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Posts tagged ‘Damien Hirst’

2012: the Norms review their year

It’s been one hell of a year for the Norms. One could almost call 2012 the Year of the Norm, except to do so would be to presuppose that no subsequent year would be equally as Normy, something which, the Norms anticipate, will certainly not be the case. 2012 has nevertheless been a year of great Normy prowess and adventure. Why 2012 was the year when the Norms headed to Italy, to Spain, to Portugal, to Holland and to France. They sailed down canals, they took part in Easter Parades, they cycled over Amsterdam’s bridges and boarded Lisbon’s famous trams. In Paris, the Norms explored the sculptures of the Musée Rodin, while back in London, they milled around in the National Gallery, became covered with Yayoi Kusama’s polka dots and ran from a fly attack in Tate’s Damien Hirst exhibition. Oh yes, those Norms are cultured little blobs, but they proved themselves to be great sports-norms too, partaking in London’s hugely successful Olympic and Paralympic games, as well as mustering the energy to stand in crowds waving the flag for Queen Elizabeth Norm’s Diamond Jubilee. So you see 2012 really was the year of the Norm, and although you may have seen them all before, here is a little review of some of the sketches which captured the Norm’s adventures throughout the year.

But that’s not all. 2012 was also the year when the Norms entered the history books, having themselves repainted in the image of some of the world’s most famous paintings. From Norms in the image of Manet’s Dejeuner sur l’herbe and, minus an ear (not that Norms have ears), in the guise of Van Gogh, to the Norm with a Pearl Earring, and the Norm with an Ermine, the Norms have recreated artistic greats such as Da Vinci, Frans Hals, Valezquez and Goya with their characteristic glowing blue complexion and their wide captivating eyes. What better time then, than at the end of the year of great Normular artistic endeavours, to take a look back at some of those paintings that made the year so artistically fruitful.

So that’s it – it was a year of fantastic Normic success, both in colour and black and white. Here’s to 2013, for a year of great creativity, activity, and a continuously abundant imagination with the power to carry both me, and the Norms to new and undiscovered heights. Happy New Year!

© Nicholas de Lacy-Brown and The Daily Norm, 2001-2012. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of the material, whether written work, photography or artwork, included within The Daily Norm without express and written permission from The Daily Norm’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Nicholas de Lacy-Brown and The Daily Norm with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

The Daily Sketch: Norms at the Damien Hirst Exhibition

It’s all very well a gallery playing host to these rotting cow heads and life cycles of flies with their maggots and detritus and moving little black bodies, but what if the little scientific show-in-action managed to escape from the careful confines of its Damien Hirst supervised glass tank? Even when we visited Hirst’s room full of butterflies at Tate Modern last weekend, we managed to walk out of the room with part of the exhibit attached to our backs (a butterfly landed on my partner… and was swiftly rescued by a Tate attendant before we walked off with potentially one of the most valuable butterflies in the word unknowingly upon our person). So what if those pesky flies managed to escape too? Sadly in Norm world, this question was not just posed in theory alone. All that rotting caused a flap of the tank to come open (or perhaps it was sabotage?!) and for one poor Norm who took the insects’ peculiar fancy, he found himself the number one lunch attraction for a very hungry group of flies.

Norms at Tate Modern (2012 © Nicholas de Lacy-Brown, pen on paper)

And just in case you don’t know which Damien Hirst “artwork” I am talking about, herewith, the offending article… I swear that blood must cause havoc for a gallery’s wooden floors…

Damien Hirst, A Thousand Years (1990)

So let this be a lesson to you all ye who dare to enter Tate Modern’s latest Damien Hirst retrospective. It’s all well enough to stop and stare, but those ghastly flies are but a pane of glass away from a role reversal whereby you become the attraction! Of course while you’re there, be sure to look out for  the Norm in Formaldehyde, which will surely be the highlight of your experience. Here’s a picture of it (one I made earlier).

