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    Here’s Why Artists Have Flocked to London Across the Ages

    Sotheby’s has partnered with Art UK, a charity that provides online access to every public art collection in the United Kingdom, and 12 public museums to stage an exhibition that showcases the multicultural history and diversity of the nation’s art scene throughout the centuries.
    “London: An Artistic Crossroads” is a free exhibition running until July 5, held at Sotheby’s New Bond Street location in the heart of the capital. It promises to bring together an incredible selection of artists who found inspiration, refuge, patronage, and influence within the U.K., including Piet Mondrian, Francis Bacon, Frank Bowling, and Magdalene Odundo.
    Francis Bacon, Pope I (Study after Pope Innocent X by Diego Velázquez), (1951).Aberdeen City Council (Aberdeen Archives, Gallery & Museums collections). Presented in 1956 by the Contemporary Art Society. © The Estate of Francis Bacon. All rights reserved. DACS 2024.
    The exhibition has been designed as a counterpart to the National Gallery’s new National Treasures program, launched to celebrate its bicentenary this year. The initiative sees 12 masterpieces from the museum travel to institutions across the country, including Caravaggio’s The Supper at Emmaus (1601) and Diego Velázquez’s The Rokeby Venus (1647–51).
    In mounting this new show, Sotheby’s has effectively done the reverse, by celebrating works of art that are to be found elsewhere across the nation (although there are two notable inclusions from London), as something of an advert for the strength of collections based far from the capital. It is the inaugural event in an ongoing partnership with Art UK.
    “This exhibition brings together a dozen stunning artworks primarily from museums outside London, highlighting the treasures to be found in our regional collections,” Andrew Ellis, chief executive of Art UK, said. “It powerfully illustrates how the U.K.’s rich cultural heritage draws on creators and influences emanating from well beyond our shores.”
    Showcasing the important contributions of immigrants and refugees is a key component of the show, which feels particularly pertinent in the wake of Brexit and the government’s implementation of “hostile environment” policies.
    Marcus Gheeraerts the Younger, Frances Howard, Duchess of Richmond and Lennox (ca. 1621). © Compton Verney, photo by Prudence Cuming Associates Ltd.
    The oldest work on display is a portrait of Frances Howard, Duchess of Richmond and Lennox (ca.1621) by Marcus Gheeraerts the Younger. The artist was among thousands of Flemish protestants who fled persecution in the Netherlands in the late 1560s. While he arrived in London as a child, he developed a distinctly Dutch style of painting that revolutionized English portraiture. The work is traveling from Compton Verney in Warwickshire.
    Johann Zoffany was a neoclassical painter who completed his training in Germany and Italy before making his home in the U.K., where he found patronage among the aristocracy. He declared, “I am an Englishman, because in that country I found protection and encouragement.” His elaborate depiction of the collector Charles Towney, surrounded by friends and his considerable collection of books and antiquities, has been loaned by Towneley Hall Art Gallery & Museum in Burnley, Lancashire.
    Johann Zoffany, Charles Townley and Friends in His Library at Park Street, Westminster (1782). © Towneley Hall Art Gallery & Museum, Burnley Borough Council / Bridgeman Images
    More contemporary examples include Big Bird (1864) by abstractionist Frank Bowling, on loan from the Victoria Gallery and Museum in Liverpool. The artist moved to London from Guyana (then British Guiana) as a teenager and recalled his first visit to the National Gallery: “I was very struck by the British painters like John Constable, J.M.W. Turner and William Gainsborough, whose marvelous touch I was engaged by,” he said.
    Bowling’s career is a prime example of the rich networks of influences that inform and enrich an arts ecosystem. He was deeply inspired by two other artists included in the show, Francis Bacon and Piet Mondrian, and was also a peer of Peter Blake, David Hockney and R.B. Kitaj (another featured artist). He has also influenced and supported subsequent generations of creative talent through his work as an educator.
    “We are honored to be able to contribute to this important exhibition at Sotheby’s celebrating the major contribution that artists of African diaspora heritage have made to the British cultural landscape, and recognizing how London has had such a pivotal role in that process,” said Dr. Amanda Draper, the curator of art and exhibitions at the Victoria Gallery and Museum.
    Magdalene Odundo, Tall Bottle (2010). School of Art, Museum and Galleries, Aberystwyth University.
    Beyond painting, two examples of ceramics are included in the show. A bowl and a vase by Lucie Rie, who fled Nazi persecution in Vienna, has come from the Crafts Study Centre at the University for the Creative Arts in Farnham. Rie is widely considered to be a trailblazer of British modernist ceramics.
    Meanwhile, Tall Bottle (2010) by Magdalene Odundo has travelled from Aberystwyth University Art Museum. Odundo was brought up in Nairobi and Mombasa before studying in the U.K. and honing her craft in Nigeria and Kenya. She was celebrated with an O.B.E. in 2008.
    “London: An Artistic Crossroads” runs through July 5 at Sotheby’s New Bond Street, London W1A 2AA.
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    A Sharp New Show Highlights The Many Ways Artists Have Woven Meaning Into Textiles

    Just in time for the summer crowds to descend on the Eastern End of Long Island, Guild Hall in East Hampton has opened an intriguing show of textile art, organized by collector and art historian Estrellita Brodsky and Raul Martinez. The artists in it are all handpicked, mostly from her own collection.
