Art in Print

Simon Jenkins: ‘Net curtain-gate’ just makes us laugh rather than show sympathy

The Tate’s boss, Sir Nicholas Serota, once objected to residential towers going up behind his beloved power station. He lost, and a tower by Richard Rogers duly rose next door, and now he has hit back with a truly hideous tower of his own. That is what rich people do to each other. Serota’s viewing balcony leers down on Rogers’s svelte “Neo Bankside” glasshouse just 20 metres away. 

Next, Serota loftily entered into the spirit of the spat. He was derisive. The residents “knew Tate Modern was going up next door… The character and uses of the building were also widely known.” He said they bought their flats “with their eyes wide open”. As a concession he would ask visitors “not to gesticulate or photograph” the flat-dwellers. But since gesticulation appears to be an important facet of modern art appreciation, Serota suggested that if the neighbours wanted privacy they should get net curtains.

Two aspects of curtain-gate are quite baffling. Serota has to be right that legal searches for a property of this value would surely have disclosed the Tate’s plans in detail. The Tate was clearly likely to block the Neo Banksiders’ view of St Paul’s, so the obvious question was “with what?” If I were a resident I would sue my lawyer.

On the other hand I find it equally inexplicable that Southwark planners can have given the Tate permission for a viewing gallery that so closely overlooks people’s homes. Given that the only view from the balcony at this point is of the flats, a screen of sorts would surely have been in order. 

In this battle between the aristocracy of modern art and aristocracy of modern cash there are no losers — just fools. The rest of us should imitate Oscar Wilde who, after reading of the death of Little Nell in Dickens’s The Old Curiosity Shop, said: “It would take a heart of stone not to laugh.”

Via Evening Standard

Seeing is believing: documentary photography from Francis Bacon to 9/11

The French thinker Roland Barthes identified what he called the punctum: the crucial, often accidental, detail of a photograph that reveals something deeper. The curve of the worn stairs, in Simon Norfolk’s black-and-white study of what looks like an ordinary staircase in a nondescript house, is not an accidental detail in Norfolk’s photograph, but the crucial element in the composition that, as Barthes put it, “rises from the scene” with a force that makes it suddenly seem like a new photograph. Those who walked down these stairs, leaving the imprint of their vast numbers, were heading towards their deaths in the gas chambers at Auschwitz. It is a photograph that evokes horror in the most subtle and affecting way.

“Part of the fascination with all photography is that the medium is firmly grounded in the documentary tradition,” Michael Hoppen notes in his introduction to the new exhibition ‘The Image as Question’. “It has been used as a record of crime scenes, zoological specimens, lunar and space exploration, phrenology, fashion and importantly, art and science. It has been used as ‘proof’ of simple things such as family holidays and equally of atrocities taking place on the global stage. Any contemporary artist using photography has to accept the evidential language embedded in the medium.”

That last sentence perhaps provides the subtext to the exhibition, which concerns the threatened position of documentary photography in an age of digital profligacy. Photographs are now so ubiquitous and, when shared on social media, often so unmoored from their context as to seem drained of meaning. The images here, Hoppen insists, have “a shared gravitas, a weightiness that emanates from their documentary function”.

Via The Guardian

For sale: six flats priced at £100m… and the art on the walls will cost the same again

Next month, six apartments in the restored Park Crescent in Marylebone will be put up for sale at a total of £100 million — their interiors dripping with works by leading artists that are valued at exactly the same amount. Major names include Marc Chagall, Salvador Dali, Joan Miró, Andy Warhol, Damien Hirst and Grayson Perry.

About 500 have been invited to a lavish launch party in the crescent’s eight acres of private gardens on October 6 to coincide with the start of the Frieze art fair in Regent’s Park. 

Names on the guestlist include Angelina Jolie — who is believed to be looking for a London home following her split from Brad Pitt — Amal Clooney, David and Victoria Beckham, Donald Trump’s daughter Ivanka and members of the Qatari royal family.

Viewers are free to buy the properties — huge lateral apartments behind the stucco facade of the crescent — with or without the works that have been chosen to decorate them. In total 20 homes are going on sale, ranging in price from £3.95 million to £20 million.

Via Evening Standard

UK gallery to celebrate the art of mining

A former bank in the marketplace at Bishop Auckland in County Durham is to become Britain’s first art gallery devoted to coal mining.

It will house more than 300 pictures and other art works amassed by two collectors of mining art, Bob McManners, a retired GP and Gillian Wales, a retired librarian and town hall manager, both of whom come from mining families.

The £600,000 Mining Art Gallery, which will open next summer near an art gallery featuring Spanish old masters by El Graco and Veláquez, is the latest move by Jonathan Ruffer, the fund manager, to regenerate Bishop Auckland.

“Through imagery they tell us what it felt like to work in the coal mines, not simply what it looked like,” says Dr McManners. “In this, mining artists are unique and we find no equivalent corpus of experimental art from the other heavy industries that flourished in the north-east in the 20th century.”

Ms Wales said Mr Ruffer’s arrival had been a “kind of fairy story” for Bishop Auckland. “It’s brought a kind of euphoria and hope. There’s a great wave of optimism through the whole town.”

Via Financial Times