BOOKS & ARTS
A look ahead For those seeking refuge from the Olympics, Andrew Lambirth picks out the exhibition highlights of 2012: Freud, Hockney,
Turner, Zoffany, Lely, Picasso . . .
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In the coming year, when the country will be besieged by all things Olympic, and many people of taste and discernment will (I am assured) be fleeing to spots less barbarous and sports-obsessed, there will still be a lifeline of art exhibitions to refresh those parts that physical activities cannot reach. Focusing on English artists, the main attractions will be shows dedicated to Lucian Freud (at the National Portrait Gallery), David Hockney (at the Royal Academy) and Damien Hirst (at Tate Modern). Despite cutbacks, museums are still largely relying on prestigious temporary exhibitions to pull in the crowds, rather than concentrating on the often unseen glories of their permanent collections. Box office is big business, as the Leonardo exhibition reminded us, and business values tend to distort artistic judgment, but who’s to notice so long as the public continues to queue?
At a time when Britain will presumably be the cynosure of all eyes, we look to our national assets, so the British Museum will be giving us Shakespeare: Staging the World (19 July to 25 November), a mélange of objects, text and performance intending to recreate London in 1600. Turner will star at the National Gallery in an exhibition entitled Turner Inspired: In the Light of Claude (14 March to 5 June), examining how our English giant was impressed by the great French classicist. This will be followed at the NG by Metamorphosis: Titian 2012 (11 July to 23 September), a free display of work by three contemporary artists — Mark Wallinger, Conrad Shawcross and Chris Ofili — commissioned to design sets for new ballets at the Royal Opera House, all inspired by Titian. The winter show, another exploration of sources and influences, is called Seduced by Art: Photography Past and Present (31 October 2012 to 20 January 2013), and includes work by Thomas Struth, Craigie Horsfield and Sam Taylor-Wood.
At the various Tates, there are too many shows to list, but among the highlights is Tate Britain’s Picasso and Modern British Art (15 February to 15 July, then travelling to Edinburgh), which will examine Picasso’s relationship with this country and the long shadow he cast in terms of influence.
That might well be the most exciting Tate show of the year, since it’s followed by yet another Pre-Raphaelite exhibition (12 September 2012 to 13 January 2013), as if we hadn’t had enough of them in recent years. At Tate Modern we are offered rather too much Damien Hirst (4 April to 9 September), followed by Edvard Munch: The Modern Eye (28 June to 14 October), interpreting that little ray of Norwegian sunshine as the archetypal modernist, deeply involved in photography, film and stage production. The winter/spring show at Tate Modern is A Bigger Splash: Painting after Performance Art (7 November 2012 to 1 April 2013), which could be interesting or infuriating, depending on the level of curatorial bias. At Tate Liverpool is a potentially fascinating show, Turner Monet Twombly: Later Paintings (22 June to 28 October), while at Tate St Ives is a monographic exhibition of the American figurative painter Alex Katz (born 1927).
To start the year, the Royal Academy gives over its main galleries to David Hockney (21 January to 9 April), who claims to have rediscovered plein-air landscape painting, as if no one has been doing it for the past 50 years. Always plausible, if occasionally misguided, Hockney will be a big pull for the RA, whatever the quality of the work (increasingly variable these days). Johan Zoffany (1733–1810) painted Georgian society in all its complexity: the court, the academy, the bourgeoisie, the theatre. This long-awaited show should prove a revelation (10 March to 10 June).
A summer show of Impressionists, almost an annual RA event now, comes this year from the Clark Art Institute in Massachusetts (7 July to 23 September). The autumn show is Bronze (15 September to 9 December), dealing with bronze sculpture from the earliest times to the present, ranging from Greek, Roman and Etruscan to Ghiberti and Donatello, on to Rodin, Giacometti and Moore. How will the familiar look in this context? Intriguing.
