Art exhibitions: is the price right?

Art, Free events, Outside London

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I’ve dedicated this blog to free art exhibitions. At around £13, the cost of a major art exhibition in London isn’t exactly unaffordable to me – but as a young(ish) person living in one of the world’s most expensive cities, having wisely chosen a notoriously low-paid line of work and served myself up a solid helping of student debt, it’s not high on my list of things I can spend money on without feeling, well, a bit guilty. I’d certainly find it hard to justify visiting more than one in a weekend, which isn’t really practical when you’re trying to write a regular (well, at least semi-regular) blog. And as I’m (to my great regret) only one person, it provides an easy way to filter down the hundreds of art shows going on every week into the ones I actually want to write about.

But what if art was cheaper? I recently spent a few days in Munich, and in between ingesting beers the size of my head and marvelling at the fact that people can actually style out lederhosen and dirndls as viable casual outfit options, I visited the Pinakothek der Moderne (above) – the city’s largest modern art and design museum. Its permanent collection houses a huge range of paintings from the early twentieth century onwards, including the likes of Picasso, Paul Klee and Otto Dix, and as a fan of inter-war debauchery I was extremely pleased to see a whole room dedicated to Max Beckmann’s dark, German Expressionist portraits of sinister, heavy-browed good-time girls, masked figures and people looking bored at parties. Exhibitions currently include Creating Realities, a show about the relationship between cinema and art including the disconcerting Sleepwalker by UK artist Clement Page; and a touching exhibition of photography by Nicholas Nixon entitled The Brown Sisters. 40 Jahre, showing photographs of the artist’s wife and her sisters taken every year on the same day for 40 years. There’s also an exhibition of work inspired by El Greco, from the likes of Kandinsky and Adolf Erbsloh, as well as a showcase of modern furniture design. 

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Laura Knight: Portraits @ National Portrait Gallery

Art, Painting

Corporal Elspeth Henderson and Sergeant Helen Turner, 1941 by Laura Knight

I’m a big fan of reading the notes in galleries. It may make me an annoying person to follow around an exhibition (I’m also an irritatingly slow reader, sorry everyone), but I think the best art exhibitions are the ones where you not only enjoy the work, but find out something you didn’t know about the artist’s life and personality too. Because believe it or not, artists can be a pretty interesting bunch.

So the Laura Knight exhibition at the National Portrait Gallery was a total treat. I knew of some of her more famous work; oil portraits such as Rose and Gold (below) in rich, jewel-like colours but I’d never realised how many different themes she covered. One thing that’s great about Knight’s work is that she delves into such a range of different cultures and ways of life, and although she doesn’t shy away from the less salubrious ones either. Her subjects range from stately old women and doe-eyed prima ballerinas to maudlin circus clowns and gypsies.

The Turner Prize: Love it or hate it, it still gets people talking

Art, Events, Installation

So infamous I won’t even bother with a caption (psgri2003 on Flickr)

Originally published on the Independent blog here

Outside of the art world, the Turner Prize seems to be a byword for work that is self-indulgent, ‘easy’ to produce and generally laughable. Most years it serves as an excuse for anyone who fancies it to make uninformed, unfunny jokes about Tracey Emin’s unmade bed. However, with a lack of such easy targets, could this year change the way people see the beleaguered competition?

What’s great about the Tate (Modern)

Art, Painting, Public spaces

Don’t be mean to the Tate Modern, or it’ll go and sulk in this puddle again (Rev Stan on Flickr)

Pretty big, pretty new and pretty popular, the Tate Modern is often derided by actual-art-fans as somewhere which is too well-known, too much of a tourist attraction, too full of schoolkids thundering around and raucously lol-ing at all the pieces with bums and boobs. Too accessible to the everyday oik who finds themselves on the South bank with half an hour to spare. If private galleries are an exclusive, prosecco-free soiree in the Kensington Roof Gardens (YES, THIS IS THE POSHEST PLACE I KNOW), then the Tate Modern is a can of K Cider in the overgrown, woodsy bit at the back of Hyde Park.

But guys, this is ok! Sometimes stuff that loads of people like is – believe it or not – GOOD! I went there last weekend, for the first time since I was a country-bumph 19-year-old up in London on a kid’s day travelcard and thinking that this was the height of capital city cool. It wasn’t, and still isn’t (the postcode doesn’t begin with the letters EC, go figure), but here are some reasons why it is a nice place to hang about for a bit. You know, even if it’s NOT raining.

