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Martin Coomer

Martin Coomer

Martin Coomer is Time Out London's Visual Arts Editor. He's never been to IKEA. Follow him @timeoutart.

Articles (42)

Ten vintage photos of London by Jane Bown

Ten vintage photos of London by Jane Bown

Jane Bown (1925-2014) went by the mantra that ‘photographers should neither be seen nor heard’ but the late Observer photographer used her unassuming personality and unobtrusive style to get close to some of the biggest names and events of the twentieth century. Two hundred of her best shots are brought together in a new monograph, including portraits of the Queen, The Beatles and Björk. You'll also see ace examples of her lesser-known street photography, including images of London, its inhabitants and visitors picked from Bown's stellar six-decade career.  ‘Jane Bown: A Lifetime of Looking’ is published by Faber & Faber.

Eight ways that Gilbert & George shocked the world

Eight ways that Gilbert & George shocked the world

Now in their seventies, Gilbert & George show no signs of growing old gracefully. Just take a look at their latest show, 'Gilbert & George: The Banners', where graffitied signs proclaiming ‘Fuck the Planet’ and ‘Decriminalise Sex’ hang from the walls. It’s tempting to say they’re back but, really, our favourite tweed-clad twosome never went away. They’ve been sharing their provocative, potty-mouthed pictures with us ever since they met at Saint Martin’s School of Art in 1967. With nearly 50 years of anti-elitist art and mischief-making under their (probably matching) belts, they had a coffee with Time Out to muse on the images that have defined their career.  ‘The Banners’ is at White Cube Bermondsey from November 25 2015-January 24 2016. Check out our London art exhibitions calendar or the top ten exhibitions for more great art across the capital.

Top ten postcards sold at the National Gallery

Top ten postcards sold at the National Gallery

It's peak tourist season for London's art galleries, which means postcards are flying out of the racks. In our age of Twitter, Instagram and general can't-be-arsed-ness, actual postcard writing may be a dying art, but we still love to pick up miniature versions of the best paintings in London (for around 70p each) to adorn our walls - or just languish in drawers. Here are the top ten postcards based on sales over the past year at the National Gallery. 

David Harrison: 'I wonder where the ghosts are going to live in the future'

David Harrison: 'I wonder where the ghosts are going to live in the future'

Where does the title ‘Flowers of Evil’  come from? ‘It comes from the book of poems by Baudelaire. He talks about the sense of things and I think he’s expressing sexual attraction, the way that, while some things are classed as not good for you, you enjoy them in a secret way. And it’s about the smell of nature and, I think, the smell of awareness.  I’ve made a perfume. It’s got stuff from my garden, which I’ve been soaking, and also some essential oils in it. It’s called “Enchanter’s Nightshade”. I wanted that idea of walking into the woods. The first thing you smell is violet leaf, quite sweet, and then it dries down to an earthy scent. At this time of year the earth gives off a sweetness when the leaves rot. I’ve always been obsessed by smells.’  ‘The earth gives off a sweetness when the leaves rot’ Did you grow up surrounded by nature? ‘I grew up right by Wanstead Flats. When we were kids we used to sneak over at night. It used to be quite spooky. There’s this wonderful ruin and I remember when we were about 13 or something, we got this boat – they just used to be tied up – and rowed out to it across the lake. All these bats exploded from beneath the ruin and flew around us, and then the owls started going: woo woo. It was so exciting but also scary in a proper gothic way. It’s still very magical’ That sounds like one of your paintings. Do you still go regularly to Wanstead? ‘These days I like to escape to Wanstead when I want to have some green. It’s the nearest place t

Peter Blake: five of the artist’s favourite portraits

Peter Blake: five of the artist’s favourite portraits

'My place in pure painting will never be where Frank Auerbach is, or Francis Bacon is,’ says Sir Peter Blake over a cuppa in his Chiswick home. Can this be false modesty from one of our most famous and respected artists? With a voice better suited to bedtime stories than provocative pronouncements, Blake, who turned 83 this year, can be a little hard to read. I reply with a meek ‘I don’t think that’s true.’ But the godfather of British pop art is adamant. ‘Frank has been incredibly consistent: it’s either portraits or it’s Camden Town. And some great work has come out of it. Whereas I’ve darted around like a little butterfly. It’s confused people and still confuses them. But that’s good. It’s a path I chose and I don’t regret it.’ Blake’s darting path – beginning in Dartford, as it happens, in 1932 – has been distinguished by its embrace of both ‘pure’ painting and commercial design. He’s been artist in residence at the National Gallery and you’ll see his work at both Tate Britain and Tate Modern, but he’ll always be associated with the most famous album cover of all time. Does he tire of talking about ‘Sgt Pepper’s…’ almost 50 years after he designed it with his then-wife Jann Haworth? ‘I do a bit,’ he says, graciously. ‘All I would add is that it’s not a problem any more. At the time, the fact that I was paid no money was important because I had no money. It was [the cause of] an enormous resentment because everyone else was making so much money.’ Oddly enough, though, as w

Marlene Dumas interview: 'My better works are the ones that embarrass me'

Marlene Dumas interview: 'My better works are the ones that embarrass me'

