Friday, 31 July 2015

Weiwei Wins

Home Secretary Theresa May has ordered officials to issue Ai Weiwei with a full six-month UK visa and she has apologised to him in a letter (CLICK).

Ai Weiwei's Visa

Yesterday, at the Franz-Josef-Strauss airport in Munich, Ai Weiwei was reunited with his son, Ai Lao, who lives in Germany. Meanwhile the furore over Britain's denial of Ai Weiwei's application for a six-month visa rumbles on. The Home Secretary will revue the case (CLICK).

Thursday, 30 July 2015

John Tenniel & Alice

You may have noticed that 2015 is the 150th anniversary of the publication of Lewis Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland (1865). Royal Mail issued a set of stamps in January to mark the occasion (CLICK). To see Grahame Baker-Smith's excellent Alice designs enlarged CLICK. The V&A Museum of Childhood in east London is showing The Alice Look (CLICK). Recently the Royal Horticultural Society opened Adventures in Wonderland (CLICK). Lewis Carroll (a pseudonym) created the early illustrations for Alice himself, but the artist who brought the book to life was John Tenniel. Shown is his unforgettable illustration for The Mad Hatter's Tea Party.

Light and Land

On 2 August the Mall Galleries in central London opens Light and Land on The Mall, a celebration of landscape photography. Shown is Charlie Waite's photo Green Park. The exhibition runs in the Main Gallery, North Gallery & Threadneedle Space until 10 August, admission free. CLICK for more information.

Wednesday, 29 July 2015

Tommy and Tuppence

Did you watch the new BBC One series Partners In Crime, starring Jessica Raine and David Walliams as Agatha Christie's Tommy and Tuppence in The Secret Adversary, Part One? The opening scene in Paris was ruined by the anonymous director having Tuppence lug a pile of empty suitcases to the train. She would never have been able to lift them had they been full. The unfunny joke was that Tommy carried a small package containing a queen bee, from which he hoped to make a fortune. David Walliams was a dead loss, both as Tuppence's husband and as an actor. It was left to Jessica Raine to salvage the show, which she did most successfully (CLICK).

Giovanni da Rimini

Last year the Duke of Northumberland flogged Giovanni da Rimini's Scenes from the Lives of the Virgin and other Saints (1300-05) which had been hanging in Alnwick Castle since 1853. A temporary export ban was slapped on the painting to see if £4,919,000 could be raised to buy if for the nation. American businessman, philanthropist and art collector Ronald S. Lauder came up with the readies and an unusual offer. The National Gallery will loan him the painting for the rest of his life! He will return the painting to the gallery every three years, beginning in 2017. The painting is owned by the National Gallery (CLICK).

Tuesday, 28 July 2015

Immaculate Confection

Today the Saatchi Gallery in London opened Immaculate Confection: Works by Darrell Hawkins in its Prints & Originals Gallery. Many of these works have been newly created for the exhibition. Shown is Darrell Hawkins' Lady Hurley Burley (Immaculate Chocolate) sold (CLICK).

Monday, 27 July 2015

Fan Bay Deep Shelter

This photo caught my eye today. It shows a guide in the Fan Bay Deep Shelter (2015). The shelter was excavated in the white cliffs of Dover on the orders of WWII leader Sir Winston Churchill, who was horrified to see enemy shipping moving freely within the Dover Strait. He ordered three anti-aircraft guns to be installed at Fan Bay with the battery, searchlights, radar equipment and two WWI sound mirrors plus steel-lined rooms and tunnels for the soldiers who manned the complex. The National Trust bought the land in 2012 and found the tunnels. After major restoration the tunnels were opened to the public on 20 July (CLICK).

A Royal Welcome

On Saturday Buckingham Palace opened A Royal Welcome, a public flaunting of the 19 State Rooms for Chinese tourists. You don't have to be Chinese, but how many Londoners can afford £20.50 for admission, £18.80 for silver surfers? Shown is the Thrones Room. Buckingham Palace is both the office and London residence of Her Majesty The Queen. It is one of the few working royal palaces remaining in the world today. The State Rooms are used for ceremonial occasions and official entertaining. CLICK to book tickets.

Saturday, 25 July 2015

Tribal Art London

If you're into ethnographic art, here's the exhibition for you. Tribal Art London is the only tribal art fair of its kind in the UK, displaying works gathered from around the world by specialist dealers. Shown is a Hermaphrodite Figurine, Hemba people, Democratic Republic of the Congo. The fair will be open to the public at the Mall Galleries for three days only, from 3 to 5 September (CLICK).