The Physical Possibility of a Norm in Formaldehyde (after Damien Hirst) (2011 © Nicholas de Lacy-Brown, pen on paper)

© Nicholas de Lacy-Brown and The Daily Norm, 2001-2012. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of the material, whether written work or artwork, included within The Daily Norm without express and written permission from The Daily Norm’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Nicholas de Lacy-Brown and The Daily Norm with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Damien Hirst at Tate: Repetitive, super-sensationalised science-show which is strangely enjoyable

The blockbuster show of Tate’s annual exhibition calendar, a retrospective to YBA supremo Damien Hirst, has been long anticipated by London’s art scene as well as the purveyors of trashy gossip magazines and followers of The Only Way is Essex alike. And such is the pull of Damien Hirst – this isn’t highbrow fine art, it’s not oil paintings fastidiously executed or sculptures miraculously carved from marble. This is a highly-commercialised , over-exposed fair ground of cut up creatures and stomach-churning curiosities, highly laminated multi-coloured, multi-formed collected lacquered lustre and sparkling, extravagant and utterly pointless bling. And where there is bling, that twinkle to attract the masses, you don’t need to be erudite and sophisticated to pull in the crowds. This is Tate doing household gloss paint, not oil paint.

Damien Hirst, Lullaby, the Seasons (2002) (detail)

Damien Hirst, Arg-Glu (1994)

To give him is due, Mr Hirst is unapologetically tawdry . He doesn’t at least pretend to be the next Caravaggio. He makes art for a modern generation, a generation which consumes weekly updates on Katie Price’s deflating boobs rather than a good Jane Austen, who are only too aware of drug culture, who over use and abuse pharmacies in their hypochondriacal self-obsession, and are ultimately attracted by the latest trend, sensation or sparkle. No wonder Damien Hirst has been successful. He only had to stick diamonds to the fatalistically familiar skull and reproductions started springing up in homewear stores up and down the country. He took polka dots and made them uber-cool. Yet the Spanish have been celebrating the steadfast spot in their flamenco garb for centuries. Commercially clever Damien Hirst surely is. Super-skilled artist? I have my doubts. Yet without the guise and mystique of art to promote him, wouldn’t all of Damien Hirst’s oeuvre fall into a science museum/ interior design shop/ chemist/ butchers/ fishmongers where it belongs?

Damien Hirst, In and Out of Love (White Paintings and Live Butterflies) (1991) (detail)

There weren’t many surprises in the show. Such has been the success of Hirst’s publicity machine that almost every work is almost instantly recognisable.The dot paintings were predictable, and there were an AWFUL lot of them.  The great shark looms menacingly at the centre of the show. Either side of the shark, the sliced-in-half cow and calf, a few other fluffy sheep and birds (all in formaldehyde) are flanked by those repugnant rotting flies. All around the animal detritus, the repetitive spot motif translates into the pharmacy cabinets with row upon row of pill bottles, and then to the pills themselves, painstakingly laid out on shelf upon shelf, while next door you have fish, all laid out in the same direction, apparently “for the purpose of understanding”. Then you move on to the butterflies – the simpler butterfly pictures were a disappointment – the beautiful creatures had been clumsily placed onto thick gloss paint which messily spilled onto their delicate features.

Damien Hirst, Doorways to the Kingdom of Heaven (2007)

Much more impressive were the complex butterfly collages which were symmetrically placed to form incredible stained-glass window formations, not to mention the room which was full of live butterflies, their chrysalises forming their own kind of natural art as they attached themselves onto the blank canvases hung on the walls. There too were the “spin paintings” (basically paint chucked onto a fast moving canvas) and then, as though to emphasise the repetitive nature of Hirst’s work, a “bling” version of everything – the pill cabinet replaced with crystals, the coloured spots painted on a gold background, a smaller shark floating in a black tank rather than white, and butterflies stuck onto a gold canvas. There was also a superfluous obsession with cigarettes and ashtrays, used in Hirst’s art to make the oh-so novel point that one day we might die. Clever.

Damien Hirst, Judgement Day (2009)

Damien Hirst, The Physical Impossibility of Death in the Mind of Someone Living (1991)

So it was all rather predictable, and very repetitive, but strangely, and I hate to admit this, enjoyable. The insides of a cow are fascinating, not least when you get to walk in between the two halves of a once unified body. Looking down the huge throat of a shark at close quarters, shivering with horror when faced with its ghastly serrated teeth and menacing empty eyes is a unique experience, and the opportunity to appreciate the startling natural beauty of a multi-coloured catalogue of butterflies was a wonder. So too is it fun to look upon row upon row of multi-coloured pills and reflect on how many beautiful colours exists amongst a group of medicines which appear so mundane when viewed in isolation, or to appreciate the great skill of gravity in making such vivid and striking splashes when paint is spun around a canvas.

