Monday, 31 January 2011

John Barry RIP

I'm sure you've already heard the sad news that Oscar-winning English composer John Barry has died in New York of a heart attack, aged 77. The Internet is already awash with obituaries (click the title link for the BBC's). Rather than repeat what others are writing, I thought I'd mention two of his most unusual and atmospheric scores: The Ipcress File (1965) and The Quiller Memorandum (1966). I still own the vinyl LPs of these scores. Wanting to create a different sound to his James Bond scores, Barry chose a cimbalom, a stringed instrument traditionally played by Hungarian Jews and gypsies. This instrument is especially apposite in The Quiller Memorandum, which is about a neo-Nazi resurgence in Germany. The haunting Wednesday's Child is the main theme, given lyrics by Mack David based on the nursery rhyme and released as a popular song by Matt Monroe (CLICK for YouTube video).

Pain Relief

In the graphic above I've combined two of today's news stories. On the left is Antony Gormley's latest sculpture Transport, on the right a scene from therapeutic computer game SnowWorld. Gormley's 6ft tall man is made of old iron nails taken from the repaired south-east transept roof of Canterbury Cathedral, where it now hangs above the first tomb of Thomas Becket (CLICK). Whatever Gormley thinks his statue represents, to me it represents pain. SnowWorld is a virtual reality game developed by Professor Hunter Hoffman and Professor David Patterson at the University of Washington Harborview Burn Centre in Seattle. It reduces pain by distracting the brain from pain signals. While the patient is occupied throwing snowballs at penguins in the icy world of the game, pain is reduced (title link). Horizon: The Secret World of Pain is on BBC Two today at 9pm.

Sunday, 30 January 2011

Julia Bradbury: Venus

Since his release from prison, art forger John Myatt has established a legitimate career as an artist. For his latest TV series he has created six paintings of celebrities sitting as subjects in famous pictures, to be televised on Sky Arts: Fame in the Frame, beginning on 8 February at 8pm (CLICK). Here is Julia Bradbury in Myatt's version of Peter Paul Rubens' Venus At A Mirror. He has also been commissioned to recreate some of his forgeries for a fictional comedy thriller based on his life, scripted by Ian La Frenais and Dick Clement: Genuine Fakes (CLICK).

Egyptian Riots

Spare a thought for the Gold Death Mask of Tutankhamun (1323 BC) and other priceless treasures in the Museum of Egyptian Antiquities amidst all the riots in Cairo. The museum is adjacent to the headquarters of the ruling National Democratic Party, which protesters have torched. Looters broke into the museum on Friday night, smashed a number of display cases, decapitated 2 mummies, broke statues and porcelain figures and raided the gift shop (title link). Government troops secured the museum on Saturday. Local residents also formed a human chain round the museum to deter looters. The main opposition party, the Muslim Brotherhood, is organising Neighborhood Watch committees around Cairo to protect public and private buildings (CLICK). I'm not sure which is worse: dictatorship or Sharia law, both of which are brutal; but at least the two sides seem to agree that Egypt's ancient treasures must be protected. So far, the mask is safe.

Most Wanted

On Friday the White Cube Gallery in Hoxton Square, London, opened a rather interesting exhibition of two-metre high celebrity portraits: Richard Phillips: Most Wanted. These oil paintings aren't taken from life, but from "found images". (Note: it's considered bad form for contemporary artists to work from photos. So they work from "found images" instead.) Each portrait is backed by the logo of some luxury brand, similar in style to photos taken at award ceremonies, and each head is surrounded by a halo to emphasise the stardom of these secular deities. Fair comment on society's obsession with celebrity and wealth. As I'm not into this obsession, the only two portraits I recognize are those of Leonardo DiCaprio and Miley Cyrus (shown). She's a popular Disney starlet, I believe. The show runs until 5 March. Click the title link for a BBC slide show. CLICK for White Cube.

