David Burlak – Sunday, 20th September 2015.

Ai Weiwei and Anish Kapoor at the St. Paul's Cathedral, London, walk in solidarity of refugees co. the artists ® London Art Reviews

Ai Weiwei and Anish Kapoor at the St. Paul’s Cathedral, London, walk in solidarity of refugees co. the artists ® London Art Reviews

The walk in solidarity with refugees by Anish Kapoor and Ai Weiwei has hit London, last Thursday, 17th September.

As Ai Weiwei and Anish Kapoor have highlighted, the walk has involved not just London, because the problems of solidarity and of the refugees are global.

As many participants, both Ai Weiwei and Anish Kapoor were holding blankets which were donated to the Refugee Council at the end of the London walk, as a sign of solidarity to those who are escaping brutality.

The walk started from the Royal Academy of Arts, where Ai Weiwei is hosting his current exhibition. It was about 8 mile long and passed through iconic London sites to terminate in Stratford, at the 2012 Olympic Park – where the sculpture of Kapoor ‘ArcelorMittal Orbit’ is located.

The complete route was the following: Royal Academy of Arts, Piccadilly Circus, Regent Street, Trafalgar Square, Whitehall, Victoria Embankment, Temple Place, Fleet Street, St Paul’s Cathedral, Bank, Old Broad Street, Bishopsgate, Fournier Street, Brick Lane, Whitechapel Road, Mile End Road and Stratford.

Anish Kapoor said: “We walk in solidarity with those hundreds of thousands across the world. It is a walk in sympathy and empathy.”

The Chinese dissident artist and the British-Indian sculptor have appealed for a humane, rather than political, response to the current situation. This year, the number of refugees in the world reached a record 60 million, according to the UNHCR- the United Nations refugee agency.

Being friend in real life, both the artists have united after difficult periods. Since years, Ai Weiwei is under the strong repression of the Chinese government. Last July, with an excuse the Chinese immigration office initially denied to him a six-month visa to enter Britain. In 2011, he has been convicted for 81 days and then released without charges.

For Anish Kapoor, instead, problems are coming from his sculpture ‘Dirty Corner’ at the Palace of Versailles, near Paris. Kapoor, who has Jewish origins, has seen his work vandalised twice in three months with anti- Semitic insult.

Often described as China’s most high-profile artist, Ai Weiwei said: “I think we can do a lot, if we open our heart, if we understand philosophically what refugee is about. We all are refugees as humans in some moment in the history. So we should understand this matter more profoundly, rather than just seeing them as a negative situation.”

The walk follows last week press meeting, where Ai Weiwei has requested to British government to do more to help refugees, while admiring Germany for its much civilised response to the crisis. He was speaking at a news conference on 11 September to mark the opening of his new exhibition at London’s Royal Academy of Art.

The London walk event was much participated and it sparkled curiosity to the people on the street. Small traffic jams at the crossroads were reported.

Solidarity walk for refugees by artists Ai Weiwei and Anish Kapoor happened in London, from Royal Academy of Arts (Piccadilly) to the Olympic Park (Stratford), on 17th September 2015.

 

David Franchi – Monday, 10th August 2015.

© Thames and Hudson, Rubens in Private.Rubens in Private. The Master Portrays his Family” is a fascinating book, published by Thames and Hudson, London.

Located in London, Thames and Hudson published the English edition of the book originally print for the exhibition “Rubens in private. The master portrays his family”. The show was a joint production between the Rubenshuis and Rubenianum, in Antwerp (Belgium), from 28th March until 28th June 2015.

The publication is appealing, full of information and images, accurate and precise. After all, Rubens is a topic about which it is possible to write a lot. Edited by Ben van Beneden, contributors are Nils Büttner, Nora De Poorter, Katlijen Van der Strighelen, Cordula van Wyhe, Johan Verberckmoes, Hans Vlieghe, and Bert Watteeuw.

The exhibition “Rubens in Private” focused on portraiture. It is curated by international Rubens experts and includes some 50 paintings and drawings from top-ranking museums, including the Uffizi in Florence, the British Museum in London, the Musée du Louvre in Paris, the Hermitage in St Petersburg and the collections of the Prince of Liechtenstein, and the Royal Collection, generously loaned by her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II.

The connection between Rubens and London are consistent. Perhaps, the most spectacular ceiling of London was painted by Rubens for the Banqueting House, during the reign of Charles I. It’s the only ceiling by Rubens still in situ. Also paintings of Rubens can be found at the National Gallery, The Courtauld Gallery, The Wallace Collection, and the Dulwich Picture Gallery. Sir Peter Paul Rubens was knighted by King Charles I of England in 1630.

