8), indeterminate wallpaper daubed on six panels with acrylic paint, and The School Within (2008), a floor painting with real cushions scattered about. This tripe is supposed to tell us something about the human condition! The judging panel must be made up of hermits to learn from it. The question is: Why did I get this news from ArtDaily, which seems to think Cardiff is in London, not from BBC News? Answer: they mainly work a 5-day week at BBC News. Once the football results are in on Saturday, that's it. Auntie BBC lives in a genteel English past, when Sunday meant church bells, lawn-mowers and clipping the privet hedge.

Critical Art Ensemble

Critical Art Ensemble - The Cult of the New EveCoxsoft Art's spy in Canada, who keeps an eye on Yankee doings too, informs me that last Monday Federal Judge Richard J. Arcara dismissed the indictment against Buffalo University's Professor of Visual Studies Dr Steven Kurtz. Who? you might wonder. The prof. is a founder member of the Critical Art Ensemble, an elitist radical group that explores "the intersections between art, technology, radical politics, and critical theory". Obviously its message isn't for the proletariat! It may create the occasional striking image, such as The Cult of the New Eve shown here (note the XX chromosome with double helix to confirm the group's scientific credentials), but generally its work is typical of the Anti-art Establishment: short on talent and long on bull. Its website is awful; it hides its message in corporate-US Adobe Reader pdf files, instead of using democratic HTML, and the first page I attempted to open locked up Internet Explorer. I gleaned its self-contradictory stance from other sources. It's elitist radicalism is like a dog chasing its own tail, but this activity must annoy America's Far Right. Hence the indictment. Click the title link for the full saga.

Made in England

Made in England Logo (2008)The BBC likes to think of itself as a patron of the arts. Music, nature documentaries and claymation, yes; but it's a clueless corporation when confronted by Art. It thinks French Impressionism is the latest craze, sucks up to no-talent big names in the Brit. Anti-art Establishment and files art news stories under Entertainment with the usual girlie trivia about drug-crazed celebs. Anyway, it's teamed up with that scourge of genuine artistic talent the Arts Council to explore creativity in Merry Olde England. If you're English and feel like being depressed, click the title link.

Saturday, 26 April 2008

Tacky Pope Memento

Anonymous Artisan - Plastic Effigy of Pope Benedict XVIHow's this for tacky? It's a plastic effigy of Pope Benedict XVI, one of the money-making mementos of his recent trip to the USA. Presumably a Chinese artisan took a day off from designing "British" garden gnomes to knock up this evil-looking pontiff parody. Gross! I wonder if Catholic convert Tony Blair bought one for his missus. Own up, Tony. How much did they rip you off for it? And has Cheri put it in the dustbin or is she being diplomatic?
"Love it, darling. So sweet in my cabinet of plastic High Court judges with Bill and Ben the Flowerpot Men.
"Squeak 'Weed', Cheri; you know it turns me on."
"Oh grow up, Tony!"

Friday, 25 April 2008

Esquire Magazine Show

George Lois - Cover for Esquire Magazine, Issue no. 413, April 1968 © George LoisMoMA, the Museum of Modern Art in New York, has decided to stage an interesting exhibition for a change. George Lois: The Esquire Covers opened today and continues until 31 March 2009. This exhibition celebrates a decade of innovatory cover designs by George Lois for Esquire magazine. The April 1968 cover shows boxer Muhammad Ali - the name Cassius Clay adopted after joining the Nation of Islam - posing as the Christian martyr St Sebastian, an attention-grabber if ever I saw one. Click the title link to visit MoMA's website.

Earliest Oil Paintings

Wall-painting in Bamiyan Caves, AfghanistanArt professors will need to revise their lectures on oil paints, in the light of new findings. Researchers from the European Synchrotron Radiation Facility in Grenoble have been investigating ancient caves behind the ruined Bamiyan Buddhas in Afghanistan, those colossal 6th-century statues which were destroyed by ignorant Muslim fanatics - the so-called Taliban - in 2001, because Buddhas are un-Islamic! Having analysed 7th-century murals painted in the caves by Buddhist monks, the researchers discovered that they were created using oil paints. This is the earliest known use, centuries before oil paints were used in Europe.

