= The Crawford Arts Review: 2015

Tuesday, 15 December 2015

Cycle Revolution at the Design Museum

Open 10 am to 5.45 pm
40 years ago Copenhagen was just as car-clogged as anywhere else but now 45% of the population arriving at work or education do so on bicycles, from all over the Metro area. 63% of Copenhageners themselves use bicycles each day. They all use over 1000 km of bicycle lanes in Greater Copenhagen for their journeys. Copenhagenizing is possible anywhere.
Mikael Colville-Andersen's copenhagenize blog, from which I quote above, is strongly intermodal. It does not ignore cars. It just makes a splendid case for more cycle infrastructure and the difference it makes to a city in terms of function.

Now that 196 countries have signed up to the Paris agreement on climate change, I can scarcely think of a more appropriate subject to write about. And by happy accident or design - and the prompting of the Museum's trustee and founder Sir Terence Conran - the Design Museum's exhibition Cycle Revolution covers the post-COP21 world. The exhibition runs until Thursday 30 June 2016. (Please note that both the Designs of the Year and Designers in Residence exhibitions will close on Thursday 31 March.)

It is this well-loved Museum's final show at its Shad Thames building before it uproots itself and moves to Kensington, where it will have three times as much space, next year.

As well as some humorous road signs on the stairs on the way up (see left), the displays include urban bikes, children's bikes, fold-up, custom, mountain and mobility bikes, and electric, cargo and futuristic prototype bikes, as well as cycling gear, guest and cycle building videos, and a shopful of designer cycle bells among many other things just waiting for your eyes to light upon them.

Bikes and their riders are stars of the show too - here you will find the bikes ridden by Merckx, Hoy, Boardman, Wiggins, Froome . . .. Do not rush your visit.

My absolute favourite was the classic Christiania Light (see pic below). Not only will it keep you fit, it has the lowest maintenance requirements of any bike in the pack and will carry work or leisure gear, shopping, children, pets, furniture and/or miscellaneous cargo in stylish comfort. I'm just waiting for the plexiglass rain and wind shield; indeed, I'm sure it's already in the shops.

A further section of the exhibition takes a look at London's very own Mini Hollands, Quietways and Space for Cyclists as well as the cycling infrastructure in Amsterdam, New York, Freiburg, Bogota, Seville, Montreal, Copenhagen and Tokyo.

It's a strong message. The future is bikeable. And I'm off now to check whether the Human Powered Vehicle Association has a London branch.

Design Museum
28 Shad Thames
London SE1

Open daily 10:00 – 17:45
Last admission 17:15
Ticketed: £13 Adult, £9.75 Student, £6.50 Child under 16 (6–15 inclusive)
Free entrance to members and children under six
Entry into the museum gives you access to all three exhibitions for the price of one ticket


Sunday, 29 November 2015

RIBA Gallery, 66 Portland Place 
Palladian Design: The Good, The Bad and the Unexpected
Until Saturd
ay 09 January

This reviewer, admirer of all things minimalist and well proportioned, was nonetheless taken aback by Palladio's particular take on the subject.
Consider No.28 in this moving architectural exhibition at RIBA. It's Palladio's design for the Villa Valmarano. It seems to be of and arise from the comely landscape of the Vigardolo on which it stands. The fact that this early Villa was never quite finished and lacks the ornamentation of later work adds to its simple allure.
Palladio, I would suggest, to reach the heights of renaissance harmony which he achieved, was above all the observer; the disciple of natural form.
But there can be few architects, I think, who speak the name Palladio (Andrea Palladio, architect, born 1508 in Padua) with anything less than reverence. If they do, they especially should hasten to this exhibition - it closes in just over a month. For students of architecture the exhibition is a MUST.

No architect I think worked out the ratio of void to solid so masterfully as Palladio. Possessed of a mind that grasped the principles of good proportion and classical symmetry and influenced by the works of the Greeks and Romans (especially Vitruvius) before him, he built the way forward for architecture after the fall of the Western Roman Empire.

And Palladio was industrious enough not only to build but to write down the whole of his principles in I quattro libri dell'architettura (a copy is on display in the exhibition), translated as The Four Books On Architecture, an English edition of which is available from MIT Press. Many books, treatises and pattern books followed as designers and architects sought to follow his principles in England, America and elsewhere (see note below).

In terms of Palladio's original plan drawings, exquisitely executed in pen and brown ink and wash, thanks to one of our own great architects, Inigo Jones (1573-1652), these were purchased and form the backbone of this exhibition.

Together with architectural models and photographs,
these original drawings have been arranged with appropriate symmetry and devoted precision by the London and Zurich architectural practice (Adam) Caruso and (Peter) St John. Together the items show the influence on the built environment of what came to be known as Palladianism over the course of 500 years and counting.