Friday, 24 July 2015

Weiwei's Passport

On Wednesday Ai Weiwei posted this photo of himself holding his passport, returned by Chinese police after four years (CLICK). He is now hoping to travel to London for the opening of the Royal Academy of Arts major retrospective of his tosh on 19 September. Tickets cost £16.00 each for adults, £15.00 for silver surfers (CLICK). Don't think I'll bother, thanks. It's all other artists' work.

Holiday Activities

The big art galleries and museums in London are offering free drop-in activities for youngsters over the school summer holiday. These children are drawing in the National Portrait Gallery. CLICK to see what's available there. Try your nearest venue to find kiddie activities.

Love Parks Week

With school summer holidays here, today Valentines Mansion & Gardens in Valentines Park, Ilford, launched national Love Parks Week. The launch includes a range of free, drop-in activities for all ages. If rain buckets down on the gardens, you can duck into the mansion (CLICK).

Thursday, 23 July 2015

Irma Stern Find

This painting Arab in Black (1939) by Irma Stern was discovered by Bonhams Head of South African Art, Hannah O’Leary, whilst doing a routine valuation of a London apartment. It was being used as a notice board and was covered with letters, postcards and bills. It was originally put up for auction to help fund the defence of Nelson Mandela and his co-defendants in South Africa’s Treason Trial. The purchaser subsequently moved to the UK. The work comes up for auction in Bonhams sale of South African Art in London on 9 September, estimated at £700,000 to £1 million. A notice board of historic importance! CLICK for more information.

Alice Anderson

Yesterday London's Wellcome Collection - "The free destination for the incurably curious" - opened Memory Movement Memory Objects by French-British artist Alice Anderson, who creates sculptures out of everyday objects mummified in copper thread. Over 100 of her works are on display. Shown is A gallery assistant posing between two of Anderson:'s sculptures. The exhibition shimmers along until 18 October (CLICK).

Wednesday, 22 July 2015

Japanese Art at V&A

In November the Victoria and Albert Museum in London will reopen the Toshiba Gallery of Japanese Art, which has been closed for refurbishment. Since 1852 the museum has been collecting Japanese art and now holds one of the finest collections in the world, with over 48,500 objects. Shown is one of its latest acquisitions: Hayashi Shigeki's OO-IX sculpture (2013). CLICK for more information.

Lost In The Dust

Today Bonhams in London opened Lost In The Dust, a selling exhibition of paintings of the Boer War by John Meyer, South Africa's leading realist artist. This is the first time this collection of 15 works has been exhibited outside of Africa. Shown is John Meyer's The Return of de la Rey. The exhibition ends in London on 30 July, then moves to Edinburgh. Proceeds of the sale will go to rhino charity Tusk, patron HRH The Duke of Cambridge (CLICK).

Tuesday, 21 July 2015

Artist and Empire

This autumn Tate Britain presents Artist and Empire, a major exhibition of art associated with the British Empire from the 16th century to the present day. Shown is George Stubbs' Cheetah and Stag with Two Indians (1760–1770) borrowed from Manchester Art Gallery for the show. The two Indians seem to be trying to persuade the cheetah to chase the stag, but puss can't be bothered. This painting is one of a "vast array of objects" from collections across Britain, Prices are £14.50 adults, £12.70 silver surfers.

Monday, 20 July 2015

Aviation Art

Tomorrow the Mall Galleries in central London opens the Guild of Aviation Artists Aviation Paintings of the Year. From early flight to the latest civil and military jets, this is one of the largest exhibitions of aviation art in the world. Shown is Braving The Elements by Anthony Cowland FGAvA. Admission is free (CLICK). To see the 453 aviation paintings, visit the GAvA website: CLICK.

Deptford X

Deptford X is the uninspiring title for London's Contemporary Arts Festival, which takes place from 25 September to 4 October. This year it will be housed in a new art gallery and project space that also includes artists' studios (CLICK). Shown is Deptford by Janette Parris.

Sunday, 19 July 2015

Mystery Old Master

Today's Fake or Fortune? Series 4 Episode 3 of 4 investigates A Mystery Old Master painting that has been gathering grime in St John the Baptist Church in Lancashire for over 200 years. Who painted Christ's Descent From The Cross? Philip Mould suspects it is the work of an Italian High Renaissance master, which makes it the oldest painting ever investigated by Fake or Fortune? Shown are Philip Mould and Fiona Bruce standing before the mystery painting. The programme is on BBC One at 8pm tonight. CLICK for details and a video.