Can you describe your work, for people who haven’t seen it?‘The main words I would use are “ambiguity”, “suggestion” and “association”. I use the human figure and the face as my main subjects but sometimes these are more naturalistic, sometimes less so. If people say “I like your work” I always say “Which work do you mean?” because they’re not all alike.’ Why do you work from photographs?‘When I started out in the late-1970s, portraiture was seen as a very reactionary thing. So was the nude. I wanted to bring them back, but I didn’t want to bring back life drawing in that sense. I wanted to find out if I could do other things with them.’ Did you set out to be controversial? Your pornographic nudes and portraits of Osama Bin Laden or Christ on the cross suggest so‘What I’m always asking is: can I use this image? Should I use this image? When I paint a dead person with their face turned away from you, for example, I’m asking: Can you still make a painting that holds your attention? Or, take one of my best-known works, “The Painter”. The image intrigued me because of the expression on my child’s face. I don’t know what it means exactly. We can interpret it as guilt, but there’s so much more going on. And then comes the fact that you still have to make a painting of it. You get scared. Is it a stupid painting? Or not? My better works are the works that embarrass me to do, when I think: Shit, this is going to be terrible. On the one hand I would actually like to be an abstract pai

Sanya Kantarovsky interview

Sanya Kantarovsky interview

Moscow-born, New York-based painter Sanya Kantarovsky has teamed up with performance artist Ieva Misevičiūtė for his show at Studio Voltaire, which is inspired by Mikhail Bulgakov’s surreal, satirical novel about the Devil’s visit to Moscow, ‘The Master and Margarita’. On the opening night, Misevičiūtė performed on a stage shaped like ‘Behemoth’ – the book’s diabolical black cat. A film of the performance is on show in the gallery foyer, while the cat remains as a sculpture-cum-bench from which you can admire Kantarovsky’s spellbinding paintings. Time Out caught up with him. How did the show come about?‘The show came out of a collaborative process with performance artist Ieva Misevičiūtė. Most of the figures in the paintings are based on a series of gesture studies I made of her movements in my studio. When she performs in the gallery space there’s an indexical relationship between her body and the gestures in the paintings.’ How conscious were you of making work for a former church?‘I was responding to the history of the space as a church, which made sense with the novel's Christian meta-narrative.  I approached this as a site-specific installation rather than a straightforward painting show. There was an internal debate about how the space would exist after Ieva's performance because her presence throws the status of the paintings into question. When Ieva is on stage, they comprise an environment for her performance and become contingent on her body.’  It’s very dramaticall

Sarah Lucas: 'Why would anyone be shocked by a cigarette in somebody’s bum?'

Sarah Lucas: 'Why would anyone be shocked by a cigarette in somebody’s bum?'

I love Sarah Lucas. My ardour isn’t just because she is the greatest product of the YBA generation, a maker of fantastic fags, booze and bawdy humour-filled art. If Damien Hirst and Tracey Emin were the media-friendly leaders of pack, Lucas always seemed to have the best laughs. She’s the one you’d want as a friend.  Three ciggies into a Friday morning, however, Lucas is playing a little hard to get. She just can’t think why anyone would find her life interesting, especially since she quit London for Suffolk more than a decade ago. ‘I’m more or less a country bumpkin,’ she says at one point. But bumpkins don’t represent Britain at the world’s fanciest international art event. Last year, Lucas flew the flag for us at the Venice Biennale, and did us proud. The walls of the British pavilion were painted custard yellow, mplinths were made from tins of Spam and dotted here and there were ‘muses’, plaster casts of the naked, bottom halves of Lucas’s female friends. With a glorious Lucas flourish, each ‘muse’ sprouts a fag from its nether regions. Three ‘muses’ are currently on display in the yellow drawing room of architect Sir John Soane’s Museum in Lincoln’s Inn Fields. It’s one of the very few occasions contemporary art has been allowed to mingle with Sir John’s collections of fine art, furniture, antiquities and curiosities. Do you know Sir John Soane’s Museum well?‘I went years ago and hadn’t been back. But that yellow room has always stuck in my mind.’ So there’s a link betwe

London museum and gallery memberships worth signing up for

London museum and gallery memberships worth signing up for

From fleshy Freuds at Tate Britain to a photographic celebration of Michael Jackson, 2018 is a bumper year for gallery-going Londoners. But whilst there's a lot to get excited about, getting your art fix can be an expensive business. Fear not. To help save your pennies, we road-tested the schemes that offer you more culture, more often, for less. Take your pick below and get inspiration from our top ten art exhibitions.

Mona Hatoum: ‘The more people can relate to the stuff, the happier I am’

Mona Hatoum: ‘The more people can relate to the stuff, the happier I am’

In 1975, Mona Hatoum, born in Beirut to a Palestinian family, visited London as a 23-year-old tourist, only to become stranded here indefinitely when civil war broke out back home in Lebanon. A sense of rootlessness and the quest for a home familiar from myth, legend and the movies still courses through her work to this day. That’s not the only thing which courses through Hatoum’s art. She’s known for wiring metal furniture and objects – cots, chairs, colanders – up to the mains, so that things which ought to provide comfort become potentially lethal. Easy viewing her art isn’t. Yet there’s a dose of surrealism to what Hatoum does. Humour, too, as in the ballsy billboard self-portrait ‘Over My Dead Body’ (1988, pictured above) in which she eyeballs a toy paratrooper perched on her nose. ‘The more people can relate to the stuff, the happier I am,’ she says. Here's what she had to say about some of the key works in her new Tate Modern retrospective.