Saturday, 29 January 2011

British Tosh at RA

When I previewed Modern British Sculpture at the Royal Academy of Arts, I wrote that it "promises to be an embarrassingly awful exhibition" (CLICK). The more discerning art critics agree with me. Andrew Graham-Dixon describes it as "lamentable" and points out that it fails to include "many of Britain's best sculptors of the past 100 years". Charles Darwent of The Independent describes as "own goals" the inclusion of works by foreign artists "who largely wipe the floor with their British followers, and in any case got there first". The photo above, taken on press day, shows a very earnest young critic perusing Moneybags Hirst's Let's Eat Outdoors Today (1990-1) full of flies alive and dead. Could he be the art critic of Tiny Tots Magazine? I wonder what he thinks. "Hirst sucks"? That's my boy.

Tate Health Lapse

What A Ripoff! (CLICK) was my verdict on Ai Weiwei's handpainted porcelain sunflower seeds on 12 October 2010, closely followed by Another Tate Fiasco! (CLICK) on 15 October when punters were banned from walking on them due to an unacceptable level of dust. BBC Arts Editor Will Gompertz now reveals that paint used on the sunflower seeds contains 35% lead (title link)! So much for 'elf 'n' safety at Tate Passé! Let the punter beware indeed.
If the title link doesn't work, CLICK.

Friday, 28 January 2011


Today Disney's 50th animated feature film Tangled (2010) went on general release in the UK. It's another take on the Brothers Grimm collected fairy tale Rapunzel, the girl with long hair. The wandering prince who gets Rapunzel pregnant is now Flynn Rider the thief, who doesn't (just a guess). Rapunzel has been transmogrified into an irritating, feisty, Manga-eyed, Yankee feminist with "girl power". Where have I heard that one before? (If you want to see "girl power", check out Berlusconi's Latest.) Disney's animation is state-of-the-art, but the facial expressions of the principle characters are cliché-ridden. WALL-E, Wallace & Gromit and even Shrek are far superior when it comes to facial looks. And Disney began it all!

Titian's Sacred Chat

Titian's A Sacra Conversazione (ca 1560) has fetched £10.7m ($16.9m) at Sotheby's New York sale, setting a new auction record for the artist. I'm sure he'll be pleased. According to Sotheby's, this oil painting on canvas has been sold only six times in its 450-year history. Prior to pre-sale exhibitions, it hadn't been seen in public for 30 years. Shame! Saint Catherine of Alexandria's supportive hand is particularly well done. Saint Luke seems to have brought a DIY manual as a gift for the infant carpenter. And yes, I have tweaked the gamma and contrast settings to brighten this graphic.

Berlusconi's Latest

Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi has been in trouble again since I posted news of his generous support for Moroccan belly-dancer Karima El Mahroug (CLICK). The Pope has had a sly dig about leaders setting an example and Silvio lost his rag with a chat show host on Italian TV. The latest accusation to be hurled at the gallant Latin is that Iris Berardi, allegedly a prostitute known to the police, attended one of his parties when she was only 17 years old. Guys, you must CLICK to watch Iris's flirtatious YouTube video promoting her wares. Ladies, you might like to watch too, just to guess her age when she made the video. Isn't it time the law recognised that girls grow up faster than they used to and that the age of consent should be lowered? It would save the police a lot of pointless work cautioning lucky boys. As for kindly old Silvio, did you know he was awarded Rock Star Of The Year in 2009 (CLICK)?

Thursday, 27 January 2011

Miami Piano

I guessed as much, but needed confirmation. That grand piano on a sand bar in Miami's Biscayne Bay which has kept the world guessing for days is indeed an art installation! Ho, ho, ho. Sixteen-year-old Nicholas Harrington conceived the idea as a way of proving his worth to enter Cooper Union, a prestigious art and engineering school in New York City. His video of the installation will be part of his application. I'm sure he'll be accepted. Self-promotion is the key to becoming a Big Name in art.

