Today’s Review in the Daily Telegraph was dedicated to a review of the year in the arts. Richard Dorment looked at some of the various exhibitions which have been on this year, several of which I have visited myself and blogged about. I can’t find an electronic version yet, but then I couldn’t find one for the Gormley interview until several days after my post.
“I was abroad in January when the Royal Academy staged its sprawling show of David Hockney’s recent landscapes, but the drubbing the show took from the critics took me by surprise. Some hated the installation and others thought the pictures lacked visual interest, but the underlying dissatisfaction seemed to be that Hockney’s work doesn’t fit comfortably into familiar stylistic categories such as Pop art or Surrealism. Yet the crowds poured through Burlington House in their hundreds of thousands ….
“I didn’t entirely disagree with many of the criticisms I read, but what I think some commentators forgot is that Hockney has never fitted into any movement or style. Even those pictures of sun-drenched Californian swimming pools don’t look much like what other artists were doing in the Sixties, and the same goes for his photo collages in the Eighties, his more recent portraits in watercolour or his experiments with making art by Xerox and i-Pad. The endearing thing about Hockney is the way he has conducted his art-historical education in public, asking us to follow him as he explores each new enthusiasm, whatever the critical response.”
And the Milkman’s verdict? I visited the exhibition before I started this blog so until now you may not know what I thought. My opinion of the Hockney exhibition ………….. is ………….. (the Management sometimes makes me sit through the results sections of reality tv programmes) …….. that it was the best exhibition I’ve ever seen! (Cue scenes of jubilation off screen.) It is the only exhibition that has made me want to grab my painting things, rush outside and create! Definitely five stars out of five, if not a Spinal Tap six stars out of five!
(At the Whitworth Art Gallery in Manchester this evening there was an After Hours: Hockney’s New York Loft Party in connection with the current Hockney to Hogarth: A Rake’s Progress exhibition. I was hoping to go but unfortunately the Management needed the car and it is awkward to get to by public transport.)
In the same trip to London, we also saw the Lucien Freud retrospective at the National Portrait Gallery, (the main reason for the trip and a maximum of four stars – possibly only three,) and Grayson Perry’s Tomb of the Unknown Craftsman at the British Museum, (again only three or four stars, mainly as I could see what Perry was trying to do in responding to existing works in the BM’s collection but didn’t feel it had worked).
“In the autumn, the Royal Academy was again taken by surprise when a show the organisers thought might prove too lugubrious to attract a big audience was a huge popular hit. Bronze had no unifying theme other than that every work in it was made from a brown metal alloy that many people associate with war memorials. What did the trick was the quality of the the loans. Indian bronzes were shown next to figures by Giacometti and Renaissance sculptures near pieces by Rodin….
“But it was strange to walk through a show conceived in art-historical vacuum. You’d drive yourself crazy trying to make sense of the juxtapositions, so all you could do was relax and submit to the beauty of each individual work.”
And the Milkman’s verdict? I’ve already posted about this exhibition. I enjoyed it and it was certainly the Management’s favourite exhibition of the year, if not longer. One thing puzzled me about the promotion of the show. The only piece to appear in any reviews or articles (including today’s piece) was the Dancing Satyr. Yes, it was the most significant piece, but it wasn’t the only one worth publishing in newspapers.
Dorment wrote in praise of The Noble Art of the Sword “that staggeringly beautiful Renaissance goldsmith’s work at the Wallace Collection in July” and “the scale and ambition of the British Museum’s Shakespeare: Staging the World [which] trumped every other exhibition in 2012″. I didn’t see either of these (simply because neither appealed to me) so I can’t give you any personal input.
“…. in 2012 so many exhibitions stood out that I only have space to list a few: for its display of all 100 etched plates that comprise Picasso’s Vollard Suite the BM gets a gong for the richest visual experience of the year ….. and for its wit and originality one of my favourite shows was the Hayward Gallery’s only half tongue-in-cheek survey of invisible art.”
I wrote about my trip to see the Vollard Suite, but I only discussed the pictures of Vollard himself – not the remainder of the works. Suffice it to say, I agree with Dorment it was an excellent exhibition, and a wonderful opportunity to see and compare all the prints. I didn’t see the Invisible exhibition at the Hayward. A plinth where the air above has been cursed by a witch? Hmmm.
Incidentally, on a similar path, in Seven a couple of week’s ago (the same one which had the interview with Antony Gormley), there was a review of a photographic book called Presence by Chris Buck where celebrities are in the frame of the photograph but are not actually visible (usually hiding behind something else in the shot).
Finally, I’ve written about the exhibition Seduced By Art: Photography Past and Present at the National Gallery. Today I saw that Visual Culture Blog had a post about the exhibition which includes many pictures which I didn’t illustrate in my own post, usually comparing them in pairs. Worth checking out.