Back to the future: six decades of art and technology

Back to the future: six decades of art and technology

The Whitechapel Gallery's first show of 2016 opens this week – the tech-tastic spring blockbuster 'Electronic Superhighway' (Friday January 29–Sunday May 15). Exploring how artists have adopted and critiqued new technology over the past six decades, the exhibition reveals how the invention of the computer, the internet and all their various bits and bobs have impacted upon contemporary art. We've tuned into the biggest tech-art stories since the 1960s to help get you plugged in and turned on. 

Five reasons to visit London Art Fair

Five reasons to visit London Art Fair

If you're looking to spruce up your walls with the work of young British artists, acclaimed photography or a casual masterpiece or two, the London Art Fair (Wed Jan 20–Sun Jan 24 2016) will certainly be on your radar. As one of the most celebrated art fairs in London, it brings together the best in modern British and contemporary art and will be taking over the Business Design Centre in Islington this week. Here are five reasons to visit, whether you're a millionaire or not. 

Listings and reviews (36)

Akhnaten

Akhnaten

4 out of 5 stars

This review is from 2016. 'Akhnaten' returns to ENO in February 2019. In Pharaohic terms, 17 years is but a blink of a kohl-lined eye, but Akhnaten (hubby of Nefertiti, daddy of Tutankhamun) ensured a kind of immortality during his short reign by doing away with the whole multi-god thing and replacing it with worship of a single deity: the sun-disc, or Aten.  Did he learn to juggle, too? That’s the question you may ask yourself during this new production of Philip Glass’s 1983 opera, directed by Phelim McDermot. Courtesy of members of Gandini Juggling, balls fly through the air in ever more complex patterns – growing in size from juggling balls to beach balls (symbols of the sun) as Akhnaten’s encounter with his solar deity draws near. Even the chorus gets involved, as if singing in Egyptian, Hebrew and Akkadian wasn’t difficult enough. Such is the production’s commitment to ball control, you half expect the pharaoh himself to engage in a spot of keepy-uppy during his extended moment in the sun.  The Cirque-like tricks serve a purpose beyond keeping you visually entertained. They underscore the insistence of Glass’s music, as well acting as a kind of counterpoint to its complex cross-rhythms. Which isn’t to say that the music is especially challenging to listen to. Glass has always been the minimalist composer with the catchiest tunes, and ‘Akhnaten’ has the most hauntingly beautiful songs of his ‘Trilogy’, notably the pharaoh’s doleful ‘Hymn to the Sun’. From the first momen

Keith Coventry: White Black Gold

Keith Coventry: White Black Gold

4 out of 5 stars

From interpreting the ground plans of modernist council estates as Russian suprematist-style compositions to creating gold-plated sculptures of crack pipes, Keith Coventry has forged an impressive career out of confusing high and low art, the classical and the crappy. You don’t go to a Coventry show for the craic, though there’s often a horrible, gnawing humour in his dandified riffs on urban drabness. You go to find yourself caught in a series of challenging gaps: between form and meaning; the aspirations and promises of the modernist era and the actuality of lived lives; the motivation of an artist and the ritzy products he winds up making.  Here, and not for the first time, Coventry takes sections of the McDonald’s ‘golden arches’ logo and interprets them as series of semi-abstract compositions. Referencing the seaside modernism of Ben Nicholson and co, the white-on-white relief versions resemble the kind of tasteful things you might find in a St Ives gallery (if not in Tate St Ives itself). The gold (actual, as opposed to McDonald’s) versions, meanwhile, are taut little essays in oligarchic vulgarity. If there’s a comment on desirability, appetite, mass consumerism and exclusivity being made, it’s one that Coventry has made plenty of times before. And yet, as with a Happy Meal, there’s comfort in knowing exactly what you’re getting. Plus, naggingly, the work is very appealing.  If that sounds like faint praise, there’s an epic work on show here that blows everything apart

Conceptual Art in Britain 1964-1979

Conceptual Art in Britain 1964-1979

3 out of 5 stars

Your conceptual orange looks very much like your regular orange: round-ish, orange-ish, pitted skin. What makes Roelof Louw’s oranges different from the cornershop variety is what they stand for. ‘Soul City’ comprises 3,303 pieces of fruit arranged in a pyramid, plus an invitation. Louw wants you to take an orange and scoff it (not in the gallery, though, they don’t want sticky handprints all over the place). But here’s the stinger. By taking part in the work you’re helping to destroy it or, as Louw would have it, ‘consuming its presence.’ Wowza. This is food for thought. If you’re rolling your eyes as you read this, then ‘Conceptual Art in Britain 1964-1979’ isn’t for you. But it’s an important show in that it celebrates a generation of largely unsung Brits who reshaped the look and feel of contemporary art. Plus it covers a sizeable chunk of fairly recent, under-explored history. If you want to understand how we got from, say, Anthony Caro welding bits of steel in the early 1960s to Martin Creed winning the Turner Prize for turning the lights on and off in 2001, then this is essential viewing . It covers a period when artists everywhere (certainly not just in Britain) were leaving behind big, heroic, handcrafted things like paintings and sculptures. They wanted art to be judged not by what it looked like but the idea it conveyed. Art didn’t have to be an object at all, it could be a statement of intent typed on a sheet of paper, a photograph of something that happened, a se

