Thursday, October 19, 2017

Basquiat on the BBC and at the Barbican

Jean-Michel Basquiat (1960-1988) was a precocious and highly original talent - as a poet, artist and social commentator. He lived fast, painted faster, made a lot of money and died young, age 27, of a heroin overdose - just over 30 years ago. In May this year he achieved iconic art star status.

'Basquiat Boom for Real' Barbican
Photo Tristan Fewings | Getty Images | The Estate of Jean Michel Basquiat Artestar
The anniversary of his death has been marked by:
  • programmes on the BBC
  • an exhibition at the Barbican.
More about these below.

Basquiat at the BBC

There are a number of programmes and articles about Basquiat
and articles

"Basquiat - Rage to Riches"

I knew very little about Basquiat before watching the programme the Basquiat - Rags to Riches programme (link above) - but found it enormously interesting and a very good programme / bio about the artist. It's an interesting mix of the people who knew him really well as friends and those who knew him once he became absorbed by the art world - such as Larry Gagosian.
The recent Sotheby's auction of a Jean-Michel Basquiat Skull painting for over a hundred million dollars has catapulted this Brooklyn-born artist into the top tier of the international art market, joining the ranks of Picasso, de Kooning and Francis Bacon. This film tells Jean-Michel's story through exclusive interviews with his two sisters Lisane and Jeanine, who have never before agreed to be interviewed for a TV documentary. With striking candour, Basquiat's art dealers - including Larry Gagosian, Mary Boone and Bruno Bischofberger - as well as his most intimate friends, lovers and fellow artists, expose the cash, the drugs and the pernicious racism which Basquiat confronted on a daily basis. As historical tableaux, visual diaries of defiance or surfaces covered with hidden meanings, Basquiat's art remains the beating heart of this story.

Basquiat at the Barbican: "Basquiat: Boom for Real"

The exhibition at the Barbican opened on 21 September 2017 and it continues until 28 January 2018. I expect it will be very busy over Christmas/New Year! (Note the visitors info below)

'Basquiat Boom for Real' Barbican
Photo Tristan Fewings | Getty Images | The Estate of Jean Michel Basquiat Artestar

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Tim Storrier wins richest portrait prize in the world

The Lunar Savant (portrait of McLean Edwards)
by Tim Storrier
acrylic on linen
The Lunar Savant (portrait of McLean Edwards) by Tim Storrier has just won the First Prize in the Doug Moran Portrait Prize - worth $AUD 150,000 

It's the richest portrait prize in the world[Note: Just to give some sense of perspective, according to Google, as of today, $AUD 150,000 equates to £89,160 in the UK; €99,910 in Europe  and $117,525 in the USA]

However the BIG story is the backstory about how the portrait came to be entered for the competition in the first place - which makes for fascinating reading. I'm guessing the sentiments expressed will be ones that many artists will have known at some point in their career.

    About the Doug Moran National Portrait Prize

    Founded in 1988, the aim of the prize over the last 29 years has been to encourage
    both excellence and creativity in contemporary Australian portraiture by asking artists to interpret the look and personality of a chosen sitter, either unknown or well known.
    The competition is only open to:
    • Australian citizens or 
    • an artist legally resident in Australia for the 12 months preceding the entries close date
    The judges of this year's competition were:
    • Daniel Thomas AM - an art historian and curator, who was once 
      • chief curator at the Art Gallery of New South Wales, 
      • then Senior Curator of Australian Art at the National Gallery of Australia and, 
      • from 1984 to 1990, Director of the Art Gallery of South Australia
    • Wendy Sharpe - an Australian artist who has won an awful lot of awards 
    • Greta Moran - a founding Director of the Moran Arts Foundation which she established with her late husband Doug Moran in 1988. 

    First Prize

    Tim Storrier's portrait of his friend the artist McLean Edwards is to my mind the absolute stand out portrait amongst the finalists - it's head and shoulders above the others - in more ways than one. (notwithstanding the fact the finalists included a self-portrait by McLean Edwards).
    Standing almost two metres tall, the portrait is one of the largest in the competition and certainly one of the most beautiful and arresting, depicting a disheveled-looking Edwards in a stark, mystical night landscape with a cigarette dangling loosely from one hand, a bemused look on his ruddy face and one shoe noticeably absent.Doug Moran Art Prize Won by a Portrait Rejected by the Archibald | Jane Albery, Broadsheet Melbourne
    Judge Daniel Thomas described the portrait as one that
    “went outside his personal mythology and produced an affectionate, teasing, ‘friendship painting’ of a wild fellow artist”.
    Interestingly, according to the Sydney Morning Herald
    • this is the first time Tim Storrier has entered the Doug Moran Portrait Prize competition. 
    • the portrait was "screened out" by the the judges of the Art Gallery of NSW (presumably in relation to the Archibald Prize)
    On collecting his prize money Storrier apparently commented as follows
    "That picture should have been really called Lazarus, because the judges of the Art Gallery of NSW in their wisdom screened it out; it did not make the cut..... It's interesting isn't it? It's two different institutions with two different value systems at work." Tim Storrier quoted in the Sydney Morning Herald
    Storrier was also in the news earlier this year for blasting the choice of winner for The Archibald Prize - see John Olsen and Tim Storrier blast judges of Archibald Prize - they accused the judges of picking a "bland" portrait. He reiterated his criticism that the board of the Art Gallery of NSW had been taken over "by a postmodernist cabal" driven by fashion and political caution. in the interview he gave to the Sydney Morning Herald.

