David Franchi – Sunday, 27th September 2015.

Annabelle and Guy by Matan Ben-Cnaan ® Matan Ben-Cnaan

Annabelle and Guy by Matan Ben-Cnaan ® Matan Ben-Cnaan

BP Portrait Award 2015 was a successful edition, at the National Portrait Gallery, London.

At its 36th edition, the esteemed Portrait Award is in the 26th year of BP’s sponsorship, the contest being organised by the National Portrait Gallery, London.

The winner of the coveted BP Portrait Award 2015 was Matan Ben-Cnaan, who presented ‘Annabelle and Guy’ at the National Portrait Gallery, London.

The 35-year-old Israeli artist won £30,000 and a commission worth £5,000, at the National Portrait Gallery Trustees’ discretion. The painting is a remarkable allegorical portrait of the artist’s friend and step-daughter as if they are reflecting their unfortunate fate in the blinding sunlight of Jezreel Valley (Israel). The judges were impressed by the extremely stimulating and unsettling portrait in which the artist chose to depict his sitters as though they were facing tragedy in an echo of the Biblical story of Jephthah. In this story an Israelite judge swore, he will sacrifice the first thing that greets him upon his home-coming, if the battle is won, believing it to be a dog. However, when back home the daughter welcomes him. Despite the terrible error, he upholds his swear and sacrifices his child.

The second prize went to Michael Gaskell, 51. Leicester-based, he won of £10,000 for ‘Eliza’, a portrait of his niece

Eliza by Michael Gaskell ® Michael Gaskell

Eliza by Michael Gaskell ® Michael Gaskell

Eliza, who agreed to sit for him in early 2014 at the age of 14, having first sat for a portrait for her uncle when she was a very small child.

The third prize of £8,000 went to Spanish artist Borja Buces Renard, 36. He presented ‘My Mother and My Brother on a Sunday Evening’, a portrait of his mother Paloma and his brother Jaime in the living room of his family house. His father, who had been ill for some time, passed away a few weeks after the painting was finished.

The BP Young Artist Award was won by Eleana Antonaki for ‘J’. New York based, she was awarded £7,000 for the work of a selected entrant aged between 18 and 30.

The awards were presented by historian and broadcaster Simon Schama who was one of the judges.

Also interesting was the BP Travel Award 2015 which is an annual prize to enable artists to work in a diverse environment on a project related to portraiture. The prize of £6,000 is open to applications from any of the BP Portrait Award-exhibited artists. This year the BP Travel Award has been awarded to French artist Magali Cazo for her proposal to travel to a community of bronze-smelters in Bobo-Dioulasso, Burkina Faso, West Africa.

My Mother and My Brother on a Sunday Evening ® Borja Buces Renard

My Mother and My Brother on a Sunday Evening ® Borja Buces Renard

The work of BP Travel Award 2014 winner Edward Sutcliffe, based in London and Dubai, is on display at this year’s exhibition. Edward won for his proposal to document the Compton Cricket Club which was formed as an scheme to help support and empower the disaffected youth of an area of Los Angeles synonymous with poverty and crime.

The BP Portrait Award 2015 received 2,748 entries from 92 countries, (up from 2,377 entries from 71 countries in 2014). Judged anonymously, 55 portraits have been selected for the exhibition. In 2014 the BP Portrait Award received 281,717 visitors.

The panel of the judges for the BP Portrait Award 2015 was: Pim Baxter, Deputy Director (Acting Director at the time of judging), National Portrait Gallery, London (Chair); Sarah Howgate, Contemporary Curator, National Portrait Gallery, London; Kim Mawhinney, Head of Art, National Museums Northern Ireland; Peter Monkman, Artist and First-Prize winner of BP Portrait Award 2009; Simon Schama, Historian; and Des Violaris, Director, UK Arts & Culture, BP.

The BP Travel Award 2015 was judged by Sarah Howgate, Contemporary Curator, National Portrait Gallery, Peter

J. by Eleana Antonaki © Eleana Antonaki

J. by Eleana Antonaki © Eleana Antonaki

Monkman, artist and First-Prize winner of BP Portrait Award 2009, and Des Violaris, Director, UK Arts and Culture, BP.