    “Spin A Yarn,” had its debut at Brodsky’s own nonprofit art space in Chelsea, the appointment-only “Another Space,” where she welcomed visitors and numerous student groups from nearby schools for educational tours during its four-month run (November 10, 2023-March 15, 2024). At Guild Hall, the show is open to the public with free admission and related workshops, through July 14.
    “Spin A Yarn” examines artists’ interest in textile-making “as both subject and medium to reflect on social, political and environmental concerns,” according to a statement. Brodsky notes that while Western cultures have historically prioritized the written word, many societies, and particularly those in Latin America, have rich traditions of using threads, knots, and woven materials, as markers of identity and as a means of passing down information from one generation to another. The mostly fiber artwork on view is by more than two-dozen artists from different regions and periods.
    In conversation, Brodsky noted that textiles have played an important role in preserving memories and traditions. “We explore the ways in which artists have built on rich textile traditions from pre-Hispanic cultures as precursors of geometric abstraction to present day contemporary artists who use embroidery and weaving techniques as a means of advocating for the protection of the environment as well as of indigenous communities,” she said.
    Front: Dubreus Lherisson Blue Princess, (2018) Left: Mulyana Betty 10, (2022) Right: Chonon Bensho Wai (Farm), (2023) as part of “Spin A Yarn” at Guild Hall in East Hampton, New York.
    The show includes work by Claudia Alarcón, Olga de Amaral, Tony Bechara, Chonon Bensho, Feliciano Centurión, DETEXT, Jorge Eielson, Mónica Giron, Sonia Gomes, Sheila Hicks, Huari Culture, Jessie Homer French, Randolpho Lamonier, Julio Le Parc, Dubreus Lherisson, Mulyana, Anna Perach, Alejandro Puente, Mónica Millán, Manfred Mohr, Sandra Monterroso, Societé Réaliste, Susan Spangenberg, Pedro Tineo, Georges Valris, Cecilia Vicuña, and Yvonne Wells.
    One fascinating and unexpected aspect that Brodsky highlighted to me, during a walkthrough of the show in Chelsea, is the connection between computers and textiles as ways to store and code information. As the show’s statement explains, “the punch cards used in some looms to control the weaving process are the basis of computers’ binary logic.”
    For example, Manfred Mohr’s P-159-B from 1974 shows a sequence of intricately stitched geometric forms that evoke “an unknown arcane language,” generated by algorithms. Mohr, a leader in the concept of “rational aesthetics,” underscores the “ancient relationship between textiles and mathematical computer programming,” Brodsky told me.
    Front: DETEXT (Raul Martinez) Manstopper, (2015). Left to right: Mónica Millán, Inventar la piel (To invent skin), (2023); Claudia Alarcón, Tewok Tes P’ante (The Origin of the River), (2023), as part of “Spin A Yarn” at Guild Hall in East Hampton, New York.
    Many of the works here show modern and contemporary artists using indigenous textile techniques to reflect on environmental, political, or social issues. For instance, Alejandro Puente and Sheila Hicks reference the feather works and weavings of ancient pre-Hispanic cultures to convey a newly imagined language of abstraction. Argentine artist Mónica Millán has worked with Guaraní communities in the town of Yataity del Guairá in Paraguay, and advocates for the preservation of Ao Po’i textile traditions.
    Artists Jessie Homer French and Mónica Giron draw attention to the environmental crisis through their use of embroidery and knitting techniques that confront climate change and the loss of biodiversity. Cecilia Vicuña warns of the devastating effects of droughts while also bringing attention to ancient Mayan creation myths.
    Feliciano Centurión, Untitled, from the series Familia (Family), (1990) as part of “Spin A Yarn” at Guild Hall in East Hampton, New York.
    Other artists in the show use textiles as a way to explore issues ranging from gender discrimination and racial injustice to gun violence. For instance, Feliciano Centurión, an openly gay man, originally from Paraguay but working in Argentina, began producing embroidered and crocheted works on everyday household fabrics, placed alongside toy dinosaurs, to reference illness, sexuality, and death. (The toy dinosaurs reference extinction.)
    Meanwhile, social justice is the focus of Yvonne Wells’s large quilt titled A Shadow Over Justice (2004). Both a utilitarian object and a means of memory keeping, the quilt confronts bias in America’s criminal justice system. And DETEXT’s Widowmaker (2020-2022) is a woven rug that upon closer examination is made with nearly 30,000 bullet casings, referencing both policing and the gun industry in the US.
    Alejandro Puente Quipu “nudos,” (1971) as part of “Spin A Yarn” at Another Space in Chelsea, New York.
    Another Space in Chelsea, where I saw this show, is a nonprofit established by Estrellita and her husband Daniel, dedicated to building recognition and international awareness to artists from Latin America and its diaspora within a global context.
    Jessie Homer French, Westside Fault Zones Mapestry, (2018) as part of of “Spin A Yarn” at Another Space in Chelsea, New York.
    Said Estrellita: “I am particularly excited to be partnering with Guild Hall in East Hampton, a museum in an area where the Latino community plays an important role and that is free to the public.”