James Coleman

James Coleman

4 out of 5 stars

Subtlety can get you into trouble. I once described an artist’s work as being ‘about as interesting as structuralist film theory’, only to be cornered in a pub by someone who found structuralist film theory really interesting and thought they’d found an ally. James Coleman’s art is subtle – almost too subtle at times. It’s also steeped in film theory. But, as this concise survey of the seventysomething Irish artist reveals, it’s genuinely absorbing, as well as deeply beautiful and, at times, heart-poundingly visceral. The show is bookended by two new works. Well, new-ish – Coleman’s the sort of artist who can spend four years looping a few seconds of footage. In the first gallery, ‘Still Life’ (2013-16) is a continuous projection of a plant, a poppy. It’s doing nothing, except living (and dying) imperceptibly before your eyes. Coleman has projected it wallsize as if to emphasise the limits of our perception. Upstairs, though you’ll hear it long before you get there, is ‘Untitled’ (2011-15) a seamless loop of Technicolor thrillseekers on a fairground ride. This is accompanied by a faintly sinister soundtrack, a low, mechanical pulse that could, you fear, loosen bowels or trigger a techno sleeper cell. In between these two films, you’ll see historical re-enactment (people playing dead) in ‘Ligne de Foi’ (1991) and a kind of conceptual coming-of-age drama (displayed as a slideshow) in ‘Photograph’ (1998-99). So, it’s about how we perceive time, about love, dread, life, death. Th

Dutch Flowers

Dutch Flowers

5 out of 5 stars

Flowers, as anyone who has been on the giving or receiving end of a bunch will agree, are never just flowers. They speak of love, lust, celebration, sympathy, guilt… And so the bouquets of tulips, irises and roses in this scintillating display of Dutch painting from the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries are not just paintings of flowers. They’re symbols of passion, wealth, fashion, empire. Vases overflow with life (blooms in bud) and are shadowed by death (a broken stem, a withered leaf). Remember that the next time you’re on a petrol station forecourt pondering a £2.99 bunch of carnations. There are just 22 paintings, many of them tiny, in this free, one-room show. And, in truth, not much happens in the first half dozen works: a caterpillar inches along a leaf; a petal drops. But this is bravura technique on a small scale. Painting on smooth surfaces such as copper, artists were able to make almost microscopically accurate representations of plant life. They included cute details such as caterpillars, ladybirds, bumblebees and lizards for their patrons to discover. Finding a silkworm dangling from a leaf is still a pleasure some four hundred years later. We have Jan Brueghel the Elder (1568-1625), nicknamed ‘Velvet’ Brueghel for his sensuous touch, to thank for establishing flower painting as a genre. His paymaster, a Milanese cardinal, liked to have pictures of spring blooms around the place for cardinal-type, mortality-pondering reasons, but also because he just wanted

Fox Talbot: Dawn of the Photograph

Fox Talbot: Dawn of the Photograph

4 out of 5 stars

Early photography can be hard to fathom, and not just because of all those people in top hats and capes trying and failing to keep still during ten-minute exposure times. The infancy of the medium in the 1830s is a confusing whirl of near-contemporaries, all messing about with lenses and chemicals in a bid to capture the fleeting world. A matter of national pride, who did what, and when, is debated even today. France had Nicéphore Niépce who, as early as 1826 made a photographic image of his country estate using a camera obscura (a small wooden box fitted with a lens); Louis-Jacques-Mandé Daguerre, who gave his name to a new process of printing using light-sensitive, silver-plated copper; and Hippolyte Bayard who developed his own process and held the world’s first photo show in 1839. On this side of the channel, we had gentleman scientist William Henry Fox Talbot, whose innovations with a negative-positive process were instrumental in creating images that were relatively light-fast and permanent. ‘Relatively’ is the operative word here; many of the images in this show are modern digital copies, the originals being too fragile to display. Great storytelling in the early stages of this exhibition, which focuses on Talbot but includes examples by his European counterparts, gives a pacy account of these overlapping achievements. It’s science heavy (this is the Science Museum, after all) but also surprisingly poetic,with wall texts setting scenes such as the one in 1833 when Talb

Paul Strand: Photography and Film for the 20th Century

Paul Strand: Photography and Film for the 20th Century

5 out of 5 stars

Goodness: It’s a quality you probably appreciate in your mum. But in an artist? We’re taught from an early age to admire art’s bad boys and girls, from Caravaggio via Picasso to Damien Hirst and Tracey Emin. They have the coolest lives and make the best copy. But the photographer Paul Strand (1890-1976) was, unerringly, a good man. And his images, of New York City streets, remote rural communities, even crocuses in his back yard, are inseparable from his humanity. This extra moral dimension gives you something unusual to grapple with at the V&A’s staggeringly beautiful retrospective. Strand is responsible for some of the defining shots of America at the beginning of the twentieth century, and for helping to elevate photography to an art form.  Homing in on the shadows on his porch, or fruit in a bowl, he made what are regarded as some of the first abstract photos of all time. Yet, especially in these fledgling works, you sense a tussle between Strand’s creative aspiration and his social conscience. It’s there in his iconic shot of Wall Street commuters, taken in 1915 (pictured above). Strand was trying to understand cubism and how to create a modern image for a modern world. However, with its anonymous proles dragging their long shadows in front the stark edifice of the JP Morgan building, the modern world he describes is one of subservience and alienation. He was no sentimentalist, though. A year later, in upstate Port Kent, he photographed a traditional white picket fence a

