Saturday, 28 February 2015

Art Nouveau

I've already reviewed one exhibition at The Fine Art Society this week: The New Sculpture (CLICK). Here's another exhibition that makes the Society doubly worth visiting: Art Nouveau, Continental Design & Sculpture from The John Scott Collection (CLICK). Shown are Two Bronze Zodiac Signs by Walter Gilbert and his assistant Louis Weingartner, Birmingham Guild Ltd, created for lifts at Selfridges department store. Those were the days when you got art with your technology. Both exhibitions run until 19 March.

Strawberry Hill

The Strawberry Hill Trust has completed the second stage of its restoration of Horace Walpole’s Gothic villa Strawberry Hill in Twickenham, west London. Tomorrow it reopens with Horace Walpole’s private rooms on display for the first time since the 18th century. Shown is Johann Heinrich Müntz's painting of Strawberry Hill in its heyday (post 1792). Tickets cost £10.80. CLICK for more information.

Banksy In Gaza

Banksy has released an ironically entitled video: Make this the year YOU discover a new destination. He has been painting murals among the ruins of the Gaza Strip town of Beit Hanun, destroyed by Israel during last year's war against Hamas. The silly buggers are already building new tunnels through which to attack Israel! Shown is a boy beside Banksy's mural Children using an Israeli army watch tower as a swing ride. You need to expand the Banksy film to full screen to read its subtitles, ESC to return (CLICK).

Friday, 27 February 2015

Leonard Nimoy RIP

Leonard Nimoy, who played Mr Spock in Gene Roddenberry's science fiction series Star Trek, has died at the age of 83 in Los Angeles. His son Adam said Leonard died of end-stage chronic obstructive pulmonary disease on Friday morning. It seems to me as though an entire era has passed away. I was hooked on the adventures of the Starship Enterprise right from the start. Leonard as half-human, half-Vulcan unflappable science officer Mr Spock was the perfect foil for William Shatner's Captain Kirk (CLICK).

IS Destruction

Here's the latest video from so-called Islamic State. Don't worry. There's no blood. It shows IS thugs destroying ancient artifacts and "idols" in Mosul Museum, Iraq. UNESCO is calling for an emergency meeting of the UN Security Council. Bit late for that.

Jihadi Brides

A week ago we had all the kerfuffle over three London schoolgirls doing a well-planned runner to become jihadi brides: Kadiza Sultana, Amira Abase and Shamima Begum. British police were sent after them, but could do no more than confirm that the three fugitives had crossed the border into Syria. Distraught families pleaded for their babies to return home (CLICK). Babies? They're not even little girls. They are nubile young women who could be in their early twenties. They want a jihadi brute between the thighs. They lied to their parents and wasted police time. If they try to return to the UK, they should be blocked, like men.

Jihadi John

British newspapers are full of the "unmasking" of brutal Muslim murderer "Jihadi John", who has been identified as Mohammed Emwazi from west London. At least two papers have posted a photo of him as an "angelic" schoolboy (CLICK). In Bangladesh, as though to prove that London doesn't have a monopoly on mad Muslim murderers, US-Bangladeshi atheist blogger Avijit Roy was hacked to death by a mob in Dhaka. Two of the mob used meat cleavers to attack Roy and his wife. She was injured in the attack (CLICK).

Thursday, 26 February 2015

Samba School

This Dancer of the Salgueiro Samba School doesn't leave much to the imagination. The Salgueiro Samba School float, took part in last Saturday's Champions' Parade at the Sambadrome in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Despite her attire - or lack of it - the school only attained 2nd place.

Shadow Dancers

I'm always on the lookout for a powerful artistic image. Here's one I spotted today. At first glance it looks like a giant spider, but then you see it has hands instead of feet. It is in fact a photo of Sri Lankan shadow dancers performing in Colombo on 24 February.

