Friday, 29 January 2010

BirdGuides Photos

Puffins are the essence of cute. This photograph of a puffin with its bill laden with sand eels, flying straight into camera, is one of the best shots of this colourful character I've ever seen. It was taken by Kevin Du Rose on the Farne Islands, Northumberland, and is one of the runners-up in the BirdGuides Photo of the Year competition 2009. Click the title link to see the winning photo by Richard Bedford and more beautiful runners-up.

Thursday, 28 January 2010

Ofili Exhibition

If you're into elephant dung and garish, Chris Ofili is the artist for you. A major retrospective of his work opened yesterday at Tate Britain and continues until 16 May. Over 45 of his paintings, together with pencil drawings and watercolours, from the mid 1990s to the present day, will be on show. Admission costs £10, concessions £8.50. Not likely, sunshine! I wouldn't brave the Underground if you were to offer me £10 to visit this load of Ofili. CLICK to view a BBC slide show of some of the works on display.

Saturday, 23 January 2010

Art Forgeries

The Victoria And Albert Museum in London opened an unusual exhibition today: The Metropolitan Police Service's Investigation of Fakes and Forgeries. One of the exhibits is The Amarna Princess by master forger Shaun Greenhalgh, now serving a jail sentence for his crimes. He created The Amarna Princess in his garden shed in Bolton in 2003 and sold it to a gullible curator for £440,000. The police collared him in 2006. I'm surprised he didn't try selling his garden shed to Tate Modern. The exhibition showcases some of the methods used by police in detecting fakes and apprehending the villains. Find it in Rooms 17a and 18a until 7 February 2010, admission free.

Friday, 22 January 2010

Shock Disqualification!

The winner of the Wildlife Photographer of the Year award 2009, Jose Luis Rodriguez, has been disqualified after judges decided he had used a trained wolf for the above photo. They identified this wolf as Ossian, a tame wolf living at a zoological park near Madrid. Rodriguez denies the allegation, but the judges not only stripped him of his award, but also banned him for life from entering the competition again. So, for the first time in its 46-year history, the Wildlife Photographer of the Year has no overall winner. There are still many excellent photos at the exhibition in the Natural History Museum, London (CLICK).

Twilight Graphic Novel

A comic book version of Stephenie Meyer's hit vampire fantasy Twilight will be published in the USA on 16 March: Twilight: The Graphic Novel, Volume 1. The illustrations are by Korean artist Young Kim (cover shown). This explains the touch of Manga in the heroine's face. The text is by Stephenie Meyer, who was consulted throughout the creative process. Click the title link to visit her website and read more about this graphic novel, which will be published by Hachette Book Group. Stiff cover, stiff price. Order it from your library.

Wednesday, 20 January 2010

Van Gogh Letters

The Real Van Gogh: The Artist and His Letters opens at the Royal Academy of Arts on Saturday 23 January and continues until 18 April. This major exhibition sets out to dispel the popular notion that Van Gogh was merely a loony with earache. On display for the first time are many of his personal letters, which reveal him to be an intelligent and cultivated man. Even if you think his daubs are wildly overrated, this display of paintings and letters promises the visitor a fascinating insight. Cost of admission? Don't ask. Click the title link.

Sunday, 10 January 2010

Elvis Presley Portraits

While it's a portrait of princes at the National Portrait Gallery in London, it's The King at the National Portrait Gallery in Washington. One Life: Echoes of Elvis - an exhibition to celebrate what would have been Elvis Presley's 75th birthday - opened at Washington's NPG recently and continues until 22 August (title link). This 1993 portrait is by Mark Stutman.

Princes On Display

Those of you who are into royalty will be interested to know that the first portrait of Princes William and Harry together has gone on display at the National Portrait Gallery in London. It was painted by Nicky Philipps, who made a pig's ear of William, but her profile of Harry isn't so bad. You'll find it in the National Portrait Gallery's Contemporary Galleries (Room 40).

Wednesday, 6 January 2010

Muse Album Wins

This is the sleeve for Muse album The Resistance, which won the Best Art Vinyl prize 2009 in an online poll. Second came the Manic Street Preachers' Journal For Plague Lovers, which prompted a stupid rumpus from the big supermarkets last May. Sainsburys, Tesco, Asda and Morrison all demanded the publishers supply the album in a sleeve to hide its "inappropriate" artwork (CLICK). So it's good to see that excellent painting by Jenny Saville gaining second place. Click the title link to view the top 10 album covers. They will also appear in an exhibition at the Art Vinyl Gallery in Selfridges, London.