One of the spin paintings

However one can’t help but conclude, upon later analysis, that all the things you enjoyed at the exhibition were just   examples of the splendour of nature itself – the beauty of butterflies, the complexity of animal organs, the results of a spinning mechanism whose beauty is owed simply to chance. And yet if we had seen these things in a science museum, would we have given them a second glance? The isolation of the mundane within an artistic context certainly gives the objects the mystique and glamour which makes them deserving of our attention. But it is ironic that so much of what is praised of Damien Hirst’s work is what has simply been left to nature, or to chance.

Damien Hirst, No Feelings (1989)

Damien Hirst, For the Love of God (2007)

I cannot overly bemoan Hirst for creating a show which offers the chance to interact with his work, to engage with nature, and to enjoy thinking about what is, and what is not, art. I was also pleased that Tate did not try to swamp the visitor with overtly complex and inevitably meaningless lectures on what the art is supposed to mean and how it should be interpreted. Rather, on the whole the visitor was left to enjoy the show relatively uninterrupted, although Hirst’s titles are quite often unnecessarily convoluted and embarrassingly pretentious, not to mention barely related to the work titled.  But what really does make me feel uneasy is the knowledge that hardly any of the work on show has been made or created by Hirst himself, that there is no indication of any artistic talent, only of clever ideas.

Damien Hirst, The Anatomy of an Angel, 2008 – but who sculpted it??

As an artist myself, the most enjoyable thing about an exhibition for me is the chance to interact with it, to look at the art works and learn from the techniques, to appreciate the variation in skill and representation. In this exhibition that opportunity to interact with the work was lost. There is only so far you can be captivated by a medicine cabinet or a canvas packed with dead flies. In the latter butterflies gallery for example, where butterflies were used like stained glass windows, there was a sculpture of an angel, partially cut open to reveal the anatomy underneath. The sculpture was at first captivating, but the fact that I did not know who sculpted it, and whose skill I was appreciating really left something missing for me. The fact that most of these works are made my some factory process leaves me dead inside, just as I would be if someone asked me to study supermarket shelves for an hour.

For me, much of what is produced under the “Damien Hirst” brand will never be true art. It may be design, it may be the work of some unknown worker in the Hirst factory, or it may just be well preserved science, but it so often lacks the prerequisite skill to be art. Others will fiercely oppose my view, but that’s the great thing about the creative world. It makes us think, and in that respect alone, Damien Hirst is undoubtedly successful.

Damien Hirst, Sympathy in White Major – Absolution II (2006)

Damien Hirst at Tate Modern, London, is on until 9 September 2012.

Sunday Supplement: Convalescence Behind Bars

Yesterday I braved the crowds (which weren’t actually all that bad) and strove boldly into an exhibition which I have been trying to put off for a while (purely because I feared how it would ignite the great contemporary art cynic inside me and make me thoroughly moody for the rest of the weekend): I went along to the Damien Hirst “retrospective” (he is still very much alive and kicking) at Tate Modern, London. The exhibition, which I shall review fully in The Daily Norm tomorrow, wasn’t actually all that bad. One of the works which really captivated, was his four cabinets, irrelevantly entitled Spring, Summer, Autumn and Winter respectively, full of pills. You wouldn’t normally notice the humble pill. In fact generally speaking, when you’re having to take a pill, it invariably holds some negative connotation, whether it’s an illness-defying super drug or a good old vitamin D supplement just because your work (or country, as is the case with the UK) precludes you from getting enough sun.

Damien Hirst, Lullaby, the Seasons (2002) (detail)

When Damien Hirst put a plethora of different coloured, different sized tablets together, each meticulously displayed in a huge mirrored and glass cabinet, he called attention to the strange and unique beauty of the humble pill. Who would have imagined there were so many shapes and colours in amongst our medicines. Even the powder inside the capsules looked like a floral pattern from a distance as different beads of colour intermingled delicately.