The New Sculpture

To coincide with yesterday's opening of Tate Britain's Sculpture Victorious (CLICK) The Fine Art Society in London opened Frederic Leighton, Alfred Gilbert & The New Sculpture. This is a selling exhibition of iconic pieces, including a full-size cast of George Frampton's Peter Pan as well as an eight-foot aluminium cast of Alfred Gilbert's Eros. Shown is the bronze statuette Comedy and Tragedy (1891-2) by Sir Alfred Gilbert MVO RA. The exhibition runs until 19 March and is well worth a visit (CLICK).

Wednesday, 25 February 2015

RCA Secret 2015

The annual Stewarts Law RCA Secret exhibition of postcards runs from 12 to 20 March at the Dyson Building, Royal College of Art, Battersea, admission free. The sale of postcards takes place on Saturday 21 March. People queue for hours for this popular event. There is a £1 raffle for the first 50 places in the queue. Once a postcard is bought, you turn it over to see if it was signed by a Big Name (CLICK).

The Red Arrows

The Red Arrows celebrated their 50th year in 2014 with a Union Jack on the tail fins of their jets, instead of the traditional three stripes. From this year on they are using a refined version of the Union Jack design. The new design was unveiled today (CLICK).

Tuesday, 24 February 2015

Sony Shortlist

Sony has released its shortlist for the Sony World Photography Awards 2015 (CLICK for the BBC's selection). I can't say I'm impressed. The IGPOTY Awards were far more spectacular (CLICK). Shown is one of the more interesting Sony photos: Jonathan Yeap Chin Tiong's Synchronised Swimming in the Professional Sports Category. But why black and white? Colour would have enhanced this photo. The exhibition will be on display at Somerset House in London from 24 April to 10 May (CLICK for more information).

Monday, 23 February 2015

Horse and St Paul's

If you thought you saw a Horse standing outside St Paul's Cathedral in central London three days ago, your eyes weren't deceiving you. The occasion was a memorial service for Louise Wilson, the former director of the fashion course at London's Central Saint Martins college. The model wears an elegant riding costume complete with black veil, designed by Sarah Burton for Alexander McQueen.

Sunday, 22 February 2015

Casual Vacancy

BBC One is cock-a-hoop that its TV adaptation of JK Rowling's The Casual Vacancy scored an average of 6.6 million viewers and swept aside Channel 4's Indian Summers (2.5 million) and ITV's Mr Selfridge (3.2 million) (CLICK). I wonder how many viewers will stay the course of JK's tedious hokum The Casual Vacancy, a mess of boring characters. The only one worth watching was Krystal Weedon, played by TV newcomer Abigail Lawrie, and that's because she had very short shorts and legs that go up to her chin (CLICK).

China Day

The Chinese Lunar Year of the Sheep was welcomed in London today by more than 1,000 performers and volunteers. The parade of floats and performers began in Trafalgar Square, went down Shaftesbury Avenue, Charing Cross Road and Leicester Square to end up in Chinatown (CLICK). These Fishes seem the appropriate symbol for the day. It's been pouring with rain all afternoon where I am in London.

Leonardo Beauty

How does Leonardo da Vinci's Study for the Angel in the "Virgin of the Rocks" (detail) grab you?. The Muscarelle Museum of Art in The College of William & Mary, Williamsburg, Virginia, has borrowed 25+ drawings by Leonardo da Vinci and Michelangelo from Italian museums in what it claims is the first ever exhibition to contrast Leonardo’s idea of beauty with that of Michelangelo's (CLICK).

Saturday, 21 February 2015

BBC Painting

Tomorrow sees the start of BBC One's The Big Painting Challenge, hosted by Richard Bacon and ex-Dougie Squires dancer Una Stubbs, last seen as Sherlock's landlady. The aim is to find Britain's best amateur artist. Episode 1/6 is Landscapes at 6pm. The 10 competitors are taken to Alnwick Castle, Northumberland, better known to Harry Potter fans as Hogwarts, where they are set various challenges and one will be eliminated (CLICK). It promises to be tripe, but worth a look. I'm curious to know how it starts with only 10 competitors. There is also The Little Painting Challenge (post card size). If you wish to enter, look for a pre-printed card at your local library.