Take care to read the curatorial notes. Palladio did iterate a universal architectural language but it was not one he himself stuck to with mindless rigidity. His work, like all architectural work, was site-specific, adjusted and modified to suit location, budget and the needs of the client. He still has plenty to teach today. 

Note: an example: The City and Country Builder's and Workman's Treasury of Designs: Or The Art of Drawing and Working The Ornamental Parts of Architecture (Batty Langley, published in London in 1740). Until the 20th century few architects had seen Palladio's buildings in his native Italy: they relied on his 'Four Books' and pattern books such as these.

Note 2: Nature, I would also suggest, is incapable of ill proportion because with proportion comes function. The long neck of the giraffe, for instance, is certainly a long neck but it's a well-proportioned long neck - and it enables the giraffe in  nature to reach the leaves on which it feeds.

Until Saturday 09 January 2016. Free entry. Details: architecture.com

Monday to Sunday 10am to 5pm
Tuesday 10am to 8pm

Wednesday, 14 October 2015

Mexico 1980, from 'Other Americas'  
© Sebastião Salgado / Amazonas Images / NB
The Photographers' Gallery is showing some 35 black-and-white photographs, all of which are available to buy as signed prints, by Sebastião Salgado until Sunday 01 November.

Prices range from £4,850 ($7,200) plus VAT to £9,600 ($14,300) (prices correct at time of going to press).

The subject matter comes from Salgado's award-winning series 'Other Americas'. It documents the photographer's travels in the late 1970s and early 1980s in the then relatively unknown parts of Latin America - Ecuador, Guatemala, Bolivia, Peru, and Mexico - as well as his native Brazil.

Unknown but with populations undergoing political turmoil, industrial growth and rising inequality. These pictures show the photographer's quiet, painterly eye at work as he captures rich and poignant narratives that allow the viewer to react to and fully interpret the subject matter.

For investors and enthusiasts, his photographs of children ('Brasil 1981') might easily recall Irving Penn's 1960 'Children in the Peruvian Andes' of two small children flanking a side table that is such an icon of 20th century photography.

In Salgado's 'Mexico 1980' two children react like wild creatures, frightened by their first encounter with the stinging teeth of a desert cactus that's as big as they are.

In his 'Brasil 1983' (pictured above) two behatted, ponchoed figures stand atop a rocky outcrop. Their balancing act, precarious, each supporting the other, but seemingly nerveless as they look into an airy abyss beyond (Salgado's famous depth of field at work).

Totally arresting, analogue photography of this calibre has a special place in the art of photography. Like a painting (a depiction using a different medium), it allows interpretation on many levels, its complex narrative unfolding further each time you look at it.

The Photographers' Gallery
Print Sales Gallery
16-18 Ramillies Street
London W1

Monday, 5 October 2015

Dutch and Flemish Masterpieces of the Royal Picture Gallery The Hague

Maurice's House (Mauritshuis in Dutch) in the centre of the Dutch capital, The Hague, is a beautiful example of Dutch classicist style. 

It is a house built for a 17th-century prince, Maurits van Oranje. Walk across the forecourt, take the glass elevator or the daylight-flooded stairs down, secure your ticket, and mount the broad, sumptiously carpeted staircase to level 1. You can feel the power of the building raise you to a higher state of being literally and metaphorically.

Your audience will be with the paintings of the Dutch Golden Age rather than a royal prince; and with the work of the renovation architects, Hans van Heeswijk architecten (the building reopened to visitors last year); as well as with the work of director Emilie Gordenker and her team.

Crossing that grand hall for the first time and entering the first room you might be forgiven if tears spring to your eyes. These rooms contain the highest of Dutch and Flemish art, the highest of perhaps any painted art: Rembrandt, Vermeer, Breughel, Rubens, Hans Holbein the Younger, Van Dyck . . . some 800 works from the Royal 'Cabinet' of paintings.

The ecstatic art crowd has now thinned slightly. In the morning particularly you will be able to commune with these paintings at a pace that suits your vision of them. 

I've mentioned the light. The more I visit the Netherlands the more I realize that light is the constant factor in everything Dutch. The country's relative flatness means that light pours from above. The presence of canals and lakes reflect even more light, sparkling with light even on the greyest day. None more so that here at the Mauritshuis. It was light that first inspired this art: light from the sky, from the windows, from the paintings. This triple light source is somehow captured here in the museum for the lighting too is art here.

From the moment you enter you are presented with an architectural tour de force. As you descend you will pass the sparkling surface of the adjacent Hofvijver Lake, presented with a flourish through a series of windows the firm have pierced into the retaining wall. You are descending below the water surface. The foyer contains ticketing, cloakroom, audio guides, the timetable for free art tours, information desk, a shop and a brasserie.