The V&A’s major show is British Design 1948–2012: Innovation in the Modern Age (31 March to 12 August) — a vast subject, covering more than half a century of new looks and redefinitions of what it means to
‘The Three Dancers’, 1925, by Picasso in Tate Britain’s show from 15 February be British, but just the kind of survey the museum does so well. There’s also a display (8 February to 22 April) of 100 portraits of the Queen taken by Cecil Beaton over three decades, and shown now to celebrate her Diamond Jubilee. At the National Portrait Gallery the big show is Lucian Freud Portraits (9 February to 27 March), comprising paintings, drawings and etchings from the 1940s to last year. Apart from paid models, Freud liked to paint artists, criminals and the nobility — not always easy to tell apart. His portrait of the Queen is neither a successful nor a popular painting, but there will be plenty more to choose from in The Queen: Art and Image (17 May to 21 October), which gathers 60 portraits of her at the NPG, by artists ranging from Annigoni to Warhol, in further celebration of her Jubilee.
At the Hayward, one of the least attractive venues in London with an exhibition programme to match, are solo shows by two bright sparks: David Shrigley (1 February to the spectator | 31 December 2011 | www.spectator.co.uk Y A L E
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‘The Gore family with George, Third Earl Cowper’, c. 1775, by Zoffany can be seen at the Royal Academy from 10 March
13 May) and then Jeremy Deller (22 February to 13 May). Humorous drawings about everyday life, followed by photos, videos and performance works by a Turner Prize winner. I shall be more interested in the first major UK retrospective of Alberto Burri (1915–95) at the Estorick Collection (13 January to 8 April). A doctor turned painter, Burri made deeply evocative work from ripped and stitched sacking, charred wood or rusting metal, and became an important figure in post-war European abstraction. The Estorick sensibly follows this with a wider survey of Italian abstraction from 1930 to 1980 (27 June to 9 September).
Meanwhile at the Courtauld Gallery the year begins well with Mondrian/Nicholson: In Parallel (16 February to 20 May), a fascinating study of friendship and artistic exchange. The summer show, Mantegna to Matisse: Master Drawings from the Courtauld Gallery (14 June to 9 September), focuses on the gallery’s rich holdings, choosing some 60 from a total of 7,000, including Dürer, Rembrandt, Rubens, Goya, Manet and Matisse. Closing the year will be Lely’s Subject Pictures (11 October 2012 to 13 January 2013), the narrative paintings of figures in idyllic landscapes he much preferred to the portraits he was forced to paint for a liv-
Apart from paid models, Freud liked to paint artists, criminals and the nobility, not always easy to tell apart ing; expect to see a different side of Lely. At Dulwich Picture Gallery is Van Dyck in Sicily: Painting and the Plague (15 February to 27 May), focusing on this little-known episode (1624–5) in the artist’s life. A show of Andy Warhol’s silkscreen print portfolios takes the summer slot (20 June to 16 September), followed by Cotman’s Normandy (10 October 2012 to 13 January 2013).
Outside London, in the Lake District, Abbot Hall in its 50th year kicks off with the spectator | 31 December 2011 | www.spectator.co.uk the Hickman Bacon watercolour collection of Turner and his contemporaries (12 January to 14 April), followed by a summer show of Mod Brits from Bacon to Rego (23 June to 16 September), and culminating in a solo Hughie O’Donoghue exhibition: vast figurative paintings dealing with history, war and myth (28 September to 22 December).At its sister establishment, Blackwell, the Arts & Crafts house on Windermere, look out for an exhibition of new work made in response to the house by leading ceramic sculptor, Halima Cassell (born 1975), featuring low relief panels, sculptural objects and vessels (25 July to 7 October). At Pallant House in Chichester there’s a centenary celebration of Keith Vaughan, a neoromantic who became obsessed with the male nude (10 March to 10 June), a small display (27 February to 22 April) devoted to the writer and fantasy painter Robin Ironside (1912–65), and a major show of Peter Blake and Pop Music (23 June to 7 October). Happy viewing.