    That commentary makes more sense now it turns out that even pre-eminent portrait painters can feel very aggrieved about how selections are made for prestigious competitions!
    “It’s just amazing how a limping dog can end up winning a race, isn’t it?”Tim Storrier on his Doug Moran win after being rejected for The Archibald
    Storrier has very definitely for both street cred and a track record as both a portrait painter and winner of major awards.
    • He has won the Sulman Prize twice with 
      • 1968: a painting of a motorbike accident in the outback (Suzy 350) when he was 19 years of age
      • 1984: a painting called The Burn
    • He's a previous winner of The Archibald (Portrait) Prize with his faceless painting of The histrionic wayfarer (after Bosch(see my previous post Tim Storrier wins the $75,000 Archibald Prize 2012).
    • He then went on to win the Packing Room Prize in 2014 for his portrait of 'Sir Les Patterson' one of the messier inventions of John Barry Humphries, AO, CBE - Australian comedian, satirist, artist, and author.
    His work is also included in the collections of the National Gallery of Australia, the Art Gallery of New South Wales, the Metropolitan Art Museum in New York and all major Australian art museums.
    I just wish he'd have a shot at the BP Portrait Award so I could get to see one of his portraits - as they are always fascinating if not a total conundrum dressed up as a portrait.

    You can see more of Storrier's portraits/artworks on his website. This is a video about him.

    You can read about McLean edwards perspective on the portrait and the win by his friend in
    Head to head — Tim Storrier v McLean Edwards in Australia’s richest art prize

    The Finalists

    30 portraits made it through to the Finals of the Doug Moran Prize. (I like the fact every finalist wins $AUD 1,000).
    This is a very short video about the judging

    The Exhibition

    The Doug Moran Portrait Prize Exhibition opens tomorrow
    • Dates: 19 October to 17 December 2017
    • Venue: Juniper Hall, 250 Oxford Street, Paddington in Sydney.
    • Hours: Open Thursday to Sunday 10am to 4pm
    • Admission: Free
    The Juniper Hall venue is a former gin distillery in Paddington and the oldest building in Sydney, which was fully restored in 1988 and bought by the Moran Foundation in 2012 from the National Trust. It's used as an art gallery.

    Previous Winners

    On this page of the website you can see images of the previous winners and finalists between 2009 and 2016


    Tuesday, October 17, 2017

    An Apocalyptic Artful Autumn

    I went to Kew Gardens yesterday to view their new Artful Autumn exhibitions in the gardens. I hadn't quite bargained on getting Apocalypse Now thrown in for free!

    The weather was forecast to be warm and sunny and a great day to visit the gardens to see the sculpture and installations.

    However, we've lost confidence in the BBC Weather forecasts ever since the Met. Office lost the contract to provide the weather forecasts. We now find ourselves quite often photographing the BBC weather app showing one thing for a specific location and the weather doing something completely different.

    Yesterday was a case in point as the orange sun and the huge dust cloud descended on Kew as we walked around the gardens!  I must confess we spent an awful lot of time just staring at the sky as it got darker and darker!

    Below are some views of the various installations
    My favourite wood seat sculpture
    I'll touch on the Life in Death exhibition by Rebecca Louise Law later this week. Apparently it was very busy last weekend!


    Kew Gardens is a brilliant location for a sculpture exhibition - if and when they are presented well.

    Two figures near the Palm House
    For me the absolute minimum is providing either an online guide or a leaflet for what you're seeing.  Plus a good and uninterrupted view of the sculpture in its setting.

    Instead,  all too often at Kew this Autumn, what I've found is:
    • a very unhelpful barrier around the sculpture which completely spoils the effect of the sculpture; and/or
    • placing an erect large announcement about what it is very close to the sculpture
    See below for examples. It's extremely difficult to get a good clean look at the actual sculpture - unless you look at it from an angle which is not the best!

    Saturday, October 14, 2017

    Awards and CBMs at the Society of Botanical Artists Annual Exhibition 2017

    This week "Changing Seasons" the 2017 Annual Exhibition of the Society of Botanical Artists opened at Central Hall Westminster in London. Admission is free and it's on every day 11am-5pm until Saturday 21st October.