The BP Travel Award 2014 was judged by Sarah Howgate, Des Violaris, and Susanne du Toit, artist and BP Portrait Award First Prize winner 2013.

The BP Portrait Award 2015 was at the National Portrait Gallery, Leicester Square, London, from 18th June until 20 September 2015. 


David Franchi – Wednesday, 16th September 2015.

Fausto Pirandello at the Estorick Collection, London. Fausto Pirandello” was a stimulating exhibition at theEstorick Collection, London.

While the Estorick Collection exhibition was the first solo inLondon and the UK, Fausto Pirandello was a dominant figure in the Italian art environment spanning four decades from early 1930s until his death in 1975.

The fame of Fausto Pirandello has been dwarfed by his father’s figure, the famous Luigi, Nobel Prize awarded, a key figure of the literature of Italy of all time.

The work of Fausto Pirandello was one of the most interesting of its time. He was able to master many styles, but always elaborating them through his personal approach and taste.

During his life Pirandello lived in different places, always absorbing ideas and inspiration from the surrounding atmosphere, rendering through its own personal filter. He was born in Rome, on 17 June 1899. He was the youngest son of his relatives, both natives of Agrigento, in Sicily. Therefore, he spent his childhood in between Rome and holidays in Sicily, land that inspired him the usage of those nuances and colours of his featured painting.

After serving in the army during the First World War, Pirandello started to dedicate himself to painting. His first art teacher was Lipinsky (1919) symbolist sculptor and engraver. In 1922, he enrolled at the Scuola d’Arte agli Orti Sallustiani, opened in Rome by Felice Carena, Attilio Selva and Orazio Amato, where he learned a more international style, mitigating his own Mitteleuropean approach. There, he met the painters Cavalli, Martinelli and Capogrossi. Together they spent long summer holidays in Anticoli Corrado, a village located in Alta Valle Aniene, where Carena was resident.

In Anticoli Corrado, in 1924 Pirandello opened his first studio. There he also met Pompilia D’Aprile, who married in 1927. She was a former fashion model posing for painters Francesco Trombadori and Amleto Cataldi. The marriage was kept secret to his father until 1930. They had two children, Pierluigi and Antonio.

In 1925 Pirandello makes its first public appearance at the Terza Biennale Romana, with ‘Bagnanti’. The following year, he is at the XV Biennale Internazionale d’Arte della Città di Venezia.

In 1927, Fausto Pirandello settled in Paris with his wife Pompilia. He resides in Montparnasse and takes a small studio in Montrouge. The trip is an attempt to get away from the psychological conditioning of the father. A real escape then, but it was also an opportunity to find new ideas for his painting. In Paris he follows the group of Italiens de Paris, especially De Chirico and De Pisis, and get in contact with the works of Cézanne, the Cubists and the École de Paris.

In 1930, Pirandello and his family are definitely back in Rome with his family, but spending summers in Anticoli Corrado. During 1930s, he exhibited frequently in Rome. While maintaining an individual path, he is into the Scuola Romana, within which was closer to the group of so-called Tonalists.

Since the 1930’s, and until his death in 1975 in Rome, Pirandello participates in exhibitions and receives awards.

The exhibition at the Estorick Collection was very comprehensive, displaying almost all his important works, for example, ‘Composizioni’ (1928), Vista delle Cupole di S. Spirito (1932), and Bagnanti sulla Spiaggia (1961).

Comprising some fifty works, among the other most important on display were Women with Salamander (1928-30), Interior in the Morning (1931), Golden Rain (c. 1933), Gymnasium (c. 1934), The Staircase (1934), Drought (1936-37), Women Combing their Hair (c. 1937), Bathers (1938-40), The Models (1945), Befana in Piazza Navona (c. 1951), and Through the Spectacles (1953-54).

His works reflected his periods in a sort of contamination between the artist and the environment. For example, the Scuola Romana privileged an untamed, disorderly style. The exploration of reality became the leading focus of his work. His preferred subject was the human figure, that he analysed from a corporeal point of view rather than psychological. These inscrutable compositions are notable for their spatial uncertainty, lack of easily specific significance, calm monumentality and sense of existential drama, free from any narrative element.

