Sunday, 31 May 2015

Black Vermeer

Here's the most unusual image I've come across today: an unknown artist's modern version of Johannes Vermeer's Girl with a Pearl Earring (ca 1665) as a black girl. It's part of ReSignifications: Imagining the Black Body and Re-Staging Histories, a multi-media art exhibition at the Villa La Pietra and The Bardini Museum in Florence, Italy. CLICK to see some male nudes and read the highfalutin waffle. I'm afraid this new version doesn't do it for me. Vermeer's girl has a haunting fragility that somehow captures human mortality. CLICK to view the original masterpiece. The black girl is pretty enough, but that's all: a pretty girl with an over sized heart-shaped earring that merely gets in the way. The pose is all that remains of the original.

Freud's Eggs

The late Dowager Duchess of Devonshire, the youngest of the six Mitford sisters, had an enduring friendship with artist Lucian Freud. She kept chickens and used to take him some eggs when she visited him. So in 2002 he painted Four Eggs on a Plate as a gift for her. The painting comes up for grabs in Sotheby’s Contemporary Art Evening Auction in London on 1 July, estimated at £100,000 to £150,000 (CLICK),

Saturday, 30 May 2015

Lines of Beauty

I mentioned the Foundling Hospital for abandoned children when proposing that William Hogarth would be the perfect artist for the new £20 banknote (CLICK). On 4 June the Foundling Museum opens Lines of Beauty, an exhibition of decorative plasterwork. Shown is the Foundling Hospital Court Room Ceiling. I must admit I'm not into Rococo plasterwork, but the museum is well worth visiting (CLICK).

Friday, 29 May 2015

The Alice Look

The V&A Museum of Childhood in Bethnal Green is celebrating the 150th anniversary of Alice's Adventures in Wonderland with The Alice Look, a display that charts the way Lewis Carroll's heroine has changed in appearance across the years and across the world. Shown is C F A Voysey's Roller-printed cotton chintz Alice in Wonderland from 1920. The display runs until 1 November. Entry is free (CLICK).

Fitzwilliam Landscapes

The Fitzwilliam Museum in Cambridge opens two interesting art exhibitions in June. WATERCOLOUR - Elements of nature opens in the Mellon Gallery on 16 June. These exhibits are from the Fitzwilliam's extensive collection of watercolours, rarely exhibited and in superb condition. There will be landscapes by John Constable, Peter de Wint, John Sell Cotman, Samuel Palmer, J.M. Whistler, John Singer Sargent, Paul Cézanne, Camille Pissarro and Paul Nash (CLICK). Ruskin’s Turners opens in the Shiba Gallery on 16 June. This comprises 25 watercolours by J.M.W. Turner donated to the Fitzwilliam by John Ruskin (CLICK). Both exhibitions are free.

WWW Inventor

The World Wide Web seems to have been with us forever. It revolutionised human communications and permeates so many aspects of our lives, from news broadcasts to dating websites. But it was invented in 1989 and its inventor, Sir Tim Berners-Lee, is only 60 years old. The National Portrait Gallery in London decided to celebrate Sir Tim's 60th birthday with a most unusual commission: its first ever painted bronze sculpture. Shown is Sean Henry's two-thirds life-sized sculpture of Sir Tim Berners-Lee (2015) on a tall plinth. Today it went on public display in Room 40 of the National Portrait Gallery, admission free. CLICK for more information.

Thursday, 28 May 2015

Women Artists

The Society of Women Artists (SWA) is holding its 154th annual exhibition at the Mall Galleries in London from 5 to 13 June. You'll find the usual eclectic mix. Shown is Doreen Langhorn's Cooling Off (2015). Admission costs £3. CLICK for the Mall Galleries. CLICK for SWA.

Wednesday, 27 May 2015

The Square Mile

This summer Sculpture in the City returns to inflict contemporary art on public spaces in and around the Square Mile, which is run by the City of London Corporation. This is the show's 5th year (CLICK). Shown is Damien Hirst's Charity (2002-2003), a giant copy of an old charity appeal box.

David Cameron touch-up

Now that it's stuck with him for the next five years, Madame Tussauds in London has touched up its waxwork of British Prime Minister David Cameron: a few more wrinkles, a few more grey hairs. Shown is stylist Clare Galvin poised to brush the PM's jacket (CLICK).

Up Periscope at BM

The British Museum is obviously determined to demonstrate that it isn't stuck in the past. On Thursday 28 May at 6.30pm it presents a live broadcast: Discover the naked truth behind Greek art with Dan Snow. The historian takes viewers on a guided tour of the museum's acclaimed exhibition Defining beauty: the body in ancient Greek art. The bad news is that you need Twitter's Periscope app and an Apple smartphone (CLICK). However, a recording should be available on TouTube (CLICK). Shown is Myron's Discobolus.

