In The Frame

No room in the nuclear bunker for Scotland's masterpieces?

Botticelli's The Virgin Adoring the Sleeping Christ Child

New Yorkers who have not been to the Frick Collection to admire ten paintings on loan from the Scottish National Gallery in Edinburgh since last November need to get their skates on. The exhibition of masterworks, including Botticelli's The Virgin Adoring the Sleeping Christ Child, ends on Sunday, 1 February. Recently declassified documents in the UK's National Archive in Kew reveal that they and other masterpieces in Edinburgh would not have been taken to a Welsh bunker for safekeeping in the event of a nuclear strike by the Soviet Union, unlike the National Gallery in London's finest paintings. Ministry of Defence documents released at the end of December reveal that while art held in national collections in London were to be moved to the underground bunkers at the Rhydymwyn Valley works, near Mold, Cold War plans in the 1980s meant the treasures of Edinburgh's museums were to be crated up and stored in the basements of the museums' buildings. It seems the Scottish Office was unable to find suitable storage in remote areas if someone in the Kremlin had pushed the big red button.

From In The Frame
Published online: 31 January 2015

This month:


London mayor is a man of many tongues

Greek scholar Boris Johnson

When the Victoria and Albert Museum director Martin Roth introduced Boris Johnson at a lecture on Olympicopolis last night (29 January), he recalled one of their first encounters to discuss the planned cultural quarter in east London. Johnson politely told Roth how much he had enjoyed the museum’s David Bowie exhibition, pronouncing it “BAU-ee”. Roth delicately corrected the mayor, saying that it is “BOW-ee”. Quick as a flash, Johnson responded in German to the Stuttgart-born museum director: “Oh, I had thought it was like Bauhaus”. When Johnson came up to the podium to expound his personal vision for the former Olympic site, he stressed that he wanted it to be called Olympicopolis—although he was surprised that the word had failed to catch on. Johnson, who once studied ancient Greek, pronounced it with ease, but judging from the questions after the lecture, some of the audience couldn’t quite get their tongue around it. Whatever its eventual name, Johnson confidently promised it will open in 2021.

From In The Frame
Published online: 30 January 2015

Place your bets

Puget Sounds on the Pacific Coast and West Point, Prout’s Neck

Gambling on the Super Bowl, which is now just days away, is a favoured American pastime. Bragging rights are always at stake; money often is too. American museum directors are not immune from the frenzy, though it is neither money nor, exclusively, the privilege of boasting that are on the table. In what has become something of an annual tradition, as the defending champion Seattle Seahawks take on the New England Patriots, the directors of the Seattle Art Museum (led by Kimerly Rorschach) and the Clark Art Institute (led by Michael Conforti) are upping the ante by putting art into betting pool. If Seattle wins, the Clark will loan Winslow Homer’s painting West Point, Prout’s Neck from 1900; if New England wins, it gets Albert Bierstadt’s picture Puget Sounds on the Pacific Coast from 1870, which is housed in Seattle. The winning museum agrees to lend its piece for three months and to pay all transportation expenses. May the best museum win.

From In The Frame
Published online: 30 January 2015

Holzer's Venetian outing

Jenny Holzer, Terrorist Group, 2013

Artists that bag an exhibition at the Museo Correr in Venice during the Biennale have a prime platform during the world's most prestigious exhibition. This year, the stalwart US artist Jenny Holzer, known for her large-scale, electronic LED signs, is due to open a show of silkscreened paintings and hand painted works in the museum which is nestled in St Mark's Square (6 May-22 November). "There'll be a series of paintings in the halls of the Correr and more paintings [on show] in a gallery there," the artist says. The exhibition, organised by the Frankfurt-based Written Art Foundation, includes recent works based on US government and intelligence reports including the 2014 series "Dust Paintings". Holzer knows La Serenissima well; in 1990, she was the first woman to represent the United States at the Venice Biennale (she received the Golden Lion that year).

