Category Archives: London

Royal Academy Summer Show 2017

The Summer Exhibition at the Royal Academy in London has been running for nearly 250 years and includes art in all sorts of media from painting, print, film and photography through to sculpture, architectural works and performance art.

Royal Academician Eileen Cooper, explores themes of discovery and new talent from her unique position as Keeper of the Royal Academy – the Academician who is responsible for supporting and guiding the students.

Cooper takes on the mantle of coordinating the largest open submission exhibition in the world, hanging over 1,200 works by artists established and lesser-known in the space of just eight days.

It includes work by internationally renowned artists Rosemarie Trockel, Julian Schnabel, Hassan Hajjaj, Secundino Hernández, Isaac Julien, Tomoaki Suzuki, Mark Wallinger and Sean Scully RA, as well as submissions by new Royal Academicians including Gilbert & George and David Adjaye.

You can watch BBC Two’s Royal Academy Summer Exhibition 2017 with Kirsty Wark and Brenda Emmanus until 16 July on BBC iPlayer.

The archtitectual drawings are often surprisingly beautiful as well as functional.

In general, the walls are crammed full of works of art, so full that it often takes a couple of visits to feel that you’ve seen the whole show.

Some of the work is just good fun.

Where as some is rather disturbing.

Even comically so…

But no matter who you are and what your taste might be, there will be something for you to enjoy, maybe even something to love.

And of course much of the art is for sale, both originals and prints, marked out with small red dots.

Like all art shows, one of the big problems is lighting and reflections, to allow the audience to actually see the works well.

With so much going on, any glare makes viewing quite tricky.

Above all, it is a show of current live artists and gives a feel for the huge diversity in the art world today.

It meant that the more restrained palettes actually stood out from the rest quite well.

There are always the pieces where you look and think “But is that art?” not least the postcards with a potted history of the female historical characters pictured on their backs. Interesting, but is that enough?

And I’m sorry but £84,000 for a neon sentence by Tract Emin just does not make sense to me. It’s just too much.

Some things were just silly.

We both had a wonderful time: a happy recommendation.

For Goodness Sake

Another day and another terrorist attack, this time some guys in a hired van driving through crowds then picking up knives to go for a rampage. 7 dead according to the latest news.

And the thing that really winds me up (and millions of Brits posting on twitter) is the shameless tweeting of the American president, posting and mis-quoting our mayor Sadiq Khan yet again. WTF.

What is his problem? Does he really think that the situation would have been better if those guys had access to semi-automatic guns rather than carving knives? Is he a total nut job? Does he think it is right or reasonable to try to make political gain from peoples dead relatives?

Why did the American newspapers feel a need to describe the UK as “reeling” (thank you NYT) when we’re basically getting on with the show?

To be lectured on violent crime by Americans is just gob-smackingly unreasonable. In the 3 months to March 2017, 6,000 Americans died as a result of gun crime. In the 12 months to March 2017, around 500 Brits died from any crime, including terrorism. Our streets are significantly safer than most. Maybe Americans should consider relocating over here to improve their life expectancy?

To be told we need to arm up our police force when their excellent response meant the whole incident was over almost before it began is just ridiculous. We have no appetite for routinely armed police. No appetite for the kind of routine shooting of civilians by the police that seems to happen in the States. It’s bad enough that the BAME community is stopped and searched disproportionately; no one wants to add guns into the mix.

To be told that we need to close our borders when inevitably the guys involved will turn out to be home-grown British boys disaffected and cut-off from their families and communities just beggars belief.

There is no other way to say this: Donald Trump is a twat, a dick of the first order and by that I mean small and mean-minded.

Royal Academy: America After the Fall

There’s a small exhibition at the RA looking at American art during the last great recession. It makes a useful contrast with the Russian Revolution Exhibition downstairs and also an interesting pre-cursor to the American Pop Art exhibition over at the British Museum (much quieter and much better value for money)

It was good but not excellent.

Not something to see if you have to pay separately for tickets rather than being a member or getting some kind of travel deal.


Royal Academy: Revolution Russian Art 1917-1932

One hundred years on from the Russian Revolution,the RA has decided to stage a powerful exhibition exploring one of the most momentous periods in modern world history through the lens of its groundbreaking art.

Renowned artists including Kandinsky, Malevich, Chagall and Rodchenko were among those to live through the fateful events of 1917, which ended centuries of Tsarist rule and shook Russian society to its foundations.

Amidst the tumult, the arts thrived as debates swirled over what form a new “people’s” art should take.

But the optimism was not to last: by the end of 1932, Stalin’s brutal suppression had drawn the curtain down on creative freedom.

Taking inspiration from a remarkable exhibition shown in Russia just before Stalin’s clampdown, this marks the historic centenary by focusing on the 15-year period between 1917 and 1932 when possibilities initially seemed limitless and Russian art flourished across every medium.

This far-ranging exhibition will – for the first time – survey the entire artistic landscape of post-Revolutionary Russia, encompassing Kandinsky’s boldly innovative compositions, the dynamic abstractions of Malevich and the Suprematists, and the emergence of Socialist Realism, which would come to define Communist art as the only style accepted by the regime.

It also includes photography, sculpture, filmmaking by pioneers such as Eisenstein, and evocative propaganda posters from what was a golden era for graphic design.

