Cornelia Parker, Neither From Nor Towards, 1992, Arts Council Collection, Southbank Centre, London © The Artist

Falling Up: The Gravity of Art at The Courtauld Gallery, London

 “Paintings, sculpture, photographs and engravings”

Jane Hallcome – June 2011

Falling Up: The Gravity of Art” is an interesting initiative, from 23rd June to 4th September 2011, at The Courtauld Gallery, Somerset House, London.

This exhibition, in fact, is curated by a group of students as a practical part of their MA Curating the Art Museum, a study programme organised by The Courtauld Art Institute.

What happens when you put together nine young students, hungry of life, quite eager of the future and willing to demonstrate to the world their real value is? The result is a lovely and cosy exhibition, organised in one room, with curators available to answer and happy to spend their time with visitors. Their passion overwhelmed all the rest. And this passion is also visible in the exhibition itself. And it is nice to have curators who really like it, not ‘doing it for work only’ but with real enthusiasm.

Besides, the idea of the exhibition is tickling: a study about the theme of the gravity in art through a selection of historical and contemporary works from The Courtauld Gallery and The Arts Council Collection. The artworks are in a series of conspicuous and unusual juxtapositions that disclose the fascination of the artists with notions of gravity, from the 16th century to the present days. The exhibition considers the subtle connections between weight and weightlessness, flying and falling, earth and sky, and rising and razing.

Falling Up: The Gravity of Art” displays paintings, sculptures, photographs and engravings. The room is dominated by the installation of Cornelia Parker ‘Neither from nor towards’ (1992) which consists in numerous bricks collected from the White Cliff of Dover and suspended using wires. Other notably artworks are ‘The descent from the cross’ (1611) a painting by Peter Paul Rubens, ‘Sisyphus’ (1636) a piece by Guercino, ‘Dan’ (2008) a photograph by Wolfgang Tillmans and a bronze study ‘Nijinsky’ (about 1912) by Auguste Rodin.

The works reveal both visual and conceptual correlations. “Falling Up: The Gravity of Art” explores the artist ceaseless search on the idea of gravity within religion and myth, or as mere perception of the body rather then a fantasy. However, also the viewer is involved in reconsider his idea of gravity whether of defiance or submission, fear or fascination.

The curator is a team of nine students, eight women and one man, coming from the UK, Europe and the United States. They are: Svetlana Bountakidou, Aryn Conway, Amy-Rose Enskat, Sarah Fletcher, Christopher Huynh, Stephanie Lugon, Charlotte Proctor Smith, Alissa Schapiro and Rachel Walker.

Wishing good luck to them, we hope they will organise other pleasant exhibitions.

At The Courtauld Gallery, Somerset House, Strand, London, WC2R 0RN.

BP Portrait Award 2011 and BP Travel Award 2010 at the  National Portrait Gallery

“Going from strength to strength”

Jane Hallcome – June 2011

Distracted by Wim Heldens

The BP Portrait Award 2011 was overwhelmed with 2,372 entries, an increase of 196 on last year. BP Portrait Award 2011 has seen 1,644 entries from United Kingdom and 728 entries from other countries. The selection for the  National Portrait Gallery, London, exhibition was of 55 portraits only.

The BP Portrait Award 2011 winner is ‘Distracted’ by the Dutch artist Wim Heldens who portrayed a student. He wins £25,000 and a commission, at the National Portrait Gallery Trustees’ discretion, worth £4,000.

The second prize of £8,000 went to Louis Smith for ‘Holly’ and the third prize of £6,000 to Ian Cumberland for ‘Just to Feel Normal’. Sertan Saltan for ‘Mrs Cerna’ won £5,000 for the BP Young Artist Award.

Great excitement created ‘Epic Mirtiotissa’ by Paul Beel, the BP Travel Award 2010 winner, for the usage of nudity. Beel records his journey to Corfu painting a large polyptych of a nudist beach, portraying a wide range of locals and tourists he encountered during his stay on the island.

The BP Travel Award 2011 went to Jo Fraser, who won £5,000 for her proposal to travel to the Cuzco region of Peru to observe the indigenous production of textiles.


Holly by Louis Smith

Wim Heldens (b. 1954) is a self-taught, professional artist from Amsterdam. He participated to numerous groups and solo exhibitions in Europe and the US. ‘Distracted’ is a portray of Jeroen, 25, philosophy student to whom the artist has been a father-figure since he was four. Jeroen sat for him over 20 times, starting when he was seven years old. Heldens says: “I have been fascinated with painting Jeroen in all stages of life through growing up.”