Between the 1930s and 1950s Pirandello produced a number of psychologically powerful figurative works, which often depicted women in different stripped situations. At the Estorick Collection, particularly with Nude in Perspective (1923) visitors made a sort of parallel between Fausto Pirandello and Lucian Freud. Both they developed a very similar style. It is unknown, if they ever met, but being Freud 23 years younger to Pirandello, and born in 1922, it should be possible that Freud took inspiration by Pirandello, rather then the opposite.

The exhibition has been curated by Fabio Benzi and organised by the Estorick Collection, London, in collaboration with the Fondazione Fausto Pirandello.

The exhibition Fausto Pirandello was at the Estorick Collection of Modern Italian Art, Canonbury Square, London, from 8th July until 6th September 2015.


David Franchi – Sunday, 16th august 2015.

Wohl Central Hall, Summer Exhibition 2015, Ph. John Bodkin © Royal Academy of Arts, London.

Wohl Central Hall, Summer Exhibition 2015, Ph. John Bodkin © Royal Academy of Arts, London.

It was a renewed Summer Exhibition 2015, at the Royal Academy of Arts, London.

The Royal Academy of Londonhas made a big attempt to deliver a trendy and fashionable Summer Exhibition 2015.

At its 247 edition, the Summer Exhibition has been held since 1769, annually, without interruption. It is the longest-running open submission exhibition in the world.

Significant teacher and artist, the British Michael Craig- Martin CBE RA is the coordinator of the 2015 edition. He focused on a new layout of the Main Galleries with rooms enlivened by vivacious colours. Artist Jim Lambie, Turner Prize winner, created a specific installation for the Royal Academy main staircase, while artist Liam Gillick made a site-specific work for the Central Hall.

Highlight of the Summer Exhibition 2015 is ‘Humument’ a monumental work by Tom Phillips RA in progress since 1966, a Victorian book published in 1892 by WH Matlock, of which the artist altered every page.

The youngest Royal Academician, sculptor Conrad Shawcross, has installed a colossal site-specific installation in the Annenberg Courtyard central space outside. Entitled ‘The Dappled Light of the Sun’ (2015) the immersive work consists of a group of five steel ‘clouds’. The branching forms are made up of thousands of tetrahedrons and stand at over six metres high and weigh five tonnes each. Conrad Shawcross said, “The Greeks considered the tetrahedron to represent the very essence of matter. In this huge work I have taken this form as my ‘brick’, growing these chaotic, diverging forms that will float above the heads of visitors who will be able to wander beneath them. I am extremely excited to see the completed work exhibited for the first time in the RA’s historic Annenburg Courtyard, for which it was conceived.”

The Summer Exhibition 2015 offers an exceptional platform for emerging and established artists and architects to display their works to a worldwide audience, including a range of media from painting to printmaking, photography, sculpture, architecture and film. This year the Royal Academy received 12,000 entries, from which a committee of Royal Academicians, made a selection to hang on the walls of the Main Galleries in Burlington House. Over 1,100 artworks are on display, the majority of which will be for sale.

The Summer Exhibition offers to visitors an opportunity to purchase original artwork by high profile and up-and-coming artists. It plays an important role in raising funds to finance the current students of the RA Schools.

Together with the main exhibition, the Royal Academy, London, presents the ninth A-Level Summer Exhibition Online. It is an open-submission online exhibition, providing an exclusive opportunity for 16 to 18 year old student artists to show their artwork. All students currently studying at A-levels or equivalent at secondary schools and sixth form in the UK were eligible to enter.

Over 1,200 aspiring artists attending sixth form colleges or schools submitted their work to the A-level Summer Exhibition Online 2015. However, 38 exceptional works of art only were selected by an expert panel: Andrea Tarsia (Head of RA Exhibitions), RA Schools student Maria de Lima, and artist Lisa Milroy.

Official sponsor is Insight Investment, owned by BNY Mellon.

The Summer Exhibition 2015 is at the Royal Academy of Arts, Piccadilly, London, from 8th June until 16th August 2015.


David Franchi – Wednesday, 22nd July 2015

Portrait of Alexander McQueen 1997 © the V&A Museum, London.