Tuesday, 26 May 2015

Vivid Sydney

Recognize it? Difficult, I must admit. It's the famous Sydney Opera House illuminated for Vivid Sydney, an annual festival of light, music and ideas, which runs from 22 May to 8 June. Universal Everything designed the light show for the Opera House (CLICK).

Star Trek China

If you think you recognize the starship USS Enterprise from the sci-fi franchise Star Trek, you're right. Liu Dejian, the Chinese millionaire owner of gaming giant NetDragon Websoft is such a huge fan of the show that he had his company headquarters in Fuzhou, in eastern China's Fujian province, designed to emulate the USS Enterprise. It cost an estimated £100 million to build and looks the perfect venue for a trekkies convention. It is believed he picked up the Star Trek bug while studying in the USA (CLICK).

Monday, 25 May 2015

The Line

Why do the powers-that-be insist on inflicting crap sculptures on public spaces? The latest load of rubbish is The Line, a series of dreadful sculptures on a new walk linking The O2 and the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park. You need only glance at the list of "sculptors" below to imagine how bad it will be. Shown is Damien Hirst's Sensation, now on Cody Dock (CLICK).
Work No.700 by Martin Creed
DNA DL90 by Abigail Fallis
Sensation by Damien Hirst
Liberty Grip by Gary Hume
Vulcan by Sir Eduardo Paolozzi
Network by Thomas J Price
Consolidator #654321 by Sterling Ruby
Here by Thomson & Craighead
Untitled (The Thing) by Piotr Uklanski

Turner’s Wessex

The Salisbury Museum in Wiltshire recently opened its major summer exhibition: Turner’s Wessex: Architecture and Ambition. This is the first ever exhibition devoted to J M W Turner’s drawings and paintings of Salisbury Cathedral, the city and its surroundings. Shown is Turner's watercolour Stonehenge, Wiltshire (ca 1827-28) painted for Picturesque Views in England and Wales. Alongside its own collection, the Museum has gathered extensive loans from art galleries and museums across the UK. Much of it focuses on Turner's work as a young man and shows his relationships with two rich patrons. Admission for adults is an annual fee of £8 (CLICK).

Sunday, 24 May 2015

£20 Note Artist

Hove you nominated an artist for the new £20 banknote? Here's my nomination: William Hogarth Self-portrait (1735). The painting shows him wearing his best wig. Hogarth was an English painter, engraver, printmaker, pictorial satirist, social critic, campaigner against animal cruelty, moral crusader and editorial cartoonist who has been credited with pioneering western sequential art. The closing date for nominations is 19 July. Remember, he or she must be British and dead. To make your nomination CLICK.

Skeleton Woman

This is the weirdest painting I've seen all week: Skeleton Woman (2015) by Jenny Morgan. It's part of her second solo show at Driscoll Babcock Galleries in New York, USA, entitled All We Have is Now (CLICK). Jenny is obviously into death in a big way. Bright colours give it a cheerful feel.

Russian Sale

This charming double Portrait of the Artist's Mother and Sister (1905) by Isaak Brodsky comes up for grabs in MacDougall's Russian Art Auction in London on 3 June with an estimated price tag of £500,000 to £700,000 (CLICK). MacDougall's specializes in Russian art. Oligarchs in the old metrop. take note.

Saturday, 23 May 2015

Gurlitt Sale

Remember Cornelius Gurlitt, the recluse Nazi hoarder who held a treasure trove of looted paintings? Sotheby’s in London has announced that the first of these paintings will go under the hammer on 24 June in its Impressionist & Modern Art Evening Sale. Max Liebermann's Two Riders on a Beach (1901) is estimated at £350,000 to £550,000. The heir, who lives in New York, is 90 years old and blind (CLICK).

People's Choice

In case you missed it, the BBC / RHS People’s Choice Award at the Chelsea Flower Show went to Matthew Keightley for his garden Sentebale - Hope in Vulnerability (2015). The garden celebrates the opening of the Mamohato Children’s Centre in Lesotho, South Africa, a charity supported by Prince Harry to help children infected by HIV and/or AIDS. A novelty of the garden was the footprints of children sand-blasted into the paving, as though ghosts ran through the garden. RHS judges gave it a silver-gilt medal (CLICK).