The second winner, Louis Smith (b. 1969), lives in Manchester. He has exhibited in Britain and Italy. His eight-foot portrait, ‘Holly’, shows a naked model called Holly hand-cuffed to a rock in a wild cave-like landscape, a revisited female version of the allegory of Prometheus who stole fire from Zeus and give it to mortals. As punishment he was bound to a rock while an eagle ate his liver daily only for it to grow back to be eaten the next day. Holly looks into the eagle’s face with calm resilience, accepting her fate. “It’s a message of composure in the face of adversity, something we can all draw strength from in our struggle to make a daily living” says Smith, who was helped by Carmel Said.

Just to Feel Normal by Ian Cumberland

Ian Cumberland (b. 1983) lives and works in County Down, Northern Ireland. He has had a solo exhibition at the Albermarle Gallery in London and has won several awards. His third prize winner portrait is a mysterious half-smiling study: “This is a painting of a friend whose story is like many others from my generation that have fallen victim to themselves and their preferred habits”, says Cumberland “The title ‘Just to feel Normal’ refers to his answer when asked why he continues along his chosen path.”

Born in 1982 in Eskisehir, Turkey, Sertan Saltan won the fifth edition of BP Young Artist Award. He moved to the US in 2006 to continue his studies and now lives and works in Avon, Connecticut.

His sitter Mrs Cerna is caught warningly glancing at the artist, in her hair rollers and latex gloves sharpening a large knife. “The contrast of knife, gloves and rollers brought both humour and horror to mind”, says Sertan.

The BP Portrait Award 2011 is at its 32nd edition and it has been sponsored by BP for 22 years.

The BP Portrait Award 2011 was judged anonymously from original paintings by 2011 year panel: Sandy Nairne, Director, National Portrait Gallery, London (Chair); Paul Emsley, Artist, BP Portrait Award First Prize Winner 2007; Jonathan Jones, Art Critic, The Guardian; Iwona Blazwick OBE, Director, Whitechapel Gallery, London; Rosie Broadley, Associate Contemporary Curator, National Portrait Gallery, London and, Des Violaris, Director,UK Arts and Culture, BP.

The “BP Travel Award” was judged by: Liz Rideal, Art Resource Developer, National Portrait Gallery, Des Violaris, Director, UK Arts and Culture, BP, and Rosie Broadley, Associate Contemporary Curator, National Portrait Gallery.

After the London run, the exhibition will tour Wolverhampton Art Gallery (from 24th September until 1st November 2011) and Aberdeen Art Gallery (from 12th November 2011 until 21st January 2012).

At The National Portrait Gallery, London, from 16th June until 18th September 2011.

Australian Season exhibition at The British Museum, London.

Australian Season at The British Museum


Australian Season at British Museum

by John Platypus – May 2011

Australian Season” is an amazing series of exhibitions at the British Museum,London.

The “Australian Season” is focused on the ‘Land Down Under’ culture, featuring a broad programme of exhibitions, installations, performances, lectures and film screenings to take place at the British Museum, London. The ongoing exhibitions are: “Australia Landscape – Kew at the British Museum” (21 April – 16 October 2011), “Out of Australia: prints and drawings from Sidney Nolan to Rover Thomas” (26 May – 11 September 2011) and “Baskets and belonging: Indigenous Australian histories” (26 May – 29 August 2011).

“Australia Landscape” is a commissioned space, bringing together two major institutions of London, the British Museum and the Royal Botanic Gardens in Kew, sharing the same vision on cultural understanding and biodiversity. The landscape is organised in the British Museum Forecourt displaying on open air Australian biodiversity. It is the fourth landscape in a five-year partnership programme involving the British Museum and the Kew Gardens. The space brings together vegetation and environmental samples from the variegated Australian continent.

“Out of Australia: prints and drawings from Sidney Nolan to Rover Thomas” is the first most important show of Australian art in London for at least a decade, and the largest and most ambitious devoted to Australian works on paper ever held outside of Australia itself. The exhibition was conceived as a result of the British Museum’s recently formed collection of Australian works on paper spanning from the 1940s to the present. It begins with the distinctive school of Australian artists known as the ‘Angry Penguins’ and follow the main developments in Australian graphic art, concluding with the rise of Aboriginal printmaking.

“Baskets and belonging: Indigenous Australian histories” displays a wide diversity of beautiful handcrafted baskets and also an important collection of historic baskets such as a small water carrier from Tasmania, constructed from a single piece of kelp. Kelp water carriers appear in early historic drawings, but this object, collected in the 1840s, is the only example now known. An ongoing tradition, baskets are made using materials coming from the local territory. It is usually thought the indigenous Australians are from the same group, but instead they are many interconnecting groups, each belonging to different territory. At the time of European settlement they had been living on the continent for at least 60,000 years, and spoke more than 200 languages.