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    A U.K. Show Reflects On the Resilience of the Hong Kong Diaspora

    Protest artworks chronicling Hong Kong’s recent political trajectory and the ensuing wave of migration to the U.K. are currently on display at a museum in Leeds. Organizers hoped that, through art, the story of the former British colony and its political struggle can be better articulated to a wider audience.
    Titled “HongKongers in the UK—A Journey of Hope and Resilience,” the exhibition at Leeds City Museum features over a dozen work by five artists originally from Hong Kong in the museum’s public area. The exhibition, supported by a non-profit called Ngo Dei and the museum has been well-received since its opening at the end of April, organizers said.
    “The response is much better than what we expected. Visitors told us that they were touched by the artworks, the wall-texts, and understood better the connection between Hong Kong and the U.K,” said Chloe Cheung, founder of a group called Hongkongers in Leeds, which helped organize the show. “That’s the special thing about art. [It] is a great medium for people to understand our story and feel the emotions from looking at the works—more impactful than chanting the slogans in the streets.”
    Installation view of “HongKongers in the UK—A Journey of Hope and Resilience” at Leeds City Museum, U.K. Courtesy of Hongkongers in Leeds.
    Divided into five chapters, the exhibition follows a chronological timeline looking at the historical connections between Hong Kong and the U.K. starting from the British colonial times and 1997 handover of Hong Kong to China.
    “We want to explain to people why Hong Kongers moved to the U.K.,” Cheung said. “The U.K. is our roots because of this history, and it was because of the British colonization [that] Hong Kong became an international city, rather an ordinary Chinese city.”
    The show then covers major political events and the 2019 protests. Ricker Choi’s 721—Scream of Hong Kong (2019) depicts the horror of masked men in white T-shirts attacking pro-democracy protesters and commuters at a train station on July 21, 2019, in the form of a parody of Edvard Munch’s iconic The Scream.
    Beijing’s subsequent implementation of the national security law in 2020 to curb the protests led to the suppression of press freedom and the closure of pro-democracy news outlets, such as Apple Daily, as well as the persecution of news media operators and journalists, many of whom are still remanded after nearly three years. Cheung pointed out that, so far, there are 1,800 political prisoners in Hong Kong as a result. Among the works on show include those by political artist duo Lumli Lumlong depicting Jimmy Lai, the founder of Apple Daily, who is facing national security charges.
    Bowie, Moon We Share (2023). Courtesy of the artist and Hongkongers in Leeds.
    These political events led to the U.K.’s introduction of a visa scheme in 2021 that allows people from the city who meet the criteria to live, work, and study in the country. More than 190,997 have applied for the visa as of September 2023, according to government data. Works by artists Justin Wong and Bowie explore the life of this new Hong Kong diaspora.
    Despite the positive response, the exhibition also drew criticism from pro-China students studying in Leeds, noted Cheung. Some left derogatory remarks, ranging from anti-democracy comments such as “Hong Kong should not be free,” to others claiming that Hong Kongers were “kneeling to their U.K. colonial masters.” The comments were written in simplified Chinese on Post-It notes and put on the exhibition’s version of Lennon Wall, which echoes one of the key elements of the 2019 protests that allowed people to leave their remarks and wishes on sticky-notes.
    “But we did not take these sticky-notes down because this is a free country,” Cheung said.
    Organizers noted that they wanted to continue to speak up for Hong Kongers, especially those remaining in Hong Kong and unable to do so. There are plans to make the show a traveling exhibition but details are yet to be ironed out, according to Cheung.
    “HongKongers in the UK—A Journey of Hope and Resilience” is on view at the Leeds City Museum through June 10.
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    See How Depictions of Childhood Have Changed Throughout Art History

    So many aspects of childhood feel universal, from school-yard games like hopscotch and hide-and-seek to getting in trouble with rule-obsessed adults. But how did children’s experiences differ between the Renaissance or the Georgian era? One of the best records we have is the presentation of young people in art, so what insights can we glean from their poses, expressions, or roles within an image?
    These are some of the questions addressed by “Picturing Childhood,” a new exhibition at Chatsworth, a historic country house in the U.K.’s Peak District that has belonged to the Devonshire family for generations. Works spanning from the Tudor times to the present day by artists like Raphael, Anthony van Dyck, and Lucian Feud have been paired with precious archival objects, like an 18th century baby carriage and a Victorian silver christening set.
    According to curator Gill Hart, members of the public visiting the show have marveled out loud at the differences in representations of childhood across the centuries.
    “We’ve been really able to tell visually this story of childhood,” she said. “When we look at old paintings through a specific lens or in terms of our own human experiences, it can make make people who would otherwise walk past these pictures really stop in their tracks. That has been a source of surprise for people.”
    Raphael, A woman seated on a chair reading, with a child standing by her side (1512-14). Courtesy of Chatsworth House Trust.
    Among some of the highlights in the show is this scene by Raphael of an infant being read a book by a woman. Though it was made over 500 years ago, it still feels startlingly recognizable today. We can probably instinctively imagine the warm embrace from both the child and the adults’ perspective. It is believed that the Renaissance Old Master included children in his sketches to introduce a human playfulness. The young boy appears distracted and stares out as the viewer with endearing innocence, suggesting a tenderness towards the young even though we know that children at this time were often harshly punished or put to work.
    The Master of the Countess of Warwick, William Brooke, 10th Lord Cobham, and family (1567–1580). Courtesy of Chatsworth House Trust.