In the galleries themselves, light floods in from the draped windows (see above). The effect is somehow to return the viewer to the context in which these works were painted: a softly lit interior (candlelight in effect) with, outside, the brightness of a Dutch cityscape. The harmonious brick patterns, tiling and ornate ironwork of the Binnenhof (the Dutch parliament) and the Noordeinde Palace beyond.

Lighting is effected by LED systems that are specially calibrated to combine daylight with the period glow of candles. So daylight can flood the visitor's eye  but is not allowed to get anywhere near the paintings, all of which are treated like the individual little prodigies they are and bathed in their own special LED light.

These are the painters whose painted light still enthralls all who see their work. I will post more about the paintings themselves in part II.

Mauritshuis Art Museum
Plein 29
2511 CS Den Haag

Open daily 10am-6pm (to 8pm on Thursdays).

Wednesday, 26 August 2015

Art and the architecture of the art gallery

In this review, both artist, Robert Motherwell, and gallery, Bernard Jacobson, are the stars of the show.

This is the centennial year of Motherwell's birth. So very, very much has been written about him, including, this year, a book, by Bernard Jacobson, Robert Motherwell: The Making of an American Giant.

To see that blackest of black Motherwell signature script stencilled onto the whiter than white back wall of the gallery, is to reacquaint oneself with acrylic paint laid down with an energy that is almost demonic. Art as sex? Motherwell in his own unique way invented it. Great money shots of paint that has clients in a polite drool of desire. The power of black and white. Motherwell himself likened it to the dialogue between life and death.

This newest exhibition, Robert Motherwell: Black of paintings, works on paper and limited edition prints surveys the importance of this dialogue in Motherwell's work, including his Elegy series to the Spanish Republic and the Spanish Civil War, a series the artist worked on throughout his career.  

As for the exhibition space, the home of the Bernard Jacobson Gallery for the past 6 months, not only is it in the beautiful mid-20th-century French Railways House, it is the result of a conversion that has turned an underground car-park (forgive the italics) into offices, exhibition space and viewing rooms.
Photo: Courtesy of Nick Gowing Architecture

The architect of the gallery space is Nick Gowing. The conversion provides a magnificent setting for art. Take the side entrance in Duke Street St James's (opposite the side entrance to Fortnum & Mason) to enter the gallery.

In residence at No.6 Cork Street since 2004, I imagine the Bernard Jacobson Gallery, like others prized from their historical base in Cork Street, suffered the pain of loss with stoicism. But all is spectacularly well in the new place: magisterial two-storeyed entry staircase, a well-chosen palette of materials, hi-tech LED lighting. The resulting light and airiness is not only beautiful but highly functional. Motherwell's biggest painting in this show (A View No.1, 1958, oil on canvas) measures 206.1 x 264.2 cm (811/8 x 104 in). Held with the professional caring skill of the handlers, it will have gone down those stairs not only safely but with a sense of belonging.

Bernard Jacobson Gallery
28 Duke Street St James's
London SW1

Monday, 17 August 2015

Bau Magazine from the 1960s and 1970s

Until Sunday 27 September

Born in Vienna, Bau: Magazine for Architecture and Urban Planning came to believe that 'Everything is Architecture' (Alles ist Architektur) (see the poster from its famous 1968 issue edited by Hans Hollein, below).

The message, of course, is that everything from a lipstick to a portrait, a rocket ship, a bird's nest, a computer is constructed, is built. The message too is that architecture, by default, is interdisciplinary.


In the ICA Fox Reading Room, the magazines have been opened out and displayed under glass. They show large format glossy pages in black and white. The first ussue of 1970 was dedicated to the Viennese architects and designers Adolf Loos and Josef Hoffmann (it marked the 100th anniversary of Hoffmann's birth). The pic on the left shows the staircase of the Loos House in Vienna.

A gallery tour of the Bau exhibition led by Jo Melvin takes place on Thursday 3 September at 6.30 pm.

ICA Fox Reading Room
The Mall
London SW1

 £1 day membership (free on Tuesdays)
Closed Mondays, Tue, Wed, Fri, Sat, Sun 11 am to 6 pm, Thu 11 am to 9 pm

Monday, 10 August 2015

Is there a third way to work architecturally with concrete?

I think of architecture as high art. Art that moves both the occupant and the passerby. Art that makes the toes tingle. When I first visited Prague, I was moved massively by the way every building combined this 'being art' with its functionality: the bicycle sheds were art.           Sally Crawford, 10/08/2015 

I constantly look for the above combination of art and functionality in London. Thrillingly, it occurs often. I feel the profession lets itself down each time it opts for one (function) over the other (art) when both are achievable, within the same cost and time frame, with the requisite effort. 