Shaun Feature Film

Fans of Aardman Animations' award-winning Shaun the Sheep will be pleased to learn that Shaun is to star in his own feature-length movie. The baaaaa lamb first made his appearance in Wallace and Gromit in A Close Shave (1995), which won an Oscar. Since 2007 he's been starring in his own BBC TV series for junior fans and in 2008 ... chortle, chortle ... won a BAA (British Animation Award) for best children's series (CLICK) as well as an International Emmy (CLICK). The big question is: Can Shaun baaa-aaa his way through a main feature film lasting one and a half hours? Time will tell. Aardman hopes to finish the film by 2013/14. So long to wait!

London River Park

Above is an artist's impression of the proposed London River Park by night, a mile-long pontoon along the north bank of the River Thames to connect the Tower of London with Blackfriars Bridge. The floating walkway will be interspersed with five glass-encased pavilions housing a variety of attractions. Innovatory US architectural firm Gensler envisaged the scheme, which recently won London Mayor Bouncy Boris's award for Best Conceptual Project, a fact which BBC London News seems to have ignored. All Gensler needs is a backer to come up with the readies: £25m ($40m). Click the title link.

Pure Gold at 50

The Federation of British Artists is celebrating its 50th anniversary this year. Pure Gold: 50 years of the FBA will showcase "significant works" from the history of its nine societies. Paintings by John Singer Sargent, Augustus John, Walter Sickert and Sir William Orpen, on loan from major public and private collections, will be shown alongside works by the FBA’s most eminent contemporary member artists. Above is a detail from Sir Gerald Festus Kelly's painting Saw Ohn Nyun V, one of his favourite models. The exhibition runs from 9 to 19 February at the Mall Galleries in London, admission free.

Wednesday, 26 January 2011

Life, Legend, Landscape

On 17 February The Courtauld Gallery in London will open Life, Legend, Landscape: Victorian Drawings and Watercolours. The exhibition will include major artists of the Victorian era, such as J.M.W. Turner, Edwin Landseer, Whistler, Aubrey Beardsley, Rossetti, Millais and Burne-Jones. Many of these works will be on show to the public for the first time. Considering they are all drawn from The Courtauld's own collection, the admission prices of £7.00 for adults, £5.50 for silver surfers (with £1 online booking fee) seem rather steep. The exhibition runs until 15 May. The painting shown is The Parting of Ulysses (c.1862) by John Everett Millais.

Oscar Animations

The nominations for this year's Oscars have been announced.
Best Animation:
How to Train Your Dragon
The Illusionist
Toy Story 3
Best Animated Short:
Day & Night
The Gruffalo
Let's Pollute
The Lost Thing
Madagascar, Carnet de Voyage.
What surprised me was to find BBC TV's The Gruffalo (2009) included in the short list. I saw this film the Christmas before last. It is excellent, very amusing and beautifully made, but 2009? I haven't seen the other nominees, but I shall be rooting for this enchanting animation. Click the title link for the full list.

Tuesday, 25 January 2011

ACE To Sell?

Arts Council England has been buying up bad British art, such as Francis Bacon's Head VI (1949), since it was founded in 1946. It has wasted vast sums of taxpayers' money buying thousands of ghastly pieces of modern and contemporary art, about a third of which it lends out to galleries in a given year. Thanks to Government's major cut in ACE's funding, ACE is now considering selling some of its tripe to buy new works and continue to subsidise third-rate British artists. Bacon's rubbish should fetch a good price.

Vroom Vroom

The latest addition to Westminster's City of Sculpture Festival is Lorenzo Quinn's Vroom Vroom, a genuine Fiat Cinquecento - Quinn's first car - held by a gigantic child's hand to remind us all of the fun we old boys had playing with toy cars. It's been placed slap in the middle of Park Lane, on the central grass strip, in front of The Dorchester, regardless of whether it distracts passing drivers and causes them to have accidents. Mm....

Monday, 24 January 2011

Manga Dreams

When the photographic team of Jonathan Anderson and Edwin Low - known as Anderson & Low - visited Japan in 2004, they were struck by how the Manga art style was dominating youth culture, with many young people trying to emulate their Manga heroes and heroines in dress and look. They decided to capture these youthful aspirations in photos combined with digital technology. The result is Manga Dreams. This eye-catching exhibition opens at Hamiltons Gallery in Mayfair, London, on 27 January and continues until 5 March. The gallery, like so many, has a really irritating clever-dick website: CLICK. The title link takes you to a BBC slide show of images from the exhibition. The Telegraph has also posted a slide show: CLICK. The book is to be published in February.