    This large group portrait of William Brook, 10th Lord Cobham, his wife Frances Newton, and her sister Jane contains seven children with their ages inscribed in gold over their heads. In such formal dress with perfect posture and the same placid expressions as their elders, the kids look like miniature adults. The very youngest infant, however, sat on the far left, slightly interrupts the cordial atmosphere by reaching out to perhaps snatch an object from a nearby child.
    “The Tudor and Stuart children are very well behaved,” said Hart. “Contrary to what I think has historically been said about childhood, they are like children. They’re dressed in adult clothes but they’re often doing things that betray an element of playfulness.”
    Cornelis de Vos, The artist’s daughter Magdalena de Vos (c. 1623–24) installed at “Picturing Childhood” at Chatsworth. Photo: © Chatsworth House Trust.
    The inspiration for “Picturing Childhood,” this painting usually hangs high up on a wall and can easily be missed by visitors. It has been brought down to ground level, so that the subject, the artist Cornelis de Vos’s daughter Magdalena, can be seen eye to eye. She is shown gathering flowers in her apron, and this charming and sensitive painting shows off the Flemish artist’s gift for portraying children.
    “When you walk into the state room, she is one of the first things that captures your eye. She holds your stare,” said Hart, who added that most of us are familiar with the experience of “a child, whether you know them or not, locking eyes with you on a train or in a shop queue.”
    She compared the look to the boy in the Raphael drawing. “These are gazes that completely transcend time. It hasn’t changed as a stage in the development of a very young child. This little girl has been staring out at us for 400 years.”
    Joshua Reynolds, Portrait of Georgiana Spencer, Duchess of Devonshire with her daughter Lady Georgiana Cavendish, later Countess of Carlisle Sir. (1784). Courtesy of Chatsworth House Trust.
    This painting captures a lively interaction between Georgiana, Duchess of Devonshire, and her daughter, in which mother and child communicate in the preverbal stage through eye contact and imitating the same action. Compared to some of the more rigid paintings of the past, the child exhibits easy and lifelike spontaneity.
    Of works like these and others by Johann Zoffany, Hart said: “There is a more free and expressive visual representation of childhood. There are [in the show] two wonderful Zoffany loans from Tate Britain where the children are interacting with each other, smiling, they look mischievous and cheeky in a way that isn’t communicated quite so emphatically in the Tudor period.”
    The 18th century’s age of the Enlightenment saw the emergence of new, more modern ideas about childhood, such as the Swiss philosopher Jean-Jacques Rousseau’s radical suggestion that children are essentially innocent rather than being born with sin. Natural childlike qualities could therefore be safely encouraged rather than being suppressed.
    “Don’t force a child to sit still when it wants to walk or to walk when it wants to sit still,” Rousseau wrote in the novel Émile (1762). “They need to be allowed to jump, run, and yell as much as they want.”
    Jean-Baptiste van Loo, Richard Boyle, 3rd Earl of Burlington and 4th Earl of Cork, and His Wife Lady Dorothy Boyle with Three Children (1739). Courtesy of Chatsworth House Trust.
    In this painting, the architect and renowned patron of the arts Richard Boyle takes a backseat while the female members of his family are shown to enjoy their own cultural pursuits. The youngest daughter Charlotte looks over to him while reading sheet music and the eldest, Dorothy, stares out pensively, her fingers holding open her place in a book. Their mother, an artist, is holding up a painting palette.
    This portrait also brings an entirely new perspective to an exhibition that is otherwise predominantly focused on the lives of white aristocratic children. Little is known about the identity of the young Black boy on the right but, in 2004, an independent scholar identified him as James Cambridge, who was still working for the family in the 1750s. A researcher from the Yale Center for British Art has now been commissioned to find out more about this man’s life and his findings will be presented later this year.
    “We have three children whose experiences of childhood will have been very different from each other,” said Hart. “Sometimes we make the mistake of thinking there is nothing new to be said about historical artworks but that is very far from the truth.”
    Helen Bradley, The Whitsun Walk Through Lees, 1907 (1968). Courtesy of Chatsworth House Trust.
    This painting was made by Helen Bradley based on a childhood memory of the Whitsun Walk, an annual procession of churchgoers wearing their Sunday best through the Whitsun Field in Wales. Being a scene of everyday, working class life sets it apart from many of the works on show
    “When selecting it for the exhibition, I’m not sure I realized just how popular it would be,” said Hart. “Helen Bradley didn’t take up painting until she was in her 60s and one of the reasons was that she wanted to show her granddaughter what life was like when she was a little girl. It’s a lovely coda to the exhibition that this intergenerational desire to share histories of childhood between family members and wider audiences is such a strong force in our lives.”
    Installation view of “Picturing Childhood” at Chatsworth. Photo: © Chatsworth House Trust.

    “Picturing Childhood” is on view through October 6 at Chatsworth House, Bakewell, England.
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    Two Visionary Women Photographers Collide in Unexpected Museum Showcase

    The work of photographer Francesca Woodman is having a moment, being the subject of both an exhibition at Gagosian in New York and a must-see museum show at the National Portrait Gallery in London. Though her name is reaching new heights of world renown, the young New York photographer has been a critical darling for decades and her works, produced before her tragically early death in 1981 at the age of just 22, have an enduring sense of style and experimental daring.
