Friday 19th September 2014But Was It a Joke?
Often in the art world, it can be hard to guage how seriously to take something. In our neverending desire to reimagine and recontextualize the world, and our self-awareness of both this effort and the way this effort is perceived, it can sometimes be difficult to tell if sometihng is intended as a series work of art, a complicated conceptual joke, or both. This is especially true of artists ever since the beginning of Dada, Surrealism, and Abstract Expressionism.
This curious and intriguing interaction with the viewer was highlighted recently thanks to the Picasso museum in Paris, on the day of it's unveiling after a series of renovations. Expectations and anticipation ran high, as the renovations kept the museum closed and out of the spotlight for almost all of the five years it had been shuttered.
“I will first of all calm your ardour and your enthusiasm … but you’re going to see nothing. It’s a great disappointment. It’s an empty museum,” said the newly-appointed director Laurent Le Bon, who has held the directorship for only 3 months at the time of the press visitation - his predecessor had been fired over the numerous gaffes and delays that extended the renovation so dramatically.
In short, no, it wasn't a joke. The museum really has been closed for 5 years, only to reopen for a press viewing with no artwork hung on the walls. One can't help but feel sorry Le Bon, who had to address the press and take responsibility for the failings of the person who had held the post before him. It's strange to consider the fact that such a prestigious museum could survive under so many years of careless mismanagement, but also provides hope for the future that Laurent Le Bon - roughly translated in English as Lawrence the Good - may be able to wring some semblance of order out of the chaos and bring this tribute to the master of Cubism back from the abyss and into the limelight.
Somewhat inexplicably, however, the organizers of the press day chose to host the event well before the museum was ready, meaning that many excited vistors were treated to an intentionally bland arrangement of architecture - white stucco, white stairs, white walls, etc. This makes perfect sense when there is actual artwork on the walls, but when the musuem is empty, it merely serves to highlight that emptiness, as it has few architectural achievements in its own right. Certainly not what you'd like to hear after a 5 year renovation! Regardless, the museum will reopen officially to the public in October, which hopefully will serve to justify the choices made by the renovators.
Posted on September 19th 2014 on 11:57pm
Friday 11th April 2014The Best Cities for Art Lovers 8: Seattle
When most people think of Seattle, they think of beautiful forests, the Space Needle, and the birthplace of the Starbucks coffee franchise. If they're a bit older, they might think of famous bands that rose out of the grunge music scene in the early 1990s (Nirvana, anyone?). But the Pacific Northwest has been home to great artists for hundreds, if not thousands of years, as the huge number of galleries in Seattle and the surrounding area show. If 'thousands of years' throws you off, then you're forgetting the fact that various Native tribes have inhabited the Pacific Northwest long before Europeans ever showed up. Fortunately, a number of artifacts that might otherwise have been lost have been preserved in an impressive showcase of Native artwork found in galleries throughout the region.
Seattle itself is home to several world-class art galleries, chief among which is the Seattle Art Museum, or 'SAM' as it is affectionately known. Interestingly, the museum's collection is rather light on the traditional European works that many of us are used to encountering in art galleries, despite having a large collection overall. This gap in their repertoire tends to be filled by temporary travelling exhibitions, which makes for an interesting experience no matter when you happen to visit, but the regular collection contains an impressive array of Native artwork.
One of the museum's Matisse paintings was subject of quite the controversy in the late 1990s, when it came to light that the piece had actually been looted by the Nazis during World War II and sold to the museum under false pretenses by a gallery, who they later successfully sued. This may partially explain their aversion to classical European works, but the result is a pleasantly different gallery experience.
One of the SAM's satellite galleries, the Seattle Asian Art Museum, now housed in the old SAM building, features a number of beautiful collections from all throughout Asia, ranging from Chinese pottery to Indian portraiture to Thai statuary, with a nice blend of works by contemporary Asian artists as well. Perhaps unique in North America, there is also an extensive collection of artwork by Australian aboriginal peoples.
If these galleries don't appeal, the natural beauty of Seattle and its vibrant artistic traditions have called a huge number of artists to the city, and a number of commercial galleries have sprung up in response to the demand. A huge number of them are concentrated in an area of the city known as Pioneer Square, cheek to jowl with a number of small artists studios which are also occasionally open to the public.