Spy Booth OK

Cheltenham Borough Council voted by 12 votes to one to grant retrospective planning permission to Banksy's Spy Booth mural, which appeared on a Grade II listed property last year (CLICK). Naughty Banksy! Campaigns broke out when an attempt was made to buy the mural and cut it from the wall for sale at auction. Retired chartered surveyor Phil Jones's warning notice proved crucial (CLICK). The Council issued a stop notice.

Friday, 20 February 2015

Look Again

The next art show at the Mall Galleries in central London is Look Again, the annual exhibition of the Pastel Society. All the works are created using a diverse range of dry media. Shown is Abike Looi-Samoye - First Study by Susan Relph PS. This year artists under the age of 35 will be competing for a new prize: the Zsuzsi Roboz Award worth £5,000. The exhibition runs from 24 February to 7 March in the Main Gallery and North Gallery. Admission costs £3 for adults and £2.50 for silver surfers. CLICK to learn more.


BAFTA has announced the nominations for its Games Awards 2015. Alien: Isolation (shown) leads with six nominations, closely followed by Far Cry 4 and Monument Valley with five nominations each. The winners will be announced on 12 March at Tobacco Dock, London (CLICK).

Vauxhall Thingy

Yesterday morning, bright and early before the rain set in for the day, young British artist Alex Chinneck unveiled his installation thingy for Vauxhall Motors entitled Pick yourself up and pull yourself together (2015). It's an upside-down new Vauxhall Corsa suspended from 15 metres of arching tarmac peeled back from Hungerford Car Park, Southbank Centre. It will hang there until 25 February (CLICK). I must admit it's eye-catching, but is it really art? Alex belongs to the Royal British Society of Sculptors. So I suppose that makes it official. It is indeed art, simply not my kind of art. Call me old-fashioned if you like.

Thursday, 19 February 2015


I've bemoaned the fact that we don't have a major body painting event in England. Well, I've just discovered the Paintopia Face and Body Painting Festival in Norwich, an annual event that attracts top body artists from around the world. This year it will be held at Sprowston Manor in Norwich from 8 to 10 May, theme The Art of Music! Shown is a Paintopia Face (CLICK). Love the contact lenses.

South African Art

Here's the most interesting painting I've seen today: Jacob Hendrik Pierneef's The bush camp of Anton van Wouw, Rooiplaat (1918). This oil painting on canvas is up for grabs in Bonhams London sale of South African Art on 18 March, estimated at £120,000 - £180,000 (CLICK).

Happy Sheep Year

Happy Chinese New Year

As it's the Year of the Sheep and also Shaun The Sheep's big movie break, I thought I'd dispense with the usual dragons and celebrate with Aardman Animations' Shaun the Sheep and the Flock Dance (2008).

Wednesday, 18 February 2015

Another NG Strike

If you were thinking of visiting the National Gallery in London, be warned that members of the Public and Commercial Services Union (PCS) will be on strike from 24 February for five days. This will be the second five-day strike this month. The Gallery's intransigence hasn't helped the situation. It suspended union rep Candy Udwin, who was in talks at the conciliation service ACAS, on the eve of the last strike. Privatisation, paying the London living wage and sacking 400 staff are key issues. I can't help wondering what the private company has promised gallery director Nicholas Penny to make its deal seem viable (CLICK).

Bethlem Museum

A new museum and art gallery opens in south London tomorrow at a cost of £4 million. The Bethlem Museum of the Mind in Bethlem Royal Hospital, Monks Orchard Road, aims to record the lives and experience of people with mental health problems and celebrate their achievements (CLICK). The statues flanking the entrance staircase are from the old Bedlam building. the oldest psychiatric institution in the world, treating patients for nearly eight centuries. CLICK for a BBC video previewing the new museum and art gallery.