From In The Frame
Published online: 29 January 2015

Controversial Maggie statue is on the move

Neil Simmons's sculpture of the Iron Lady

The controversial marble statue of Margaret Thatcher by Neil Simmons has been banished from its prominent spot near the entrance to London’s Guildhall Art Gallery to a darkened corridor, following a rehang of the collection. Commissioned by Parliament, the sculpture was lent to the Guildhall gallery in 2002. A few months later it was decapitated by a vandal, but it went back on display after conservation. Meanwhile, in 2007 Parliament acquired a bronze statue of Thatcher by Antony Dufort for the Members‘ Lobby. So what will happen to the original Simmons sculpture? Gallery visitors wishing to see it now need to go to the main Guildhall building and request to be escorted to the ambulatory, which is off-limits to casual visitors. There they will find the Iron Lady, squeezed into a narrow corner. The sculpture may soon be returned to Parliament, but it is rumoured that the Speaker’s Advisory Committee on Works of Art would prefer to decide on the sensitive issue of what to do with the surplus Thatcher statue after May’s general election.

From In The Frame
Published online: 28 January 2015

Bishops’ palace enters the digital age

Charles Sandison's work at Mudo in Beauvais

The UK artist Charles Sandison has created an immersive, digital installation for the reopening of the Mudo Musée de l'Oise in Beauvais, which is housed in a 12th-century former palace of count bishops. The site-specific work, Axis Mundi, plunges the visitor into a darkened space illuminated by moving phrases that relate to the museum's history. The installation is on the top floor of the museum, which is an hour north of Paris. After two years of renovations costing €10m, the museum reopened on 25 January and has a collection of mostly 19th-century art (Camille Corot, Alfred Sisley, Jean-Auguste Dominique Ingres, among others). Sandison's work offers a contemporary vision of the museum's heritage, with phrases in French referring to its religious past and inventory. A pioneer of digital art, Sandison devised his own computer programme to generate the words and determine their appearance and movement. He is known for making architecturally engaging projects that resonate with the spaces selected – previous venues include the Musée du Quai Branly and the Grand Palais in Paris, and the Grande Manege in Moscow.

From In The Frame
Published online: 26 January 2015

Artist beds down in Modernist dwellings of Le Corbusier

Cristian Chironi, My House is a Le Corbusier Courtesy of the artist

In an age of rising rents and dire property prospects, a young Italian artist has hit on a creative solution to the studio squeeze. Cristian Chironi’s latest project, “My House is a Le Corbusier”, trades “the impossibility of home ownership” for “the freedom to live in Le Corbusier’s houses across the world”, the artist says. After two-and-a-half weeks inhabiting a 1970s replica of the architect’s Esprit Nouveau Pavilion in Bologna earlier this month—the first week in solitude, the second receiving guests and on show last weekend (23-25 January) to the general public during Arte Fiera—he’ll be bedding down in April at 24, rue Nungesser et Coli, the studio-apartment on Paris’s western fringe where the master Modernist was based for more than 30 years. The DIY residency programme does not end there. With the green light from the Fondation Le Corbusier in Paris, Chironi hopes to continue his “expanded performance” across 30 houses in 12 countries over the next six years.

From In The Frame
Published online: 26 January 2015

Moreau’s musée time machine

“Van Dyck brown for the panelling, pink or garnet red for the wallpaper”

Gustave Moreau died more than a century ago but his singular artistic vision is thriving in Paris. Moreau, whose fantastical paintings of Greek myths and Bible scenes had fallen out of fashion by the late 19th century, bequeathed his studio-home and its contents to France in the hope that it would maintain a permanent testament to his life’s work. And this week the Musée Gustave Moreau unveils the payoff of a year-long, state-funded €2.4m facelift. Six ground-floor galleries are reopening today, 22 January, after more than a decade of disuse, while a basement extension houses the stores and a new study room for the museum’s 13,000 works on paper. The curators have done their best to preserve Moreau’s fin-de-siècle time warp, though. The renovation lovingly recreates the artist’s densely stacked displays (unburdened by logic of theme or chronology), down to the original wall colours: “Van Dyck brown for the panelling, pink or garnet red for the wallpaper,” notes the museum.