I attended RIBA's Brutalist Playground exhibition with trepidation. Concrete – béton brut – used as a building material seems to me to declare not only that function trumps art, but that it doesn't much matter: the next generation will tear it down anyway. (Old Nick Barbon's modus operandi does not become the profession but it still operates.) It is the fabric of the living city that suffers as a consequence.

Raw concrete needs art in its formation to make it anything less than ugly. Le Corbusier had that art – that sensitivity to ratio, to scale, and to context. We have grey postwar estates, underground car parks and the Barbican. No wonder such buildings attracted the term 'Brutalist' (and I know the etymology) for those who worked with it so rawly.

RIBA are seeking to at least ameliorate this reputation with their exhibition, The Brutalist Playground, which finishes on Sunday 16 August.

Concrete's relative cheapness makes it one of the most useful (and flexible) of architectural materials. I can't say I've ever loved it until one day in May 2002 when I saw another exhibition – also at RIBA – that showed me what concrete was capable of. It ran for 2 months and, rather brilliantly, it was called HARDCORE: Concrete's rise from utility to luxury.

To my mind – writing, as I think In have explained elsewhere, as a user first and an exponent second – it was sensational. Here was a brave new world of concrete that wasn't coarse textured or uniformly grey; that was as tactile as stone (see archive links below). I wish they would repeat it.

Child playing on and beneath a high density foam
reproduction (to scale) of the 'flying saucer' originally built
in concrete as part of the Churchill Gardens Estate, Pimlico

In the present exhibition, RIBA have been true to the architectural struggles of the past – to deal with postwar shortages while at the same time provide housing and recreational space for postwar generations. The architectural collective Assemble and the artist Simon Terrill have been equally diligent in their investigation of the archives in order to faithfully reproduce the era in microcosm. Nothing disappoints.

A young architect demonstrates her building
skills using coloured foam hexagonals

I am sure there are many fine examples of 'post brutalist' use of concrete – this year's Stirllng Prize finalists provide some striking examples. The use of added pigment or textural aggregates, surface texture or lustrous finish, can give results that are inspiring for anyone working with or living with this material as part of their built environment. Expensive you say. Well, yes, if used for core and exterior. But expensive building stone can now be cut into thin facings that both look good and wear well. Concrete lends itself to the same treatment. Let's at least have some grown up Modroc, a uniform and thoughtfully produced layer of concrete that can be fused onto sturdy backing, cut to fit and fixed into place. Comments welcome.

RIBA's free exhibition, The Brutalist Playground, runs until Sunday 16 August at RIBA, 66 PORTLAND PLACE, LONDON W1.

Opening hours: Monday to Sunday 10am to 5pm and Tuesday 10am to 8pm

From the RIBA archive, HARDCORE: Concrete's rise from utility to luxury

Wednesday, 5 August 2015

You've probably seen one of these before

This reaction to light, this making with light, is the subject of an exhibition Photosynthesis: shedding new light on plants on until Sunday 27 September at the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh.

(with thanks to @NLinUK for tweeting details)

Tuesday, 4 August 2015

Monday, 3 August 2015

Parasols in London

The beautifully calm area between
St Paul's Cathedral and the river

Continuing what is turning out to be a summer miscellany

The 2015 Serpentine Pavilion (designed by architect duo selgascano) is a fascinating light and colour filled space walled by transluscent plastic. It's sited next door to the Serpentine Gallery until Sunday 18 October. Fortnum & Mason are in residence as suppliers of food, drink, ice-creams and picnic fare.

Thursday, 23 July 2015

This is Abutilon Kentish Belle, a work by nature and the plantsman

Tuesday, 21 July 2015

Go online to see work by artists fresh from a year-long studio residency with the Florence Trust

The Florence Trust has just celebrated its 25th anniversary with a glittery exhibition in Highbury, north London. Many of the anniversary year works by the 12 participating artists are still available to purchase. There's nothing better for developing your artist's eye than to see newly developed work so go ahead and do some artistic talent spotting.*

The Florence Trust
(it was named for the city of Firenze) has a relatively simple formula for developing artists. Since 1990, artists have been able to apply for a studio residency lasting a year. The studios themselves are set up in the converted St Saviour's Church in Aberdeen Park Road N5.

Then begins a year of work, artistic development, mentoring, and engagement with the art world. With public exhibitions, gallery tours, group critiques and curatorial visits, the mentees are very busy indeed. Here are just three samples of work emerging from this anniversary year (top to bottom): ceramic by William Martin, installation by Francis Olvez-Wilshaw, and automaton by Ting-Tong Chang (images courtesy of the respective artists).

As well as studio space, the artists work within the neo-gothic splendour of a grade-1 listed, William White designed church set among the quiet green spaces of the park. I was more than a little envious. 

But of course the most rewarding thing for someone with a residency is to sell. Selling their work enables elevation from artist to professional artist as well as enabling the artists to fund their work for the year ahead. 