Saturday, 18 July 2015

An Age of Oil

Today Dadiani Fine Art at 30 Cork Street, London, opened Off Kilter: An Age of Oil, a group show of 10 "wildly disparate" contemporary artists whose only common ground is that they all use oil paints (CLICK). Shown is Jennifer Binnie's Animals Under a Black Moon (2012).

Friday, 17 July 2015

The Shannon

Yesterday I chanced upon BBC Two's Natural World 8/10 Ireland's Wild River: The Mighty Shannon. This is a masterly film by naturalist and cameraman Colin Stafford-Johnson, who spent a year paddling his canoe through stretches of the longest river in the British Isles. His filming of kingfishers, spawning pike, red squirrels, orange tipped butterflies, whooper swans, great crested grebe chicks and other natural treasures is magnificent. Watch the repeat on BBC Two on 19 July or catch it on iPlayer: CLICK.

Adam Buck

Yesterday the Ashmolean in Oxford opened An Elegant Society: Adam Buck, artist in the age of Jane Austen. An Irish miniaturist, Buck came to London in hopes of making his fortune. He exhibited at the Royal Academy and quickly established a wealthy clientele of royals, landowners, serving officers and society hostesses. His influence on Regency art was considerable. The exhibition includes over 60 works from private collections: watercolours, small portraits and miniatures, examples of his decorative designs for fans and porcelain and his prints (CLICK). Shown is his charming, but unrealistic First Steps (1808).

Video Art

If you're into the history of video art, here's the exhibition for you. Today the Richard Saltoun Gallery in west London opened David Hall: Situations Envisaged, showing pioneering works in sculpture, film and video from the estate of the late David Hall. Shown is his A Situation Envisaged: The Rite II (Cultural Eclipse) 1989-1990. The exhibition runs until 14 August (CLICK).

Thursday, 16 July 2015

Partners in Crime

Agatha Christie fans will no doubt be looking forward to Partners in Crime, the new six-part adventure series featuring husband and wife team Tommy and Tuppence Beresford, played by David Walliams and Jessica Raine. Amateur sleuths, they get involved in foiling spying plots in 1950s Cold War Britain. The first episode is The Secret Adversary – Part 1 on BBC One Sunday 26 July (CLICK).

RA Kickstarter

The Royal Academy of Arts in London is the first British gallery to try Kickstarter to raise funds for a show. It hopes to raise £100,000 to import and install in its courtyard eight of Ai Weiwei's Trees as part of a major exhibition of Weiwei's tosh this autumn. I can't imagine Weiwei trekking through the forests of southern China to collect dead branches for his made-up trees. Nor can I imagine him lugging around huge branches in his studio. This is another project to keep his team of artists employed (CLICK).

Wednesday, 15 July 2015

London Open 2015

Today the Whitechapel Gallery in east London unveiled The London Open 2015, its triennial exhibition of the most dynamic work being made across the capital. From a record 2,133 applicants, 48 artists were chosen. Sculpture, painting, performance, moving image, photography, printmaking and many other media and practices are displayed. Shown is a site-specific Wall Painting by Lothar Götz. And there's me thinking that abstract art is dead. The show does its thing in Galleries 1, 8 & 9 until 6 September. Entry is free (CLICK).

Michelangelo Week

Did you know that Florence is celebrating the Week of Michelangelo? This copy of Michelangelo's famous sculpture of David has been painted to look like tattoos and set up in the San Lorenzo market in Florence. The date 14 July is significant, because it was on that day in 1564 that Michelangelo's funeral took place in San Lorenzo. I wonder what he would think of having his David painted.

Lee's Latest

Yesterday Harper Lee's novel Go Set a Watchman (2015) went on worldwide sale. Like lemmings pouring over a cliff, the must-have brigade queued to grab the first copies. Foyles bookstore in London sold hundreds of copies at midnight to lemmings who had queued for up to two hours. The US publisher's initial print run was 2 million copies! The book's cover boasts an enticing graphic design (CLICK).

Tuesday, 14 July 2015

V&A Savage Beauty

The Victoria and Albert's exhibition Alexander McQueen: Savage Beauty has proved a huge success. To make as much money as possible, the V&A has created 12,000 extra tickets by staying open throughout the night for the last two weekends. Only limited tickets remain for viewing times after midnight. Shown is Alexander McQueen's Duck feather dress, model Magdalena Frackowiak. CLICK for tickets and videos.

