Wednesday, 23 April 2008

Exciting discovery

Researchers have discovered the world's earliest known use of oil paint in Afghanistan caves. Story here.

Florez at the Met

Check out this video of a Vienna performance of the the aria "Ah! Mes Amis" from Donizetti's "La Fille du Regiment." When this tenor, Juan Diego Florez, performed the same aria at the Metropolitan Opera on Monday night, he earned a rare mid performance standing ovation and gave the Met's first solo encore since 1994. It's a weak aria in a weak opera that displays everything that's wrong with the artform, with artistic expression sacrificed to technical fireworks, but is a sight to see nonetheless.

Friday, 18 April 2008

Bad art writing

There's an interesting column today in the Wall Street Journal on the embarrassingly weak curatorial prose that cripples the Whitney Biennial. I'm sure this kind of writing will be familiar to many Courtauld students. It doesn't belong in a museum any more than it belongs in our essays. Density and opacity do not amount to quality, despite the urgings of our weaker periodicals. Crisp, cogent, effective scholarship lacking in jargon has come to be seen as insufficiently academic/abstract. This has resulted in a serious decline in the quality of art writing in and out of the academy. Perhaps this generation of Courtauld students will bring about an improvement.

Thursday, 17 April 2008

Review: "On Time" East Wing Collection 8

The East Wing Collection is a biennial student-curated contemporary art exhibition featuring the work of up-and-coming artists alongside that of well-known established names. This year’s committee is made up of second and third year students from the Courtauld Institute, one of our smaller colleges specialising in History of Art. Through a democratic selection process, they have chosen works by 31 artists to deck our halls with for the next 18 months, and hopefully get the public to explore the institute’s passages and corridors, staircases and lecture rooms, in search of some of the best contemporary works this side of the Thames. The exhibition is called On Time, and deals with the notions of temporality and mixed, overlapping, and interpreted time. The opening night saw a champagne fuelled stench of heavy talk and light projectors; Harald Smykla offering us a technicolour version of our main stairwell complete with scribbled passers-by and eager witnesses, all from an acetate sheet coloured and projected back onto its subjects with an OHP. Incorporated into this dizzying spectacle were two dancers called ‘green bean dance’ who grabbed and flung each other round our basement cafĂ© amidst Stephen Brunel Hurst’s wooden crosses and plaque like references to machinery, arithmetic and engineering. Their sounds echoed through the paint-encrusted spaces of an 18th century palace, once famously home to the RA summer exhibitions, now returning theatrically to the eclectic mix of contemporary artists and their works, usually present in Piccadilly during those summer months.

One of the highlights of the show is Antony Gormley’s ‘Blanket Drawing 1’ unfolded and pinned to a white wall like a spent human soul bowing down in front of its viewers, its edges curling, its creases flecking cracked and brittle paint. Through the door and into the next staircase you’ll find a series of canvases with enlarged and painted website pages, mostly ‘facebook’ or those whose subjects are embittered teens with tag lines such as ‘the taste of tears’. Arresting and cold, the faces of the reproduced bedroom snaps offer to the public a real taste of the unprotected openness of private lives broadcast perpetually over the world-wide-web. Time ticks on, and each room unearths another view of lapsed and lapped time-spans, Sue Blackwell’s ‘Whilst You Were Sleeping’ (a dress cut into a thousand butterflies hanging from the ceiling by knotted tense threads) offering not only the image of other-worldly time zones, but the proof of time spent on the creation of a ‘beautiful’ artwork. The exhibition is so extensive that by the time you’ve managed to get round it all, there’s not much left of our little institute to explore, and the time that has passed has filled up with its own images.

Well presented and beautifully designed, the spaces occupied by the exhibition come alive with projections and unseen light, or wait, brooding and uneasy, for you in the darker areas of the corridors. Sebastian Winnett’s ‘Untitled (grappling hook)’ is a video piece on loop, depicting a man in a box-like room swinging a home-made anchor through the air. Prodding at ideas of purgatory, perpetual tasks and two-sided ambitions, he sometimes wins, sending the metal lunging around his body on the rope, sometimes loses, tangled up and exhausted in the middle of the grey cell. Take time to walk around the maze of old passages and staircases that cross and extend through the college and I am sure you’ll see something that will pick at the threads of childhood memories, or play out tasks, aspirations and possible futures like anchors; sometimes spinning with their own momentum, sometimes weighing us down. For more information about the exhibition and its opening times please see

- Matthew Reeves

Monday, 14 April 2008

Most Visited Museums in the World

Based on the highly suspect methodology used by the website, these are the most visited museums in the world in order:

1. Louvre
2. Vatican Museums
3. Metropolitan Museum of Art
4. Getty Museum
5. Musee d'Orsay
6. Uffizi
7. Art Institute of Chicago
8. Tate Modern
9. Prado
10. National Gallery, Washington

Another blow for Krens

The embattled outgoing Director of the Guggenheim, Thomas Krens (see my previous post on the subject here), has suffered another blow to his museum as franchise strategy. As this article in the Las Vegas Sun reports, the Guggenheim Las Vegas will be closing for good at the end of the month.

Most Powerful People in British Culture

The Telegraph has released their list of the 100 Most Powerful People in British Culture. Though the panel that made the selections is humorously slanted towards theatre and film, a number of visual arts and museums folks made an appearance. To save blog readers some scrolling, here are the relevant people and their places on the list:

2. Nicholas Serota, Director, Tate
4. Antony Gormley, Sculptor
16. Neil MacGregor, Director, British Museum
25. Sandy Nairne, Director, NPG; VP of the Museums Association
32. Grayson Perry, Artist
52. Charles Saatchi, Collector, impresario
54. Damien Hirst, Artist
66. Iwona Blazwick, Director, Whitechapel Gallery
67. Rachel Whiteread, Artist
96. Mark Wallinger, Artist