Sunday, 23 January 2011

Pietre Dure

Today I came across a magnificent example of pietre dure (Italian for "hard stone"). The term refers to the artistic cutting of semiprecious stones, such as agate and lapis lazuli, to create ornate luxury objects. The image above is a detail from Console Tabletop with Allegory of Air designed by Giuseppe Zocchi for the Galleria dei Lavori in Florence (1766). The entire picture is made from pietre dure in an alabaster ground. The frame is gilded bronze. Click the title link to see the full picture. Its artistry is brilliant, but also it appears to be accurate in its depiction of moths, butterflies and plants. In this corner I can see a red-and-black cinnabar moth, its orange-and-black striped caterpillar and the plant the caterpillar feeds on: ragwort. Both the plant and the caterpillar are poisonous. So this tabletop is more than a beautiful object; it's an educational tool and an historic record of European moths and butterflies in 1766. What a treasure! It belongs to the Musée du Louvre, Paris.

I Goat Update

The Spitalfields website has been updated since yesterday's post and my question has been answered. Kenny Hunter’s finished sculpture I Goat was officially unveiled on 20 January. Here's the proof, with Kenny leaning against his work and a curious pigeon wandering past in the foreground, probably sizing up I Goat for a perch, maybe even a nesting site under the udders. Spitalfields kindly sent me a link to a sequence of photos showing the erection of I Goat ahead of the official unveiling: CLICK.

Saturday, 22 January 2011

I Goat Unveiled?

Under the heading "I Goat Unveiled in Spitalfields", the Spitalfields' website states "The winning design of the inaugural Spitalfields Sculpture Prize will be unveiled in London’s Spitalfields shortly" (title link). Which is it? Has Kenny Hunter’s 3.5 metre high I Goat, which won the £45,000 commission, been unveiled or not? A photo suggests it has, but we all know how images can be manipulated using computers. So here's the winning model of I Goat, which I first posted nearly a year ago (CLICK). Has anyone seen the finished work?

QMA Deceit

It turns out that Sandy Nairne's effusive thanks to the Qatar Museums Authority (QMA) for the five-year loan of William Hoare's painting of Ayuba Suleiman Diallo (1733) to the National Portrait Gallery was misplaced. The work may have been borrowed for five years, but it has been lost to the nation forever. QMA had no intention of selling the painting, but kept quiet while NPG wasted time on a pointless fundraising campaign. That was deceitful. Only when the money was collected did QMA reveal the truth: no sale. And there appears to be nothing we can do about it. The export ban cannot be made permanent. The owner cannot be forced to sell. So an historically important British work of art is lost. The BBC's new Arts Editor Will Gompertz reveals the truth in a short video (title link). Although he is completely insensitive to the visual arts - he asserts that Sir Anthony Caro's scarlet mess Early One Morning (1962) is "one of my favourite artworks in the entire world" (CLICK if you don't believe me) -, he is good at interviewing people, especially doolally folk who claim to be artists.

William Morris Closure

The William Morris Gallery in Lloyd Park, Walthamstow, London, will close for at least a year for redevelopment on 3 April. Its final exhibition before the closure focuses on the gallery's latest acquisition: a hand-knotted Peacock and Bird Carpet donated by the Monument Trust. The exhibition opens today and runs until 31 March, admission free (title link). If you would like to take a last look round the gallery before redevelopment, the Friends of The William Morris Gallery will be showing small groups of 6-8 people around the entire building from basement to attic on 2 April; ticket prices are £3.00 / £4.50. For tickets visit them on Facebook (CLICK) or telephone 020 8496 4390.