Your Destroyer

Lazarides Rathbone in London is currently showing The Chosen Form of Your Destroyer, its third solo exhibition by British artist Ian Francis. His multifaceted paintings and mixed media works need to be seen to be believed. The exhibition runs until 1 August (CLICK).

Monday, 13 July 2015

Armed Forces Art

Today the Mall Galleries in central London opened the 81st annual exhibition of the Armed Forces Art Society, patron HRH The Prince of Wales. All the members come from the ranks of one of the three Services: Army, Navy and Air Force. Some are still serving; others have retired. The show is a mixture of paintings, drawings, sculptures and original prints. Shown are two views of Robert Mileham's Anne of Buckinghamshire. The exhibition runs until 18 July, admission free (CLICK) (CLICK).

Sunday, 12 July 2015

Fantasy Fashion

A model is snapped wearing a fantasy fashion outfit by Pakistani designer Syed Shahid Nisar, his entry into the “Designer for Tomorrow” award at the Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week in Berlin. Any woman wearing this outfit in Pakistan would be torn to pieces by an enraged mob.

Saturday, 11 July 2015

RIBA Shortlist

The Royal Institute of British Architects has announced the winners of the 2015 RIBA National Awards, recognizing significant contributions to architecture in the UK. The 37 award-winning buildings listed form the shortlist for the RIBA Stirling Prize as the UK’s best building of the year. Shown is Matthew Lloyd Architects' St Mary of Eton Church, Apartments and Community Rooms (2014). These are three buildings linked by a strong brickwork design. The grade II listed church stands in east London (CLICK).

Friday, 10 July 2015

City Sculptures

The square mile of the City of London has once again opened up to Sculpture in the City. I don't know why it bothers. Take Laura Ford's Days of Judgement - Cats 1 & 2 as an example. To me this looks like two badly stuffed black plastic bags on a plinth. The tails are too long for cats. They look like rats' tails. The pedestrians are showing no interest. I don't blame them. CLICK to see more rubbish like this, if you must.

Spitfire Donations

While I object to the noise made by commercial aircraft, I find the roar of military flypasts exciting. They fly over my back garden, head straight down The Mall and zoom over Buckingham Palace to the delight of watching royalty. Today's flypast marked the 75th anniversary of the start of the Battle of Britain in World War Two (CLICK). On Thursday Prince William visited the Imperial War Museum Duxford to view one of the two Vickers Supermarine Spitfires Mk.1A rescued from the sands of Dunkirk by American philanthropist Thomas Kaplan (CLICK). Kaplan had both Spitfires meticulously restored. One he presented to the Imperial War Museum Duxford, the other he put into Christie's Exceptional London sale to benefit various charities. It fetched £3,106,500 (CLICK).

Creative Connections

The National Portrait Gallery has opened Creative Connections: Camden Radical Characters, which showcases thirty photographs of successful people with connections to Camden, chosen by 10 GCSE students from Haverstock School, Camden. Shown is Spencer Murphy's portrait of Benedict Cumberbatch. The exhibition runs until 11 October, admission free (CLICK).

Thursday, 9 July 2015

PETA Protest

While Londoners marked the 10th anniversary of the 7/7 Muslim bombings, activists of the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) were up bright and early to pose with banners at the Brandenburg Gate in Berlin ahead of Berlin Fashion Week. The protester on the right holds a banner stating "Wool? I'd rather go naked". What's she got against wool? The sheep don't need it once they've survived winter. Shearing keeps them cool for the summer and provides a useful product for the clothing trade.

Ladybird by Design

Tomorrow the House of Illustration in London opens Ladybird by Design, a touring exhibition of over 120 original illustrations for Ladybird Books from De La Warr Pavilion, co-curated by Lawrence Zeegen and Jane Won. The brilliant innovation of Ladybird was to print an entire book on a single sheet of paper, which was then cut to the familiar size. Commissioning full-colour, full-page illustrations from well-known artists added enormously to Ladybird's appeal. Shown is an excellent painting from The Life of the Honey Bee (1969). The exhibition runs until 27 September, admission £7.00 adults, £5.00 silver surfers (CLICK).

Fausto Pirandello

Yesterday the Estorick Collection in London opened Fausto Pirandello 1899 – 1975, the first UK exhibition devoted to Pirandello's work. His expressionist style of Scuola Romana influenced modern Italian art from the 1930s to the 1950s. There are raw nudes aplenty. Shown is his Drought (1936-37). The exhibition runs until 6 September. Admission costs £5.00, £3.50 for silver surfers (CLICK).