Before the 2016 intake arrives in September, take a look at this year's artist page. As well as showcasing the artists' work, it is one illustration of the devoted work that goes on behind the scenes by the studio manager, the director and the trustees on behalf of the following artists:

Phoebe Boswell, Kirsty Buchanan, Susannah Douglas, Anna Jung Seo, Cara Nahaul, Natalia Triviño Lazano, Ting-Tong Chang, Timothy Hon Hung Lee, Fabio Lattanzi Antinori, William Martin, Jonathan Munro, Francis Olvez-Wilshaw           

The Florence Trust
St Saviour's
Aberdeen Park

London N5
Contact neil [at] florencetrust.org

Open from: 16pm daily or by appointment

Note: If you feel you lack confidence in your appreciation of art (or don't think you have an eye for art), prove yourself wrong. Google 'art appreciation courses': even a short course will soon bring you up to speed.

Saturday, 11 July 2015

Nature: the inspiration for art, science, life. This is Regent's Park.

Tuesday, 7 July 2015

Until Saturday 11 July

Three Male Sculptors: Rodin (1840-1917), Brancusi (1876-1957) and Moore (1898-1986)

Sculpture by definition occupies space - inner space - much like a building occupies outer space. What one does not often see is the process of the making of this inner space.

Waddington Custot is showing vintage photographs, taken or commissioned by the sculptors themselves, of their work in progress: the making of this inner space.

There is also video of the most contemporaneous sculptor, Henry Moore, at work. Thus we see the artist choosing the block of Roman Travertine he will later sculpt into the majestic female form that will be placed outside the UNESCO HQ in Paris. Constantin Brancusi is shown blithely breaking all the laws of photography to brilliant effect. Auguste Rodin, since early photography was in the hands of professionals, commissioned Eugene Druet and Pierre Choumoff among others to take his studio shots and there is one which is such a symphony of exposure that it resembles an incised relief (sold . . . sold . . . ).

You'll also have the treat of seeing the gallery, always beautifully lit, bathed in additional daylight, the building opposite having just come down as Cork Street undergoes some rebuilding. But hurry, the exhibition ends on Saturday.

Waddington Custot Galleries
Through the Sculptor's Lensin association with David Grob
11 Cork Street, London W1

Monday to Friday, 10am to 6pm
Saturday 10am to 1.30pm

Monday, 6 July 2015

Art by and for children

The final picture in this series of art by children on show at Tate Modern as part of Bloomberg Connects.

A further sample of Tate Modern's collection of paintings by children to hopefully add some cheer to our Monday mornings.

Wednesday, 1 July 2015

Art by and for children as well as adults

Mondrian through the eyes of a child

Give a child a bright and airy space, some paper and some primary colours, and this happens . . . Tate Modern  

Tate Modern offers light and airiness during these hot days. I spent a cool afternoon there recently, exploring level 2: the paintings; what the video room has to offer (I particularly recommend Gerhard Richter in his studio being interviewed by Nicholas Serota).
     I was also charmed by the small wall projections of visitors to the gallery being asked questions such as 'what do you think art is?' ('art and science are parallel' offered one visitor I thought to be particularly well informed). There are also lots of colourful paintings done by children inspired by the paintings in the Tate's collection and screen projected around the gallery as part of Bloomberg Connects. I took screen shots of five of them which I will publish over the coming days.

Friday, 19 June 2015

Yeşim (the name means 'beautiful' in Turkish) Akdeniz is showing paintings and some sculptural forms in a show called The Secret Life of My Coffee Table at Pi Artworks, 55 Eastcastle Street, until Saturday 27 June.

Going round this exhibition it is interesting to observe the surrealist eye the artist applies to everything from landscapes and seascapes to her own sitting room.

In one painting the eponymous coffee table sits beside the artist's yellow chair, an object she renders with architectural skill. The chair is empty and a mysterious iceman- or rock-like object sits on the table. One secret is revealed in the title: "You Called My Name and My Heart Stood Still".

Follow her easel from painting to painting and the mysterious figure, in whole or in part, appears again and again - in the role of a higher intervention, an absent friend or a pet rock the viewer must decide for themselves.

The robustness and confidence of Akdeniz's style and the way she plays with and bends shadows lift the domestic into a surreal dimension, however, and universalize the work convincingly.

The Secret Life of My Coffee Table
Yesim Akdeniz
Pi Artworks London, 55 Eastcastle Street, W1W 8EG, London, UK
Until 27 June 2015
Mon‐Fri 10am ‐ 6pm; Sat 11am‐6pm (Sundays closed)

see also Pi Artworks Istanbul
Saeed Ensafi - Love, Hate and Edit
Until 10 July 2015
Pi Artworks Istanbul, İstiklal Cad. Mısır Apt. 163/4

Monday, 25 May 2015

An Impressionist Art Walk

Would any of us today reject art just because it was 'new' as the Paris and London of the 18th century rejected the work of the Impressionists? 

