Sunday 29 April 2012

Art Shows Around the World

Barbican, London 
to 12 August
Bauhaus: Art as Life

The last big London show about the Bauhaus was in 1968, when the pioneering German art school, where Kandinsky and Klee taught, had been almost forgotten. It was very popular, and designers seized on the geometric designs of Josef Albers to create tiles that ended up in 70s kitchens. The Bauhaus (1919-1933) was originally dominated by a weirdo called Johannes Itten who was into head-shaving, vegetarianism and folk art. After he left, it became a shrine of pure geometry and modernism under Walter Gropius. Its influence on the look of our surroundings is obvious. (It was eventually closed down by the Nazis who thought modernism was degenerate.)

Kettle’s Yard, Cambridge
Alfred Wallis: Ships and Boats
to 8 July

Afred Wallis (1855-1942) was a Cornish fisherman and self-taught painter. He is described as a "primitive" and it's said that artist Ben Nicholson "discovered" him. He met the members of the artists' colony in St Ives, Cornwall, and, as somebody said, the influence went all one way. There would be no "St Ives School" without Alfred Wallis. His paintings (in boat paint on wood and cardboard) of the sea, ships, beaches, houses and farms are superb.

Yuan Space, Beijing
Andrew Wyeth
to May 12
Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Center May 24 - 30
Christie's New York early September
Around 40 works by the American Realist (1917-2009).

Vienna Museum
Gustav Klimt
May 16-Sept 16
It's the 150th anniversary of the painter’s birth, and the Vienna Museum is putting its entire Klimt collection on display for the first time. There will also be shows at the Albertina (sketches to June 10); the Leopold Museum (letters to June 19); and the Kunsthistorisches Museum, where a walkway will give visitors a closer look at Klimt’s paintings displayed around the museum’s central staircase. Klimt painted fashionable ladies as gold-spattered Babylonian goddesses (the Germans excavated from 1899 to 1917).

Royal Academy
Johann Zoffany: Society Observed
to 10 June
Zoffany (1733-1810) was a great portraitist, who recorded the social lives of his sitters. In his famous work The Tribuna of the Uffizi (1772-78), most of the well-off gentlemen gazing at the artworks are portraits. A group of dudes are more interested in the back view of a classical Venus; a sculpture of a native American in the foreground (America had just won the war of independence) is naked but dignified. Zoffany himself is on the extreme right (the traditional position for an artist who wants to put himself into his work). His sitters all wear the fabulous fashions of the time, which we may find odd (though the Victorians thought they were just toooo cute!). The women’s hairdos are not as extreme as the fashion plates. People are individuals, not just the “18th century face” a la Lely or Lawrence. He painted some great pictures of the theatre (with Macbeth in modern dress) and the current balletic style of acting.

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