Friday, 22 May 2015

IS Art Threat

Look at the quality of carving in this ancient sculpture in the Damascus city museum. It was found in the ancient Syrian city of Palmyra, a World Heritage site that predates Islam. The Syrians managed to transfer hundreds of statues and ancient artifacts from Palmyra's museum before the IS fanatics struck, but there is still much there which IS could destroy..At present the lunatics are killing people (CLICK).

Shakespeare's Face

Country Life isn't the sort of magazine in which one expects to find scoops. let alone the scoop of the century; but here is its cover for 20 May showing the only portrait of William Shakespeare made during his lifetime. Botanist and historian Mark Griffiths found the engraving on the title page of a 400-year-old book The Herball by pioneering botanist John Gerard, published in 1598. He identifies Shakespeare by various means, including the laurel wreath of a poet and by the snake's head fritillary, which Shakespeare knew about and mentions in a poem and in his play Titus Andronicus. Of course other academics have given Mark's claim the raspberry (CLICK).

Thursday, 21 May 2015

Artist for £20

The Bank of England plans to depict a visual artist on its next £20 note and wants the public to nominate artists. We can nominate painters, sculptors, print makers, designers, craftspeople, ceramicists, architects, fashion designers, photographers, filmmakers.and furniture makers. The nominee must be dead and, I assume, British. There has never been an artist on British banknotes before. Making his announcement at the V&A, Mark Carney said "There are a wealth of individuals within the field of visual arts whose work shaped British thought, innovation, leadership, values and society and who continue to inspire people today" (CLICK). William Hogarth would be top of my list. In addition to his many artistic achievements, he had a long, supportive association with the Foundling Hospital for abandoned children. Shown is one of my favourite paintings: French-born Sophie Anderson's Foundling Girls in their School Dresses at Prayer in the Chapel (1877). If you want a woman, try Evelyn de Morgan.

Holiday Fun

With half term school holidays coming up, most of the big museums and galleries in London have something free on offer to entertain the cherubs. Shown are kiddie Face Masks from The British Museum. I'll leave you to search your nearest or favourite museum online.

Open Studios

Valentines Mansion & Gardens in Ilford will be holding Artists’ Open Studios on Sunday 31 May. The artists will give demonstrations of their work: pottery, stained glass, painting. Shown is Carley Lechner's Ballerina. Entry is free. It's also a Family Fun Day (CLICK).

Wednesday, 20 May 2015

Fury Road

Mad Max Fury Road received good critical reviews at the Cannes Film Festival. Writer Brendan McCarthy also produced the storyboard for Fury Road and has posted some of his concept paintings on his website, well worth viewing. Shown is An Armada Vehicle (CLICK). Red carpet officials have been getting pedantic about the dress code at Cannes. Women wearing flat-heeled shoes have been refused admittance. Film producer Valeria Richter, who had part of her left foot amputated, was initially refused admittance, but was eventually allowed to go in. The festival has denied high heels are part of the official dress code (CLICK).

Corfu Deaths

The Thomas Cook affair rumbles on, 9 years after Christi and Bobby Shepherd died from carbon monoxide poisoning at the Louis Corcyra Beach Hotel in Corfu. Peter Fankhauser, the chief executive of Thomas Cook, has said he is "deeply sorry" about the deaths. He also regrets saying Thomas Cook had done "nothing wrong" when giving evidence at the coroner's court in Wakefield last week. The coroner directed jurors to return a verdict of "unlawful killing", because Thomas Cook had "breached its duty of care". On Monday the firm announced it had donated half of the £3 million it had received in damages from the hotel's owner to children's charity UNICEF. Mr Fankhauser is obviously trying to draw a line under what has been a PR disaster for Thomas Cook. But I would have thought paying extra compensation to the parents of Christi and Bobby would have been more appropriate (CLICK).

Tuesday, 19 May 2015

Candy Udwin Sacked

The National Gallery in London has sacked Candy Udwin, the PCS union representative who has been fighting against privatisation at the Gallery. There will be a major demonstration in support of Candy on Saturday 30 May at 1pm. This will be followed by a 10-day strike from Tuesday 26 May to Thursday 4 June. No doubt more strikes will follow if the Gallery continues to be bloody minded (CLICK).

Ladybird by Design

The House of Illustration opens Ladybird by Design on 10 July. This is a touring exhibition from De La Warr Pavilion, co-curated by Lawrence Zeegen and Jane Won. Over 120 original illustrations from the hugely successful Ladybird Books series will be displayed. Shown is an illustration from The Story of Flight © Ladybird Books Ltd 1960. Admission costs £7 or £5 for silver surfers (CLICK).