    Entrance to the exhibition - at the end of the Private View

    For the last ten years I have reviewed the annual exhibition of the Society of Botanical Artists on this blog - see my PAGE dedicated to botanical art and artists and past posts about the SBA exhibition (in the top menu of pages)

    In 2015 I set up my new website Botanical Art and Artists - complete with a dedicated news blog.

    Two years later it's beginning to rival Making A Mark for numbers of visitors and pageviews AND - according to an Alexa analysis of similar sites - is now the top website for botanical art in the world!

    Consequently I now focus my blog posts for the dedicated botanical art fan on that site - however I know there are a lot of fans who have not made the move over.

    The Awards Ceremony at the Private View with Jekka McVicar presenting awards

    So here for you are the my first two out of three posts about this year's exhibition.

    Thursday was the PV and on Friday I posted about the botanical artists receiving Awards - Society of Botanical Artists' Annual Exhibition 2017. It includes images of the artwork receiving awards and more information about the artists (links to their websites are embedded in their names).

    This morning I've posted about those awarded a Certificate of Botanical Merit in Society of Botanical Art 2017 - Certificates of Botanical Merit

    My final post tomorrow will  comprise:
    • a review of the exhibition as a whole and 
    • a commentary on its development over the last decade that I have been writing reviews of this exhibition.
    This year it includes 457 artworks covering paintings, drawings, miniatures, fine art prints and botanical ED works in glass and jewellery.

    A view of the exhibition which embraces a range of styles and media for portraying plants

    So, for those of you who have been reading this week's very popular post about Watercolour paintings of flowers sell well - maybe it's time to find out what you're missing!

    You've got a week left to visit this very popular exhibition.

    Thursday, October 12, 2017

    Watercolour paintings of flowers sell well

    Flower paintings are hugely popular with the public. Watercolour paintings of flowers also sell well - particularly when executed by experts.

    I find it such a pity that leading open exhibitions of watercolour paintings (by the RWS, RI and Sunday Times Watercolour Competition) don't include more paintings of plant life in general and flowers in particular.

    I'd love to know why there's a dearth of flower paintings in watercolour shows - when some of the best watercolour painters in the country paint flowers!

    I can't help but think that this is down to one of three reasons
    • Panels of Judges who don't like, don't understand or don't rate flower or botanical paintings - and don't care what the public like!
    • Well regarded flower painters and botanical artists who don't enter open exhibitions and art competitions for watercolour paintings - because their work doesn't get a good reception. (I've heard this story so many times re experiences in the past)
    • Or it just doesn't occur to artists who paint flowers to show their work outside a friendly environment - which is typically one which involves a lot of women! (I spend a lot of my time encouraging those who create artwork about plants and flowers to enter open exhibitions and competitions - and those that do generally do well, except when they come up against a panel of judges who make some very odd decisions eg STWC in 2017.)
    My own view is it's probably a combination of the above.

    This will never change until great flower painters who produce excellent work start entering the open exhibitions of other art societies and art competitions.

    Here are two exhibitions in London this week.

    Watercolour paintings by Rosie Sanders
    The first is the Rosie Sanders: Secret Letters Exhibition at Jonathan Cooper's Park Walk Gallery just off the Fulham Road in Chelsea. (Prices are between £3,800 and £18,000). 16 out of the 26 paintings had sold when I visited on Tuesday this week. More will have sold before the exhibition closes on Saturday.

    This is a video of my walk round the exhibition on Tuesday this week.

    Rosie is yet another female painter who ALWAYS paints what she loves and ALSO knows how to create and present work which sells (see blog posts at the end re other women who've had virtually sell out shows in the recent past)

    As a result Rosie has a solo show at this gallery every 1-2 years. (Note: Jonathan also shows other artists covered on Making A Mark in the past - who have won the BP Portrait Award and the ING Discerning Eye competition)

    It's simply not the case that watercolour paintings don't get shown by galleries or, alternatively, don't find buyers (see yesterday's post). The issue is the image that is created and the expertise used in creating that image....

    The second exhibition is Changing Seasons - the Annual Exhibition of the Society of Botanical Artists which has its Private View today and opens to the public tomorrow until Saturday 21 October. It's open every day 11am to 5pm and I'm expecting to see some excellent work.

    However most of these artists will never dream of showing outside group shows organised by those who understand their work.

    I'm off to see this exhibition shortly (it's at Central Hall, Westminster - opposite Westminster Abbey) and will be highlighting prizewinners and reviewing the exhibition on my botanical art news blog on my website Botanical Art and Artists later this week.

    [Note: This website is fast catching up with Making A Mark in terms of traffic - because that's how popular this sort of art is!]

    Those who are smart can do both exhibitions in one day this week!

    More women artists who know how to paint what they love and sell it!

    Three more women artists who have organised and held their own solo shows and sold virtually all the work
    plus another botanical artist who has had a very successful solo show of watercolour paintings of flowers in Chelsea Fiona Strickland exhibition at Park Walk Gallery

    All the artists share an ability to understand that they have to create their own future. Others can help them - but they have to make it happen!