Peter Paul Rubens was a genius. He had many abilities and was gifted in being an artist, a politician, a collector, an architect and had a keen interested in science.

Rubens was indicated as a ‘homo universalis’, an epithet reserved for those Renaissance persons who were able to manage different skills. A famous story from Sperling, reported that he found Rubens painting, while simultaneously dictating letters and listening an assistant reading Tacitus and of course having a conversation with Sperling himself.

The book “Rubens in private” exposes the portrait of the members of the family of Rubens is an aspect that was not investigated until present days. Together with his letters, these portraits reveal the deep affection Rubens felt towards his family.

From the point of view of the art history, the huge opus of Rubens can be divided into two distinct bodies: public and private. The latter category includes his landscapes and the portraits he made of his family. For some unknown reasons, the portraits of his family were not previously exhibited.

As Michelangelo and many others contemporary artists, Rubens did not considered portraiture a noteworthy genre. Portraiture was believed to be a mere depiction of what you can see and did not required any particular ‘invenzione’ (invention).

However, Rubens painted dozens of portraits for his prominent customers. But the best results he had in portraiture were in the works of this show, which were not intended to be publicly exhibited. Here Rubens is less inhibited and could express himself in a more free way.

Portraits were often a side job to be done together with more important commissions. The book “Rubens in Private. The Master Portrays his Family” takes into account not only of Rubens self –portraits, but also on his household environment together with domestic staff.

On 3rd October 1609, Rubens married nineteen-year-old Isabella Brant, who was coming from an important family of Antwerp. He depicted her in renowned “The Honeysuckle Bower”.

On 6th December 1630, Rubens married the sixteen-years –old Helena Fourment from a wealth family of merchants of Antwerp. Named Het Pelsken (The Little Fur), the portrait of Helena Fourment, Rubens’s second wife, plays an important key role in the Master’s oeuvre. Due to new technical examination, the exhibition made an innovative interpretation of this portrait. Some elements, in fact, were revealed by X-radiograph to be behind the dark background of the painting, and it is unknown why they were covered and from where they come from.

A few days before his death, on 27th May 1640, Rubens drew up a will in which he stipulated d that the portraits of his two views, and the corresponding portrait of himself, were not to be sold, but were to go to the woman’s respective children.

The book “Rubens in Private. The Master Portrays his Family” has a chapter focused on clothes and fashion. Dress in early modern Europe constituted personal and community identities – and up today nothing changed. Because clothes were costly, they were also an indication of social demarcation. The Renaissance was the cradle of the contemporary fashion culture. Therefore, Rubens in his work mirrored the moment and that culture.

The last chapter of this book is about the demographic of the Spanish Netherlands. The today Belgium and Holland have seen the first ever population census taken with the parish registers. However interesting, it is unclear how this chapter is related to the art of Rubens.

Full of information, “Rubens in Private. The Master Portrays his Family” is a good book. There are chapter dedicated to the homonymous exhibition in Antwerp. Half of the book is made of formal description of each items and interpretative text, with several, footnotes, bibliography, chronology and genealogical tables of the Rubens’s family, appendix of technical examination of the paintings and other critical apparatus.

From the homonymous exhibition in Antwerp, the book “Rubens in Private. The Master Portrays his Family” is published in the UK, by Thames and Hudson, London.

 

Jack Newhouse – Sunday, 17th May 2015.

*Amended on 4th june 2015.

Culture Key free app iTunesCulture Key is an emerging free app for the art lovers of London. It is well known that London offers art and culture in abundance and this free app is the key to find out the best information.

Released in June last year, Culture Key is already a successful app with thousands of downloads from iTunes, where it has a very high rating.

“This is one of the things I love most about living here. The number of high quality museums and private galleries putting on hundreds of exhibitions each year is unique” Thomas Anselmino, Founder at Culture Key, said.

In the art and culture environment of London, it can be difficult to wade through the overwhelming information available. Therefore, it can be time consuming to discover what currently is on display. Usually, there is the need to check the numerous newsletters received from the many museums and galleries, or to look through their websites.

The Culture Key app makes it easy and fun to quickly discover the art opportunities available in London. This app is very easy to use and it has a captivating design and graphic aspect.

For exhibitions, Culture Key is especially helpful, as it allows the user to browse through images, so to have more accurate information. Filters can be set by popularity and to locate nearby art events, concerts, theatre plays, festivals, and even walks.

