Art, culture, London

Exhibition: From Russia

I had a chance to attend a Member’s Preview of the From Russia exhibition at the Royal Academy. The exhibition had a tricky start due to the status of some of the paintings as confiscated goods. The works are all here now though, courtesy of the Bolsheviks.

The preview was moderately crowded but not unbearable crush that these events can turn into all too often. The work on show is varied but the Expressionists predominate. Personally I reverted to type and really enjoyed the Constructivist and Suprematist pieces that are on show. Malevich has to be one of my favourite painters, even familiar stuff like Black Cross was great to see again.

The show has several pieces by Picasso who is normally a favourite of mine but they seem to be early stages in his Cubist phase and a far too Primitivist for me. Even the more “classically” Cubist on display didn’t grab me, maybe because it just doesn’t have any meaningful context. All the other Picasso Cubist paintings I have seen have usually been on display with at least a few Braques.

Of the native Russian painters Boris Grigoriev‘s Portrait of Vsevolod Meyerhold was the really surprising piece. A double portrait of an actor that has an amazing colour scheme. It also made me wonder why the double portrait is such a rarely used device.

I’m going to take a second look at the exhibition later but for all the fuss it does seem very thin.

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Art, London

Art in the Park

By chance I stumbled across the Sotheby’s contemporary art exhibition in one of Londons squares this weekend. Giving that it was bucketing down with rain it was a welcome refuge and a chance to catch up with the art world in a venue that wasn’t absolutely heaving (unlike the Royal Academy).

The first shocker was that Bansky now rates about 40K+ for each painting. If the guy graffittis your house is now adds approximately 15% to its value. Yowzer! And to think how many times Bristol City Council erased his earlier (presumably more valuable) works.

The second was a reminder of how disturbing the Chapman Brothers mutant children are. I haven’t seen any of them for a while and I won’t be rushing out for some more anytime soon.

The exhibition was pretty excellent really for something free and drawn entirely from sales. It is always interesting to see how many Andy Warhols there are and what their expected prices are. There are a lot and they are probably cheaper than you expected. I also always come away from a collection of Warhols with a higher opinion of him as an artist. I think he really was one of the great artists of the last century and as his influence continues possibly one of the greatest artists ever.

One aspect of the show that was very new to me was the wave of Chinese contemporary art that has been going international recently. I had heard about it but actually it is all its cracked up to be and I would definitely like to see a more specifically curated show on the subject.

Finally there were a few Grayson Perry vases. I’m not sure whether this was or wasn’t the first time I’ve seen his work but I did think that his Turner Prize was deserved on the basis of this work.

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Art, London

Trip to the Tate Modern

The slides at Tate Modern are so popular that I think either people have a hitherto unappreciated hunger for interactive art or alternatively there aren’t enough slides in London.

This trip was also my first chance to have a look at the rehung galleries. I also spent a lot longer than I normally do, usually the crowds tend to drive me spare very quickly. The Warhols are always enjoyable but since there are so many of them sometimes you can feel underwhelmed. The Cubist section also had a few excellent pieces by George Braques including one of the finest of the Cubist pieces I’ve seen. It was also good to see some Salvador Dali and Francis Bacon for the first time. By that point though I was feeling very ill and probably need to schedule a revisitation to properly appreciate the surrealist gallery.

One particular area of interest was the room dedicated to the Stalinist 5 Year Plan propaganda “USSR under Construction” featuring Rodencko and Littivesky’s work. I tend to prefer the earlier Soviet material but this was particularly strong on the photo-collage and very rewarding for a relatively small selection of material.

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