Posted on April 11th 2014 on 03:30pm
Friday 28th March 2014The Best Cities for Art Lovers 7: Palma de Mallorca
Ah, Mallorca - one of the true jewels of the Mediterranean. A long-time vacation hotspot in the truest sense of the word, the island Mallorca - or Majorca, if Spanish isn't your native tongue - has always been a destination worthy of its touristic leanings. Moody mountains, the beautiful blue of the Mediterranean, and a panoply of gorgeous beaches all combine to create a truly stunning landscape. However, there's more to Mallorca than just beaches and nightlife.
As with many towns that grow around the tourism industry thanks to their natural beauty, the main port and city of the island, Palma de Mallorca, has attracted more than its fair share of the artistically inclined. And, as with many such places, some of those who come to visit eventually find themselves falling so deeply in love with the place that they never leave.
One such visitor was the famous Spanish painter, Joan Miro, a native of Barcelona who fell so deeply in love with the island that he made it his adopted home in 1956, where he lived and worked until his death in 1983. As a result, Palma de Mallorca boasts one of the most impressive Miro galleries in the world, the Fundacio Miro, where visitors can see a wide-ranging collection of his works, and visit the actual studios where he painted some of his most famous works.
Miro isn't the only reason to visit Palma, however, as there are several other galleries that are worthy of note. One of the most impressive is the legacy of Juan March, who was, at one point, the sixth richest man in the world, the Museu Fundacion Juan March, which is home to works by the most influential and well-known Spanish artists. The collection features a number of additional works by Miro, as well as works by Salvador Dali, and in 2009 added a new wing to the museum entirely dedicated to the works of Pablo Picasso.
A little more off the beaten track is the Es Baluard Museu, which features a number of contemporary artists who have a connection to the Balearic islands and the Mediterranean. The building itself is almost a work of art that spans the centuries, as the gallery is partially housed in a 16th century Spanish fortress, and partially within a beautiful newly-constructed minimalist wing. It features original works by the likes of Cezanne, Picasso, and Gauguin, as well as the ever-present Miro. If you can tear yourself away from the stunning beaches and moody Mediterranean lighting, these galleries are guaranteed not to disappoint.
Posted on March 28th 2014 on 12:56am
Wednesday 22nd January 2014The March of Progress in London's Galleries
It's no secret that the art world is undergoing some major changes. As we discussed recently, the market for auctionable art has taken a turn for the better in recent years, driven by expanding wealth in Asia and the Middle East, as well as increasing consumer confidence throughout the West. However, in the market for artists still making a name for themselves, a number of other changes are taking place, most notably the transition away from the traditional model of the independent gallery towards online galleries managed by the artists themselves as well as the growing popularity of the 'art fair'.
This transition can be something of a double-edged sword, especially in locations that are historically and locally famous for their art gallery districts. London's own venerable Cork Street is - to some, surprisingly - just one of the latest to suffer the depredations of real estate developers hoping to maximise profits in desirable downtown locations. This Valentine's Day, the local planning council deadline for public response to a proposal to redevelop historic Cork Street, home to a great number of galleries, some of whom have had their current locations for nearly a century.
Westminster city council has tentatively approved the deal in principle, which hoped to build 42 flats over a shopping centre, pending the results of the request for public responses. A number of other developments are slated to go in, assuming that the first proposal is ratified. To date, a number of prominent public figures have spoken out against in favour of preserving the cultural and historical significance of Cork Street, including actor Bill Nighy, comic Graham Norton, illustrator Quentin Blake and retail leader Mary Portas, among many others and a great deal of support from the general public. A plan currently exists to place a portion of the neighbourhood under the purview of a 'special policy area', but gallery owners hope to dramatically expand the borders of the area to save as many galleries from relentless urban development as possible.
No matter how much of the area is saved, however, it's impossible to mistake it as a sign of the changing times of the art world. As any good artist will tell you, traditions are always being up-ended and turned inside out in art, and the way the public interacts with art isn't going to exempt from those changes. While there will surely always be a desire for physical galleries, they can no longer assume their own viability without changing and adapting.