    This timeless appeal is inevitably foregrounded throughout the impressively original London exhibition, which weaves her works with those of another celebrated historical photographer active a whole century earlier, Julia Margaret Cameron. A careful curatorial eye brings to the fore striking comparisons in which a similar subject matter is approached with mastery, mystery, and invention by the artist, while still very much bearing the essence of their respective eras. Each of these unique talents could, of course, have easily merited an exhibition of their own, yet this pairing does not constrain them.
    Born in Calcutta in 1815, Cameron enjoyed a privileged Victorian upbringing due to her father’s involvement with the colonial East India Company. She and her sisters were known to be outspoken and unconventional, but it wasn’t until Cameron moved to London with her husband in 1845 that she became a member of artistic circles.
    From left to right: Julia Margaret Cameron, The Dream (Mary Hillier) (1869). Courtesy of the Wilson Centre for Photography. Francesca Woodman, Untitled (1979). Courtesy of the Woodman Family Foundation, © Woodman Family Foundation/DACS London.
    Cameron learned about the invention of photography in 1839, while still in her twenties, and first saw a daguerreotype in 1842. Yet she didn’t take up the practice herself until the age of 48, having been given a camera as a present by her daughter. In the last 12 years of Cameron’s life, until her death in 1879, she produced some 900 photographs that evince a highly exploratory approach to the fledgling art form.
    Fast forward 100 years and photography had exploded in popularity, replacing writing as the most ubiquitous means of documenting of daily life. Like Cameron, Woodman received her first camera as a gift from her father. She trained formally at the Rhode Island School of Design (RISD) with stints spent in Rome before moving to New York in 1979 to make it as a photographer. Woodman was highly ambitious and quickly became devastated by what she perceived as a lack of immediate success.
    From left to right: Julia Margaret Cameron, The South West Wind (1864). © The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York. Francesca Woodman, House #3 (1976).Courtesy of the Woodman Family Foundation, © Woodman Family Foundation/DACS London.
    The works of both photographers are roughly grouped according to themes of portraiture, otherworldly or dreamlike states, classical references, mythology, and the natural world, all of which reveal interesting affinities and departures in terms of staging, costume, focus, and style. Each artist has such clarity of vision that any differences in what could be achieved technically in their respective centuries feel mostly irrelevant.
    Illusionistic effects that push photography beyond the status of a mere record are employed by both, as in the ghostly apparitions that haunt Cameron’s The South West Wind (1864) and Woodman’s House #3 (1976). Both artists seemed to have an instinct for capturing a partial truth and letting ambiguity and the viewer’s imagination fill in the bigger picture.
    From left to right: Julia Margaret Cameron, I Wait (Rachel Gurney) (1872). Photo: The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles. Francesca Woodman, Untitled from the “Angels” series (1977). Courtesy of the Woodman Family Foundation, © Woodman Family Foundation/DACS London.
    Cameron often photographed close friends and family while Woodman, with a more modern notion of the artist available to her, usually made art using her own body. Either way, each took as a subject what was immediately available to her but imbued it with greater resonance, playing with fantastical elements or mythological allegories. In one nearly supernatural Untitled work from Woodman’s “Angel” series, the artist could almost be said to levitate.
    As the National Portrait Gallery’s wall texts point out, angels have long been seen as able “to move between spiritual and earthly realms, the conscious and unconscious, and are often encountered in dreams or visions.”
    Cameron’s great-niece Rachel was once instructed to adopt poses inspired by the putti from Renaissance paintings. She later called having “a pair of heavy swan’s wings fastened to her narrow shoulders[…] No wonder those old photographs of us, leaning over imaginary ramparts of heaven, look anxious and wistful. This is how we felt, for we never knew what Aunt Julia was going to do next.”
    From left to right: Julia Margaret Cameron, The Astronomer (Sir John Frederick William Herschel) (1867). Courtesy of the RISD Museum, Providence, R.I. Francesca Woodman, These People Live in That Door (1976-77). Courtesy of the Woodman Family Foundation, © Woodman Family Foundation/DACS London.
    Sometimes, both Cameron and Woodman made straightforward portraits of the people in their lives. Woodman’s close friend Sloan Rankin and a one-time boyfriend, Benjamin Moore, appear in many photographs from the late 1970s. Alongside fond Pre-Raphaelite studies of muses and friends like Julia Jackson, Cameron turned her lens on some of the most important luminaries of her age like the scientist Charles Darwin, astronomer John Frederick William Herschel, the poet Alfred Tennyson, and the writer William Michael Rossetti. These animated character studies feel astonishingly ahead of their time.
    Thinking back on the many double-act shows that had more ambition than bite, rarely does this curatorial conceit deserve to be as self-satisfied as here. How can a kinship be found in the oeuvres of two artists who evolved from such starkly different contexts? Rather than getting too caught up in a specific time or place—Victorian-era London or 1970s New York—the comparison pushes us instead towards more expansive interpretations that show already well-defined practices in a new light.
    “Francesca Woodman and Julia Margaret Cameron: Portraits to Dream In” is on view at the National Portrait Gallery in London until June 16, 2024. 