Sorolla Again

Joaquín Sorolla - left: Al Agua; right: Sulla Spiaggia, Valencia Beach (both 1908)Here are two more paintings by Joaquín Sorolla y Bastida: same subjects, I assume brother and sister, but contrasting scenes captured. The boy wears nothing but the girl's straw hat, while she is primly dressed for a Victorian bathe. The French impressionists wittered on about capturing ephemeral moments of light and shadow - their excuse for selling unfinished paintings of static cornfields -, but Sorolla sat on a beach and practised what they preached. He caught the sky and the sea in different moods and people working or children playing against this constantly shifting backdrop. His subjects aren't posed. They're oblivious of him. He must have worked swiftly to catch such telling snapshots of life. Having captured a magic moment, why should he titivate it with superfluous polish? CLICK, CLICK.

Wesley Snipes: 3 Years

Wesley SnipesNewsflash: a US federal judge has sentenced Hollywood actor Wesley Snipes to three years imprisonment on three counts of wilfully failing to file a tax return. This is the maximum sentence, which prosecutors had demanded. I'm all for socking it to fat cats who break the law, but I can't help wondering what the sentence would have been if the star were white, female and pretty.

Thursday, 24 April 2008

Sorolla from Havana

Exhibition Photo: Joaquín Sorolla y Bastida - Girl on a BeachIf you happen to be in Spain, maybe searching for your baggage lost at Heathrow's Terminal 5, you'll find a must-see art exhibition at the Fundación Caixa Galicia in Santiago de Compostela: Sorolla e os seus contemporáneos (Sorolla and his Contemporaries). The exhibition comprises 60 Spanish works of art from the Museo de Bellas Artes in Havana, with the emphasis on Joaquín Sorolla y Bastida, my favourite impressionist. Seventeen of his oil paintings are on display. This photo from the exhibition shows a typical Sorolla beach scene. For once the blurb is informative and worth reading (title link). The exhibition continues until 6 July.

Stuckism Petition

Carsten Höller - Test Site (2006)Stuckism has got stuck into Sir Nick in a big way. It invites UK residents to add our names to a No 10 e-petition set up by Charles Thomson: "We the undersigned petition the Prime Minister to state that he will not give his approval to any reappointment of Sir Nicholas Serota as Director of the Tate gallery" (CLICK). Why? Sir Nick's importing foreign tripe like helter-skelters (CLICK) and Doris's Crack (CLICK) has made Tate Modern and Britain a laughing stock. Then there's the elephant dung bought from a board trustee for £600,000 (CLICK)!

St George's Day

Google Doodle - St George and the Dragon (2008)Did you notice yesterday's amusing Google Doodle for Saint George's Day? It takes a US firm to remind us! That's because we aren't allowed a holiday on the day of our patron saint. Click the title link to visit the Saint George's Day website and add your name to the one million people who have already signed the petition to make this day a public holiday in England.

Wednesday, 23 April 2008

Gray’s Anatomy at 150

Dr Henry Vandyke Carter - Gray's Anatomy Cover (modern edition)The Royal College of Surgeons of England, in Lincoln's Inn Fields, London, is celebrating 150 years of Gray's Anatomy with an exhibition of original woodblock engravings in the College Library: 150 years of Gray’s Anatomy. Dr Henry Gray, who wrote the book, originally entitled Henry Gray’s Anatomy, Descriptive and Surgical, is still famous, but the illustrator is less well known: Dr Henry Vandyke Carter. His illustrations broke new ground by incorporating the names of anatomical parts in the drawings, and this greatly enhanced the book. Carter received a one-off payment for his work; Gray took the royalties! Now in its 40th edition, Gray's Anatomy remains a standard textbook for medical students. The exhibition continues until 2 May.