Thank goodness, then, that the National Gallery opens 7 days a week to allow us to discover and rediscover art, including the art of the unfamiliar. Every visit reveals new things. 

During a recent art walk I headed not to Inventing Impressionism: The man who sold a thousand Monets (see below) but to Room 43 and Monet: The Water Garden at Giverny.

Claude Monet built his water garden in order to study the way light changed over time on the surface of the water. This is The Water-Lily Pond (1899).

Nearby is Monet’s earlier work celebrating water, The Petit Bras of the Seine at Argenteuil (1872). Did anyone ever paint shimmer quite so well?

Camille Pissarro’s portrait of Paul Cézanne (1874) shows Cézanne bulky, bearded and bundled up against the cold. He was 35 years old and had not yet succeeded in his own eyes – although his tutors, including Pissarro, had no doubt that he would. 

Paul Cézanne’s own self-portrait (about 1800–1) was painted 6 or 7 years later – an older man who seems to have lost weight (and hair) but whose thoughtful expression speaks of the intellectual effort applied to analyse the subjects he painted. Here he analyses the geometric planes of the human skull. He would soon use the same technique to paint his landscapes.

Edouard Manet’s The Execution of Maximilian (about 1867–8) is startling to the eyes even today. Observe the rigour and formality with which the artist paints the scene. You can read the story behind the painting here.

The Execution of Maximilian was cut into sections soon after Manet painted it. Some pieces, including the figure of Maximilian himself (except, poignantly his hand, holding that of General Mejía, who, with General Miramón, also faced the firing squad), have disappeared. It was Edgar Degas who tracked down as many of the pieces as possible and with equal rigour patched them together onto a single canvas to give us the 193 x 284 cm painting we have today.

I ended my art walk with two female figures and one female artist. Whether the sitter in Manet’s Woman with a Cat (about 1880–2), the artist’s wife, is thinking of her needlework, her correspondence, or the fact that it’s high time she got dressed for dinner, we don't know. Any cat lover will recognize the accuracy with which the artist has captured the reluctance to politely but firmly dislodge the cat from her lap.

Berthe Morisot (married to Manet’s brother Eugène) painted Girl on a Divan (not pictured) around 1885. The painting is on loan from the Tate: it seems to me to epitomise what we take the word impressionism to mean, leaving an interpretive space that allows the viewer to enter. Paul Durand-Ruel bought 22 of her works.

The exhibition celebrating Durand-Ruel's work to support the emerging artists of his day is ticketed (see the Art Pass link below), and now has extended opening hours. It finishes at the National Gallery, on Sunday 31 May.

Photos: The National Gallery

The National Gallery
Trafalgar Square, London WC2
Free Daily 10am–6pm
Friday 10am–9pm

National Art Pass

Note: since some staff at the gallery are engaged in strike action, please check the latest news before visiting.

Thursday, 7 May 2015

I really hate to think of Paul Schwer's new artworks the first the German-born artist-sculptor has exhibited in the UK leaving London.

Paul Schwer, 04-08/14, 2014, pigments, silkscreen lacquer
on PET-G, 106 x 88 x 67 cm, image courtesy of the artist
and Pi Artworks
I am giving his work an extra mention (see also the post below) in the hope that an institutional buyer might snap it up before the exhibition closes on Saturday 16 May.

The Shape of Things to Come is a depiction of the city of Istanbul where translucent brightly painted sculptural half-human shapes seem to cower, cringe, and hide from the glare of the sun.

They shelter in a pergola, a roofed space the city has set up specifically for the purpose. Are they 'people', vagrants perhaps, forced to seek shelter from this blinding light?

The shapes have actually been forged in an industrial oven: fed in as sheets of plexiglass (PET-G) and spun, folded and twisted out of (or into) shape. What were two-dimensional plexiglass paintings, screen prints or a map (there is a street map of the city now resembling a sheet of crumpled paper destined to be hurled into space by some giant).

Schwer's sculptures inhabit the gallery space in a manner that almost displaces the viewer. For, using aluminium rods and fluorescent tubes, the artist has employed the gallery ceiling, walls and floor to construct a three-dimensional frame. Unaware, the viewer has ventured into that space; is held in the frame, and has now become part of it.

Curated by Stephan Berg..

Pi Artworks London

55 Eastcastle Street, London, W1
Nearest underground station: Oxford Circus
Pi Artworks
Opening hours:
Monday–Friday: 10:00–18:00Saturday: 11:00–18:00

STOP PRESS: Paul Schwer will discuss his current exhibition at Pi Artworks London, his recent practice and thoughts on contemporary painting on Thursday 14 May at the gallery. For further information, please contact: Neil Jefferies (nj@piartworks.com or +44 207 637 8403).

