Issue Number: 117
Our tour of the major international shows takes in Denmank, France, Australia and Spain
Hieronymus Bosch, 'St John the Baptist Meditating', c.1488-89. © Madrid, Museo Lazaro. The star exhibition of a three-month arts festival in Lille, Flemish Landscape Fables – Bosch, Breughel, Bles, Bril reveals how at the end of the 15th century, in Flanders, a new kind of painting was born. Landscape, until then glimpsed in the background of religious painting, became itself both the scene and the subject of the most ardent moral imaginings of Flemish artists. It was then in Europe that the words for landscape – landschaft, paysage – were first coined to describe paintings where nature, whether beautiful or fearful, was no longer regarded as an incidental distraction but as itself the embodiment of divine truth and the scene of life’s spiritual pilgrimage. From Bosch’s delirious inventions, as seen in St John the Baptist Meditating, c.1488-89, to Patinir’s marvellous, dream-like topographies, the paintings in this show reveal a culture attuned to the humanist notion that patterns of divinity are embedded in the rocks, seas and hills surrounding us, if only we had eyes to see. EC-M
Anish Kapoor, '1000 Names', 1979-80. courtesy and © the artist. Given Anish Kapoor RA’s worldwide fame, it is surprising that a major show of his work at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Sydney is a first for Australia. This is a partial survey of Kapoor’s career, from his dazzling early works using pigments, such as 1000 Names from 1979-80, to recent, spectacular sculptures. Among them is My Red Homeland (2003), a circular platform, 12 metres across, with a slowly rotating arm that pushes around the deep crimson wax that featured in his 2009 RA show. Kapoor has said that this work is partly about his native India –‘In a way, India is a red land’ – and his fascination with that deep, blood-red: ‘It is, in a way, my red homeland – I mean me, as an artist.’
Claes Oldenburg, 'Two Cheeseburgers, with Everything (Dual Hamburgers)', 1962. Courtesy MoMa, New York/© Claes Oldenburg. The Guggenheim Bilbao has two stand-out shows that could not be more different; one featuring elegantly angst-ridden figures by Egon Schiele and the other the playful Pop Art of Claes Oldenburg. Though Oldenburg is best known for his metamorphic sculptures of everyday items, such as Two Cheeseburgers, with Everything (Dual Hamburgers) from 1962, and these are among the 300 works from the Sixties in the show, the Guggenheim paints a much broader picture of the artist. Oldenburg’s pioneering installations dominate, including The Street (1960), an early gathering of objects he
Egon Schiele, 'Self Portrait in Yellow Vest', 1914. Albertina, Wien. fashioned from cardboard and wood to reflect his experiences in New York’s Lower East Side.
Meanwhile, more than 100 paintings and drawings from Vienna’s Albertina museum reflect Egon Schiele’s astonishing 10-year burst of creativity prior to his death in 1918 at age 28. From his early landscapes, to the Klimt-inspired decorative nudes, to his frank later portraits of his wife and sister-in-law and his Self Portrait in Yellow Vest from 1914, this show reminds us that during his tragically short life, Schiele was able to create an original, visionary blend of realism and expressionism.
Though portraiture changed radically and eventually diminished in the 20th century, artists never lost the fascination with depicting themselves, as the exhibition Self-Portrait at the Louisiana Museum of Modern Art in Humlebæk, Denmark reveals. More than 150 works are organised in themes, from the romantic image of the artist as creative genius to the more ambiguous, fragmented investigation of identity. Here, there are iconic paintings, such as Frida Kahlo, pictured with a monkey,
Helen Chadwick, 'Vanitas II', 1986. National Portrait Gallery, London. a potent symbol of lust and protection in her work; photographic self-portraits, notably Helen Chadwick’s baroque reflection of herself in Vanitas II from 1986; and self-parody, in a striking portrait of Sarah Lucas, who with feminist ribaldry photographs herself with fried eggs on her T-shirt over her breasts. The result is a show that captures not just the changing faces of artists, but the shifting of ideas and methods of art itself. BL