All of this brought to mind a time when I too had to take so many tablets and pills that I was able to admire them with an artist’s eye, when a collection of multi-coloured pills started to look like a rainbow in my hand, until reality set it and I realised with horror that having been taking such a cocktail of drugs for so long, my poor liver would surely be irreparably damaged and my natural bacterial system zapped dry of any life or goodness.

My leg in the weeks following the accident

The time was 2008 and the three years which followed. It was in the aftermath of a terrible accident which blighted my life. When a lorry crashed into a wall as I was passing by, the full 10 ft concrete mass fell on top of me, crushing my right leg to smithereens. Only the quick reaction and medical skill of the trauma unit at St George’s Hospital in south London managed to save my leg, but in order to piece the leg back together, I had an illizarov frame attached to my leg. For anyone who doesn’t know what one of these frames is (I’ve enclosed as ungruesome a photo as possible of the leg a few weeks after the accident) it’s a series of metal supports which “fix” the broken bones from the outside with pins which insert the leg directly. I had to wear this complex frame for 9 months. It was the most horrific, painful period of my life, and convalescing with one of these monsters attached was by far the most frustrating and horrendous process of my recovery. I felt like a prisoner in this frame which could never be removed, and which caused so much agony.

In order to get through the long aftermath of my accident, I painted. The ten paintings which I completed at this time are amongst the most important of my current oeuvre because without the ability to paint, I don’t know how I would have survived. The painting I am focusing on today, and the one which Damien Hirst brought to mind, is this one, Convalescence Behind Bars: The Banoffee Blood-Press (2008, © Nicholas de Lacy-Brown, oil on canvas).

Convalescence Behind Bars: The Banoffee Blood-Press (2008, © Nicholas de Lacy-Brown, oil on canvas)

I thought the frame looked a bit like a French press caffetiere, so I painted it as such. But in this painting the frame presses not coffee, but blood. Blood which, as it percolates through the press reveals it’s true components – pill upon pill of the drugs I had to take at that time: Tramadol, Amitriptyline, Flucloxacillin, Temazepam, Paracetamol, Co-codomol, Ibuprofen, you name it, I was taking it. Then to the left, the humble banana, a nourishing food at a time when I could barely eat, and the fear of slipping, which would have smashed my bones to smithereens all over again.

So pills are beautiful, but they also represent pain. For me, I have a love-hate relationship with these colourful capsules, reminding of a time when my world was rocked by trauma, and a future in which my leg will suffer interminably. It’s a bit like my relationship with Damien Hirst’s work itself. More on that, tomorrow.

© Nicholas de Lacy-Brown and The Daily Norm, 2001-2012. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of the material, whether written work or artwork, included within The Daily Norm without express and written permission from The Daily Norm’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Nicholas de Lacy-Brown and The Daily Norm with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Easter Eggs – the Spanish do those better too.

I know I’m forever praising the efforts of my European neighbours rather than my own here in England, but there is something about continental Europe that just exudes a class and elegance which has been long since forgotten here in the UK. Take Easter Eggs – here the shelves are loaded full of Easter Eggs, but for the most part they are covered in branding, a boring shell in a huge box with plenty of space for adverts and promotion – of Mars, of Milky Way, Twix, Kit Kat and After Eight. Admittedly, there are some exceptions in the higher end market, but otherwise your typical UK egg is likely to be little more than smoke and mirrors, mass produced and devoured without as little thought as went into making it.

By comparison check out these eggs currently to be found gracing the well stocked shelves of local Marbella cafe favourite, Goyo. Yes, there is some branding, in the form of cartoon characters made into eggs, but there is also a wonderful hand made element, an intricacy in the skill shown by the chocolatiers, and a sense of fun and Easter-tide joy. And this runs pretty consistently across the board when it comes to Easter eggs in Spain – all handmade, all intricate, all worthy of this celebratory festival. Even the foil covered eggs are brightly wrapped and spill, as though from Pan’s cornucopia, in all their multicoloured vibrancy from Easter baskets and displays. Beautiful. Only problem is, the calories.