Strange and Familiar: Britain as Revealed by International Photographers

Strange and Familiar: Britain as Revealed by International Photographers

5 out of 5 stars

This is an exhibition for anyone who has ever queued for a bus, stared longingly into a cake shop window, blown bubbles just for the fun of it, picknicked in the car in the rain, been in love, worn a hat, walked down a high street… If you don’t recognise yourself in that list, or in the photographs in this show, then I’m calling you out, you droid. Selecting 23 photographers from overseas who have come to these shores armed with rampant curiosity and a killer eye for a great shot, ace photographer Martin Parr has put together one of the most involving and moving exhibitions of the year. It’s chock full of photography legends – ‘eye of the century’ Henri Cartier-Bresson, the staggeringly compassionate Robert Frank – and charts the rise of the medium from the 1930s to now. But, from the off, it’s about the man and woman on the street, about us. It’s remarkable how few famous, or even named, people appear. Cartier-Bresson first came to this country to photograph the coronation of George VI (our current queen’s stuttering papa) in 1937 but, mindful of the communist leanings of the magazine he was working for at the time, turned his back on the pomp to photograph the throng. Throughout, the only clues as to these forgotten lives are in titles such as ‘Headwaiter’ (by Evelyn Hofer) or ‘Homeless’ (Gian Butturini). Filling in the blanks is part of this show’s joy.  Parr’s hands may be all over this selection, and you can immediately see what the master of revealing, offbeat moments e

Hilma af Klint: Painting the Unseen

Hilma af Klint: Painting the Unseen

4 out of 5 stars

Many artists live in fear of being misunderstood. They don’t, however, go to the lengths Hilma af Klint (1862-1944) went to in order to protect their work from a potentially hostile audience. The reclusive Swedish painter showed rarely during her lifetime and even stipulated at her death that her edgier work shouldn’t be shown for 20 years. She just didn’t think people would get it. Looking at the big, beautiful paintings on show at the Serpentine, with their sunbursts, flower forms and prismatic colours, it’s hard to see why their creator was so guarded. Read a little about how the work came about, though, and you’ll soon start to understand her reticence. Turning her back on her training, Klint started to hold seances to commune with spirits via pictures and experiment with automatic writing: all good cranky, audience-pleasing stuff in 2016 but a turn-off in nineteenth-century Stockholm. Her biggest commission came not from a rich patron but from an ‘entity’ – which she called ‘Amaliel’ – for whom she made almost 200 paintings in total. A selection is on show here. Populated by words, numbers and vectors, they come across like diagrams of enigmatic ideas, primordial forces and evolutionary concepts. If the work looks familiar, it’s not just that some of Klint’s images could easily grace the cover of a prog-rock album. Klint is widely heralded as the first truly abstract painter – an artist who distilled imagery down to geometric forms long before abstraction’s big boys such

Botticelli And Treasures From The Hamilton Collection

Botticelli And Treasures From The Hamilton Collection

5 out of 5 stars

If you thought trying to save important works of art from being sold abroad by cash-strapped toffs was a uniquely twenty-first-century problem, think again. Nineteenth-century London was all aflutter at the sale, in 1882, of the Duke of Hamilton’s collection of rare manuscripts to Berlin’s Prints and Drawings Museum. The critic John Ruskin voiced his concerns; even Queen Victoria and one of her daughters got involved – and they were pretty much German anyway. But, off the works went, nearly 700 in total, to help pay down the debts of the ne’er-do-well twelfth duke.  Chief among them were Sandro Botticelli’s drawings of Dante’s epic fourteenth-century poem the ‘Divine Comedy’: some of the most staggeringly detailed, spellbindingly beautiful images ever created. Now 30 of these works are back for a few months in a succinct but rapturous exhibition at the ever-excellent Courtauld. Unlike the bells-and-whistles Botticelli extravaganza at the V&A, this show is exquisitely focused on its subject. Begun in 1308 and completed in 1320, Dante’s 14,233-line poem is one of the great works of world literature. Unawed, Botticelli set about illustrating every aspect of Dante’s imaginary journey through Hell, Purgatory and Heaven, accompanied by the Roman poet Virgil and led into Heaven by his great, lost love Beatrice. Taking some 15 years to complete, the series is a masterpiece, both in terms of its narrative sweep and attention to detail. With its bat-winged Lucifer munching the bodies o