Featured by Apple as ‘Best New App’, Culture Key can be downloaded in the App Store only. Thomas Anselmino explains: “Right now it’s on iPhone only. We have plans to release an Android version and a website later this year.”

To find out the best art events in London, Culture Key is an unmissable free app.

 

David Franchi – Wednesday, 24th June 2015.

London Burlesque Festival 2015 exhibitionThe British Exhibition was a great event, at the London Burlesque Festival 2015, last 29th May.

Talking about Burlesque, it means to deal with a very typical British art and the London Festival 2015 had a great to organise the first ever exhibition in the UK.Therefore, it was surprising to hear that in the UK there is nothing about burlesque in terms of museum or exhibition. The cheeky child of the British culture has been neglected for years.

The organisers of the London Burlesque Festival realised that nothing in the UK documents burlesque, despite it is already almost 200 years old.

The word ‘burlesque’, in fact, was firstly used by Francesco Berni in the title of ‘Opere Burlesche’, of the early 16th century, that had circulated widely in manuscript before it was printed. For a time burlesque verses were known as poesie bernesca in his honour. ‘Burlesque’ as a literary term became widespread in 17th century Italy and France, and subsequently England, where it referred to a grotesque imitation of the dignified or pathetic.

It has been thanks to the London Burlesque Festival 2015 and its organizers, Chaz Royal and Bettie D’Light, together with Yak Droubie, that it was possible to see a retrospective of burlesque and how it has been born and then evolved in the UK.

They had all these materials, with which developed since 2012 The British BurlesqueMuseum, an idea curated by Chaz Royal. It narrates the history of Burlesque in Britain, with insightful knowledge and images seamlessly outlined, with collected artefacts.

For the British Exhibition a collection of memorabilia was on display. Any sort of items was showed, including magazines, posters, books, menu, and drawing, together with a video installation. There was also a much applauded act by renowned performer Ms. Whisky Falls, who is always present at the London Burlesque Festival.

The most interesting part was a series of panels about the history of British burlesque. The first ascertained proofs in the UK are to be found in the comic operas at the Gaiety Theatre in 1860s London.

Then the British Blondes troupes of Lydia Thompson (1868) arrived in New York, and they are credited to shift the focus of burlesque from comic sketches to deliberate female nudity. In England the office of Lord Chamberlain was responsible for censorship, and nudity was allowed on stage only if it was motionless and expressionless.

Also to be mentioned are the Parisian cancan at the Moulin Rouge (1889) and the World Columbian Exposition ofLondon Burlesque Festival 2015 exhibition Chicago (1893) with the hoochie-coochie. In the late 1800s the Tableaux Vivants were famous, they represented a group of suitably costumed actors or artist’s models, carefully and often theatrically in posed, providing a form of erotic entertainment.

In the beginning of the20th century, Manhattan cradled the Ziegfeld Follies (1907) and the Minsky Brothers (1912), while Paris saw Josephine Baker and Anita Berber took place in Berlin.

In 1930, Laura Henderson opened The Windmill Theatre in Soho and when she hired Vivian Van Damme as manager, they developed the successfully Revuduville. The Windmill hosted many famous artists, including Freddie Eldrett, Jimmy Edwards, Tony Hancock, Harry Secombe, Peter Sellers, Michael Bentine, George Martin, Bruce Forsyth, Tommy Cooper, and Barry Cryer.

Phyllis Dixey put on the first strip tease show in London in 1942. Another famed burlesque character was Jane, a famous comic strip created by Norman Pett, who had the habit to involuntarily lose her clothes and was inspired by burlesque performer Chrystabel Leighton – Porter (1913 – 2000).

The Latin Quarter was a lavish revue presented by Robert Nesbitt in Soho from 1949 to 1952 at the London Casino. Pamela Green was a famous British pin up in the 1950s and 60s and appeared in Peeping Tom film. In 1949, Le Folies Berger arrived to the UK in Birmingham, then moved to London and ended with a total of 2,000 acts. During the 1950s and 60s Murray’s Cabaret Club smashed the London arena, while Irving Strip Club (1956) was the only place where nude can move. Arthur Fox opened his revue bar in 1959 in Manchester and was celebrated for its talented stars performances.

However, the most eminent personality has been Paul Raymond, who dwarfed all others. He opened his Raymond Revue Bar in Walker’s Court, Soho that lasted until 1970s and was even used to film a sequence of Magical Mystery Tour movie of The Beatles. It was closed in 2004.