For me, it’s the little things in life that bring the difference between the UK and continental Europe into sharp focus. As I’ve said before, the UK is, and has always been economically driven. Here it’s about mass production, value for money, business efficacy. On the Continent however, precedence is given to the good things in life – taking time to achieve a better, more satisfying finish, prioritising aesthetics, and allowing time to enjoy the joie de vivre. It’s the same with art – take Damien Hirst, currently enjoying an even bigger spotlight than previously at his Tate retrospective. He’s all about lazy art – mass produced, and painted/ created by a factory of assistants. But he’s also about the brand, the business, the marketing. Did Van Gogh care that he hadn’t sold? Not nearly as much as he cared about creating beautiful paintings. And I can guarantee that fewer people will be queueing to see Damien Hirst’s rotting shark in 100 years than queue every day to see Van Gogh paintings around the world.

Happy Easter everyone!

Brit art shunned by dOCUMENTA (13) – time for the UK to face up to our talentless contemporary art?

From June to September this year, the town of Kassel, Germany, will play host to the 13th dOCUMENTA exhibition. Established in 1955 by artist, teacher and curator Arnold Bode, the 5-yearly exhibition, whose first show featured the likes of Picasso and Kandisky, is self-proclaimed as a “key international exhibition of contemporary art worldwide”. Yet  the “worldwide” element seems to have missed out a key player from its compass: At dOCUMENTA (13), the UK is conspicuous by reason of British artists’ total absence from the show. Are they trying to tell us something?

I read an interesting article in yesterday’s Sunday Times written by  resident art critic, Waldemar Januszczak. He blamed dOCUMENTA’s apparent shunning of British artists on curators. He argues: “[t]he chief reason British art is mistrusted and hated abroad is that international curators disapprove of it. It isn’t clever enough for them. It does not espouse enough theory. It has a directness to it that makes their gaseous interpretations redundant. And it likes jokes, which they don’t”.

Damien Hirst - A thousand years

Good on Januszczak for being patriotic. But I can’t help but conclude that the real joke is British art itself. Contemporary art is a sticky wicket, a difficult often inaccessible manifestation of an artist’s attempts to find some new avenue which art has left hitherto unexplored. The trouble is, artists don’t have the luxury which the impressionists or the cubists or the abstractists did – these artists were emerging out of a rigid, regulated era of art, where paintings closely followed convention and artists feared exploring techniques beyond figurative representations of classical and biblical themes. Once artists began to break the mould, there were so many directions where artists could go, and so much they could do with the familiar canvas image, leading to an explosion of creativity and the creation of some of the world’s best loved works – the Picassos, the Van Goghs, the Matisses. Come the 1960s and things started to dry up. Jackson Pollock started to spray his canvases without any perceptible talent and Rothko painted vast works in a single colour. Little by little the need for actual artistic talent fell to the wayside as the singular requirement for “ideas” took hold until finally the hand of the artist was made entirely redundant: the art of the “readymades” reigned triumphant, right up until the monstrosity that was Tracey Emin’s unmade bed.

My bed - © Tracey Emin 1998 (like you'd want to copy it)

This would all be fine – call it a fad – if these artists weren’t taken so damn seriously. Damien Hirst has become a serial industrialist, a commercial tycoon all in the name of “art”. His works – pickled shark, rotting cow and polka dots aplenty (the majority of which he didn’t paint himself because, allegedly, he “couldn’t be ****ing arsed”) – are about to be given a huge solo retrospective at Tate Modern of all places. Meanwhile, Tracey Emin – who can’t draw to save her life – has been made Professor of Drawing at London’s Royal Academy, while her annual contribution to the RA’s Summer Exhibition make me want to weep. Yet still the visitors lap them up, buying each and every print of her childlike scrawl at lightening pace, just because they think, or rather they know, that they are making a good investment.

Damien Hirst - LSD

And herein, in my opinion, lies the problem. Compared to the romantic sentimentalism of countries like France, and the aesthetic-led inclination of countries like Italy, England has always been the boring big brother – the big industrialist placing economic concern at its core. We didn’t give birth to the airy luminescence of  impressionist paintings – but we did bring you gloomy scenes of the industrial North by Lowry. We didn’t give you empassioned El Greco or compassionate Da Vinci, but we did give you Lucien Freud – creator of the most expensive painting every sold by a living artist. We’ve always been led by money, by investment, by industry.