Friday, 21 January 2011

Images of Nature 2

Earlier this month I previewed Images of Nature, a new art gallery at the Natural History Museum, London (CLICK). It opened today, and BBC News has posted an audio slideshow by Paul Kerley to show some of the beautiful exhibits. Peronel Craddock and Judith Magee from the museum talk us through the highlights and evince more art knowledge than the vast majority of pundits. Well worth 5 minutes of your time. This painting of a Blue-and-yellow Macaw, Ara ararauna, is from the John Reeves collection. Those of you who followed the saga of the northern bottlenose whale which swam up the River Thames in 2006 (CLICK) might like to know that the whale's 6-metre-long skeleton goes on display tomorrow at the Tring branch of the NHM (CLICK). Admission to both exhibitions is free.

Kill Shakespeare

Meet Lady Macbeth as drawn by Andy B. and coloured by Ian Herring. Love the cleavage, lads; fit for a Hollywood movie star. The villainous lady is one of the characters in a graphic novel which pits Shakespeare's greatest heroes and heroines against his deadliest villains, irrespective of the plays they come from. It's called Kill Shakespeare. Canadian writers Anthony Del Col and Conor McCreery conceived the idea of treating these characters like superheroes and super villains and setting them to fight one another. Shame they couldn't use the title Kill Bill. They hope to make a film out of it. BBC News has posted some pictures from the graphic novel (CLICK). The title link takes you to the Kill Shakespeare website.

Thursday, 20 January 2011

Eric Ravilious

With help from The Art Fund, the Fry Art Gallery in Saffron Walden, Essex, has recently acquired this atmospheric watercolour Caravans by Eric Ravilious (circa 1930's). These two caravans were home and studio to the artist and his wife during the 1930's, so this is an historically significant addition to the gallery's collection. It will go on public show for the first time in the exhibition Ravilious in Essex, which will open on 24 April and run until 14 August. The Mainstone Press will launch its book of the same name to coincide with the opening. Click the title link for more information.

RA Submissions

The Royal Academy of Arts is open for submissions to its annual Summer Exhibition. Any artist may submit paintings, film, sculpture, photography, prints, architectural models, or artist's books by completing a form before 15 March. The limit is two works, and there is a handling charge of £25 per work. There is no theme this year. Click the title link to buy your entry form online. I've illustrated this post with an impressive museum piece from last year: David Mach's Silver Streak (2010). The exhibition will run from 7 June to 15 August.

Hoare's Muslim at NPG

Back in August 2010 I posted news of the National Portrait Gallery's appeal to raise £100,000 toward the £555,000 needed to save William Hoare's portrait of Ayuba Suleiman Diallo (1733) for the nation (CLICK). At that time I wasn't sure whether the book dangling from his neck was the Bible or the Koran. It turns out he was Muslim, and this is the main reason his portrait was bought by the Qatar Museums Authority (QMA). From today, the painting is back on display at the National Portrait Gallery, London, in Room 15 (CLICK). But the museum didn't buy it. A deal has been struck with QMA to borrow the painting for 5 years. Sandy Nairne, NPG Director, has promised to return donations if possible.

Wednesday, 19 January 2011

Bubble Ball Inspiration

I get really fed up wading through lousy "art" and pretentious blurbs praising such tripe as "groundbreaking" or whatever. Then along comes 14-year-old Robert Nay from Utah in the USA with his physics puzzle game Bubble Ball, an app which has been downloaded 2 million times and is now top of the iTunes worldwide free apps chart (title link). His success is inspirational. And that is what art is supposed to be: inspirational. Bernard Berenson defined art as giving you the strength to carry on. Thanks, Robert. I needed that.

Gabriel Orozco

Tate Passé opened its latest load of tosh today: a retrospective of inartistic nothings by Mexican Gabriel Orozco (title link). Even British model Lily Cole in plastic pantaloons (I think) can't make La DS - a chopped up Citroën DS with its mid third removed - look interesting, let alone artistic. And that's the best of it! Would you be stupid enough to pay £10.00 to see this? CLICK to view a Telegraph slide show instead. Save your money and your time.

