Kenneth Clark at Tate Britain: the great panjandrum

Kenneth Clark at Tate Britain: the great panjandrum

Edward Lucie-Smith discovers that their tribute to Kenneth Clark is not as complimentary as the Tate thinks it is The Tate Britain show devoted to Sir Kenneth Clark – ‘Lord Clark of Civilisation’, as he came to be called – was a slightly strange phenomenon. It defined a whole tract of the recent history of the visual arts here in [...]

Matisse at the Tate: cut and paste

Matisse at the Tate: cut and paste

Edward Lucie-Smith admires an ambitious exhibition but with the reservation that something is missing The big new exhibition of Matisse’s Cut-Outs at Tate Modern in London is, certainly on the face of it, everything that a major museum of Modern and Contemporary Art should be doing. It is beautifully presented, very professionally curated, has an extremely thorough, excellently illustrated catalogue [...]

Ai Weiwei at Yorkshire Sculpture Park

Ai Weiwei at Yorkshire Sculpture Park

Such is Ai Weiwei’s predictable status as a heroic dissident, that he could select an object blindfold and if he then exhibited it under his name it would automatically be said to be ‘about’ oppression or, as is more frequent these days, the individual’s place in the collective. The recently refurbished chapel in the grounds of the park (see illustration), [...]

Public art: Richard Wilson’s slipstream

Public art: Richard Wilson’s slipstream

Richard Wilson’s 77-tonne, £2.5 million sculpture Slipstream in Terminal 2 at Heathrow looks better in small, professionally taken photographs. In the flesh it disappoints. Looking more like a plane crash or an imploded barrage balloon than the rolling Spitfire which is claimed to have inspired it, it is so huge and so easily disappears into the building that many passengers [...]

House of Commons art collection: hard bargains and money well spent

House of Commons art collection: hard bargains and money well spent

What a kerfuffle occurred recently concerning how much the House of Commons has spent – £250,000 in 20 years no less – on portraits of its more distinguished and long-serving members. How shocking and self-indulgent was the general tenor of the response. Well, no actually. To get two dozen paintings for 250 grand suggests someone is driving a hard bargain [...]

National Rail Museum

National Rail Museum

The most elegantly streamlined of all British Rail’s steam locomotives was the Great North Eastern Region A4 class of which an engine called Mallard is the best known of the 35 built at Doncaster works. Designed in 1935 by Sir Nigel Gresley, whose earlier A3 class (of which Flying Scotsman is the preserved example) was in terms of classy looks [...]

Perming eight from twelve: Lowry and the painting of modern life at Tate Britain

Perming eight from twelve: Lowry and the painting of modern life at Tate Britain

Lowry deserves treatment as a serious artist, though more usually such an approach is denied him because of, firstly, his suspiciously wide popularity and, secondly, what is mistakenly characterised as stylistic primitivism. A strong whiff of the patronizing informed reviews of this exhibition, as though the work was a tad unsophisticated for critics used to rambling on for pages about [...]

Recent articles

in Comment

London: the place for a painter

This article is essentially a follow-up to a piece by The Jackdaw’s editor David Lee, published in The Times on July 25th of this year. In it he detailed just what a fiasco the Arts Council’s contribution to an otherwise successful Olympic year was with £5.4 million spent, and nothing to show for it. “Twelve months on,” he noted, “[and] [...]

in Essays

Serpentine Gallery: charity begins at home

                              The ever so charitable Serpentine, which gives the public indigestible quantities of what it can’t stomach, held an annual summer bash for all its rich mates, and, blow me down, guess who deigned to show up. He’s probably not been at the gallery since last [...]

in Essays

BBC arts coverage (part 34)

Two months ago, having been criticised for their useless visual arts coverage, which tends to be levelled at children and others of grotesque collective ignorance, the BBC promised us a raft of excellent arts programmes. Perhaps things were looking up. One of these has now hit the screen … with a splat. The organisation has clearly learned nothing from the [...]

in Essays

Imperial War Museum North: the pitfalls of novelty

In the first few years of the National Lottery, museums were built employing architects who had no interest in museums per se but instead limitlessly indulged their own vanity. Those who drew attention to the blatant unsuitability of resulting buildings were dissed as old-fashioned, traditional and behind the architectural times. The result of this defended process was that buildings materialised [...]

in Essays

Van Dyck self portrait: do we really want to pay £12 million for this?

The self-portrait by Van Dyck is the subject of a deferred export licence in order to give British museums an opportunity to find the £12.5 million required to stop it going abroad. The NPG, where the picture is currently on show drumming up donations, has started a campaign to raise £12.5 million to acquire the picture. They have raised £1.2 [...]

in Essays

Graham Sutherland: exultant strangeness at Abbott Hall and Crane Kalman

Few save masochists would venture as far as Kendal in order to see work by Bethan Huws, not least because unless you happen to have attended one of State Art’s indoctrination sessions you won’t have heard of her. A taste considered acquirable only by the starving, Huws is among State Art’s chosen apostles. Sadly, she is unmissable in Kendal for [...]

in Leader

Serpentine Gallery: working at home

The last three editorials have dealt with a charity called the Serpentine Gallery. We’ve observed limousines lined up outside signifying whose interests the gallery really serves. We have identified overmanning and fat cat pay increases for two directors. And, last time, we highlighted an outside PR agency working between press and gallery in order to disarm justified criticism. Apologies for [...]

in Leader

Serpentine Gallery: the black art of hushing it up

Most readers will be unfamiliar with Bolton and Quinn Ltd, a company which is the subject here. Invisible to the public at large, they operate in a murky hinterland between major galleries and the media encouraging positive coverage of State-approved art. One definition of State Art might simply cite a list of B&Q’s clients, for all the major promoters of [...]

in Leader

Fat cats in the park

Arts administrators cleaning up in the name of charity In 2011, the Arts Council screamed daily that it was losing over 30% of its annual taxpayer subsidy. “Difficult decisions” and “hard choices” resulted in it cutting completely annual grants to 206 organisations, making many redundant. The Serpentine, meanwhile, was awarded the special status of “a regularly funded organization” – i.e. [...]

in Leader

The Serpentine as fat cat

Why should the interests of those in limousines be subsidised by the rest of us? What is the difference between a line of black limousines at a Mob funeral in Brooklyn and an identical cavalcade at the opening party of the new Serpentine Gallery annexe in Hyde Park? Well, not as much as you’d think. Although Cosa Nostra are undoubtedly [...]