It attempts to bring to life the human experience with a full-scale recreation of an apartment designed for communal living, and with everyday objects ranging from ration coupons and textiles to brilliantly original Soviet porcelain.

Revolutionary in their own right, together these works capture both the idealistic aspirations and the harsh reality of the Revolution and its aftermath.

It is especially interesting viewed with the much smaller exhibition upstairs “America After the Fall” It’s difficult not to see the overlap between the propaganda of communism, and the hearing for an idealised simpler populist lifestyle.

British Museum: America.

Apologies for so many museums but it’s the holidays and what better break from stressed out teenagers revising for exams could possibly be found.

Yesterday I went to see an art exhibition at the British Museum that pulled together a lot of the work I’ve seen recently at other sites in London, from Rauschenberg to Hockney. Since I’m not a member, but she is we just walked through the crowds in the main museum and into the quest, almost serene Sainsbury wing using her card but

I’d recommend the show even if you have to pay. If you just want to see the main exhibitions (which are free though a donation is requested) then come with a plan ie. print off the maps from the website (they cost £2 at the gallery itself), choose 5-10 objects that you’re interested in and stick to them. The museum is vast and at holiday time positively heaving with people.

If you have a child in tow, consider asking for one of the children’s trail maps. I’m often tempted to ask for one even without a child – they’re that engaging – but haven’t quite got the courage.

To see the British Museum, you need a plan. Wander aimlessly and you will see nothing. If you’re interested in the “big ticket items” i.e. Rosetta stone, Elgin Marbles etc arrive at 10am to minimise the crowds.

Anyway, pop art….

The past six decades have been among the most dynamic and turbulent in US history, from JFK’s assassination, Apollo 11 and Vietnam to the AIDS crisis, racism and gender politics. Responding to the changing times, American artists have produced prints unprecedented in their scale and ambition.

Starting with the explosion of pop art in the 1960s, the exhibition includes works by the most celebrated American artists. From Andy Warhol, Jasper Johns and Robert Rauschenberg to Ed Ruscha, Kara Walker and Julie Mehretu – all boldly experimented with printmaking. Experience this extraordinary history through their eyes.

Taking inspiration from the world around them – billboard advertising, global politics, Hollywood and household objects – American artists created highly original prints to rival their paintings and sculptures. Printmaking brought their work to a much wider and more diverse audience.

The sheer inventiveness and technical ingenuity of their prints reflects America’s power and influence during this period. Many of these works also address the deep divisions in society that continue to resonate with us today – there are as many American dreams as there are Americans.

This exhibition presents the Museum’s outstanding collection of modern and contemporary American prints for the first time. These will be shown with important works from museums and private collections around the world.

Tate Modern: Rauschenberg

I am unconvinced by the Rauschenberg Exhibition but entirely willing to accept that the fault is mine.

According to the Observer ‘Robert Rauschenberg is America’s Leonardo – ceaselessly inventive, a mind in perpetual revolution. That is the revelation of this exhilarating show’

And it is blindingly obvious that he is the inspiration for any number of current artists. The link between his “bed” and that of Tracy Emin, or his “goat” and Damien Hirst’s various formaldehyde animals is clear, but rather sad;y the technology means the latter are much easier to appreciate.

Rauschenberg blazed a new trail for art in the second half of the twentieth century.

The landmark exhibition at the Tate celebrates his extraordinary six-decade career, taking you on a dazzling adventure through modern art in the company of a truly remarkable artist. The thing that strikes the visitor and stays with you is the range of his work.

From paintings including flashing lights to a stuffed angora goat, Rauschenberg’s appetite for incorporating things he found in the streets of New York knew no limits. Pop art silkscreen paintings of Kennedy sit alongside 1000 gallons of bentonite mud bubbling to its own rhythm. Rauschenberg even made a drawing which was sent to the moon.

Each room captures a different moment of this rich journey, from Rauschenberg’s early response to abstract expressionism to his final works saturated in images and colour. Seen together they show how Rauschenberg rethought the possibilities for art in our time.

This exhibition, organised in collaboration with The Museum of Modern Art, New York, is the first full-scale retrospective since the artist’s death in 2008 and is claimed by the Tate to be the ultimate Rauschenberg experience. Hmm. It is a chance to see these major international loans together in one place, while discovering the full story of an inspirational and much-loved artist whose influence is still felt today

Tate Britain: David Hockney

Some exhibitions are just a joy to wander around and the Hockney retrospective at Tate Britain ticks all of the requisite boxes.

His early work rapidly turns into a recognisably Hockey palette of colours.

And in modern days it’s difficult to remember that homosexuality was illegal in many parts of the world, certainly frowned upon in large parts of the States when he was living and painting in California.

His portrait exhibition last year was disappointing, not because of it’s skill but because of the curation – it’s physically difficult to enjoy three rooms of head, all in the same colours, all with no information beyond a name and number.

Yet in this exhibition his portraits of friends “sing”.

And the portraits of his parents, especially his mother, are tender.

The scope of work and his foray into collage were well represented.

As were his monumental British scenes including an excellent installation showing a simple country road in all four seasons.

The whole exhibition was a delight. Juts watch out for the crowds.