Mother and Child

On Saturday 29 January the Mall Galleries in London will open Mother and Child: A Photographic Interpretation, which shows the 40 best photographs from a photo contest organised by Painted Children. This one - photographer unknown - is called Safe Shelter. The following day the Mall Galleries opens Please Don't Wake Up: A modern look into the world of contemporary art. The sample painting is so bad I won't sully my blog with it. Even its free admission couldn't persuade me to go. Both exhibitions run until 5 February.

Tuesday, 18 January 2011


BBC Newsbeat has posted a short video of Natalie Portman discussing the strenuous exercise regime and extreme diet she undertook to prepare for her role in Black Swan (title link). The video probably won't work outside the UK. Here's a graphic showing her as Mathilda in Luc Besson's Léon (1994) with inset the best of the video covers/posters for the movie. It shows the 12-year-old girl intent on revenge struggling to become a woman, teddy dangling from one hand and groceries held in the other. Her confused mentor - a professional hit man - holds a silenced pistol and a potted plant!

The Merz Barn

A team of Cumbrian farmers using dry stone wall techniques have build a replica of this "hovel" in the courtyard of the Royal Academy of Arts in London (title link). German Kurt Schwitters intended to convert his hovel - The Merz Barn in Elterwater, Cumbria - into a modernist grotto with zig-zag walls, an angled false ceiling and a slanted column. He finished one wall before dying. The finished wall ended up in the Hatton Gallery, Newcastle. So why bother to build a replica of his hovel at the RA? Answer: the Brit. Anti-art Establishment believes he made a significant contribution to Modern British Sculpture (CLICK). Sounds like he deserves censure, not a memorial. Given sumptuous planting, the Merz Barn might have been a gold-medal winner at the Chelsea Flower Show. As it is, forget it.

Monday, 17 January 2011

Natalie Portman

2011 promises to be a big year for Natalie Portman. She's just won a Golden Globe best actress award for her performance in Black Swan; she's dropped her bra to advertise Miss Dior perfume Chérie; and she's pregnant. For those of you still wondering who Miss Portman is, she shot to stardom at 12 years of age with a mesmerizing performance as Mathilda in Luc Besson's Léon (1994). Brilliant movie. In the two photos above, spot the difference between the work of a press photographer and a top glamour photographer. Now to the Best Animated Feature Film Award (my main interest in these jamborees). Aw, shucks! It's boring old Toy Story 3. You need to be a Yankee kid to enjoy that franchise. Click the title link for a Telegraph slide show of winners.

Hitler as Herod I

The younger generation likes to think that protest art is something new. It isn't. Take a closer look at this dramatic stained glass window in the St Jacques Church in Montgeron, south of Paris. Created by the Maumejean brothers during the Nazi occupation of France, it shows King Herod beheading St Jacques (St James). Herod's brow shows the distinctive forelock of Adolph Hitler. A crossbar of lead disguises the Fuhrer's silly little moustache. There is a confusion of Herods. The Bible seems to have combined at least three of them. One was eaten alive by worms and another killed St James. Two were called Herod the Great. It seems to be Herod I, King of Judea, who ordered the massacre of the innocents. As did Adolf Hitler.

Sunday, 16 January 2011

Susannah York RIP

We're only a fortnight into 2011 and already the news reads like an obituary column. Last night came the sad news that much loved British actress Susannah York died of cancer on Friday, aged 72. Her acting talent and distinctive beauty won her major starring roles in 1960's movies. That she held her own against mumbling Hollywood superstar Marlon Brando, when they played Superman's parents, says as much for her calibre as an actress as her list of awards and nominations. I've created a graphic of Susannah's images from Duffy (1968), A Man for All Seasons (1966) and Holby City 2003.

Saturday, 15 January 2011

Olympic Fourth Plinth

I've been mulling over what sculpture would be suitable for the Fourth Plinth in Trafalgar Square in the year of the Olympic Games. I've adapted a photo of a male athlete Von Hackendahl (1985) by Robert Mapplethorpe to try to make it look like a marble statue, not very successfully I must admit. But it shows the idea. The question is: How many of the Big Names in contemporary art would be capable of creating a statue of this quality?