Friday, 1 May 2015

Three Shorts

The architect as art star
see Tate Britain, now complete with Millbank entrance reopened, at Millbank, London SW1
The Architects

The Gallery

Imagine you're in the sunny centre of Istanbul
see Paul Schwer at Pi Artworks, 55 Eastcastle Street, London W1
The Artist

The Gallery

Find out what sort of person you are
see Pascale Marthine Tayou at the Serpentine Sackler Gallery, London W2
The Artist

The Gallery

Monday, 27 April 2015

Until Saturday 23 May

For form and function beautifully knit together, nobody does it quite like the architect Charles Rennie Mackintosh.

Eighty-seven years after his death, he is already being hailed as the Scottish Michelangelo. Like his illustrious predecessor, he is an artistic polymath: architect, artist and designer all in one.

Central to his aesthetic, and to the aesthetic of his wife Margaret Macdonald Mackintosh, was the concept of total design. Working with the artists and makers of their day, the pair designed everything from plumbing to furniture, ceramics to metalwork and upholstery.

This exhibition at the Royal Institute of British Architects in Portland Place shows Mackintosh’s ink drawings for his building plans, as well as film footage, videos, watercolours, portraits and architectural models – of private and public (notably the Glasgow Art School) commissions – and that most lyrical of typographies the Charles Rennie Mackintosh font.

The Mackintosh House, Glasgow 
© the Hunterian, University
of Glasgow by kind permission.
Viewing the short videos that punctuate the exhibition, you realize that there is no rushing from room to room or up and down stairs in a Mackintosh-designed building except in the most dire emergency. He stops you at every architectural element whether grand staircase or tiny passageway. Nor did he stop at the interiors. Shapely green vistas stretch beyond the windows in nearly everything he did in his native Glasgow, in Ayrshire, and beyond.

He was celebrated abroad too. Turin, Moscow, Dresden and Berlin held exhibitions of his work. In 1901, the German art publisher Alexander Koch set up a competition for the design of "A House for an Art Lover" which Mackintosh entered with enthusiasm, embracing the German as well as the Scottish aesthetic. Nothing can quite prepare you for the real thing, however, so if you get the chance to visit one his buildings, take it. The Charles Rennie Mackintosh Society publish a helpful list of walking trails and tours that visit the available buildings in and around Glasgow.

The Mackintosh Architecture Exhibition was funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) led by The Hunterian, University of Glasgow.

Mon–Sun 10–5
Tue 10–8

The Royal Institute of British Architects
66 Portland Place, London W1

Tuesday, 7 April 2015

As the working week inevitably takes up so much space, don't forget art and its power to uplift. All of Tate Modern awaits you, exhibiting Marlene Dumas, Sonia Delauney and Everyday Sculpture (well, look at the list of What's On). You also get the chance to reunite with that river view, some really nice coffee, and to see how the Tate Modern Extension is getting on; I have started to call it the ZIGGUART because its stepped and rotated shape reminds me of the ziggurats of ancient Mesopotamia.

Monday, 23 March 2015

Adventures of the Black Square: Abstract Art and Society 1915–2015

An adventurous title for an exhibition – and the Whitechapel Gallery's marvellous follow-up to Tate Modern's Kazimir Malevich exhibition last year. You have until Easter Monday, 6 April, to see it.

Since the Whitechapel's exhibition covers the last 100 years of abstract art it isn't tiny. Allow yourself plenty of time: once you've bought your ticket you can exit for breathers, visits to the bookshop, or snacks and cups of tea from the Gallery's restaurant. And be prepared for the eye – itself a globe, its inner structures referred to as rods and cones – to react powerfully to these external geometrics.

Here's what the exhibition's catalogue says:

Adventures of the Black Square: Abstract Art and Society 1915–2015


Edited by Iwona Blazwick and Magnus Af Petersen

With essays by Tanya Barson, Briony Fer, Jiang Jiehong and Tom McDonough

"Exploring how the universal visual language of geometric abstraction relates to society and politics, Adventures of the Black Square  traces a century of abstract art from 1915 to the present day, encompassing sculpture, film, photography, and painting. Beautifully illustrated in colour with works by almost 100 artists including Carl Andre, David Batchelor, Dan Flavin, Andrea Fraser, Kazimir Malevich, Piet Mondrian, Gabriel Orozco, Hélio Oiticica, Aleksandr Rodchenko, Sophie Taeuber-Arp, Rosemarie Trockel, Theo Van Doesburg, Zhao Yao and Andrea Zittel, the book also demonstrates how the movement’s revolutionary aesthetic continues to impact culture across the globe, presenting a chronological survey extending from Russia to Europe, the Middle East, Southeast Asia, Central America, South America, and the US."