From In The Frame
Published online: 22 January 2015

Camping out for Kusama

The queue for Kusama

Yayoi Kusama’s travelling retrospective “Infinite Obsession”, which has drawn crowds at every stop on its South American tour, lived up to its name once again in Mexico City. When the Tamayo Museum announced it would remain open for 36 hours straight during the show’s closing weekend, eager visitors quickly crashed its website. The final 800 online tickets sold out in four minutes. Undeterred, desperate souls arrived at the museum with sleeping bags and tents last Saturday night to queue for the remaining coveted admission spots. Nearly 10,000 people visited the exhibition during its marathon final weekend, with the last guests entering the halls a few minutes before 10pm on Sunday, 18 January. Surpassing all expectations, the exhibition, which opened on 26 September, received around 335,000 visitors.

From In The Frame
Published online: 22 January 2015

Welcome to the Dollhouse

Alex Da Corte, Die Hexe, 2015. Courtesy the Artist and Luxembourg & Dayan

Good news, adrenaline junkies: You no longer have to wait for Halloween to get your haunted house fix. Next month, the artist Alex Da Corte is due to transform Luxembourg & Dayan, the tony gallery on New York’s Upper East Side, into a haunted dollhouse. (Dolls make everything creepier, don’t they?) The Philadelphia-based artist’s largest installation to date, Die Hexe (26 February-11 April), is a preamble to his first solo museum exhibition at the Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art, due to open in March 2016. At Luxembourg & Dayan, Da Corte plans to build each “set” around a sculpture by one of his artistic influences (who happen to be experts in creepy art themselves): Robert Gober, Mike Kelley, Bjarne Melgaard and Haim Steinbach. The installation will also incorporate domestic elements inspired by Da Corte’s grandparents’ homes, including an aromatic pantry, woven rugs and wreaths. Remember: in a gallery, only the receptionist can hear you scream.

From In The Frame
Published online: 21 January 2015

Yinka's 'dildo' sexes up London Art Fair

Shonibare's Kaleidoscope, 2014

Collectors who prefer their art on the erotic side should head to The Multiple Store’s stand at the London Art Fair, which opens to guests tonight (until 25 January), where they will find Yinka Shonibare’s latest edition—moulded in the shape of a dildo. At £3,000 (edition of 45), Kaleidoscope is pricier than the average sex toy, but for that sum you also get a miniature version of Botticelli’s Birth of Venus, with the female nude replaced by a well-endowed male figure. The image is visible if you peer through a hole in the polished brass end. On a more serious note, Shonibare says: “[Kaleidoscope] is also a… comment on patriarchy, and the objectification of the female body in the media, by what film theorist Laura Mulvey called the ‘male gaze’.” Whether one for the ladies or one for the men, this batik-patterned sculpture is sure to inject a bit of colour into the art fair.

From In The Frame
Published online: 20 January 2015

Obama and Cameron confirm special relationship with cool gifts

Henry Moore's Stonehenge lithograph, 1973, was donated by the artist's foundation

British Prime Minister David Cameron gave US President Barack Obama a print of Stonehenge by Henry Moore when they got pally during talks at the White House last week. The gift was a thoughtful one: Obama made a flying visit to the Neolithic site in Wiltshire last September, describing it as “very cool”. Moore first encountered Stonehenge by moonlight in 1921, and he remained enchanted with its sculptural form after 4,000 years of weathering, eventually producing the lithograph in 1973. The print received by Obama was donated by the Henry Moore Foundation. Obama reciprocated by giving Cameron a first edition of Benjamin Thomas’s classic 1952 biography of Abraham Lincoln. The Obama provenance makes the book somewhat special, online you can get an ordinary copy for around a $1. The Henry Moore lithograph is worth around £1,000 but with gifts, it’s the thought that counts.

From In The Frame
Published online: 19 January 2015

Minneapolis gets Vermeer birthday surprise

Johannes Vermeer, Woman Reading a Letter, c. 1663, Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam, on loan from the City of Amsterdam van der Hoop Bequest

Museums do not usually like surprises, but the Minneapolis Institute of Arts (MIA) is planning an entire year’s worth of them. In honour of its centennial, the MIA is unveiling a series of high-profile international loans and public art projects without warning. The first birthday surprise, unveiled today, is Woman Reading a Letter, around 1663, by Johannes Vermeer, which is on loan from the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam until 19 April. The painting, which went on a world tour ahead of the Rijksmuseum’s reopening in 2013, has never been shown in Minneapolis. Residents were alerted to the loan, which is displayed in a small gallery off the museum’s lobby, via a major advertising campaign in this morning’s local newspaper. A spokeswoman promises “a handful of similarly high calibre international loans will follow periodically throughout the year”. Celebrating a birthday with streamers and cake is so 2014.