Portrait of Alexander McQueen 1997 © the V&A Museum, London.

The exhibition on Alexander McQueenis stunning, at the V&A Museum, London. “Alexander McQueen: Savage Beauty” is the biggest retrospective exhibition in Europe, organized by the Victoria and Albert Museum, London.

The V&A Museum exhibition displays the creative body of work of Alexander McQueen spanning from his 1992 MA graduate collection to his unfinished A/W 2010 collection. The set –up of the show is made following the designer style, which was theatrical and with a thespian sense.

In 2011, the original edition of Savage Beauty was organised at the Metropolitan Museum of Art of New York by the Costume Institute. It has been one of the Museum’s top 10 most visited exhibitions.

Similarly, the V&A Museum of London version has been a great success too. So far, it has sold almost half million of tickets. The V&A Museum decided to put on sale 12,000 extra tickets for night time openings (between midnight and 6.00am) following numerous requests.

The complementary exhibition publication “Alexander McQueen” (edited by Claire Wilcox) is now officially the V&A’s most successful one, with more than 58,000 copies sold and currently featuring in the UK’s top ten non-fiction bestsellers chart. Records are also set by the V&A Museum website and waiting the end of the show to have final results.

Gainsbury and Whiting, the production company that collaborated with Alexander McQueen in staging his catwalk

Butterfly headdress of hand-painted turkey feathers Philip Treacy for Alexander McQueen La_Dame Bleu Spring Summer, 2008 © Anthea Sims, the V&A Museum, London.

Butterfly headdress of hand-painted turkey feathers Philip Treacy for Alexander McQueen La_Dame Bleu Spring Summer, 2008 © Anthea Sims, the V&A Museum, London.

shows are working with the V&A Museum on the exhibition. Samantha Gainsbury of Gainsbury & Whiting is the Exhibition Creative Director (Alexander McQueen) and was Creative Director of the original exhibition. Each room catch the spirit of the provocative, dramatic and extravagant catwalk presentations that McQueen became renowned for, combining storytelling, theatrical performance, music and film.

Every room of the Alexander McQueen exhibition is differently arranged in a sort of theatrical style, with music and play lights. The first room, ‘London’, is set up on steady grey cement- like style. McQueen once said: “London’s where I was brought up. It’s where my heart is and where I get my inspiration.”

The second room, ‘Savage Mind’, is the one that gave name to the exhibition. It has the same staging arrangement of the previous.

Third room, ‘Romantic Gothic’, has a predominance of black and gold colours, mannequins wear leather masks, crests and some light colour dresses.

‘Romantic Primitivism’, the following room, is very dark and on the walls there are cast bones, reminding cannibalism and primal acts.

Also focused on the same topic is the next room: ‘Romantic Nationalism’. Here mannequins wear golden embossed masks, tartans, gold plated metal pearls and Swarovski. The walls are arranged in Scottish club theme.

The sixth room is ‘Cabinet of Curiosities’. From the floor to the ceiling, there are overall items displayed in sort of boxes cabinet style. Every space has a mannequin or an object, made for catwalks, for example headdress, garments.

Duck feather dress The Horn of Plenty AW 2009-10, Model Magdalena Frackowiak represented by dna model management New York © The V&A Museum, London.

Duck feather dress, The Horn of Plenty AW 2009 -10, Model Magdalena Frackowiak represented by dna model management New York © Image First, the V&A Museum, London.

There are screens showing images of catwalks. Music is in the background. In the middle of the room, stands a mannequin turning with head cover in wax or plastic material.

The following room is the most famed of the exhibition. It s a dark room with a glass pyramid and inside of it there are play of lights ongoing endlessly. At a certain moment, a holographic 3D image of a beautiful lady wearing a white dress appears like a ghost moving. It is an impressive moment where the image of Kate Moss appears in a gown of rippling organza near life size as it was for the finale of the Widows of Culloden (A/W 2006-7) catwalk show.

The eighth room, ‘Romanticism Exoticism’, is outfitted in an oriental style, with mirrors in the back of turning mannequins, with a blonde haircut bowl.