Monday, 18 May 2015

Chelsea Show

I find it difficult to believe that the Royal Horticultural Society (RHS) Chelsea Flower Show is back again. The weather hasn't been good enough to get me in a gardening sort of mood. Still, here are three Synchronised Swimmers to prove the show was open to royal visitors today. Prince Harry was chuffed with his stand for charity Sentebale. The Royal Hospital in Chelsea opens to the public tomorrow (CLICK).

Savile Row in USA

We can't accuse the British Ambassador to the USA of failing to promote British goods. This photo of the interior of the Ambassador's Residence< in Washington DC, taken on 14 May, shows an exhibition of clothing from Savile Row: The Savile Row Bespoke and America. Well done, Sir Peter.


Buckingham Palace has announced that the Queen and Prince Philip will visit the site of Nazi concentration camp Bergen-Belsen during their state visit to Germany in June. Her Majesty will see a memorial to Anne Frank, who died of typhus there in 1945. British forces liberated Bergen-Belsen 70 years ago and took photos that gave the world its first visual proof of the Holocaust (CLICK).

Sunday, 17 May 2015


The paparazzi are out in force for the 68th Cannes Film Festival in the south of France. Shown is Mexican actress Salma Hayek, who eats something "disgusting" in Matteo Garrone's Tale of Tales (2015). For the first time in 28 years the festival was opened with a film directed by a woman, an event which has the feminists whinging about lack of equality on the red carpet (CLICK). Yesterday I watched a TV programme about cult director Alfred Hitchcock: Living Famously (CLICK). He said he always aimed his films at women, because when a man took a woman to the cinema he asked her what film she wanted to see. So women choose the films.

Saturday, 16 May 2015

Whitechapel Art

The Whitechapel Art Gallery is currently showing The Production Line of Happiness, a retrospective of work by US photographer Christopher Williams. Shown is his Girl With a Towel, who looks pretty cheerful. Admission is free. CLICK to watch a video of the show.

Perry's Dream

Grayson Perry RA showed BBC Arts Correspondent Will Gompertz round his "gingerbread house", Living Architecture’s project A House for Essex. It's a sort of secular shrine to a mythical Essex woman. CLICK for the BBC video. CLICK for Living Architecture. Channel 4 has followed this project for three years and will broadcast the final film Grayson Perry’s Dream House on Sunday 17 May at 9pm.

Death Sentence

Boston bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev has been sentenced to death by lethal injection. He and his brother killed 3 people and injured 260 with bombs they placed near the finishing line of the Boston Marathon in 2013, a crime which shocked the civilised world. Dzhokhar showed no remorse (CLICK).

Friday, 15 May 2015

Hockney's Latest

Today the Annely Juda Fine Art gallery in London opened David Hockney's latest show: Painting and Photography. Hockney has been having fun with his new digital camera. Shown is his painting Card Players #1 (2014). He's been having fun with perspective too (CLICK). "I'm going to go on until I fall over ... Artists don't retire. What else is there to do?" he told reporters at the press preview yesterday.

Thursday, 14 May 2015

Catlin Art Prize

This year's Catlin Art Prize of £5,000 has been awarded to Zhu Tian. Of the top 40 UK art school graduates, Zhu Tian was considered the most promising (CLICK). Take a look at one of her installation thingies and try not to despair of modern British sculpture: CLICK. The show is on at the Londonewcastle Project Space in Shoreditch, east London, until 30 May (CLICK).

Coded for Colour

Looking at the Elgin Marbles and then at Jon Buck's garish bronze Mind Map makes you wonder what the hell has happened to sculpture over the last 2,000 years. Tomorrow Pangolin London opens Jon Buck: Coded for Colour, a retrospective of his 30 years of experimentation (CLICK).

ELgin Marbles III

Greek culture minister Nikos Xydakis has told Mega TV that Athens will not take the British Museum to court over the marble frieze sculpture from the Parthenon, known as the Elgin Marbles. This rejects legal advice from lawyer Amal Alamuddin Clooney - Mrs George Clooney - but seems sensible. The case would cost a fortune and Xydakis admits the outcome would be "uncertain" (CLICK). The Elgin Marbles are currently on display in the British Museum's exhibition Defining Beauty: the body in ancient Greek art (CLICK).

Wednesday, 13 May 2015

RA Tart Up

The Royal Academy of Arts has unveiled a £50 million tart up to celebrate its 250th anniversary in 2018. The project, designed of course by Sir David Chipperfield RA, includes an internal bridge that will allow the public to walk from the Piccadilly end to Mayfair. There will be a lecture theatre and more exhibition space to display the work of old RAs currently in storage (CLICK). Shame the RA doesn't have any decent new artists, just gimmick peddlers that give the place a bad name.