Tracey Emin "I’ve got it all" (2000) - says it all really doesn't it.

We don’t rave about Emin and Hirst because we think they are any good – we know about them because advertising tycoon Charles Saatchi has bought into them. And once Saatchi invests in an artist, they must be good right? Wrong. Saatchi is the man with the money. He isn’t an authority on taste and this is why British art is being shunned by exhibitions like dOCUMENTA. Because our artists make it big because of investment, not talent. All the integrity of our art has flown out of the window, as we gaze in apparent wonder at a whole gallery turned over to a lightbulb switching on and off. And why is Tate modern giving itself over to that Hirst retrospective this summer? – Why, because it’s olympic year, and they can pull in the punters, and the admission fee, of course.

Tracey Emin Tower Drawing 18 (2007) monoprint, paper size: 4 11/16 x 5 11/16 in. (11.9 x 14.4 cm), Photography by Stephen White. Courtesy of White Cube.
© Tracey Emin ("Professor of Drawing")

In conclusion, dOCUMENTA (13)’s shun of Brit art should make collectors and galleries in the UK stand up and think. Art shouldn’t be about money – it should be about talent; about discovering an artistic genius who will place British art on the map for centuries to come, long after the last scrap of that unmade bed has been swept away into the rubbish. But  how likely is that to happen so long as the powers that be stand to make a buck or too? I think you can answer that one for yourself.

Brit Art is the main focus of the UK’s 2012 exhibition diary

It’s 2012, year of the London Olympics, and to celebrate the fact that this year, the UK will be the focus of the world (hopefully for all good reasons) London entered the New Year with a spectacular firework display like none other. But as the country gears up towards its greatest sporting event for generations, the UK’s major art galleries are embarking on a cultural olympiad all of their own. This is my brief guide of what’s on in the UK’s art diary in 2012.

From the Damien Hirst 2007 butterflies collection

Patriotism is at an all time high in the UK, what with the Royal Wedding last year and the Diamond Jubilee this year, a sense that we should fling ourselves unceremoniously out of the EU and of course those all important Olympics. And it’s a state of national pride which is being more than represented in 2012 by the UK art galleries. Having spent 2011 promoting some of the world’s best artists (Catalan Miró at Tate Modern, Mexican Kahlo and Rivera at Pallant House, Parisian patriarch Degas at the Royal Academy, and of course the Italian master himself, Da Vinci, at the National Gallery), in 2012, the UK is promoting some of its biggest British artistic stars of past and present.

LSD by Damien Hirst

Damien Hirst - LSD - Image via Wikipedia

For sure one of the biggest exhibition events of 2012 will be the Damien Hirst retrospective at Tate Modern from 4 April to 9 September 2012. Love him or loathe him (I tend towards the latter, but not always), he is one of the big stars of our generation, and his works do at least show some longevity, unlike many of his unsavoury, untalented counterparts (unmade bed anyone?). In particular I love some of the butterfly works of his recent oeuvre, but who knows whether they will be included in this show. For sure Mr Hirst’s 1991 Shark in Formaldehyde (“The Physical Impossibility of Death in the Mind of Someone Living”) is bound to feature prominently” – has it not rotted yet?) as well as his pharmaceutical cabinet (“Pharmacy” 1992). Expect big crowds, and a slightly stinking smell of putrefaction lingering in the air at this show.

The Physical Possibility of a Norm in Formaldehyde (after Damien Hirst) (2011, pen on paper © Nicholas de Lacy-Brown)

One of Hockney's ipad works

The second contemporary Brit art blockbuster must be the Royal Academy‘s David Hockney RA: The Bigger Picture solo exhibition from 21 January – 9 April 2012. This is an exhibition of new large scale landscapes rather than a complete retrospective. While it may therefore lack the naked golden-skinned boys jumping into Los Angeles pools of Hockney’s earlier career, his bigger landscapes look to be every bit as colourful and vivacious, as well as… well, massive. Having said that, the exhibition is set to include landscapes spanning his whole career, and will, interestingly, feature some of his new iPad creations for which he is famously enthusiastic. His ipad works have already been exhibited to some acclaim at the Pierre Bergé-Yves Saint Laurent Foundation in Paris in an exhibition appropriately entitled: “Fleurs Fraîches” so I will be intrigued to see how the works are displayed in this London show. There is no doubt about it, the ipad has made for a revolutionary new canvas for Hockney’s works. Just a shame about the financial side of things…