Wednesday, 8 July 2015

Hoax Heist

There are some dickheads in the world. On Sunday afternoon four masked men caused panic in the National Portrait Gallery in London. They burst into the gallery at about 3:30pm to stage a hoax heist, attempting to prise Frank Oriti's painting Clarity (2014) from the wall. They failed, set off alarm bells and fled empty handed. Presumably they were protesting against BP's continuing sponsorship of the BP Portrait Award. With recent repatriations of dead Britons from the Tunisia beach massacre plus the 7/7 commemorations coming up on Tuesday, it's no wonder visitors to the gallery fled in panic. The four dickheads were arrested.

Ashmolean Success

A month ago I posted news of the Ashmolean's public appeal for £60,000 to complete its purchase of JMW Turner's The High Street, Oxford (CLICK). The Ashmolean has announced that in just 4 weeks the ££60,000 has been donated and the purchase is now secured (CLICK).

Tuesday, 7 July 2015

7/7 Remembered

Today Londoners paid their respects to victims of the Muslim terrorist attacks in London on 7 July 2005. A minute's silence was held at 11:30 BST to remember the 52 people who were pointlessly murdered and more than 700 who suffered injuries, as well as those who lost loved ones. A memorial service was held in St Paul's Cathedral. Dignitaries laid wreaths, ordinary people laid flowers. The image that sticks in my mind is this woman privately grieving at the 7 July Memorial in Hyde Park, 10 years on. Time hasn't healed her wounds (CLICK).

Young Orphan

William Merritt Chase's haunting Young Orphan (1884) is one of the latest additions to the Google Art Project, which digitizes high resolution images of works of art for a world wide audience (CLICK). This painting is one of 150 that the National Academy Museum & School in New York has added to the Google Art Project. When first shown in America in 1884 Young Orphan bore Chase's original title, but when shown overseas he changed the title to the inappropriate At Her Ease, possibly to hide that she was a tubercular orphan slowly dying in an American asylum (CLICK). The work is also know as Study of a Young Girl.

Monday, 6 July 2015

Forth Bridge

The United Nations cultural agency UNESCO has added the Forth Bridge to its list of World Heritage sites worthy of special protection. It spans the Firth of Forth in Scotland, linking Fife with the Lothians, and was designed by two English engineers: Sir John Fowler and Benjamin Baker. When it was opened in 1890 it was the longest cantilever bridge in the world and the first major crossing made entirely of steel. Seventy one workers were killed during eight years of construction! CLICK to view more of the latest crop of World Heritage sites.

Sunday, 5 July 2015

Jean-Étienne Liotard

Over this summer the Scottish National Gallery is showing the work of Jean-Etienne Liotard, one of the finest artists of the eighteenth century (CLICK). Shown is his portrait of Princess Louisa Anne (1754) on loan from the Royal Collection Trust © Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II 2015. The princess was only five years old when Liotard painted her portrait in pastel on vellum. Stunning. The exhibition is a collaboration with the Royal Academy of Arts in London and will open here on 24 October at inflated prices.

Castle Howard Sale

Nine masterpieces from the collection of Castle Howard lead Sotheby’s London auction of Old Master & British Paintings and Treasures on 8 July. The works are now on public exhibition at Sotheby’s New Bond Street galleries. Shown is Dutch master Ferdinand Bol's Portrait of a Boy (1652) estimated at £2 - £3 million. If you visit Sotheby’s website, you'll find an excellent video of Castle Howard narrated by Jeremy Irons: CLICK.

Saturday, 4 July 2015

Happy Birthday

The House of Illustration is celebrating its first birthday and to prove it here's founding trustee Sir Quentin Blake holding a birthday cake designed by Great British Bake Off 2013 winner Francis Quinn. CLICK to see What's On at the House of Illustration.

Heathrow Expansion!

This shot of a British Airways jet flying over houses in London isn't a trick photo. It's the reality of living under Heathrow's fight path. Yet the Airports Commission has backed a third runway at Heathrow! Two are bad enough. You can hear the jets in Kew Gardens, at Wimbledon and on the other side of London in Redbridge. How much did it cost Government to set up the Airports Commission? And why choose people who would succumb to Heathrow's blandishments? CLICK for BBC Magazine's What's it like to live near an airport?