Posted on January 22nd 2014 on 04:40am
Thursday 02nd January 2014The Best Cities for Art Lovers Part 2: Off the Beaten Path
Last month, we took a look at some of the best cities in the world for art lovers, with the hope of inspiring some of you to shake the dust off and take an art-filled winter vacation. A couple of you wrote to us and said that you'd already been to the cities we mentioned - and to be fair, they were pretty popular options - but popular for good reason. With that in mind, we decided to prepare a short list of some lesser-known cities that have burgeoning art communities, both in terms of established galleries and flourishing smaller scenes. We'll look at a different city each time, and zoom in close to give you an idea of what you can expect if you manage to visit.
First on the list is Toronto, Canada. While Toronto has been making headlines lately thanks to its buffoon of a mayor, the art scene is still going strong. Toronto is probably most recognized for being home to the Art Gallery of Ontario, which boasts an impressive collection of Canadian painters, as well as the majority of the collected works of Henry Moore, a famous sculptor who donated his entire personal collection to the AGO. Recent exhibits at the AGO have also featured Ai Weiwei, the famous Chinese dissident artist that we discussed in another post recently. Mr. Ai had also recently been hosted by Toronto for an installation that was located outside city hall entitled "Forever Bicycles", a truly beautiful piece, although sadly a temporary one. New exhibits are hosted regularly, and there's almost something worth seeing.
There are a huge number of lesser known galleries scattered throughout the city, but there is a high concentration of young, fresh-faced galleries in an area just west of downtown known as Queen West, located (unsurprisingly) on Queen Street West, between Gladstone Ave and Bathurst Street. It's easy to pass an entire day wandering along the strip, taking in the various sights and sounds, as long as the occasional hipster throng doesn't put you off - in fact, it's sort of expected in this area.
If film is more your style, Toronto also plays host to the annual Toronto International Film Festival, which is usually held in September - but those of you already fantasizing about going would do well to start planning your trip well in advance, as the entire downtown core tends to get rather booked up by mid-Summer. Stars, glitz, glamour and great movies are a sure thing.
Posted on January 02nd 2014 on 06:28pm
Tuesday 10th December 2013The Best Cities for Art Lovers
As winter closes in around us in the Northern Hemisphere, those of us lucky enough to be able to get some time off work tend to look on it as a chance to get away to somewhere tropical and warm - but for those of us who love art, vacations are chance to see some of the world's greatest masterpieces. Here's a list of vacation city suggestions that host some of the world's most expansive and extensive art galleries. They're not listed in any particular order, because everyone has different tastes, but no matter what you like you're sure to find someplace that will suit your fancy.
Paris tends to be one of the first cities that art lovers go to on vacation, and with good reason. Not only is the city itself incredibly beautiful and romantic, even in the depths of winter, but Paris boasts a truly impressive range of world famous galleries. A gallery that almost everyone in the world has heard of, the Louvre boasts one of the most extensive art collections in the world, with somewhere in the neighbourhood of 35,000 pieces on display. For the more controversialist among you, the Centre Pompidou has polarised the Parisian art community since it was built, showcasing an impressive array of modern art. These are just two of the most famous, but there are far more galleries and museums than anyone would be able to see in a single trip, so plan out your visit carefully.
If modern art is more your style, you may want to consider a trip to either New York City or Chicago, both of which have world-famous modern art galleries. Chicago boasts the Museum for Contemporary Art, which does more or less what it says on the tin, as well as the Art Institute of Chicago, which features works from some of the greatest modern artists, including Jackson Pollock and Andy Warhol. New York is no slouch when it comes to modern art either, boasting its own truly staggering array of galleries, many of which are centred along a stretch of 5th Avenue that has become known for this fact. The Guggenheim Museum is located here, and the Metropolitan Museum of Art is nearby, along with the world-famous Museum of Modern Art which has recently re-opened its doors after an extended hiatus.
