Sunday, October 21, 2007

21st October: Who's made a mark this week?

I've been a bit preoccupied this week so this week's review is rather odd (very artfair/exhibition/London oriented) as I've had little time for blog-hopping. Plus this is also prior notice that I'm planning to take a break for a week (I think) from next weekend.

Eton Mess at the National Dining Rooms
11" x 8", coloured pencil
copyright Katherine Tyrrell

However in the meantime I thought you might like to see the results of some delayed gratification this week.

Here's my sketch of "Eton Mess" - enjoyed
in the National Dining Rooms after my Drawing Lecture at the National Gallery on Wednesday this week.

You can see more of my sketches last week in
Travels with a Sketchbook:
The Big Drawing Book Review

October is the month of The Big Drawing Book Review. Below is a list of reviews done so far. The list is in date order and includes name of blogger (name of their blog + link) and then the title of the book being reviewed + link to blog post reviewing it and name of author - plus the 'pencils' rating given by the reviewer.
Art Fairs

London is supposed to be the new global art capital and one of the reasons is the number of major art fairs it hosts in October. So if you'd like to get an insight into the art fair market in London, here's a few articles about them. So far I've managed to remain immune to their entreaties and I've avoided doing a post solely devoted to it (see if you can work out why!) - but decided to give you a bit of a flavour of it all!

For those new to Art Fairs in London, 'Frieze' is the annual art fair targeted at the hyper-rich which in three years now ranks alongside the Venice Biennale (Frieze Art Fair website - these were the galleries exhibiting). Tens of millions of pounds change hands during the course of the Fair.

It's worth remembering that in reality Frieze is not about 'us' the general public in the way that exhibitions at galleries and museums are, but primarily about two things: convincing a very small group of wealthy collectors to part with their cash, and providing an invaluable profile-raising opportunity for galleries within an insular art world.
James Wignall - Frieze - a bewildered punter writes

You will notice I have not yet mentioned the art. This is because to comment on the merit or quality of what's on display at Frieze is irrelevant. Once, the direction of contemporary art was determined by lonely, radical geniuses with a vision and an atelier. Now it is determined by hedge-fund managers, or by Deutsche Bank (headline sponsor) redeeming itself in a maelstrom of (mostly) college-standard tat.........Contemporary art has become what money men call a new asset class. It has attracted a new type of collector.
Stephen Bayley - Frieze is an ideal venue for fools and their money

However there are also art fairs for those who aren't super-rich.
Art Exhibitions
  • An American's Passion for Art: Paul Mellon's Legacy opened at the Royal Academy yesterday. The exhibition runs until 27 january 2008. I've been really looking forward to this one due to the fact that this is a 'once only' type of exhibition and because it also focuses on some of the finest works of British art - when BritArt meant Reynolds, Gainsborough, Stubbs, Constable, Turner and Blake! The exhibition features more than 150 works, including prints, drawings, paintings, rare books and manuscripts. For those interested in miniatures it apparently also includes work by Nicholas Hilliard.
  • The Fine Art Society is presenting an exhibition of works by James McNeill Whistler: The Embroidered Curtain in the gallery at 148 New Bond Street, London W1 from 18 October to 8 November 2007. It includes a work which is considered to be one his finest - the rare Amsterdam 'The Embroidered Curtain' (1889). It shows the fa├žade of a house by a canal, rendered in an abstracted pattern.
    • You can download the pdf version of the catalogue from the website.
    • My posts from my Whistler project in May can be accessed via the Whistler category label in the right hand column.
  • People making their own personal marks through the medium of watercolour might like to take a look at selected works from shows at the Bankside Gallery by The Royal Watercolour Society
Members of the Royal Watercolour Society experiment with watercolour to its maximum effect from the figurative to abstraction. Fluidity, colour and the brilliance of the medium will be explored through themes of landscape, the figure and still life.
Bankside Gallery - synopsis of Autumn Show
    • The Autumn Show recently opened and runs until 11th November. Scroll down to see selected works in "Taking Risks". The Gallery is open daily between 11am – 6pm and admissions is free. Art events during the course of the exhibition are listed here.
    • You can also see selected works from the exhibition "10 days in Maharashtra" related to the trip which 10 members made to India last January.
  • The 155th Autumn Exhibition of the Royal West of England Acdemy in Bristol opens to day and runs until 12th December. I've never been to one of these shows but have heard that it's good - other views would be welcome so I can decide whether or not to make the trip! (Location is here) The members page on the website provides links to a mini CV and examples of members' work. This is an academy which includes many well known artists who are also members of other societies and this page provides an insight into the benchmark for admission.
  • "Gardens in Focus" is an excellent exhibition of photographic works in The Glasshouse Gallery at Wisley. It features the best of the RHS and Garden Photographers' Association annual photographic competitions, across a broad range of categories including plant portraits, garden views, and wildlife in the garden. (There appears to be a problem with the Garden Photographers' Association website at the moment).
  • According to the Guardian, late night culture vultures could be out in force this month for the temporary late night openings at a number of venues in London - Culture Venues join the dark side; I'm just wondering what the V&A by torchlight might be like.
Art Magazines and Journals
Worlswide Sketchcrawls
  • Just a reminder for those who you who do these (but who haven't signed up for a reminder!) that the next one - Worldwide Sketchcrawl #16 - is on Sunday November 4th. You can read more about what people are planning on the Sketchcrawl Forum.
Websites and blogging


  1. There is something troubling about an art fair that is known for it's money. Money is fine, and capitalism is too. But this business of art minus critical value - that's the trouble.

    Some have fingered the loss of the art critic in modern discourse.

    As an artist who exhibits in critically juried shows locally, I often wonder at the roll of gallery centric fairs. Of course, the Venice Biennial has it's long history, so I tend to give it credit for that. But the Art Basels and this Frieze one. What happened to the non-commercial aura of the gallery?

    Just some thoughts.

  2. On the one hand I can understand that getting a lot of galleries together in one place can make it very attractive as a place to go for the potential consumer. It's the gallery equivalent of a shopping mall!

    On the other hand, it does seem to do something to individuality and idiosyncracy - a bit in the same way as it begins to get difficult to tell certain shops from others selling the same thing in shopping malls.

    Worse still - the cult of the "fashionable" tends to take hold.

    As somebody who has sworn off 'fashion', I always remind myself that 'fashionable' can often be a triumph of marketing over good sense. There's quite a few artists (and galleries) around who are astoundingly good at marketing themselves. That doesn't make them "good" - just "good at marketing".

    I've never been very fashionable and have got less so with age - but I think one of the advantages might be that I tend to get less swayed by "the latest thing / artist /installation /whatever".

    I find Art Fairs quite interesting as social phenomena but I think they serve to stoke 'groupthink' activity and crowd behaviour.

    I tend to prefer artists who have stood the test of time rather than those who have achieved the 'fame' of being fasionable. But maybe I'm being very unfair to those artists whose work is shown at such Fairs?


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