A co-publication between Prestel and Whitechapel Gallery.
Paperback, 288 pages, 230 x 275 mm
ISBN 978-3-7913-6595-4
First published 2015
Late Night Openings: Friday 27 & Saturday 28 March, 11am–9pm
Friday 3 & Saturday 4 April, 11am–9pm

ticketed book on T +44 (0)20 7092 9895

Wednesday, 11 March 2015

Virginia Overton at White Cube Mason's Yard

Until Saturday 14 March at 6pm

This is American artist Virginia Overton's first exhibition in the UK. In these new works, she displays a wonderful sculptural eye for the simple, telling, but large-scale gesture. Out of a series of arching whitewood planks braced against floor and ceiling, she produces a curved and wooded wall for the ground floor gallery that is as simple as it is elegant. As the picture shows, the installation interacts with light, here the daylight filtering in from the gallery's windows. 

Untitled 2015. Whitewood. Dimensions
variable. Photo: George Darrell. Courtesy 
White Cube and the photographer

This work, like the other sculptures in this show, is for sale. The dimensions are 1327 x 647 x 438 cm. If you have the space and the means, I urge you to contact White Cube Mason's Yard. From the point of view of private or institutional collectors of American art, it would be sad for such a visceral work to leave the country. Customisation of all the works is possible.

White Cube Mason's Yard
25–26 Mason's Yard
London SW1Y 6BU

Tel +44 (0) 207 930 5373
Opening times

Monday, 2 March 2015

Try not to miss . . .

Adrian Paci's 25' 40" video at the Architectural Association on the quarrying and carving of marble, The Column, for the classical column, still one of the definitive features of architecture in the world.

Architectural Association
36 Bedford Square
London  WC1
Free admission
Mon-Fri 10-7
Sat 10-3

Wednesday, 25 February 2015

Until Saturday

GRAD, Gallery for Russian Arts and Design 3-4a Little Portland Street London W1   

UNTIL Saturday 28 February - original designs, photographs and costumes for Dmitri Shostakovich’s 1931 ballet ‘The Bolt’ 


Quote from the Composer:
“I live in the USSR, work actively
and count naturally on the worker and peasant
spectator. If I am not comprehensible to them
I should be deported.”

Shostakovich in discussion with an opera
audience, January 14, 1930; cited from
Laurel Fay Shostakovich: A Life (2000) p. 55

Friday, 6 February 2015

 Opening Thursday 12 February: Late Rembrandt at the Rijksmuseum Amsterdam
  – ends Sunday 17 May

Art & Design with some Balletic Shostakovich
Enter Great Portland Street from Oxford Street, take the third street on the left and you will find new gallery GRAD. It’s aptly named – University of Westminster buildings are all over this section of London. GRAD stands for the Gallery for Russian Arts and Design and I am drawing it to your attention because not only is it in one of the West End’s most delightful small streets, Little Portland Street, but the gallery is crammed with surprises.

The current exhibition, open until Saturday 28 February, is of a Russian ballet, Bolt (the metal  pin variety), scored by Dmitri Shostakovich, choreographed by Fedor Lopukhov and with costumes and set design by Tatiana Bruni.

Tatiana Bruni's designs are a revelation. The production’s plot centres around a drunken factory conspiracy in Soviet times and Bruni produces a dazzling array of pompous, well-meaning or ne’re-do-well characters. 

Working on paper and using gouache and watercolour, her style uses colour blocking (see pics below) and abstract, pleasingly geometric, design. No matter that the production was officially received as too “satirical” and promptly banned. We have it here as fresh as if it was created yesterday.

Tatiana Bruni, Costume Design for ‘The Bolt’,
1931, The Drunkard. Gouache and watercolour
on paper, Courtesy GRAD and St Petersburg
State Museum of Theatre and Music

Tatiana Bruni, Costume Design for ‘The Bolt’,
1931, Olga. Gouache and watercolour
on paper, Courtesy GRAD and St Petersburg
State Museum of Theatre and Music
For your reviewer, the authentic voice of Russia has always lain within its literature, its music and its visual arts. It seems fitting that GRAD, with its focus on Russian arts and design, has located itself right in the heart of the design and fashion district that once served the great emporia of Oxford Street and, thanks to Crossrail, is presently reinventing itself as an international retail and art destination.

Exhibition curated by Elena Sudakova, Alexandra Chiria and Elena Grushvitskaya in collaboration with the St Petersburg State Museum of Theatre and Music.


GRAD, 34a Little Portland Street, West End, London W1
Open 11am– 7pm Tuesday to Friday and 11am–5pm Saturdays
Free with discretionary contribution
until Saturday 28 February