Last chance to see: Burnt Breakfast by Su Richardson @ Deptford Town Hall (Pics)

Art, Last chance to see

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So I went to see this exhibition about a month ago, but due to extenuating circumstances (in the form of an extremely last-minute dissertation) I’ve only just got around to blogging it. But you’re in luck, because you can still go and see it this week. In fact, I’d go as far as saying you should.

Funny, frilly and fabulously feminist, Burnt Breakfast is a sardonic take on traditional laydeez activities, namely cooking and crochet. As curator Alexandra Kokoli says, the combined ultra-girliness of these two activities means that they “cancel each other out”, making this breakfast into “a mockery of more than one aspect of housewifely duties.” 

Council block culture: Frank Laws @ Orange Dot gallery

Art, Painting

Untitled

Earlier this week, I rolled on down to the private view of Frank Laws’ show, ‘London Bits’, at the Orange Dot gallery in Bloomsbury. As this is a pretty cosy (to use estate agent speak) space, there were only a handful of pieces on display – but what was there was honestly some of the best contemporary painting I’ve seen in quite a while. Go.

Based on the run down red brick council estates of East London, the subject matter is distinctly unlovely. But Laws, whose day job is surprisingly as an in-house artist for Louis Vuitton, manages to eke out the romance in these everyday urban dwellings through his moody oil colours and sinister, dusky settings. In a time of rapid regeneration and gentrification in what used to be the capital’s poorest areas, perhaps these high-rises – with their union-flag-draped windows, makeshift washing lines and white plastic chairs – will become artefacts; preserving a small piece of the city’s social and architectural past.

Snapped: Yoko Ono @ Serpentine Gallery

Art, Installation, Public spaces, Sculpture

Just a few snaps from Yoko Ono’s show “To the Light” at the Serpentine Gallery in Hyde Park. I’ve written a review too, but have entered it for a writing competition and am all shy and modest n’ shit, so I’ll post it later. By which I mean, if I win.

These are of “Play it by Trust” an all-white chess set outside the building. The idea behind it is a bit peace n’ love for my liking, but at least it looks cool. Just don’t read the description. The show is a bit half and half between annoying hippy cliches (read: a wishing tree) and proper, decent art, but if you have time you should go down and check out “Cut Piece,” a film from 1964 (re-shot in 2003) where Ono sits on a stage and has her clothes cut off by members of the audience. Lazy shits can also watch it on Youtube here.

Below that is the new pavilion designed by Herzog & de Meuron and Ai Weiwei, which has a little lake type thing on top. When I was there it was packed with people, but that’s probably because it was pissing it down with rain.

Marcela Ferri: “Registering memories, telling stories and stealing souls”

Art, Interviews, Outside London, Photography

I had a chat with Marcela Ferri, up-and-coming photographer and self-confessed voyeur who likes nothing more than taking a sneaky snap on the tube.

Marcela likes to keep her identity obscured, lest people start avoiding her on the Northern Line…

Hi Marcela. Can you tell me a little bit about yourself?

I was born at 3:30am on March 3rd 1981 in Sao Paulo, Brazil. As a kid, all I wanted was to be a witch, and everyone always laughed at me because I’m not ugly and don’t have a big nose. I was raised by my dogs, because my parents were too busy doing other things: I learnt about the most basic feelings from them.

LAST CHANCE TO SEE: YTO BARRADA @ IKON, BIRMINGHAM

Art, Last chance to see, Outside London
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Le Salon (2011)

I visited RIFFS, the Yto Barrada exhibition at the Ikon in Birmingham over the weekend. It finishes this Sunday, but if you’re some kind of dirty Midlander like me (well, I’m a begrudging ex-Midlander now) it’s definitely worth a trip.

If you haven’t been to Birmingham before, by the way, it’s not shit. 

Joao Coppa: “Art has no age”

Art, Interviews, Sculpture

This week is your last chance to catch the Roots & Rifts show at the Espacio Gallery. I caught up with one of the artists, Joao Coppa, who is 82 years old and still going strong. He’s even learnt to use Photoshop.

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Joao; you’ve been a practicing artist for a bloody impressive amount of time. Where did it all start?

Since I was a child, growing up in a family of Italian immigrants in 1930’s Sao Paulo, I have been in love with cartoons. The Brazilian and Italian cartoonists in local newspapers were responsible for my first experiments with pencil and paper. I was also curious about the golden age of American animation, which was in its heyday at the time.

When I was 16, somebody gave to me the book “Black Point” by the Spanish writer Eduardo Zamacois. The main character in that book is a famous painter, and ever since that I was sure that I had to be an artist. I fell in love with books, even though to read books in those days was a “upper class” activity and not expected of a working class boy like me. It made such an impression that I still have the same book to this day.