David Hockney, Winter Timber (2009)

Picasso's Weeping Woman (1937)

Meanwhile, at Tate Britain, a new exhibition running from 15 February – 15 July 2012 will explore how Picasso influenced generations of British artists: Picasso and Modern British Art. The British art on show will include some 90 art works by Duncan Grant, Wyndham Lewis, Ben Nicholson, Henry Moore, Francis Bacon, Graham Sutherland and, once again, good old Hockney. However, I’m frankly more excited by the 60 Picasso’s on show, and hope that the works will extend beyond Tate’s own collection of his works. Although having said that, I could spend hours in front of Picasso’s Weeping Woman (1937) – the first ever Picasso I saw and the one I fell in love with.

Ben Nicholson, 1937



Ben Nicholson, the tumultuous ex husband of other British favourite, Barbara Hepworth, will also feature prominently in a forthcoming exhibition held at the Courtauld Institute between 16 February – 20 May 2012, Mondrian || Nicholason: In Parallel. The show will aim to explore the largely untold relationship between Nicholson and Piet Mondrian during the 1930s when both artists were leading forces in abstract art in Europe. Promising to reveal how each artist was driven by a profound belief in the potential of abstract to create new forms of beauty and visual power, it’s something of a diversion from the collection-based norm of the Courtauld’s temporary exhibitions and should be a good one to look out for.

Claude Monet, Poplars on the Epte (1891)

Next, that old British master, Turner, will be given the kind of exposure which Britain does so well when bringing out it’s most celebrated artist for admiration. Both the National Gallery and Tate Liverpool will be paying homage to Turner in 2012, the National Gallery hosting a new show comparing Turner with Claude Gellée with Turner Inspired: In the Light of Claude  from 14 March – 5 June 2012, while at Tate Britain, an ambitious exhibition from 22 June – 28 October 2012 will bring together works by Turner Monet Twombly and explore the similarities between them in style, subject and artistic motivation. It is well known that Monet was suitably inspired by Turner’s superb handling of light and fog, storms and mist when he came to London during the Franco-Prussian war. How Twombly fits in remains to be seen – but I’m always open to suggestion.

Reflection (Self-portrait), 1985 © Lucian Freud

Finally, who better to complete the set of British artist masters than the artist who we sadly lost last year – Lucien Freud. In memory of this great artist, and taking a look back at what he did best – portraiture – the National Portrait Gallery will be taking a closer, comprehensive look at some of his greatest portraits from 9 February – 27 May 2012 in Lucien Freud: Portraits. It’s an exhibition which is sure to be a hit, as Freud paints his sitters with uncompromising honesty and intensity with virtuosity and exceptional skill. The exhibition features over 100 works from museums and private collections, so this will be an opportunity not to be missed.

So there you have it, a selection of the biggest and best shows coming our way in 2012. It’s going to be a busy year! Also worth a quick mention is a Pre-Raphaelites exhibition which will come to Tate Britain at the end of the year and the return of Edvard Munch to the UK – in fact to Tate Modern. It is I believe the same show I have just seen at Paris’ Pompidou Centre. If so, it’s a rather depressing retrospective, and won’t stand up overly well next to the superb retrospectives earlier on in the year.

Talking of Paris, I can’t end this post without mentioning one forthcoming show over in the City of Light which has caused me a great deal of excitement – the Edward Hopper retrospective – at the Grand Palais from 8 October 2012 – 20 January 2013. I cannot wait for this opportunity to see so many of this artist’s soulful, introspective works up close. Yes, it’s not exactly Brit art, but then we can’t expect Paris to promote the spirit of the London 2012 olympics… they were the losers after all.

Hopper, Early Sunday Morning 1930 Whitney Museum of American Art, New York