Botticelli Reimagined

Botticelli Reimagined

4 out of 5 stars

Forgive the old bus analogy but: you wait decades for a decent exhibition of the early Renaissance’s dreamiest purveyor of mythological scenes, Sandro Botticelli (1445-1510), then two come along at once. However, this coincidence isn’t due to a curatorial cock-up. Two London galleries are showcasing different aspects of the mysterious Florentine master, with wildly different results. Concentrating on his tiny, teeming drawings for Dante’s ‘Divine Comedy’, the Courtauld Gallery does one thing incredibly well. At the V&A, meanwhile, they’re dishing up a sweeping survey of sexy Botticelli-influenced art and design via Dolce & Gabbana, Gaga, Warhol and countless Victorian acolytes before, finally, showing the biggest haul of Botticelli masterpieces we’ve seen since the 1930s. Call it trying to do way too much, but ‘Botticelli Reimagined’ isn’t quite the car (or bus) crash I had feared. In fact, the show has the best opening you’ll see all year. ‘Hello’ you hear as you enter the darkened space. Look up and, hello, there’s Uma Thurman emerging from a motorised clamshell to open-jawed amazement from the rest of the cast of Terry Gilliam’s dotty 1988 fantasy ‘The Adventures of Baron Munchausen’. Almost as camp is the subsequent loop from ‘Dr No’, in which Sean Connery’s Bond awakes on a beach to find Ursula Andress’s Honey Rider walking out of the spume. She clasps a pair of oversized conch shells; he releases his grip on his Walther PPK. Botticelli himself would probably have enjoye

Avedon Warhol

Avedon Warhol

4 out of 5 stars

Marilyn, Liza, Jackie… When two icons of twentieth-century art like Richard Avedon and Andy Warhol share the billing, you’d expect plenty of big names to show up. And, sure enough, this free exhibition at the cavernous King’s Cross branch of Gagosian sometimes feels like a Hollywood hall of fame. Incredibly, this is the first show to pair up the photography and pop art legends. They had plenty in common. Both men not only shared a fascination with America’s nascent celebrity scene but also gauged the world’s appetite for images of stars from stage and screen. They also nailed a signature aesthetic that became as instantly recognisable as the people they focused on: Avedon’s pared-back, black-and-white photographs finding a high-key counterpart in Warhol’s super-refined screenprints. And both dealt not only in the glamour of the age but also in its undercurrents of violence and tragedy, excess and death. There are two killers, at least, in this show. In 1960, Avedon was able to shoot Dick Hickock and Perry Edward Smith five years before the State of Kansas put nooses round their necks for the 1959 murders of the Clutter family. The story gripped America and obsessed Truman Capote, who wrote ‘In Cold Blood’ about the crime. Capote appears in this show as well, bloated and scowling into the lens in an Avedon headshot from 1974. It’s one of the exhibition’s defining moments: one veteran facing down another. Like Capote, both Avedon and Warhol dealt not only in the glamour of the

News (10)

Mounted police, living sculptures, a massed choir… we reveal the contents of the new Tate Modern

Mounted police, living sculptures, a massed choir… we reveal the contents of the new Tate Modern

Today, Tate announced what to expect when the new Tate Modern opens on June 17 – and if you were thinking it would be just a few paintings, sculptures and a new caff, prepare to have your mind blown. Cuban artist Tania Bruguera's 'Tatlin's Whisper #5', which will feature mounted police riding back and forth corralling people in the Turbine Hall, is just one of the performances heralding a new chapter in Tate Modern's evolution when its ten-storey, Herzog & de Meuron-designed Switch House building opens to the public. There'll also be a 500-strong massed choir, singing songs written specially about the building by British artist Peter Liversidge, Romanian duo Pirici and Pelmus 'performing' famous sculptures, plus Lebanese artist Tarek Atoui building and playing his own musical instruments in the galleries. Some of the performances will take place just for the opening weekend, when Tate Modern stays open until 10pm each evening, but three weeks of live art is scheduled right across the building.       The emphasis on performance art is part of Tate's continuing mission to reflect the hottest trends in contemporary art. But the museum is also rethinking how it shows its historical collections by completely rehanging the entire museum across the existing Tate Modern building (which will be known as the 'Boiler House') and the new building (the 'Switch House') to give it a more international flavour. Artists will hail from 57 countries. Seventy-five per cent of the works going on

Simon Baker, Tate Curator of Photography, chooses five of his favourite shots of London

Simon Baker, Tate Curator of Photography, chooses five of his favourite shots of London

Simon Baker is Tate's first Curator of Photography. Since taking up his position in 2009, he's worked on major exhibitions and displays including 'Another London' (2012), 'Conflict, Photography, Time' (2014) and Tate Modern's current photo blockbuster 'Performing for the Camera'. Here he shares his favourites shots of London in the Tate collection and tells us why he loves them. You'll also see one of these awesome images in our 40 best photos of London ever taken feature.   © Estate of Izis BIdermanas   Izis Bidermanas: Man Blowing Bubbles, Whitechapel, London, 1950  'A truly timeless image that says as much about photography as a medium as it does about the subject. The short, momentary life of the bubble, captured for eternity by the camera, almost a perfect symbol for the way Bidermans’s images of 1950s London preserve a moment of social change with incredible clarity and sensitivity.' © Chris Shaw       Chris Shaw: Sky at Night, from Life as a Night Porter, c1993-2004  'Shaw’s "Life as a Night Porter" is a unique and brilliant vision of London seen through the doors of some of the capital’s sleaziest hotels. Shaw worked as a night porter in the 1990s, helping locked-out naked guests back to their rooms, dealing with drunks, entertaining passing celebrities, and all the rest, taking photographs on disposable cameras in an effort to stay awake. His images are wild, off-kilter, but brilliantly printed, humorously captioned, and full of hidden surprises. In "Sky at Night

Hilary Roberts from the Imperial War Museum chooses her ten favourite shots of London