The season is complemented by a programme of events, including family activities, lectures, films, documentaries and gallery talks, many of which are free.

Australian season is supported by Rio Tinto.

The Australian Season was at the British Museum, London, from April until September 2011.

Summer Exhibition 2011 at the Royal Academy of Arts

John Platypus – June 2011

“displaying works by both emerging and established artists in all media”

Jeff Koons Hon RA, Coloring Book, 1997-2005 © Jeff Koons, Ph. John Bodkin/ Dawkins Colour

Jeff Koons Hon RA, Coloring Book, 1997-2005 © Jeff Koons, Ph. John Bodkin/ Dawkins Colour

It is an astonishing Summer Exhibition 2011 at the Royal Academy opening the 7th June until the 15thAugust 2011. This event is at its 243rd edition. It is also the world’s largest open submission contemporary art show.

The Summer Exhibition always raises a sort of traditional debate, probably ongoing since the show itself.

The Summer Exhibition 2011 carries on the tradition of displaying works by both emerging and established artists in all media including painting, sculpture, photography, printmaking, architecture and film. One of the founding principles of the Royal Academy was to ‘mount an annual exhibition open to all artists of distinguished merit’ to finance the Royal Academy Schools. This has been held every year without interruption since 1769 and continues to play a significant part in raising funds to finance the students. The Royal Academy receives no public funding. By submitting works, visiting and through purchases at the Summer Exhibition people can contribute to support artists of the future.

The Summer Exhibition 2011 faced a great number of applications with over 12,000 entries, arrived from 27 countries all over the world of which the selection on display is of 1,031 pieces. The majority of works are for sale.

The spaces in the Royal Academy of Arts have a new approach to a traditional “salon hang”, counting a mix of open submission works as well as artworks by Royal Academicians.

This year’s co-ordinator is RA Christopher Le Brun. This edition is organised in fifteen rooms, each one in an open contrast, or completely disconnected, from the followings. Each room has a dedicated curator or more. ‘Coloring Book’ (2011) by Jeff Koons opens the show, occupying the Annenberg Courtyard. The Wohl Central Hall, arranged by Michael Craig –Martin, welcomes visitors with notably photography. Room I and II celebrate stylistic diversity according to Chris Orr who arranged them. The Small Weston Room and the Room VII are arranged by Olwyn Bowey and are prevailed by landscapes, still- life and unpopulated

Cindy Sherman, Untitled # 472, 2008 ©Courtesy of the artist, Metro Pictures and Sprüth Magers Berlin London

Cindy Sherman, Untitled # 472, 2008 © Co. the artist, Metro Pictures and Sprüth Magers Berlin London

interiors. The Large Weston Room displays the pain of the war, hung by Stephen Farthing. Painted in warm dark grey Room III is hung by Christopher Le Brun and Tony Bevan. Sadness is the subject of Room IV, arranged by John Wragg. Room V is “only for people who are sensitive, intelligent and thoughtful” organiser Tess Jaray said. Architecture is in Room VI, coordinated by Piers Gough and Alan Stanton. Room VIII is arranged by Michael Sandle who is keen to ‘war’ its main interest. Room IX is hung by Christopher Le Brun, Tony Bevan and Stephen Farthing. Arranged by Maurice Cockrill, Room X explores abstraction and social commentary. The Lecture Room, the last one arranged by Michael Craig –Martin, is a space dedicated to major Royal Academicians.

The exhibition is sponsored by Insight Investment.

A Memorial of Ben Levene (1938 – 2010), a small selection of his works, is on display.

The Royal Academy of Arts Charles Wollaston awards each year artists for a total of £70,000 prize money.

Jane Avril, 1899, National Gallery of Art, Washington, Rosenwald Collection © Courtauld Gallery, London

Jane Avril, 1899, National Gallery of Art, Washington, Rosenwald Collection

Toulouse-Lautrec and Jane Avril” at theCourtauld Gallery.

Alfons Kaminsky – August 2011

“Astonishing exhibition at Courtauld Gallery

Toulouse-Lautrec and Jane Avril – Beyond the Moulin Rouge”, an astonishing exhibition at the Courtauld Gallery, unveils the relationship between the famous French painter and his muse.

The dancer Jane Avril (1868-1943), in fact, was a great source of inspiration for Toulouse– Lautrec. Born Jeanne Beaudon, she was one of the stars of the Moulin Rouge in the 1890s. Her notoriety was assured by a series of brilliant posters created by Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec (1864-1901) which enhanced her delightful trend and out of the ordinary charm for which Jane Avril was acknowledged.