From In The Frame
Published online: 16 January 2015

Kitties march on Moscow

Kitties on parade at Manezh

A feline army has taken over new Manezh hall near the Kremlin in the New Year’s exhibition “Kitties at the Manezh”, organised by Moscow’s Vladey contemporary art auction house. Not to be confused with a kitschy sale of cat art, the show, which runs through 20 January, features serious works of contemporary art from the some of the biggest names on the Russian scene including Pavel Pepperstein and Egor Koshelev (who also serves as the exhibition’s curator). There are Pop art kitties, Socialist art kitties and kitty-themed installations: in one, shredded images of the Euromaidan revolution fill a litter box. Despite such well-known artists and timely subjects, there were some scattered suggestions that the show had sunk too low in its bid to appeal to the masses, with an appeal made to cat lovers to send in photos of their favourite felines, which were used to wallpaper the exhibition hall and line the floor.

From In The Frame
Published online: 13 January 2015

Thousands turn out for punk ballerina show in New Jersey

Armitage’s dancers leapt and pivoted among the sets and costumes on view

“There is no other space in the New York area where you could do this,” said Jeffrey Deitch on a frigid Sunday afternoon, when more than 2,000 visitors braved the industrial wasteland of Jersey City, NJ to see the opening of a retrospective he organised of costumes and sets from the “punk ballerina” choreographer Karole Armitage. “Making Art Dance: Backdrops and Costumes from the Armitage Foundation” (until 13 March) showcases the choreographer’s collaborations with artists and film-makers including Alba Clemente, Jeff Koons, James Ivory, Christian Marclay, Brice Marden, David Salle and Philip Taaffe, as well as the designers Christian Lacroix, Jean Paul Gaultier and Peter Speliopoulos (the lead designer for Donna Karan). In a special performance for the opening at the Mana Contemporary arts campus, Armitage’s dancers leapt and pivoted among the works on view. Deitch said a lot of set design is “done kind of notationally” but these works are “made by the artists’ own hand”. He added: “They are not just backdrops, they are paintings.” — Laura van Straaten

From In The Frame
Published online: 12 January 2015

Big brave Emile Zola's year in exile in south London

Michael Rosen recalls Zola's year in exile in south London for BBC Radio 3

Emile Zola's year spent in exile in south London was recalled by fellow writer Michael Rosen on BBC Radio 3 on Sunday. Rosen described the French novelist's escape from Paris to the London suburbs where he lived incognito after being convicted of libel in 1898 for writing "J'Accuse!". In the hallway of a house where Zola found refuge, Rosen admired a copy of the famous open letter to the French President printed by the newspaper L'Aurore in defence of the French-Jewish artillery officer Alfred Dreyfus. Zola's own trial meant that new evidence emerged in support of the soldier, who had been framed for spying. To avoid imprisonment, and help Dreyfus's cause, Zola had boarded a night train at the Gare du Nord with only the clothes he was wearing plus a small suitcase his wife had hurridly packed containing manuscripts and a camera. A keen photographer, he recorded the streets surrounding the Queen's Hotel in Crystal Palace, where he stayed along with his long-suffering wife. A tolerant woman, Rosen described how she gave her tacit blessing to Zola spending precious time while in exile with his young son and daughter by his long-standing mistress. A politically engaged intellectual—fellow novelist Henry James called him "big brave Zola"—he was hated by anti-Semites among others. Zola eventually returned to Paris with the manuscripts of his last series of novels, photographs of Norwood and a sense of gratitude to England for providing sanctuary.