Tuesday, 5 January 2010

Sparse Coding Analysis

Some Yankee boffins in Dartmouth College, New Hampshire, reckon they've devised a way of telling genuine art from fakes. It's called Sparse Coding Analysis. First they digitize all the artist's known works. Then they get their computer to chop each artwork into 144 pieces (a 12 x 12 grid as shown). Next their computer generates a set of 144 random elements which are the same size as the 144 known pieces. Each of these random elements is then manipulated until some combination of them can recreate each piece from the original artwork. Are you with me so far? Next these random elements are refined until as few of them as possible can recreate the pieces from the original artwork. (That's the "sparse coding" bit.) Then a fake is tested against these refined pieces. If they cannot recreate the fake, this shows it's a fake. The boffins claim to have succeeded in detecting fake engravings purporting to be by Pieter Bruegel the Elder (note the lines in the graphic). I think they're on a sticky wicket here. Although Brueghel designed many engravings and etchings, he etched only one plate himself: The Rabbit Hunt (CLICK). So, Bruegel's designs were executed by other artists. Analysing his scratch marks doesn't prove a thing. And wait till they tackle the subtleties of painting! Oh well, it gets them a research grant, I suppose.

Monday, 4 January 2010

Charles Chaplin

Tomorrow, 5 January, The London Film Museum in County Hall opens its new exhibition Charlie Chaplin – The Great Londoner. It tells his rags-to-riches story in 6 main sections: 1) A London Boyhood, 2) A Child of the Theatre (his parents were impoverished vaudeville performers and Charlie followed in their footsteps), 3) America and the movies, 4) The Tramp, 5) Citizen of the World, 6) The Happy Exile. Entry is included in the admission price of the London Film Museum. Click the title link.

Ice Sculpture

My female goldfish thought she'd hit a glass ceiling today, but it's only a sheet of ice. Silly fish. The ice reminded me that the World Ice Art Championships are due back in Ice Park, Fairbanks, Alaska, USA, from 20 February to 28 March (title link). This brilliant Surfacing Kingfisher by Junichi Nakamura (Japan) and Suguru Kanbayashi (Canada) gained first place in last year's Single Block Classic Realistic Category and also won the Peoples Choice Award in the Realistic Category. (Note: I've changed the colour, brightness, contrast and gamma settings of Rhonda Konicki's photo.) Junichi Nakamura is a brilliant ice sculptor. In 2007 he and Peter Slavin (USA) won first prize in the Single Block Classic Realistic category with a gobsmacking preying mantis: Aiming Eyes (CLICK).

Sunday, 3 January 2010

Trompe L’œil

This amusing painting, Pere Borell del Caso's Escaping Criticism (1874), is a perfect example of what the French call "trompe-l’œil", which literally means to deceive the eye. As most realistic art tries to deceive the eye, a better translation might be "witty illusion". The artist tries to amuse you by sharing the joke of his deception (title link). Another perfect example of trompe l’œil appeared in Banksy's exhibition in Bristol last year (CLICK). If you happen to be in Hamburg between 13 February and 24 May, visit the Bucerius Kunst Forum's exhibition Genuine Illusions: The Art of Trompe-l'œil, which traces the history of artistic illusions with 140 exhibits, from classical Rome to the present day (CLICK). Well worth a visit. (Note: we Brits don't bother with the hyphen, but everyone else does.)

Saturday, 2 January 2010

Muslim Attacks Artist

A Somali Muslim nutter armed with a knife and an axe broke into the home of Danish cartoonist Kurt Westergaard and shouted death threats. Muslims have offered rewards of from US$1m to US$11m to any thug who beheads the cartoonist (CLICK). Kurt grabbed his 5-year-old granddaughter, escaped into a panic room in his fortified home and raised the alarm. Police shot and wounded the intruder, who is linked to Islamic maniac group al-Shabab. Kurt has been under threat of Muslim execution since his cartoon of the Prophet Muhammad wearing a bomb under his turban was reprinted in 2006 (first published in 2005). Two years ago Danish police arrested three people suspected of planning to murder him, two of them Tunisians, the third a Moroccan with Danish citizenship (CLICK). To see the original 12 cartoons CLICK.

Friday, 1 January 2010

Grumpy Is Good

Travelling on the bus the other day, I was trying to ignore some Russian or Pole rabbiting into her mobile phone (I'm one of the last Englishmen left in Greater London) when she used the phrase "new year resolution". I guess the Baltic invaders don't have the equivalent phrase. Just in case anyone is wondering what my new year resolution is, I'm going to try to be more grumpy. According to Aussie scientist Professor Joe Forgas, being grumpy is good for you (title link). And there's a lot to be grumpy about in British "art".

Degas Theft Arrest

The latest news on the theft of Edgar Degas' Les Choristes (CLICK) is that French police have arrested a night watchman employed by the Catini Museum in Marseilles. They thought it was an inside job. I assume the painting has been recovered. Why else would they have made an arrest?

Happy New Year