Berlusconi Probe

Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi is in trouble again for having tried to have this 17-year-old Moroccan nightclub dancer Karima El Mahroug, who goes under the stage name Ruby, released from police custody. What gentleman could ignore the plight of such a nubile young beauty banged up in a police cell? But that's not how the Italian authorities view it. Accusations of underage sex have been hurled at the gallant Latin. BBC News has jumped on the bandwagon with a slide show of Berlusconi's women (CLICK). Kerima, who is now 18, has denied having sex with Berlusconi, but has admitted to being paid £5,900 (7,000 euro thingies, $9,400) to attend one of his parties. If only British politicians were as entertaining!

Friday, 14 January 2011

Fourth Plinth Two

The Fourth Plinth Commissioning Group has decided which two of the six shortlisted artworks will be elevated to the Fourth Plinth in Trafalgar Square. During the consultation period, over 17,000 members of the public commented on which artworks should be chosen for the 2012 and 2013 commissions. Next year will be Elmgreen and Dragset's bronze sculpture of a boy on a rocking horse - Powerless Structures, Fig. 101 - which was my favourite (CLICK). The following year will see Katharina Fritsch's big blue chicken take the stand: Hahn / Cock. Why blue? To appeal to Tory Mayor Bouncy Boris, I guess. What on Earth a big blue cock has to do with regeneration, awakening and strength is anybody's guess. It looks daft to me. I'm surprised none of the six artists thought of an athlete for 2012.

Ice Sculpture

Now that the weather has turned milder, the London Ice Sculpting Festival is here at Canary Wharf. It began yesterday with the Singles Competition themed on Pedal Power to please Mayor Bouncy Boris. BBC News has posted a video of sculptress Natalie Staniforth from the UK team explaining how she carves her 1m block of ice into a futuristic tricycle (CLICK). Today it's the turn of the two-person teams to create a sculpture on the theme Love London! Awards will be handed out on Saturday at 3pm. There is a Public Choice Award which visitors can vote for, also 20-minute masterclasses for anyone aged 12+ in Canada Square Park and Jubilee Place (children must be accompanied by an adult) and a life-carving demonstration in Canada Place. It's all free. Click the title link for more information.

Thursday, 13 January 2011

Italian Modernism

If you're into Italian Modernism, then an exhibition which opened yesterday at the Estorick Collection in north London is the one for you: From Morandi to Guttuso: Masterpieces from the Alberto Della Ragione Collection. Alberto was a major collector of this work. In 1970 he donated his collection to the city of Florence following the devastating floods four years earlier. It was last exhibited in 2006 in the city's Forte di Belvedere. The exhibition at the Estorick Collection continues until 3 April (title link). The example shown is Giorgio de Chirico's Les bains mystérieux (c. 1934-36).

G & G Postcards

Postcard collectors take note: tomorrow the White Cube gallery in Mason's Yard, London, will open The Urethra Postcard Art of Gilbert & George (title link). BBC ToDAY has posted a slide show of some images from the 2-volume set The Complete Postcard Art of Gilbert and George published by Prestel to accompany the exhibition (CLICK). The show features 564 new works and continues until 19 February.

Folkestone Mermaid

Meet Georgina Baker, who has been selected as the model for Cornelia Parker's recreation of Copenhagen’s famous The Little Mermaid statue sculpted by Edvard Eriksen. Georgina is 38 years old and a mother of two. She's in good shape, as you can see, and her selection proves there's no ageism in Folkestone; but is the world ready for a Matronly Mermaid? And is a former Turner Prize nominee the right artist for the job? It's going to cost £25,000 to find out. This isn't the worst of it! At a time when Local Government Minister Bob Neill is telling local councils that the age of vanity makeovers is over (CLICK) Shepway District Council has commissioned 19 international artists to create "a cutting-edge contemporary art exhibition in the public domain" for the Folkestone Triennial 2011, which will take place from 25 June to 25 September (title link). Will it bring in the punters? It has certainly drawn the attention of BBC News (CLICK, CLICK) and of ArtDaily (CLICK).
Correction: the artists were commissioned by The Creative Foundation, not by Shepway District Council.