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    ‘I See Color When I Sing’: Billboard Star Jewel on Her Turn to Painting

    While she may be better known for her music career, Jewel has been a visual artist for just as long as she has been singing and writing songs. Now, 30 years after her meteoric rise on the Billboard charts, she is leveraging her love of art for the next phase of her unique career. 
    “As a kid, drawing and words always came together for me,” the four-time Grammy-nominee told me in a video call in March, explaining how she began pursuing art around the same time that she started writing songs, between 15 and 16. For Jewel, who has synesthesia, these activities are closely related.  
    “I see color when I sing” she said, noting that art has helped “make sense of the world around me.”  
    As a precocious teen at the prestigious Interlochen Arts Academy in Michigan, she delved into philosophy, and was specifically influenced by the writings of French philosopher and mathematician Blaise Pascal, who suggested that an understanding of shape developmentally precedes any understanding of language. 
    “We can relate to the idea of a circle before we ever know the word ‘circle,’” she explained, adding that this foundational recognition of form “really stuck” and laid the bedrock for her lifelong artistic practice.
    Jewel was on a partial scholarship, having raised the remaining school tuition with funds won from yodeling, a skill she picked up performing with her father at hotels, honky tonks, and bars in rural Alaska, where she spent her childhood. Still, she needed a job to support herself, so she applied to be a model for the sculpting class, which was how she was introduced to marble carving—her first formal foray into fine art. Fascinated by what the teacher was explaining about plane changes, Jewel said she kept interrupting to ask questions.  
    Left: Jewel in sculpting class at Interlochen Arts Academy, circa 1990. Courtesy of Jewel. Right: The singer is pictured with one of her paintings in 1997, just before her first Lilith Fair tour. Photo: West Kennerly. Courtesy of Jewel.
    “Eventually [the teacher] told me I needed to stop modeling and just join the class,” she laughed.  
    This early experience with sculpture—both as a model and as a maker—may explain why one of her favorite artists is Amedeo Modigliani. “I was just very struck by how sculptural his painting was, and obviously his sculptures, too,” she said. “His nudes still give me chills when I look at them, they’re gorgeous.” 
    Taking chisel to stone proved a helpful creative outlet for the budding artist to tease out how shape “speaks to the collective subconscious” and helped her be a better songwriter, she said, adding that melody, like sculpture, “is all about form and structure.”  
    Carving out something beautiful from something hard was perhaps nothing new for Jewel, whose mother left when she was eight. To cope with the demands of being a single parent and his own PTSD, a product of the Vietnam War as well as his own abusive upbringing, her father turned to alcohol. At 15, Jewel decided to move out on her own as an emancipated minor with the offer of Interlochen on the horizon, a decision she details in her 2015 memoir, Never Broken. 
    “I knew that statistically, it wouldn’t go well for me,” she said. “Few leave an abusive house and make it on their own at 15, and so for me to feel like I could have a possible better outcome, I knew that I had to be very strategic. I needed to have a strategy for mental health, although mental health wasn’t a word then.” It was through music, poetry, and art that she was able to define a new “emotional language” to express herself more fully and change her patterns of behavior from negative to generative ones. 
    Jewel sings at Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art. Photo: Philip Thomas. Courtesy of the Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art.
    At 19, Jewel was living out of her car in San Diego, where she was playing her songs in coffeehouses, when her music career took off in the 1990s with her debut album “Pieces of You.” Her introspective lyrics and folk-infused acoustic melodies made her a best-selling artist and a fixture on the counterculture Lilith Fair scene—and provided an indelible score to my own moody early teen years.
    But fame, a constant stream of multi-platinum albums, acting gigs, and a grueling tour schedule proved “toxic.” So Jewel made the decision to take a break from music in 2014, following a divorce from her husband of eight years, Ty Murray, a Texas-based world-champion bull rider and professional rodeo cowboy. 
    I asked her if she was able to keep making art, even amid burnout. “Yes, although I would go months without writing songs, and that would scare me,” she said. It was, after all, her livelihood. “But I also realized that, within that same time, I was always drawing.”   
    Using art as a rehabilitation and mental wellness tool is at the center of “The Portal: An Art Experience by Jewel,” opening on May 4 at the Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art in Arkansas. It’s less of an exhibition and more of a 90-minute accessible immersion into art therapy that museumgoers can choose to take advantage of.
    Jewel and the Crystal Bridges team pictured with Retopistics: A Renegade Excavation by Julie Mehretu in the Contemporary Gallery at Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art. Photo: Tom McFetridge. Courtesy of Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art.
    Nestled on 120 acres of forest in the scenic Ozarks, Crystal Bridges “felt like the perfect partner” for the project, Jewel explained, noting that she approached the museum with the idea for a “takeover” back in 2022. “It’s beautiful, and there’s a real connection between art and nature there.”
    Undergirding the “Portal” experience are the “three spheres,” Jewel’s take on the mind-body-spirit connection that she has developed while working with the two mental health initiatives she cofounded: the Inspiring Children Foundation, which offers mentorship and support for at-risk youths and underprivileged families, and Innerworld, a virtual member-driven mental wellness community and therapy “toolkit” of sorts. 
    Jewel outlines the spheres for me, noting that she believes all three need to be in harmony to find mental and emotional balance. The “inner” world is your inner life. “It’s your psychology. It’s your emotional life. It’s your heart’s desire,” she said. Then there is the “outer” or “seen” world, that includes your family, your job, nature, cities, “whatever makes up your daily environment.”  