Toulouse-Lautrec and Jane Avril: Beyond the Moulin Rouge” highlights the strong relationship between the two different artists: the member of one ofFrance’s oldest noble families, Toulouse-Lautrec, and the daughter of a courtesan, Jane Avril.

The Courtauld Gallery exhibition brings together a variety of paintings, posters and prints from international collections focused on the sparkling bohemianParis. For “Toulouse-Lautrec and Jane Avril: Beyond the Moulin Rouge” new researches ad hoc made show the connections between her eccentric movements described by one observer as an ‘orchid in a frenzy’, and contemporary medical theories of female hysteria. Her experiences helped defining her public personality and, as a performer, she was also known as ‘L’Etrange’ (the Strange One) and ‘Jane La Folle’ (Crazy Jane).

At the age of twenty she began to work for the Moulin Rouge as a professional dancer, adopting the stage name Jane Avril (suggested to her by an English lover). She was resolute to become a star in the flourishing world of the Montmartre dance-halls and cabarets, which featured such larger-than-life personalities as La Goulue (the Glutton), Grille d’Egout (Sewer-grate) and Nini les-Pattes-en-l’air (Nini Legs-aloft). The ability to generate publicity through a carefully crafted image was the key to success and celebrity in the entertainment industry of Montmartre. A racy portrait of the brazen La Goulue, lent to the exhibition by the Museum of Modern Art in New York, underscores the contrasting sophistication of Avril’s public image.

Toulouse-Lautrec and Jane Avril: Beyond the Moulin Rouge” explores these different public and private images of Jane Avril. She became an icon of thebohemian Paris pictured by Toulouse – Lautrec as an environment of dancers, cabaret, singers, musicians, painters, writers and prostitutes.

Catalyst of this period and environment was the Moulin Rouge. Opened in 1889, it offered customers a nightly programme of performances by its scheduled stars. “Toulouse-Lautrec and Jane Avril – Beyond the Moulin Rouge” is epitomised by the remarkable ‘At the Moulin Rouge’ (1892-93) an exceptional loan from the Art Institute of Chicago. It is one of the Toulouse-Lautrec’s most celebrated paintings a homage to the venue but also an epic portrait of the artist circle of friends. Jane Avril is pictured from the rear and identifiable by her red hair. There are Édouard Dujardin, dancer La Macarona, photographer Paul Secau and Maurice Guibert. The woman in the right foreground is Mademoiselle Nelly C. Spotted in the background on the right the immoral La Goulue (The Glutton) and left the diminutive figure of Lautrec and Gabriel Tapié de Céleyran. The ghostly face of May Milton, one of several English performers, looms into the canvas from the right.

Jane Avril became the subject of some of Lautrec’s greatest posters, landmarks in the history of both art and advertising. One of the first was made to promote Avril’s appearance at the Jardin de Paris, to which a special bus ran every night after the Moulin Rouge closed at eleven. This large and dramatic poster shows Jane Avril in the provocative high kick of the cancan, framed by the hand of a musician grasping the neck of a double-bass. The radical composition reflects Lautrec’s admiration for Japanese prints.

In 1896 Jane Avril travelled to London to perform at the Palace Theatre as part of the troupe of Mademoiselle Eglantine. At her personal request Toulouse-Lautrec designed the poster “ Englantine troupe” for the performance which shows Avril at the end of the line of four cancan dancers. The exhibition reunites materials relating to this commission, including a preparatory drawing, Avril’s letter to Lautrec from London and the programme for the Palace Theatre. Avril admired England and critics speculated that aspects of her dance style and attire had English origins. She noted pointedly in her memoirs that ‘over there, one lives freely, without bothering others or making fun of them, as happens so often at home’. New research has uncovered further fascinating details about Lautrec and Avril’s connections with England, including the first British exhibition of works by Lautrec in 1894.

Toulouse-Lautrec’s death in 1901 marked the end of the golden age of Montmartre. Jane Avril went on to perform briefly as a stage actress before marrying and settling into bourgeois obscurity.

“Toulouse-Lautrec and Jane Avril” examines a friendship which has come to define the world of the Moulin Rouge. However, it also looks beyond Avril’s identity as a star of Lautrec’s posters to consider the complex personal histories and the cultural changes which lay behind this remarkable creative partnership.

The Courtauld Gallery exhibition reunites these portraits for the first time and also includes a rich documentary section exploring the intersection of Avril’s medical history and her public persona.

Showing from 16th June 2011 until 18th September 2011 at the Courtauld Gallery, Somerset House, Strand, London, WC2R 0RN.