Wednesday, 12 January 2011

Ark Hotel

They could do with some of these in Queensland, Australia. This is an artist's impression of the Ark Hotel, a biosphere designed by Russian firm Remistudio with support from the International Union of Architects' programme Architecture For Disaster Relief. The Ark's shell-like construction of arches and cables would distribute its weight evenly, so it could also withstand earthquakes. Solar panels and a rainwater collection system would provide its inhabitants with power and water. All they'd need is Tesco home delivery for their Wheatabix. Science-fiction? Not if we continue to suffer natural disasters on the current scale. Cheap enough for the populace? No way. This is for social elites. The rest of us can sink or swim. Click the title link for details.

BP Call For Entries

The National Portrait Gallery in London is calling for entries into the BP Portrait Award 2011. You must submit your entry by Thursday 10 February. First prize is £25,000, second prize £8,000, third prize: £6,000. There is also the BP Travel Award 2011 of £5,000 and BP Young Artist Award: £5,000. The competition promotes the best in contemporary portrait painting and is open to everyone over 18 years old. Click the title link to find out how to enter. This portrai is Geneva by Ilaria Rosselli Del Turco (2009).

Thunderbirds Are Go

Those of you who queued in your local post office yesterday to buy a miniature sheet of the new Gerry Anderson stamps will have noticed that the vehicles depicted are capable of lift-off! In FAB: The Genius of Gerry Anderson, Royal Mail has used a process called "microlenticular" printing to create motion stamps for the first time (miniature sheet and presentation pack only). These motion stamps recreate the famous 5, 4, 3, 2, 1 title sequence of Thunderbirds. News for fans: Gerry Anderson is to produce a new series, 50 years after the original was launched.

Tuesday, 11 January 2011

Esperitu Santo

Here's the latest scratchboard from US artist Michael Halbert. His brief was to create a cloven-hoofed Devil recoiling in fear from the Holy Spirit, an illustration to grace the label of a new wine produced by Chateau de Calvieres in the Camargue region of southern France. The wine is called Esperitu Santo (Holy Spirit). I'm sure you'll agree that Michael has succeeded brilliantly. His scratchboard appears as a steel-plate engraving, which implies chateau status in France (CLICK for detail). Note the vine leaf which hides the Devil's loins instead of the usual precarious fig leaf. The title link takes you to Michael's website for a stage-by-stage account of this project, complete with a 10-minute YouTube video of the work speeded up and narrated by Michael with tips on how he achieves his effects. It's a must for anyone seriously considering a career in commercial art.

Monday, 10 January 2011

Bon Voyage, Adam

Will it fit into the boot of my car? wonders Anna Robinson, Head of House and Collections at Harewood House in Yorkshire. At least that's what she appears to be wondering while posing on that ladder. She's probably thinking What a great photo shoot for my CV. Sir Jacob Epstein's Adam (1939) is booked to appear at the Royal Academy of Arts' exhibition Modern British Sculpture on 22 January. Lord Harewood bought this rude monster in 1961. Carved from a single block of Derbyshire alabaster, it stands 7ft tall and weighs 2 tonnes. To move it for its journey to London requires an A-frame, winch and trackway, scaffolding to support the steps and undercroft of Harewood House and a hiab (a lorry with a crane attached) to lift Adam on to the lorry that will transport him. The expense! Why bother?

Lenox China

Imagine eating your roast chicken, Yorkshire pud and two veg off this beautiful young face and bosom. Yes, it's a dinner plate par excellence. The portrait is by Austrian artist Bruno Geyer, who painted it for the Ceramic Art Company in Trenton, New Jersey, USA, around 1905-1906. The plate is bone china with enamel decoration and gold pastework in a design known as Carnations. Click the title link to see two more of Geyer's paintings for what is now known as Lenox China (CLICK) plus three orchid plates by British artist William Morley.