    Lastly, there is the “unseen” world, which is comprised of that which exists but cannot be empirically known. “I think some people see the unseen as, ‘That’s easy, it’s Jesus,’” Jewel said. “Other people just know they get goosebumps when they see images from the Hubble telescope, or something like that. To me, the unseen sphere is just represented by awe, wonder, and inspiration.” 
    Museum visitors stand in front of Fred Eversley’s Big Red Sphere, a keystone work in Jewel’s “Portal” experience. Photo: Philip Thomas. Courtesy of Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art.
    “Portal” offers what is essentially a meditative art walk, narrated by Jewel (she even wrote the wall labels), through the museum’s contemporary wing, during which she prompts you to reflect on your relationship to the inner, outer, and unseen spheres in front of key works she selected from within the collection. Among these are paintings by Ruth Asawa, Julie Mehretu, Mickalene Thomas, and Sam Gilliam. For Jewel, Fred Eversley’s Big Red Sphere (1985) sculpture appropriately unites things. 
    Additionally, a hologram of the singer will greet visitors at the start of the experience and a choreographed 200-piece drone light show will happen nightly over the museum’s outdoor pond, during which visitors will be invited to wear headphones to listen to a conceptual song, also written and recorded by Jewel. (The drone show culminates in a large red heart, reminiscent of her iconic “Queen of Hearts” costume on the sixth season of The Masked Singer.)
    Technology, she says, is just another tool for storytelling, just like music or painting. “If I had to sum up my artistic practice in one word, it would be ‘storyteller,’” she said. “Art is whatever I can use to tell a story.”
    Left: Jewel shows the Crystal Bridges team the portrait she painted of her son Kase. Photo: Jared Sorrells. Courtesy of Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art. Right: The portrait, titled Double Helix, is on view as part of “Portal.” Courtesy of Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art.
    Two of her own visual art creations are also on view: a portrait of her and Murray’s son, Kase, now 12, that she made after taking a two-week oil painting class in Rome last year, and a 30-inch lucite sculpture titled Chill, which depicts a person meditating and is filled with various pills and medications.
    “For me, it is a conversation about wellness, culture, and the longevity of life versus the quality of life, about what it means to find balance,” the artist said of the sculpture, noting that medication can be lifesaving as much as it can be dangerous. “There really is so much hysteria and judgment around medication, and how we use it.”
    I asked the singer-songwriter, actor, author, poet, activist, and now artist, who turns 50 this year, if she is finding a new level of harmony between her three spheres as she makes her museum debut and takes her visual art practice public. 
    “I think this is the most inspired I’ve ever been,” she said, “as if I’m back at the very beginning of my career.” 
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    Gerhard Richter’s New Sculpture Puts a Fresh Spin on His Iconic ‘Strip Paintings’

    A new public sculpture by Gerhard Richter has been unveiled at Serpentine South in Kensington Gardens. At 92, the celebrated German artist has never stopped experimenting with a range of media and has now created a towering monument based on his Strip Paintings series, which he began in 2010.
    Those works played with the possibilities of reproduction by taking a digitally altered photograph of the much earlier Abstract Painting 724-4 (1990) and splicing it into thousands of thin vertical strips that were then reassembled horizontally and placed behind perspex. In this way, the original image is in some sense preserved and yet transformed beyond all recognition.
    The painting ‘Strip’ by Gerhard Richter on display at Lenbachhaus in Munich, Germany, 06 May 2013. Photo: Felix Hoerhager/picture alliance via Getty Images.
    The idea of continually reflecting, rearranging, and repeating a series of simple units to create an endless array of possible new patterns, most recently explored in Strip-Tower, also defined “4900 Colours,” Richter’s 2008 exhibition at Serpentine. In this case, the artist used elements of chance to compose 25 brightly colored tiles into lively grid formations, of which 49 were exhibited.
    Gerhard Richter, STRIP-TOWER (2023) © 2024, Gerhard Richter, Prudence Cuming Associates.
    The idea has been inspired by Richter’s design for the south transept window of Cologne Cathedral, which was destroyed during World War II and replaced in 2007 with 11,500 squares of glass in 72 colors.
    German artist Gerhard Richter at the opening of “4900 Colours” at the Serpentine Gallery, Kensington, central London. Photo: Dominic Lipinski – PA Images/PA Images via Getty Images.
    This is not the first time that Serpentine has made use of its verdant surroundings in Kensington Gardens to display public artworks. Just a year after its launch in 1971 it hosted Blow Up ’71, an outdoor exhibition of inflatable and kinetic sculptures. Since then it has continued to present significant works in collaboration with The Royal Parks, like Anish Kapoor’s Sky Mirrors in 2010 and The London Mastaba, a mammoth installation by Christo on Serpentine Lake in 2018.
    Gerhard Richter, STRIP-TOWER (2023) © 2024, Gerhard Richter, Prudence Cuming Associates.
    “Strip-Tower is a three-dimensional manifestation of themes and methods that underpin Richter’s historic practice in painting, repetition, improvisation and chance,” said Serpentine’s CEO Bettina Korek and artistic director Hans Ulrich Obrist, in a joint press statement.
    “Gerhard Richter: Strip-Tower” is on public view in Kensington Gardens until October 27, 2024.