From In The Frame
Published online: 12 January 2015

Sorry, someone’s in here

Inside the toilet-turned-gallery. Photo: Framkvæmda-og eignasvið RVK

No, you probably won’t see Piero Manzoni’s Merda d'Artista and Marcel Duchamp’s Fountain at Reykjavík’s newest art venue: an abandoned (and historically listed) public toilet in the middle of the Icelandic capital. Thorgerdur Ólafsdóttir, the director of the Living Art Museum (Nylo) which is running the pop-up project space, told The Art Newspaper that they’d like to have artists apply directly for exhibitions. The space is at the bottom of Bankastræti—next to the Prime Minister’s office and in the heart of Reykjavík’s party district—and is called “Null” after the Icelandic for “zero”, the lav’s actual street address. “Every tourist must have passed it and many Icelanders have memories of the toilet,” says Ólafsdóttir. We won’t ask what kind of memories. Nylo aims to open the first exhibition during the Sequences art festival, from 10 to 19 April, which is curated by Alfredo Cramerotti, the director of Mostyn in Wales. For once, let’s hope visitors are happy to find the loo occupied. —Clemens Bomsdorf

From In The Frame
Published online: 11 January 2015

What if intellectuals were treated like celebs?

John Waters, Brainiac, 2014

Joan Didion was an unlikely Twitterverse star this week when, at 80, the bird-like writer emerged as a model for the fashion house Céline. But an even more unlikely image of her, overweight on a beach, can be found in the artist and film-maker John Waters’ first gallery show in New York since 2009. The Photoshopped snap is the center of a fake tabloid cover, Brainiac, 2014, by Waters, which plays on “the idea that if intellectuals came out of their houses they’d have to worry about the paparazzi and what they’d look like in a bathing suit,” he explained in an interview with The Art Newspaper, to which he says he subscribes—along with the National Enquirer and the Hollywood Reporter. In the exhibition “Beverly Hills John”, which opens today, 9 January, at Marianne Boesky Gallery’s Chelsea space, his work mashes-up and distorts images, terms and tools of the trade from pulp fiction, contemporary art and Hollywood—worlds that Waters feels he has moved among seamlessly. One distinction he makes is that “in the film world, I have to pretend that a million people are going to love [my newest work]… If you tell the art world that a million people are going to love it, it’s really bad. You want the one, smartest, most powerful person to think it’s good.” Now, who could he have in mind? —Laura van Straaten

From In The Frame
Published online: 09 January 2015

We support Charlie Hebdo campaign

Charlie Hebdo, 2 November 2011

The Comic Book Legal Defense Fund, Index on Censorship and PEN America have called on all publications to stand up for freedom of expression and show their solidarity with Charlie Hebdo by republishing one of the French satirical newspaper's covers or cartoons at 2pm GMT today, 8 January. This edition of 2 November 2011 "celebrated" the election victory of an Islamist party in Tunisia. Renamed "Charia Hebdo", the cartoon reads: "100 lashes, if you're not already dying of laughter!" Afterwards the publication's Paris office was firebombed. Meanwhile, the annual Angoulême International Comics Festival in southwestern France has launched a new “Charlie prize for freedom of expression” for its 42 edition, opening 29 January until 1 February. The annual award will be given to an artist who cannot work in complete freedom, until “all graphic artists in the world can express themselves freely—in other words, it has a future”, the festival’s executive director told the French newspaper Le Monde. The event, which has around 200,000 visitors each year, will also increase its security in the wake of the attack on Charlie Hebdo.

From In The Frame
Published online: 08 January 2015

First biennial planned where penguins roam

Russian artist Alexander Ponomarev warms up for the Antarctic Biennale

A new biennial is due to take place in 2016 in one of the most remote places on the planet: Antarctica. Nadim Samman, a curator at TBA-21 in Vienna, and the Russian artist Alexander Ponomarev say that preparations are under way for the first Antarctic Biennale. “It will bring together scientists and artists on vessels around Antarctica to define a new Antarctic culture beyond institutional missions,” Samman says. The first phase of the initiative, the exhibition “Antarctopia”, was staged in the Antarctic Pavilion at the Venice Architecture Biennale in 2014.

From In The Frame
Published online: 07 January 2015

Beach caff to Guggenheim outpost?