The room nine, ‘VOSS’ is very dark, with play of lights, which are constantly changing, misplacing people. A video is projected in the background.

But when entering in the next room, ‘Romantic Naturalism’, there is a passage from dark to bright. There are big vitrines reminding the countryside. There is not music here, but sounds of birds. Dresses are looking like to be inspired by a Shakespearean drama, like Midsummer Night Dream.

In the last room, ‘Plato’s Atlantis’, colours are bright. Mannequins wear space age clothes and have head cut rabbit style. The music is drum and bass. A big screen on the back of mannequins shows images of models. This was the last fully realised and staged collection for McQueen (2010).

Lee Alexander McQueen, CBE, was born on 17th March 1969 and died 11th February 2010. He was a British fashion

Tahitian pear neckpiece Shaun Leane for Alexander McQueen, Voss Spring Summer 2001 © Anthea Sims, the V&A Museum, London.

Tahitian pear neckpiece Shaun Leane for Alexander McQueen, Voss Spring Summer 2001 © Anthea Sims, the V&A Museum, London.

designer and couturier. He is known for having worked as chief designer at Givenchy from 1996 to 2001 and for founding his own Alexander McQueen label. His achievements in fashion earned him four British Designer of the Year awards (1996, 1997, 2001 and 2003), as well as the CFDA’s International Designer of the Year award in 2003.

Born of humble origins in Lewisham, Alexander McQueen was the youngest of six children. He attended Rokeby School and left aged 16 in 1985 with one O-level in art, going on to serve an apprenticeship with Savile Row tailors Anderson & Sheppard, before joining Gieves & Hawkes and, later, the theatrical costumiers Angels and Bermans.

While on Savile Row, McQueen’s clients included Mikhail Gorbachev and Prince Charles. At the age of 20, he worked for a period for Koji Tatsuno before travelling to Milan, Italy and working for Romeo Gigli.

McQueen returned to London and applied to Central Saint Martins College of Art and Design, to work as a pattern cutter tutor. However, he was persuaded by Bobby Hillson, the Head of the Masters course, to enroll as a student. He received his master’s degree in fashion design and his 1992 graduation collection was bought in its entirety by influential fashion stylist Isabella Blow, who persuaded McQueen to follow his carrier using his middle name, Alexander.

McQueen earned an international reputation in the fashion world as an expert in creating impeccably tailored looks and counted in his customers in between the most famous personality, including David Bowie, Björk, Sylvie Guillem, Nicole Kidman, Penélope Cruz, Sarah Jessica Parker, and Rihanna, J-pop queens, such as Ayumi Hamasaki, Namie Amuro, and Koda Kumi, and Lady Gaga.

Tulle and lace dress with veil and antlers, Widows of Culloden AW 2006, Model Raquel Zimmermann,  Viva London, Image first  ® the V&A Museum , London.

Tulle and lace dress with veil and antlers, Widows of Culloden AW 2006, Model Raquel Zimmermann, Viva London, Image first ® the V&A Museum , London.

In 1996, he was appointed head designer for Givenchy, until 2001. He then realized his most celebrated catwalk show the 2001 Spring/Summer collection, named VOSS.

McQueen founded his own company in 1992. In December 2000, the Gucci Group acquired 51% of his company and appointed him as Creative Director. By the end of 2007 he had boutiques in London, New York, Los Angeles, Milan, and Las Vegas.

On 11th February 2010, in the morning, his housekeeper found McQueen dead hanging at his home on Green Street, London W1.

Company owner Gucci confirmed that the brand would continue, and McQueen’s long-term assistant Sarah Burton was named as the new creative director of Alexander McQueen in May 2010.

The V&A’s presentation of the exhibition is being made possible with the cooperation of Alexander McQueen and will be in partnership with Swarovski, and supported by American Express.

The exhibition is being curated by Claire Wilcox, Senior Curator of Fashion, V&A and Professor in Fashion Curation, London College of Fashion, University of the Arts London.

Andrew Bolton, Curator of the Costume Institute at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York is Consultant Curator and was Curator of the original exhibition.

The exhibition “Alexander McQueen: Savage Beauty” is ongoing until the 2nd of August 2015, at the V&A Museum, South Kensington, London.