Today, this particular corner of Soho has been object of several attacks from the local council that wanted to close down all what remained of Paul Raymond history and wiped off the bohemian area. It is a moment of big changes, leading to a total and complete gentrification of Soho. Against this negative situation, there is also an ongoing campaign called Save Soho, supported by famous artists and personas, and even by Boris Johnson, the Mayor of London.

In 1968, finally The Theatre Act abolished the censorship on stage in the UK.

In the 1990s, the New Burlesque emerged, at the height of culture-bound vintage and is related to the dark cabaret. The new form encompasses a wider range of performance styles; neo-burlesque acts can range from anything from classic striptease to modern dance to theatrical mini-dramas to comedic mayhem. It has the common trait of pay tribute to one or more of burlesque’s previous manifestation.

The acts tend to put emphasis on style and are sexy rather than sexual. Usually, performers still strip down to pasties and g-string or merkin, the purpose is no longer solely sexual gratification for men but self-expression of the performer and, vicariously, the women in the audience. Another predominant aspect is the DIY and furthermore the striptease may be used to challenge sexual objectification, orientation, and other social taboos.

After the rediscovery in the US showbiz, burlesque has come back in Australia and in several European countries, inspiring many artists and musical contemporaries, including Madonna, Christina Aguilera and Gwen Stefani.

Real deus ex-machina of the London Burlesque Festival, Chaz Royal explains: “We’ve been collecting items and were involved in a book project in 2008 that helped bring attention to the history of British Burlesque, and thought the public and modern day Burlesque enthusiasts should be aware of the rich and diverse past of the art form, from its humble beginnings.”

London Burlesque Festival 2015 exhibitionMeant to be a one stand exhibition, the British Exhibition it might be organised also for the London Burlesque Festival 2016, but it is not confirmed yet.

However, at the moment there are no plans to organise a museum or to find a gallery, where to display all the materials.

Located in various venues, the London Burlesque Festival 2015 was a successful series of sold out evenings. With almost 7,000 visitors sold and with around 188 performances, it is the world’s largest burlesque festival. The best artists in the genre have been chosen from more than 500 submissions coming worldwide.

At its 9th Annual Edition, London Burlesque Festival 2015 was running from 15th until 31st May and in its programme it was the first ever British Exhibition.

 

Friday, 5th December 2014.

Front cover of The Abbey Road album by The Beatles, copyright Ian MacMillan

Front cover of The Abbey Road album by The Beatles, copyright Ian MacMillan

The image of Abbey Road in London from The Beatles homonymous album went into auction. It is one of the most famous and well known images of London and it goes under auction together with other five photos taken for the eleventh studio album of The Beatles.

On the last 21th November, the full set of six photographs was sold Dreweatts & Bloomsbury Auctions, London, owned by Stanley Gibbons. The price reached $180,000 (approximately £115k). Several telephone bidders and one room bidder competed to win the famous photo with its unused version. The winning bid was followed by a round of applause from the room.

As well as the six, Dreweatts & Bloomsbury Auctions will be selling the back cover photograph, which Macmillan initially did not like; he was annoyed that a girl in a blue dress walked through his shot.

The subjects of these six rare images are the Beatles – George, John, Paul and Ringo – walking along the road, one of these photographs became one of the most famous album covers of all time.

 

A friend of Lennon and Yoko, Ian MacMillan, was the photographer who took the shots, on 8th August 1969, using a Hasselblad camera, a stepladder and employing 10 minutes only. Paul McCartney picked the fifth of the six shots to be used as the album cover – the rest were discarded.

Also sold was the photo that became the back cover of the album – a road sign with a blurred person in the foreground. Macmillan was just about to take his shot when a girl in a blue dress walked into the frame, but the band liked it and chose it for the back cover.

The full set of photographs is a rarity. It will be the first time they have ever been sold as a complete set. According

Back cover of The Abbey Road album by The Beatles, copyright Ian MacMillan

Back cover of The Abbey Road album by The Beatles, copyright Ian MacMillan

to music dealers, no one has been able to find a complete set on the market for at least 10 years. Macmillan made a signed edition of 25 but most were sold individually. Having them all together as one set 46 years later is a rare opportunity.

Almost everything about the Abbey Road images is a celebrity, including the three decorators in the background and the white VW Beetle, which has ended up in the Volkswagen Museum in Wolfsburg (Germany).

The album cover has inspired innumerable reproduction and also helped to stimulate a debate about an odd plot theory that Paul McCartney was in fact dead and had been replaced by a doppelganger.

The Abbey Road photographs set depicting The Beatles went under auction on 21th November 2014, at Dreweatts & Bloomsbury Auctions, London.