Tate Archive

Tate Archive contains over a million items related to artists, art world figures and art organisations in Britain from 1900 to the present day. It is the largest archive of its kind in Europe. Users world-wide can search the catalogue online and access the collection in person at the Hyman Kreitman Reading Rooms. You need to register. The latest addition to the archive are Henri Gaudier-Brzeska’s unpublished sketchbooks, purchased in 2012. Shown is a page entitled Le Chaos from 1910, . CLICK to visit Tate Archive.

Tuesday, 12 May 2015

Picasso Record

Behold the most expensive daub ever sold at auction. Pablo Picasso’s Women of Algiers (Version O, 1954-55) fetched $179,365,000 at Christie’s New York sale yesterday. A garish, badly designed painting of the interior of a brothel strikes me as an insult to the Women of Algiers, but every oil-rich sheikh must have a Picasso. In the same sale Alberto Giacometti’s pipe-cleaner bronze Pointing Man went under the hammer for $141,000,000, making it the most expensive sculpture ever sold at auction (CLICK).

Monday, 11 May 2015

Ed Stone

The tabloids are still banging on about Ed Miliband's missing "tombstone", which was intended to be stood in the garden of No. 10 Downing Street when he won the general election. The pledge in stone proved a disaster. Ed was seen as Moses and the Ten Commandments. London Mayor and now MP Bouncy Boris called it the "heaviest suicide note in history". This fiasco cost an estimated £30,000, no recommendation for a man who wanted to hold the Treasury purse strings. The Ed Stone even made it into ArtDaily (CLICK).

Rude Bus Ad

I must admit I'm rather partial to those adverts which get it wrong big time. This is South Wales bus company New Adventure Travel trying to attract the younger punter with its bare shouldered model holding RIDE ME ALL DAY FOR £3 (2015). It's caused a storm of protest on social media, including from students and MPs. The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) says it has received 45 complaints (CLICK).

Sunday, 10 May 2015

Save The Bees

Here's a nifty piece of street art: Save The Bees (2015) by Louis Masai. It's part of Nature Late at the Horniman Museum and Gardens on Thursday 14 May, from 6.30pm to 9.30pm. There are lots of other goodies. Tickets cost £5. CLICK to visit the Horniman website and to book.

Biennale d'Arte

Here's one way of visiting an exhibition: climb in. The installation thingy of brick walls, cement and paint is by Brazilian artist Antonio Manuel at the Brazil Pavilion in Venice. The theme of the 56th Biennale d'Arte is "All the World’s Futures". The object of the exercise seems to be to see who can create the most insane nonsense. Let's hope the visitor didn't do herself a mischief while climbing in.

Saturday, 9 May 2015

Boy In Suitcase

This must count as one of the weirdest images I've ever seen. It's a scan of a suitcase showing a boy inside taken by the Spanish Guardia Civil in Ceuta, which borders Morocco. The 19-year-old woman with the suitcase aroused their suspicions. So they scanned her suitcase and found eight-year-old Abou from Ivory Coast inside in a "terrible state". It turns out that the boy's father had paid the Moroccan courier to smuggle his son into Spain in the suitcase. The boy is now in the care of authorities in Ceuta (CLICK).

Victory Watch

It cannot have escaped your notice that yesterday was VE Day, the 70th anniversary of Victory in Europe. Sotheby’s London took the opportunity to release photos of this unique timepiece Sir Winston Churchill's Victory Watch (1946) which will be auctioned on 22 September. A group of prominent Swiss citizens commissioned leading watch maker Louis Cottier to design the watch in collaboration with Agassiz & Co. Individual watches were designed for the Allied Leaders: Churchill, Truman, de Gaulle and Stalin. Churchill's watch depicts St George slaying the dragon. On the back is "V" for victory. The watch was one of Sir Winston's most treasured possessions. Sotheby’s estimates it at £60,000 to £100,000 (CLICK). It should remain in the UK.

Friday, 8 May 2015

A Nation's Art

From 13 - 31 May the Mall Galleries present The Art of a Nation, the first major exhibition in London for 30 years that celebrates the story of Irish art from 1900 to the present day (CLICK). Over 70 works by many of Ireland’s greatest artists will be drawn from the collections of the Allied Irish Banks and Crawford Art Gallery. Shown is Shane Blount's It's a Blue Giraffe. Admission is free. You can't argue with that.

Thursday, 7 May 2015

Election Day

I think this wood engraving from 1880 of the traditional children's game Blind Man's Buff is the perfect illustration for today's General Election.