The West Beach café in Littlehampton

An architect on the shortlist to design the new Guggenheim Museum in the Finnish capital of Helsinki started out in the slightly less glamorous surroundings of Littlehampton, a seaside town in the south of England. The Littlehampton Gazette reports that London-based Asif Khan, one of six architects competing for the Helsinki project, was given his first professional commission by Jane Wood, a local businesswoman who asked Khan to design her West Beach café. She said: “I always thought he was a very, very clever chap. But this is just fabulous.” Wood also owns “the internationally acclaimed East Beach Café” in Littlehampton, says the local newspaper. “Khan was a lot younger than Thomas Heatherwick, who did the East Beach Café, but he was certainly very talented,” Wood adds. Heatherwick has also hit the headlines (his Olympic cauldron, unveiled at the 2012 games in London, caught the eye). The winner of the Guggenheim Helsinki commission is, meanwhile, due to be announced in June.

From In The Frame
Published online: 06 January 2015

Cumming our way

Christian Hook's portrait of Alan Cumming

The Scottish National Portrait Gallery has unveiled a racy new portrait of the actor Alan Cumming by the artist Christian Hook. The Scottish performer is depicted posing flirtatiously at the edge of a stage in front of a row of footlights, wearing nothing but a kilt around his neck. A top hat—a nod to Cumming’s starring role as the raunchy master of ceremonies in “Cabaret” on Broadway in New York—sits nearby; the tartan kilt references the actor’s support for Scottish independence. Hook’s portrait, which entered the museum’s collection last week after a ten-month, nationwide search, is the winning commission for the Sky Arts Portrait Artist of The Year competition. In addition to securing the commission, Hook is due to receive a year’s supply of art supplies courtesy of Sky Arts. So hopefully we’ll have more saucy sketches to look forward to.

From In The Frame
Published online: 06 January 2015

Not destined for Tate Modern: Dumas's D-rection

Marlene Dumas

A particularly racy painting by Marlene Dumas—included in an exhibition of works at the Stedelijk Museum in Amsterdam which closed last weekend (4 January)—will not make its way to Tate Modern when the show opens in London next month ("The Image as Burden", 5 February-10 May). In the winter issue of the magazine published by the Royal Academy of Arts in London, the art historian Simon Wilson waxes lyrical about a painting in the Stedelijk “show’s most openly sexual section”. And what does this saucy piece depict? “As a painting of a man in the process of ejaculation D-rection, 1999, is unique, I think, in the mainstream of Western art. And it is an affectionate and vivid realisation of this everyday little miracle.” Visitors to the Tate will not, unfortunately, get to see this seminal piece. UPDATE (7 January) - A Tate spokeswoman says: "'Marlene Dumas: The Image as Burden' will travel to three different venues in Amsterdam, London and Basel. As is usual for international tours of this kind, the curators and artist jointly decided which works to request, ensuring the exhibition has its own identity at each venue. Tate Modern’s decision not to request the painting D-rection was made to maintain the balance of paintings and drawings in the exhibition and was wholly unrelated to its content.”

From In The Frame
Published online: 05 January 2015

Top of the class for Tal R and Teller

Too good to be true

The photographer Jürgen Teller and the painter Tal R are set to co-host an exhibition combining their work with that of their students. Teller will show works by his Nuremberg Academy class, while Tal R has selected a few favourites from his final year teaching at the Düsseldorf Academy. Images from a previous incarnation of the project originally appeared in System magazine. The exhibition is due to open at Berlin’s Contemporary Fine Arts gallery (“You’re Just Too Good To Be True”, 7-31 January).

From In The Frame
Published online: 02 January 2015

Will Cameron ever be caught on canvas?

David Cameron

Time is running out for David Cameron to sit for a prime ministerial portrait before May’s general election. The Parliamentary Art Collection likes to commission portraits of prime ministers while they are in power, but Cameron’s diary seems too full. An official of the Speaker’s Advisory Committee on Works of Art tells us that it has ‘‘no plans to commission a portrait’’ of Cameron, but the process can only begin when the sitter has agreed—and so far informal requests have failed to elicit a positive response. Parliament does already have a portrait of Cameron on display, but it is only on loan. The painting by Anne Mackintosh depicts a relatively youthful Cameron relaxing in an armchair in 2006, four years before he entered Downing Street, and it lacks gravitas. Portraits of all but one of the recent prime ministers hang in Portcullis House, the parliamentary building just across the road from Big Ben. Margaret Thatcher, John Major and Tony Blair are there—but Gordon Brown has also still not sat for his portrait.

From In The Frame
Published online: 01 January 2015

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