Hilary Roberts from the Imperial War Museum chooses her ten favourite shots of London

Imperial War Museums UK holds a staggering 11 million photographs in its archive, covering all aspects of conflict from the Crimean War to the present day. We asked Hilary Roberts, curator of IWM London's current ace photo exhibition 'Lee Miller: A Woman's War', to come up with just ten of her favourite London images in the collection, and she did us proud. You'll also see a couple of these awesome images in our 40 best photos of London ever taken feature.   © IWM                       Horace Nicholls: The coffin of the Unknown Warrior, 1920                               'Horace Nicholls, one of the leading British photographers of his time, was granted exclusive access to Westminster Abbey to take this photograph for the Imperial War Museum. Nicholls’ eldest son was one of the casualties of the First World War.'    © Edward Barber         Edward Barber: Greenham Common protesters stage a die-in outside the Stock Exchange during the morning rush hour as US President Reagan arrives in Britain, City of London, 1982'This was the first major London event initiated by the Greenham Common women and coincided with the Falklands Conflict. The die-in symbolised the one million who, it was argued, would die in a nuclear attack on London. This photograph, from Edward Barber’s photographic essay "Peace Signs", will feature in an exhibition of his work at IWM London in 2016. "IWM Contemporary: Edward Barber" will display Barber’s iconic photographs of anti-nuclear protests in Britain

Photographer Dennis Morris chooses his six favourite shots of London

Photographer Dennis Morris chooses his six favourite shots of London

Dennis Morris has been photographing London since he was a kid. In fact, he was just 11 years old when one of his images was printed on the front page of the Daily Mirror. He's famous for documenting the social and political upheaval of the city during the 1970s, as well as his photos of music legends including Bob Marley and the Sex Pistols. A show about his work with Public Image Ltd opens at the ICA this week. Here, he shares his own favourite photographs of the capital including 'Kids protesting over the closure of their squat' (1976), which made it into the 40 best photos of London ever taken – our definitive list of the city's best shots from the 1830s to today.   © Dennis Morris         Arsenal win the cup (Peter Storey, Bob Wilson, David O'Leary), 1971   © Dennis Morris   Original Pearly King (street festival, London), 1975   © Dennis Morris         Kids protesting over the closure of their squat, Hackney, 1976   © Dennis Morris       Summer holidays, Dalston, 1975   © Dennis Morris           Housing estate, Wapping, 1970s   © Dennis Morris   The original Mr Topper, 1977 Check out the rest of our 40 best photos of London ever taken.    

Martin Barnes, Senior Curator of Photographs at the V&A, chooses his favourite shots of London

Martin Barnes, Senior Curator of Photographs at the V&A, chooses his favourite shots of London

The mighty V&A began collecting photographs way back in the 1850s. Today, the museum has more than 300,000 photos in its archive, dating from 1839 to the present. Martin Barnes is the V&A's Senior Curator of Photographs, which means he's one of the best placed people in the country to come up with a list of iconic London shots. Here he shares his favourites and tells us why he loves them. You'll also see a few of these awesome images in our 40 best photos of London ever taken feature. Enjoy!   © V&A   M de St Croix: Parliament Street from Trafalgar Square, 1839                                          'This daguerreotype is the oldest photograph in the V&A collection and among the first made in England. It was taken by a Monsieur de Ste Croix as a public demonstration just weeks after Louis Daguerre’s announcement of photography in January 1839. The incredibly detailed image, reversed through the process to appear as in a mirror, shows the statue of King Charles I in the foreground and the Royal Banqueting House in the distance. Figures can be seen seated at the railings below the statue, and the top hat of a man, possibly a handsome cab driver, can be made out on the left. Could these be the first Londoners ever photographed? The photographer was standing in Trafalgar Square with his back towards the National Gallery at a time when Nelson’s column had not yet been built.'    V&A Stephen Ayling: Westminster, Henry VII Chapel Exterior and Westminster Hall, 1867 'By posi

Legendary photographer Dorothy Bohm chooses her ten favourite shots of London

Legendary photographer Dorothy Bohm chooses her ten favourite shots of London

  Armed with her trusty Rolleiflex camera and blessed with a brilliant eye and endless patience, Dorothy Bohm has taken some of the most iconic shots of London street life over the past 70 years. Now in her nineties, she's a true photography legend, so we're thrilled that she has shared with us ten of her own favourite photographs, including 'Market Stall, Islington' (1960s), which made it into 'the 40 best photos of London ever taken' – our definitive list of the city's best shots from the 1830s to today.   Market Stall, Islington, 1960s © Dorothy Bohm     War Memorial, The Mall, 1960s © Dorothy Bohm       South Kensington, 1960s © Dorothy Bohm     Natural History Museum, late 1970s © Dorothy Bohm     William IV Pub, Hampstead, 1971 © Dorothy Bohm   Antique shop, Hampstead, 1960s © Dorothy Bohm     London, early 1970s © Dorothy Bohm     Paddington, 1960s © Dorothy Bohm   Mount Street, 1960s © Dorothy Bohm     Billingsgate, 1960s Check out the rest of our 40 best photos of London ever taken.  