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    5 Must-See Gallery Shows in Chicago

    Expo Chicago, the Windy City’s marquee art fair, just closed on Sunday, after bringing more than 170 exhibitors to the famous Navy Pier on Lake Michigan. The event drew even more attention than usual, since it was acquired by Frieze last summer, and galleries all over town opened major new exhibition amid the festivities. Here are five that are not to be missed.
    “McArthur Binion and Jules Allen: Me and You” at Gray Chicago
    Through May 31, 2024
    McArthur Binion, Handmadeness:two (2023). Image courtesy Gray Gallery.
    Artists McArthur Binion and Jules Allen have been friends since the early 1980s, when they met in New York as members of a circle of Black avant-garde musicians, writers, and artists, but this show marks the first time their work has been presented together. Binion is debuting 11 new paintings alongside photographs by Allen. Binion’s new series, “Handmadeness,” delves into the lexicon of what he terms the “under conscious,” visual markers of his identity collected in a repeating, interwoven grid. He uses copies of his birth certificate and his address book, as well as photographs of himself, his hand, his father, and mother. Allen, a New York-based photographer and Kamoinge Workshop member who was a protégé of Roy DeCarava, is showing series from the 1980s to present.
    “Shinique Smith: METAMORPH” at Monique Meloche Gallery
    Through May 18
    Shinique Smith, Midnight in my garden (2024). Image courtesy the artist and Monique Meloche Gallery.
    Shinique Smith has become famous for her monumental, totem-like fabric sculptures and abstract paintings that embrace calligraphy and collage. She says they’re inspired by her “magical childhood experiences,” like chanting with the Dalai Lama, tagging in a graffiti crew in Baltimore, and going to fashion shows with her mother in Paris and New York. The show, her first with Monique Meloche, introduces a series of new large-scale paintings that incorporate fabric, brocades, and embroideries that produce a burst of color, light, and motion. Smith says of the work: “Unfolding, unraveling, and dancing around the perimeter of the gallery, the paintings are a reminder that everything is in motion and constantly evolving.”
    “Lorraine O’Grady: The Knight, or Lancela Palm-and-Steel” at Mariane Ibrahim Gallery
    April 10-May 25, 2024
    Lorraine O’Grady, Announcement Card 2 (Spike with Sword, Fighting), 2020. Image courtesy of the artist and Mariane Ibrahim (Chicago, Paris, and Mexico City) © 2024 Lorraine O’Grady/Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York
    Lorraine O’Grady’s first solo exhibition with Mariane Ibrahim also marks the first time she has focused fully on her most recent artistic persona, the character of the Knight, or “Lancela Palm-and-Steel.” The Knight made its first appearance in the artist’s 2021 retrospective at the Brooklyn Museum, four decades after the creation of her most famous avatar, “Mlle Bourgeoise Noire,” who confronted the prevailing racial segregation of the New York art world through unannounced performances at public art events. The Knight—along with Pitchy-Patchy, her squire, and Rociavant, her horse—is on a mission to finish what her predecessor started. However, this avatar’s identity is concealed within a suit of armor made in the style of a conquistador.
    “Jamal Cyrus + Harold Mendez: On turning ground” at Patron Gallery
    Through June 1, 2024
    Jamal Cyrus, Signal (2023). Photo: Evan Jenkins. Image courtesy Patron Gallery, Chicago.
    This two-person exhibition—the gallery’s second presentation with Jamal Cyrus and its third with Harold Mendez—combines new bodies of work in sculpture, drawing, textile, and sound. Cyrus’s expansive practice draws on collage and assemblage, and explores the evolution of African American identity within the context of Black political movements and the African diaspora. Mendez, who was born in Chicago and is now based in Los Angeles, was part of the 2017 Whitney Biennial, and is known for two- and three-dimensional works that feature rich textures and multilayered surfaces that result from labor-intensive processes.
    “John Chamberlain: Black Mountain Poems” and “Richard Wetzel: Some Must Watch, Paintings 1983-85” and “Damon Locks, Terri Kapsalis, Wayne Montana, Rob Shaw Noon Moons,” at Corbett vs. Dempsey
    Through April 27, 2024

    Corbett vs. Dempsey is offering three separate presentations. John Chamberlain’s Black Mountain College poems, composed during his time at the fabled institution in the mid-1950s and displayed here in typewritten form, are sure to be a revelation for those who know him only for his crushed-metal sculptures. Meanwhile, Richard Wetzel, a member of the Chicago Imagists, is showing mid-1980s paintings and prints of “original biomorphic creations—monstrous forms in eerie, opalescent hues with monochromatic backgrounds,” according to the gallery.
    Last but not least, the gallery is showing in its “Vault” space a collaborative video, Noon Moons, with a remarkable backstory. In 2012, musician Damon Locks and writer Terri Kapsalis were each commissioned by Chicago’s Experimental Sound Studio to create pieces in response to the ESS Sun Ra/Alton Abraham archive. They decided to team up on a sound work and invited Wayne Montana, Locks’ colleague in the Eternals, to help. After they finished, they had animator Rob Shaw create accompanying visual element. The final work, clocking in at 17 minutes and 30 seconds, incorporates elements of Sun Ra’s philosophy via spoken word—a worldview that is “simultaneously bleak and optimistic,” as the gallery put it in a statement.
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