Festival de Cannes

Pierre Collier - 61st Festival de Cannes (2008)The BAFTAs were so embarrassing this year that I ignored them. The usual suspects flashed their mammary glands and the TV shows were awful. Let's hope for more from the 61st Cannes Film Festival (quality, that is, not mammary glands). Is the Froggy film festival really that old? Pierre Collier, the artist who designed this year's poster, chose a photo by David Lynch as a tribute to the British film director. Nice one, Pierre. And the film to watch this year is DreamWorks' latest: Kung Fu Panda! If it gets as much attention as the Olympic torch, it must be a winner.

Tuesday, 22 April 2008

Wednesday Lates at NG

Pompeo Batoni - Sir Gregory Page-Turner, 3rd Bt (1768-69) detailThe National Gallery, London, is pulling out all the stops to persuade us to visit Pompeo Batoni. In addition to its Tuesday afternoon deal (CLICK) it's now offering half price tickets to Pompeo Batoni on Wednesday evenings after 6pm plus a free talk on the exhibition at 6.30pm by Dawson Carr, Curator of Pompeo Batoni. And the bar is open. This is as good as it gets, folks, but dare you use the Underground so late at night?

Eurostar's Art Gallery

Hans Holbein - The Ambassadors (1533)Eurostar has launched an interactive art gallery in the departure lounge of its London terminal St Pancras International, in conjunction with the National Gallery. Chunnel travellers can choose from 100 paintings, such as Hans Holbein's masterpiece The Ambassadors (1533), using touch screens on coffee tables. Did you know that if you stand to the side of this painting the "French stick" on the carpet becomes a skull, Holbein's reminder that even the great and the good dressed in their finery are mortal? I'm not sure whether this clever visual illusion works when viewed on a plasma screen. Let me know.

Monday, 21 April 2008

Gordon Brown's Crime

I.C. - Gordon Brown Wanted Poster (2008)Please pass this wanted poster on. The crime to which it refers isn't the abolition of the 10p rate of income tax in the UK (CLICK). Making the poor poorer and the rich richer isn't a crime. It's the way of the world. New Labour, the Tories, Robert Mugabe; what the hell? No, this man's crime was to subscribe to new EU regulations which require all petrol and diesel sold in UK garages to contain biofuels, beginning on 15 April at 2.5% and rising to 5% by 2010 (title link). UN special rapporteur on the right to food Jean Ziegler has described biofuels as "a crime against humanity" (2007). Already food prices have risen in my local supermarkets by 10%, despite Government claims that inflation is much lower. The cost of food is rising across the world. Food riots in Egypt and Haiti have alarmed French ministers (CLICK). Even the World Bank is worried by the prospect of mass starvation (CLICK). Wildlife groups, being more in touch with nature than are fatcat politicians, have foreseen disaster (CLICK). Isn't it time you told your Euro MP that the crime of growing crops to burn is unacceptable?

Sunday, 20 April 2008

Your Order Approved

No Spam!I wouldn't warn you against the Your Order Approved Scam if I didn't have a colleague at work who was caught by it. "What order?" she demanded in her reply to this phish. Oh dear. That poor lady has been caught by everything but the Spanish Lottery Draw. She had a huge bill from British Telecommunications after somebody slipped a premium-rate telephone number into her computer. Then her ISP threatened to cut her off if she didn't stop sending spam! "What spam?" she demanded in all innocence. Oh dear, oh dear. My thanks to "Llywellyn Albatros" for spamming me this reminder. The names these pests invent! Did you know that, according to Symantec, there are now one million malicious programs in circulation? Click the title link.

Balloon Dog On Roof

Jeff Koons - Balloon Dog, Yellow (1994-2000)How about this as a pressie for the girlfriend who has everything? It's big, brash, brassy and cute and wouldn't look out of place on the fourth plinth in Trafalgar Square. But this is the Iris and B. Gerald Cantor Roof Garden atop the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, and the cutie is Balloon Dog (Yellow) by Jeff Koons. Two more of his installations - Coloring Book and Sacred Heart (Red/Gold) - will feature in Jeff Koons on the Roof, which opens on 22 April. All three works are made of chromium stainless steel with a transparent colour coating. Wear sunglasses or view on a rainy day, ideally during a thunderstorm. Imagine forked lightning reflected by Balloon Dog. Wow! (N.B. first check your life insurance policy for acts of God letout clauses.)