This year's International Garden Photographer of the Year (IGPOTY) competition attracted about 18,000 entries from all over the world. How anyone can choose winners in various categories, let alone an overall winner, is beyond me. There are so many stunning entries vying for attention. Mark Gray's Mystic Forest, showing a rocky stream shimmering between distinctive trees, is one that caught my imagination. The exhibition is at Kew Gardens in the Nash Conservatory until 6 April (CLICK). Admission is included in the price of a day ticket at £15 (£1 off for silver surfers!). CLICK for a BBC video with reasons given for the top choices.

Tuesday, 17 February 2015

Sheep Coin

The Royal Mint has issued this photo to advertise its new commemorative coin celebrating the Chinese Lunar Year of The Sheep 2015 as part of its Shēngxiào series. The designer of the two rams heads on the reverse is Wuon-Gean Ho, an artist of Chinese descent, born in the UK. The little model is Lillian Sun, aged six, from Mengis Dance School in Battersea, south London. Prices start at £82.50 (CLICK).

LPS Prize Winner

The Worshipful Company of Painter-Stainers and the Lynn Foundation have announced that the winner of the Lynn Painter-Stainers Prize 2015, worth £15,000, is Wladyslaw Mirecki with his meticulous watercolour Viaduct And Tank Traps. The exhibition opened yesterday at the Mall Galleries in central London (Main Gallery) with over 80 works on display. In the North Gallery you'll find the annual exhibition of The Wapping Group of Artists, who paint en plein air to record the life of London and the Thames. Over 100 works in various media are on show. Both exhibitions run until 21 February, admission free. All works are representational and for sale. CLICK for Mall Galleries. CLICK for Painter-Stainers. CLICK for The Wapping Group.

Monday, 16 February 2015

Day and Night

I don't often feature glass on my blog, but the artwork of this pendulette (small clock) is outstanding. It's by René Lalique, entitled Le Jour et la Nuit (Day and Night). It stands 15 inches high and dates from around 1926. Only a few were made in blue glass. So this is extremely rare. It's on show at A.B. Levy's in Palm Beach, Florida. You can bid for it at (CLICK).

Sunday, 15 February 2015

Berlin Bears

Dissident Iranian film director Jafar Panahi has won the Golden Bear top prize at the Berlin Film Festival with his covertly filmed Taxi (2015). Iranian authorities have banned him from making movies and from travelling abroad. So his award was accepted by his young niece Hana Saeidi. Silver Bears for acting went to co-stars in British film 45 Years (2015) Charlotte Rampling and Sir Tom Courtenay (CLICK).

Saturday, 14 February 2015

Holiday Knights

I can't recall another period when there were so many Half Term Holiday events on offer. Sign of the times, I guess. If you can't find an event in London near you, you're really not trying. These Three Boys have been making their own colourful helmets at Windsor Castle. During the holiday week from 14 to 22 February there will be Bring on the Battle! with medieval history interpreters discussing armour and weaponry from the time of Magna Carta. Entry is included in the standard admission price (CLICK).

Puppy Love

What better news story could there be for Valentine's Day than that Norman Rockwell's original painting for the beloved Puppy Love - also called Boy and Girl Gazing at Moon - has been donated to the Norman Rockwell Museum in Stockbridge, Massachusetts. The painting was created for the cover of the 24 April 1926 issue of The Saturday Evening Post. The donor is Bill Millis and family. On a tip from Rockwell, to whom he had written, Bill travelled to the Bernard Dannenberg Galleries in New York City in 1975 and was captivated by Puppy Love. It has hung in his home for the last 40 years. A generous donation (CLICK).

Sculpture Victorious

Sculpture appears to be the in-thing in London at present. On 25 February Tate Britain opens Sculpture Victorious, an exhibition which explores the flowering of sculpture during the Victorian era, with new materials and techniques. Shown is Harry Bates' beautiful Pandora (1891). Admission costs £10.90 adult or £9.50 silver surfer (without those pesky donations). The exhibition runs until 25 May (CLICK).