London's young galleries are going global this weekend at 'Condo'

London's young galleries are going global this weekend at 'Condo'

This week, London’s coolest young galleries are hosting their counterparts from Europe, Asia, Latin America and the USA. Martin Coomer talks to organiser Vanessa Carlos Head to a gallery this weekend and you could be repaid with two, three – or more – shows in one. For four weeks, eight of the capital’s hippest spaces, ranging from Southard Reid in Soho to The Sunday Painter in Peckham, are opening their doors to like-minded galleries from as far afield as Shanghai and São Paulo. Some will simply divide up their premises, offering their guests a place to showcase their wares. Others will put on shows curated around shared interests. ‘We’re always complaining, as young galleries, that everything’s so expensive – that we can’t do what we want,’ says Vanessa Carlos, the go-getting London art dealer behind the event, called ‘Condo’. ‘So I thought it would be interesting to propose a way of collaborating.’ Tessa Lynch     For host galleries, ‘Condo’ offers a chance to show alongside the international peers they most admire. For their guests, it’s a means of exhibiting in London on the cheap. And for us London gallery-goers? Well, we like to think we’re at the epicentre of the international art world, and for a month that will literally be true. Win, win and win. Aside from a sense of bonhomie and a zeitgeisty Airbnb vibe, however, ‘Condo’ has a more serious aim. Carlos is keen to find a way for galleries such as hers to thrive in a world of increasingly ritzy art fairs, where sm

The best and the worst of art in 2015

The best and the worst of art in 2015

Ai Weiwei and Anish Kapoor held hands, ceramics was on fire and clothing was optional; here's our round-up of the best and worst art had to offer throughout 2015.   Birthday suits           As much as the art world loves putting on its freakum dress, 2015 was all about stripping off. At Maureen Paley in April, legendary artist and healer AA Bronson presented himself naked and painted bright red as a kind of devilish sprite in a Fire Island forest. For her Stephen Friedman show in September, Jennifer Rubell disrobed and got into the saddle for an update of the traditional equestrian portrait – inviting viewers to go starkers to watch a video of the work in progress. No stranger to balls-out performance art, Eddie Peake didn't disappoint with a show featuring a pair of naked dancers (above) and a rollerskater in a see-through onesie at the Barbican Curve, which runs until January 10. On a scholarly note, the British Museum's spring blockbuster 'Defining Beauty: The Body in Ancient Greek Art' provided historical context for all this creative exposure, revealing the important distinction between the 'naked' and the 'nude' while shoving plenty of buff marble booty and antique junk in our faces. Town planning       The annual Bold Tendencies at Peckham's multi-storey car park isn't just a must-see event, bringing almost a million visitors to Frank's rooftop bar over the years, it's also a huge money spinner for the area. So, we were dismayed to learn that Southwark Council has re

The new Tate Modern will open in June 2016

The new Tate Modern will open in June 2016

Autumn 2015 has barely got underway but we already know what the big art story of 2016 is. This morning, Tate director Nicholas Serota announced that a new Tate Modern will be unveiled on June 17, when its extension, known as The Switch House (that’s the big, twisty building that’s been rising up behind the Bankside building for the past couple of years) opens to the public. © Hayes Davidson and Herzog & de Meuron  ‘I’ve had plenty of sleepless nights,’ admitted Sir Nick about the £260 million, ten-storey new building, designed by Herzog & de Meuron, the Swiss architects behind the original transformation of Bankside power station 15 years ago. But, providing 60 percent more exhibition space, the extension will allow for a ‘progressive rehang’ of Tate Modern’s permanent collection across both the Switch House and current Tate Modern building, with the Turbine Hall becoming what the Tate is calling ‘the street’ that connects both buildings. The new building features a viewing level on the top floor, a restaurant, members' room and three new floors of galleries, billed as ‘new spaces for new kinds of art’, which will be used to show works acquired since Tate Modern opened in 2000, including an installation of giant burlap sacks by Magdalena Abakanowicz and a multi-screen film by Cannes prizewinner Apichatpong Weerasethakul. © Hayes Davidson and Herzog & de Meuron ‘It’s not just about the here and now, it’s about the future,’ Serota said and, true to his word, the first peop

A first look at Damien Hirst's Newport Street Gallery

A first look at Damien Hirst's Newport Street Gallery

We’re never happier than when donning high-vis vest, steel toe-capped boots and a hard hat, so we were positively overwhelmed with pleasure when the invitation came through to take a preview tour of Damien Hirst’s Newport Street Gallery ahead of its official opening in October. Not that we really needed the kit. After three years of construction, the hoardings have come down on London’s newest art museum, which occupies five buildings old and new, including three former theatre scenery painting studios, between Vauxhall and Lambeth North. And inside, the finishing touches are well under way. With its spiral staircases, slinky ceramic handrails and beautiful roof lights it looks sublimely cool. And so it should. Hirst is said to have spent £25 million on the place. Newport Street is not just a statement of Hirst’s wealth, though, but a reflection of his first love – curating.The building will be home to changing exhibitions drawn from Hirst’s 3,000-strong Murderme collection, which includes pieces by fellow YBAs including Sarah Lucas as well as his great hero, Francis Bacon. Hirst is adamant that he plans to remain behind the scenes, but that doesn’t mean his own work won’t appear in future shows. And while you may not be able to find any of his famously pickled specimens on display, there’s a definite Hirstian presence in the restaurant, which will be open from morning coffee to dinner. Our tour took us through immense chambers for art, as well as more intimate spaces, design