Toxic Landscapes

Mark Wright - Toxic Landscape 9 (2007)Grab this gobbledygook from Carter Presents, London: "Mark Wright's paintings encapsulate the psychology of our neurotically dyspeptic world in a place where we are peculiarly happy to wallow in and offer us a focused and penetrating view of our skewed habitue." Got that? Er .... Lost halfway through? Never mind. I can't be bothered to translate this pretentious and incoherent drivel into plain English. Let's just say that if you fancy toxic wastelands, this is the show for you. Mark Wright's first solo show at Carter Presents opens on 3 May and continues until 1 June.

Saturday, 19 April 2008

Portrait Painters Show

Michael Taylor RP - Paul BeckettThe Royal Society of Portrait Painters Annual Exhibition opens at the Mall Galleries in London on 24 April and continues until 11 May. Whether you just want to browse art or you're looking for an artist to paint a loved one's portrait, this is the show to visit. Take Michael Taylor's clever double portrait of Paul Beckett as an example of the quality to expect. The sitter dominates a busy canvas full of interesting detail and textures. At first glance he appears to be looking in a mirror at himself, but that isn't a mirror image! Not only is this a powerful portrait, but also as a composition it makes you look at it again and again. This brilliant painting is worth a visit by itself.

Friday, 18 April 2008

Ian Fleming Exhibition

For Your Eyes Only Exhibition Logo (2008)Yesterday the Imperial War Museum London opened a major exhibition to celebrate the centenary of the birth of Ian Fleming, the creator of James Bond. There's all sorts of Fleming/Bond memorabilia on display. For Your Eyes Only continues until 1 March 2009. Admission costs £8.00 or a diabolical £7.00 for silver surfers (87.5%!). Too pricey. Watch an old James Bond movie instead. Better still, read the novels. (Collectors note: a mint first-edition James Bond hardback is worth at least £80.)

Art Fund Prize List

The Lightbox Staff Celebrating NominationStaff at The Lightbox are celebrating, because The Lightbox is one of four museums shortlisted for this year's £100,000 Art Fund Prize - formerly The Gulbenkian Prize - awarded for innovation and excellence in UK art galleries and museums. The winner will be announced on 22 May at the Royal Institute of British Architects in London. The shortlist is:
Wellcome Collection, London (CLICK)
The Lightbox, Woking (CLICK)
Shetland Museum and Archives (CLICK)
British Empire and Commonwealth Museum (CLICK).

Sir Keith Park Statue

Unknown Artist - Model of Statue of Sir Keith Park (2008)Here's an artist's impression of a model of a proposed statue of Sir Keith Park, unveiled today at the RAF club in Piccadilly, London. "Who?" you might ask. That's the whole point of this statue, which it is hoped will occupy the fourth plinth in Trafalgar Square. The Battle of Britain is one of the most important victories the UK has ever won, and Sir Keith commanded those RAF squadrons which defended London and the South East against Luftwaffe attacks in 1940, at the start of World War II. So a statue of Sir Keith is well deserved. I'm unsure about the fourth plinth, which was built to hold a large equestrian statue and needs a work of similar size. I also think Sir Keith would look more imposing in RAF uniform, rather than dressed as a pilot. We'll see....


Lowry Skirt PlatformHere's a novel idea: putting skirts and buildings together. I don't know if it will work, but full marks for originality. Skin+Bones: Parallel Practices in Fashion and Architecture is the inaugural exhibition at the new Embankment Galleries at Somerset House, London, from 24 April until 10 August. The exhibition invites you to "Discover how over 50 internationally-renowned architects and designers ... 'fashion' buildings and 'construct' garments" with over 200 works: 3D architectural models, fashion fripperies and film footage. Tickets: £8, concessions £6 (75%). Online booking is now open, but will cost extra (title link).