Friday, 13 February 2015

Picasso Trial

Here's a cosy picture: Pierre Le Guennec and his wife Danielle holding hands in court in Grasse, France. The former handyman and electrician to Picasso claims a box containing 271 unsigned lithographs, portraits and sketches was given to him by Picasso and his second wife Jacqueline in the 1970s. Le Guennec kept the box in his garage for nearly 40 years; then in 2010 he took the contents to Paris for authentication by the Picasso Administration. Bad move! He and his wife are accused of receiving stolen goods (CLICK).

Sandycombe Lodge

This attractive engraving by W.B. Cooke shows Sandycombe Lodge in Twickenham shortly after it was built in 1813. The Lodge is the only architectural work designed by famous artist JMW Turner. He used it as his country retreat until 1826. Twickenham has since been swallowed up by the sprawl of Greater London and in recent years the Lodge had fallen into disrepair. In 2013 it was added to the Heritage at Risk Register of English Heritage. Now a grant of £1.4 million from the Heritage Lottery Fund will allow essential restoration work to begin. The Turner House Trust hopes to reopen the Lodge to the public in 2016 (CLICK).

Thursday, 12 February 2015

Sargent Friends

Back in January I previewed the National Portrait Gallery's major exhibition Sargent Portraits of Artists and Friends (CLICK). The exhibition opened today. Shown is another of the over 70 portraits on display: Édouard and Marie-Louise Pailleron (1881) borrowed from the Des Moines Art Center in Iowa, USA. If you lash out on only one exhibition in 2015, this should be the one (CLICK).

Taylor Swift Waxed

Madame Tussauds in London is another institution offering something special for the half term holiday. From 14 to 22 February it will be previewing its new waxwork of Grammy and BRIT Award nominated singer Taylor Swift before she takes up residence at Madame Tussauds Orlando. This, I understand, will be a weeny bopper's delight. If you need to ask how much it costs, you can't afford it (CLICK).

Angora Bunnies

You don't often see glamorous bunnies in their underwear walking London streets. This photo was taken during London Fashion Week last year. The PETA bunnies were protesting against the maltreatment, even torture, of rabbits in Chinese angora farms. No Bunny Should Suffer For Fashion (2014) proclaimed their signs. Their protest was backed up by shocking photos taken in secret at ten of these Chinese farms. The protest worked. Zara has stopped using angora wool in its products and Spanish parent company Inditex will withdraw £600 million worth of clothes using angora wool from its stores around the world and donate them to Syrian refugees (CLICK).

Wednesday, 11 February 2015

Silver Hoard

The British Museum has put on display a selection of silver coins from the Anglo-Saxon Coin Hoard found in Lenborough, Buckinghamshire, last year. They include two cut half pennies of kings Æthelred and Cnut. You'll find them in Room 68, the Citi Money Gallery. Entry is free (CLICK).

Leonardo Seized

Swiss authorities have seized this painting Ritratto di Isabella d'Este, allegedly by Leonardo da Vinci, from a private bank vault prior to its sale for $135 million. It will be sent to Italy, where police will seek to establish its ownership and determine whether it was removed from Italy without authorisation. Art historians will get the chance to put it under the microscope to find out if it is the real deal or not (CLICK). I must say the woman's hand doesn't look like the work of a master who had studied anatomy.

Tuesday, 10 February 2015

Stephen McKenna

I trawl through a lot of modern-art tripe while researching my blog. Today I found nails in blocks of wood and pipe-cleaner men in black iron. Here is the one really great oil painting I spotted today: Stephen McKenna's Custom House Lisbon (2008). Sadly his exhibition is north of Watford Gap, the wilds of North Yorkshire in fact. Middlesbrough Institute of Modern Art (MIMA) is showing Stephen McKenna: Perspectives of Europe 1980 – 2014, his largest solo exhibition in over a decade. Oil paintings, watercolours and drawings of his travels around Europe from 1980 to the present day are all included. CLICK to see more at MIMA.