Back on the other side of the pond, one of the more typically overlooked cities for art lovers is Vienna, where you can find the Kunsthistorisches Museum, known to us in English simply as the Museum of Fine Arts. MuseumsQuartier Wien (Museum Quarter) also boasts a huge collection, and the modern MUMOK caters to all branches of modern contemporary art. Vienna is also an incredibly beautiful city to visit, with a huge number of architectural styles on display, making the city a work of art in and of itself.
Watch for our upcoming post on cities that have a burgeoning art scene if something a little more avante-garde is more your taste!
Posted on December 10th 2013 on 10:04pm
Sunday 24th October 2010The Independent Names the 50 Best Museums & Galleries in the UK
With the UK culture industry looking at how to cope with 30% budget cuts, The Independent
has listed the 50 best museums and galleries that can be found on the British Isles. Taking a look at the 10 galleries and museums that were selected to sit at the head of the list is enough to see some of the great institutions that represent the British art market and its heritage. While the top ten can be said to be mostly predictable (and London-based), there are a couple of great regional underdogs listed in there.
The run down looks something like this:
A true gem in the crown of the UK culture scene, the British Museum is a great venue that has a smart blend of important historical displays and interesting art exhibitions, all housed in a building that sees a mesh of classic and contemporary architecture.
The V&A is another brilliant museum that brings some great art and design exhibitions to the British public. Located in South Kensington in London, the V&A claims that its purpose is "to enable everyone to enjoy its collections, explore the cultures that created them and to inspire those who shape contemporary design."
Founded in 1901 in East London, the Whitechapel Gallery is one of the leading establishments in the UK offering top class international exhibitions in both contemporary and 20th century art. The gallery seamlessly pulls together some of the greats like Pablo Picasso, Mark Rothko and Frida Kahlo, right up to contemporary stars like Jake and Dinos Chapman and Elizabeth Peyton. More than just a gallery, Whitechapel stands out as a centre of a vibrant art community offering artist commissions, a stunning collection, historical archives, art courses and a great resource for anyone interested in the arts.
Another typical superstar in the roster of top UK galleries, the White Cube was set up in 1993 by Jay Jopling as a project room for contemporary art. When it was founded it was said to be one of the smallest exhibition spaces in Europe, but that hasn't stopped it from becoming a genuine leader in the contemporary art world.
Of all of the Tates, Tate Modern was selected for the 5th position on the list. Granted that the whole franchise has a great deal to offer, Tate Modern has a brilliant mix of terrific gallery spaces, amongst which we can include the famous Turbine Hall, and a consistently great exhibition programme. On the South Banks of the Thames, Tate Modern is certainly one of best galleries in the UK, if not the world.
Stepping away from London for just a second, and heading up to Scotland. Often overlooked as a great arts destination, Scotland powers into the top 10 with the National Museum of Scotland. Offering an inspiring rota of cultural exhibitions that take visitors far beyond the reaches of the Scottish borders.
To complete the line up of top London galleries that deal in contemporary art, the Serpentine Gallery is yet another instance of a venue that has a top class programme of exhibitions. Located in Kensington Gardens and attracting up to 800,000 visitors a year, the gallery is a must-see on any art tour of London or the UK. Currently on view is an exhibition of work by Anish Kapoor.
Fun and educational for all of the family, the Science Museum was founded in 1857 as part of the South Kensington Museum before gaining its independence in 1909. Now the museum is world renowned for its historic collections, stunning building and terrific exhibitions.
The Sainsbury Centre for Visual Arts has a great collection of fine and decorative arts and is home to the UEA collection of Abstract and Constructivist art and design. The collection is built up from a donation of art the University of East Anglia in 1973 by Sir Robert and Lady Lisa Sainsbury. The Sainsbury Centre then opened to the public in 1978 and remains one of the hundred or so university museums around the UK that are open for public view.
Heading out of London again, BALTIC is a leading establishment for contemporary art in the North of England. Located in Gateshead on the banks of the River Tyne, BALTIC has spent the last 10 years building a name for itself as a leader on the contemporary art scene, providing an ever changing calendar of events and exhibitions to provoke discussion and add to the current discourse.
For a full list of the 50 museums and galleries selected by The Independent to represent the UKs offerings, visit the article on The Independent website.
Posted on October 24th 2010 on 06:54pm