Thursday, 17 April 2008

Filling In Doris

Doris Salcedo - Shibboleth 2007Quote from ArtDaily: "An art installation, made by Colombian artist Doris Salcedo, is being filled in due to many injuries. This happens just six months after it was installed along the lenght of Turbine Hall at Tate Modern" (sic). Quote from BBC News on 8 October 2007: "The hole will be filled in next April" (title link). As it is now April, Doris's Crack is being filled in on schedule. Whoops! Another accident.

Wednesday, 16 April 2008

Botanical Art At Kew

Two years ago I pointed out that Kew Gardens in London houses one of the world's most extensive collections of botanical paintings: over 200,000 items, many of which were too fragile to be put on public display (CLICK). Opening this Saturday, the new Shirley Sherwood Gallery of Botanical Art offers state-of-the-art climatic control, which will allow fragile works to be exhibited for the first time (click the title link). The Link Gallery connects this new gallery to the existing Marianne North Gallery. Cambridge Cottage, previously known as Kew Gardens Gallery, is in another part of the gardens. For those of you who can't make it to Kew, there's a fascinating online gallery (CLICK). Note: those "moths" in Marianne North's superb painting look like butterflies, but they belong to the family Uraniidae of day-flying moths.

Simonon out of Spain

Paul Simonon - La VeronicaTomorrow, Paul Simonon's latest exhibition opens at Thomas Williams Fine Art Ltd in Old Bond Street, London (title link). He's gone all Spanish for this one, as you can see from La Veronica. "The exhibition will include paintings done at the Las Ventos del Toro arena in Madrid, still lives, and nudes." (Pedantic note: according to Illustrated Dictionary of Art Terms by Kimberley Richards with Richard Seddon, Ebury Press, London, 1981, the plural of "still life" is "still lifes", which makes sense to me.) Paul became sort-of famous for playing with some punk band called Crash, but he graduated from art school prior to Crash. To see some paintings from his last exhibition, From Hammersmith to Greenwich, CLICK.

Ollie Johnston R.I.P.

Walt Disney Studios - Bambi and Thumper (Bambi 1942)Remember Thumper, my favourite Disney character of all time? Here he is making friends with Bambi. Yesterday, Disney announced that Ollie Johnston, the last of those early animators who entertained an embattled world with films like Bambi (1942) and Fantasia (1940), had died at the age of 95. Those were the days when the name Disney meant art, rather than strident, cornball Yankee humour. The death of Bambi's mother - a mere cartoon character - is one of the all-time great tear-jerkers of cinema. Ollie Johnson was the very first animator to receive America's National Medal of Arts, in 2005.

Another Photo Sale

Albert Watson - Kate Moss, Marrakesh (1993)Grab your cheque books and head for Bonhams Vision 21 in Knightsbridge, London, later today. Up for grabs: images of Kate Moss by Banksy, Albert Watson and Tracey Emin. Photo portraits of Faye Dunaway, Uma Thurman and Sammy Davis Jr will also be auctioned. It must be the season for old photos. I think I'll give Albert Watson's Kate Moss, Marrakesh (1993) a miss. She's prettier than "Big Sue" Tilley, but this snap of the sharpest spine in the business doesn't appeal to me. And it doesn't qualify as art. Now, Marc Quinn's Kate Moss...(CLICK).

Smarties Art Show

Prudence Emma Staite - Marilyn Monroe after Andy Warhol (2008)Somebody had to do it sooner or later: use Nestlé Smarties to make "art". Prudence Emma Staite's copy of Andy Warhol's ghastly Marylin Monroe is one of the exhibits in the Smarties Art Exhibition at the V&A Museum of Childhood in Bethnal Green, London. She's also done a Banksy and a Seurat, all to celebrate the return of Nestlé's blue Smarties. Can't say I'd ever noticed they'd gone away. So far, there's no mention of this exhibition on the museum website. It should stay that way. The museum shouldn't be involved in promoting junk food for kids, no matter how much Nestlé is paying to sponsor its show.