Monday, 9 February 2015

Defining Beauty

On 26 March The British Museum in London opens Defining Beauty: the body in ancient Greek art in the Sainsbury Exhibitions Gallery. Over 120 objects will be featured, from white marble statues to ancient vases, all focusing on the human body. Shown is the world-famous Discobolus (Discus Thrower) a Roman copy of a bronze original of the 5th century BC, probably by Myron of Eleutherae. It shows the sophistication of ancient Greek art. Admission is astronomical; £16.50 adult and nothing off for silver surfers (CLICK).

Sunday, 8 February 2015

Wolsey Angels 2

In July of last year I posted news of the V&A Museum's appeal to raise £5 million to buy four bronze angels created by Florentine artist Benedetto da Rovezzano for the tomb of Cardinal Thomas Wolsey (CLICK). The tomb was never completed and the four angels were sold during the English Civil War. The good news is that the V&A has raised the readies to buy the Wolsey Angels (CLICK).

Obama in 3-D

Recognize him? It's a 3-D printed bust of US President Barack Obama. Last year he became the first US president to be scanned using 3-D technology as part of his drive to promote hi-tech innovations. The bust goes on display at the Smithsonian’s National Portrait Gallery in Washington DC for Presidents Day weekend from 13 to 16 February. CLICK for a larger graphic.

Saturday, 7 February 2015

Sheep Year

This year the Chinese New Year falls on 19 February, which coincides with the school half term holiday from Monday 16 to Friday 20 February. Check out your local art gallery or museum to see what free, drop-in workshops are on offer for cherubs. The Horniman Museum & Gardens and the National Portrait Gallery are both offering arty workshops. The Chinese New Year is the Year of the Sheep (or Goat). So you have no excuse not to take the cherubs to see Aardman Animations Shaun The Sheep The Movie (2015) released in the UK yesterday. This is Shaun's first big movie (CLICK). On Sunday 22 the traditional Chinese Parade takes place, the biggest parade outside China, organised by the London Chinatown Chinese Association (CLICK).

$300m Gauguin

Paul Gauguin's Nafea Faa Ipoipo or When Will You Marry? (1892) has become the most expensive painting ever sold, at nearly $300 million (£197m). Details are vague. It was sold by a Swiss collector, broker unknown, to an anonymous buyer. The rumour is that it was sold to a museum in Qatar. Only the Qatari royal family is rich enough and daft enough to waste money on inferior works of art (CLICK).

Friday, 6 February 2015

Katy Perry Sharks

Katy Perry's Super Bowl extravaganza, which pulled in a record TV audience of 114.4 million viewers for NBC last Sunday, included Katy Perry with two sharks. The left shark got his tail in a twist and did some steps that were rather ... er ... fishy. He's become an Internet hit. Quick as a flash, Fernando Sosa posted a design for a 3-D printout of the left shark at $24.99 (£16) a throw. That's when Katy Perry's lawyers stepped in and told Sosa he was infringing their client's exclusive rights to the shark (CLICK).


Did you know that Emoticons in text messages can be charged at the rate of picture messages (MMS: multi-media service) and rack up surprisingly large bills? has received numerous complaints about this and has posted advice on the problem: CLICK.

Thursday, 5 February 2015


This year The Courtauld Gallery inaugurated its new Gilbert and Ildiko Butler Drawings Gallery, The Courtauld's first dedicated space for the display of drawings. Boasting some 7,000 works and featuring artists such as Dürer, Michelangelo and Rembrandt, The Courtauld’s collection of drawings is one of the most important in the UK. Unseen focuses on works which have not been exhibited at The Courtauld in the last 20 years. Admission is included in tickets for The Gallery's permanent collection (CLICK).