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.
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.
Today, I went down to Somerset House to see the new installation by Fernando Casasempere.
I felt kind of let down at first because the image on the poster looks a lot like a doctor’s hand holding a human heart, when the exhibition is actually just a bunch of clay flowers. But despite my initial disappointment, it was a pretty nice way to wile away half an hour of a sunny afternoon.
So it isn’t quite Sunday any more, but it’s worth the agonising wait because I actually think this is a good one.
Sir Hubert Von Herkomer’s Portrait of Lady Tate (c.1899) is…RUTH JONES
I don’t have much to say about the actual painting, but if you find yourself awestruck by this relative unknown the Tate Britain blurb on Von Herkomer’s work can be read here. Lady Tate was the second wife of big-time art benefactor Henry, whose collection would form the basis of the galleries we all know and love.
The eagle-eyed amongst you may have noticed that I have done nothing but force crude, dubiously accurate similarities upon you for several weeks. Never fear, however, I will be back with some incisive criticism on the hottest (read: cheapest) art tickets in town before the week is out. Brace yourselves.
Famous Welsh person Ruth Jones / Frill enthusiast Lady Tate
Dante Gabriel Rossetti’s Monna Vanna (1866) is…FLORENCE WELCH
Ok, so maybe it’s just because they’re both redheads and I’m tired. But it’s also an excuse to elbow in this painting, which is one of my favourites. Monna Vanna translates as ‘Vain Woman’, and this is pretty fitting because she is effectively an early example of the wonders of photoshop: Rossetti went back to the painting a couple of years after it was finished to tone down her hair and alter her rings because some 19th-century arseholes got all whiny about the clashing colours. For someone who’s so tired, I’m pretty full of facts. Love Google.
The artist declared this painting ‘probably the most effective as a room decoration that I have ever painted’, which must have made the model, Alexa Wilding, feel pretty good about herself. Chicks love being likened to really nice wallpaper, right?
Rossetti was a fan of the ginge, another example being Blue Bower. This is in the Barber Institute in Birmingham, which is located on my old university campus and which I used to routinely skulk around in pursuit of my younger self’s two primary goals; hiding from my dissertation under the shambolic guise of other vaguely educational activities and trying in vain to source cultured young men. If you also like these things, or if you actually appreciate fine art, you should definitely make a visit.
Monna Vanna hangs out in the permanent collection of Tate Britain with another of my all-time favourite paintings, Millais’ Ophelia, if you’re interested.
Generically kooky songstress Florence Welch / Rossetti babe Monna Vanna
Walking around Tate Britain the other day, I had a revelation. “Woah! The chick in that painting totes looks like someone from Big Brother!”
With this in mind, I will now use the day of rest to seek out the finest in celebrity art lookalikes for your amusement. Here’s number one.
Anthony Van Dyck’s Portrait of Mary Hill, Lady Killigrew (1638) is…MERYL STREEP
Serious yet heartwarming film regular Meryl Streep / 17th century portrait subject Lady Killigrew
Song Dong: Waste Not @ Barbican Curve
I am a girl. As part of my remit as a card-carrying member of the fairer sex, I am hard-wired to gush on command at anything displaying even the faintest hint of sentiment, nostalgia or filial love. It’s the reason why is any clean-shaven young gentleman who has suffered the trauma of witnessing his mother’s second cousin’s dog’s brother go through the trauma of an ingrown toenail is guaranteed to win the X Factor, don’t you know.
With this taken into consideration, Chinese artist Song Dong’s first major UK installation, Waste Not, was the ideal way to spend a Sunday afternoon.
David Hockney: Moving Focus @ Alan Cristea Gallery, W1
A lot of people have praised the British art scene’s prodigal son for returning from Los Angeles with his tail between his legs and painting England’s green and pleasant land for a show at the Royal Academy. The work consists of landscapes of Hockney’s Yorkshire home with a twist: psychedelic colours. Those crazy artists. Just what will they think of next?
Photo: Scuola di Atene on Flickr
Don’t get me wrong, the paintings are gorgeous. But they are also undeniably populist. Some of the work was even done on the artist’s iPad. (Finally, someone has found a use for them other than showing girls you’re adorably nerdy, loaded and prepared to waste your money on frivolous shit or hilariously pretending to drink a pint of digital beer). Hell, even the Daily Mail have used the work as an excuse to spread some much-needed hatred for fly-tipping yobbos.