Tuesday, 15 April 2008

Dickinson Explains

Judge's Wig (UK)In an article for Counterpunch, artist Michael Dickinson recounts his recent adventures in the Turkish judicial system (title link). The article may not be as gripping as Midnight Express, but it explains why the judge called for an expert witness from the faculty of Marmara University. An art prof. is required to testify as to (1) whether the offending work is a collage or not, and (2) "what would be the perceived thought of a person with an average intelligence who looks at this work". One hardly needs to be an art prof. to testify to Point 1. As to Point 2, the prof. would need to have an average I.Q. in order to answer the question or be a mind-reader! Now I understand why nobody from the faculty turned up (CLICK). Michael, sorry to tell you this, but either your judge is a complete fathead or he intends to convict you and put the blame on Marmara. Ask any psychologist. Or a decent lawyer.

Monday, 14 April 2008

Banksy Strikes Again!

Banksy - One Nation Under CCTV (2008)Banksy's latest and biggest - One Nation Under CCTV - appeared on Sunday morning, when the scaffolding came down. On Saturday his team erected three storeys of scaffolding in a Post Office yard in Newman Street near Oxford Circus, behind a security fence and in full view of a security CCTV camera! Banksy worked behind polythene sheeting without being seen. Next morning all was revealed. Love it! Click the title link for bigger views.

Pompeo Batoni Tours

National Gallery Pompeo Batoni Tour Announcement (2008) detailLast February I reviewed Pompeo Batoni 1708-1787 in the Sainsbury Wing of the National Gallery, London, and pointed out that silver surfers and students could gain entry every Tuesday between 2.30 to 6pm for only £4 (CLICK). NG has now added some jam to this concession: free guided tours of the exhibition, starting at 2.30pm and only on Tuesday afternoons. This requires precision timing. Don't be early or you'll be charged the full whack. Don't be late or you'll miss the tour. (Thinks: mad dash at 2.30 with walking sticks and Zimmer frames hurtling toward the tour guide. Silver surfers need to be fit in London!)

British Museum Art

Left: Martin Lewis - Spring Night, Greenwich Village (1930), Right: Blue Flower with WaspThe British Museum in London is currently showing two intriguing art exhibitions, both free. In Room 90 there's The American Scene: Prints from Hopper to Pollock until 7 September (title link). Martin Lewis' Spring Night, Greenwich Village (1930) in drypoint is a fine example. You'll also find etchings by Edward Hopper. In Room 91 there's Fascination with Nature: Birds, Flowers and Insects in Chinese Art until 5 August (CLICK). Two completely different art exhibitions in adjoining rooms, and the price is right. What are you waiting for?

30's Canadian Painting

Edwin Holgate - Ludivine (1930) © Estate of Edwin HolgateHere's news for my one Canadian reader. (If there are more of you, own up.) CyberMuse "Your Art Education Research Site" brings to the Internet Canadian Painting in the Thirties, a worthy online rehash of the 1975 exhibition driven across country by the National Gallery of Canada. The bad news is that this new website crawls like a dying tortoise, due to loading megabytes of Flash Player 9 nonsense (safe, but boring). Why do they do it? The good news is that the site is also in no-Flash HTML. Guess which I chose. And look what I found: Edwin Holgate's portrait of Ludivine (1930). This pretty teenager in her party frock is the most pensive sitter I've ever seen. "Oh dear, I wish Mummy hadn't left. I know he paints nudes. What should I say if he asks me to undress? Oh dear, oh dear...." A great portrait.

Sunday, 13 April 2008

Pacific Tsunami

Gajin Fujita - Er...When I first saw this painting by Japanese-American artist Gajin Fujita, I thought Nice koi carp, shame about the graffiti; but it's growing on me! This mixture of Yankee graffiti and cliches of Japanese visual art shouldn't work, but somehow it does. Find the exhibition at Haunch of Venison in London later this month. No details, because when I tried to visit the gallery's rubbish website a message popped up to inform me that a script in its program was causing Flash Player 9 to run slowly and might cause my computer to become unresponsive. No thanks. So much for clever-dick programming. It makes the gallery seem amateur.