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Archive for February 2012

Migrations: Journeys into British Art at the Tate Britain

Portsmouth Dockyard (1877) by James Tissot © Tate

Migrations: Journeys into British art at the Tate Britain.

David Franchi – Tuesday, 21st February 2012

Spanning over 500 years, “Migrations: Journeys into British Art” gives a bright overlook about influence and contribution of foreign artist into the British art.

Tate Britain exhibition explores how British art has been shaped by migration. Featuring artists from Van Dyck, Whistler and Mondrian to Steve McQueen and Francis Alÿs, “Migrations: Journeys into British Art” focuses on the movement of artists and also the spreading of art and ideas in Britain.

Looking at Tate Britain exhibition it seems that before the fifteenth century British art almost did not exist. “Migrations: Journeys into British Art” is organised in a chronological order. While much of the works of the early periods shown are related to foreign artist settled in England, later ones are connected to artists who moved to the UK from the Commonwealth.

Beginning with works from the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, the exhibition will show that much British art from this period was made by artists from abroad, including Antwerp-born Anthony Van Dyck, the court painter whose famous portraits such as ‘Charles I’ outlines our idea of the British aristocracy of this time. The contribution of the Italians, for example Canaletto, is also important.

In this exhibition the Royal Academy of Arts environment is also investigated through its founder

Between the two my heart is balanced (1991) by Lubaina Himid © Tate

works (1768) of which almost a third were migrant artists active in Britain.

American artist Whistler and Sargent are the major artists involved in the extensive interchange of ideas between Britain, France and America in the late-nineteenth-century.

Another section brings together works of Jewish artists and the refugees who were sheltered in the UK during the Second World War, including Gropius, Mondrian, Gabo, Kokoschka and Maholy-Nagy.

Stateless conceptual artists in the 50s and 60s of the nineteenth century moved to the UK, particularly from the Commonwealth countries. Additionally, in the 60s London became an international hub for artist from all over the world. Some of them developed a radical subculture of experimentation and innovation. Those global citizens unbounded to any specific place were looking for an international language through the ‘dematerialisation of the object’. Black Audio Film Collective sought to disclose the possibilities of being both ‘Black’ and ‘British’ in the 1980s.

The big rooms of the last section about the ‘moving image’ show giant screening of video of recent work by contemporary artists. They use the moving image as a versatile tool for both documenting and questioning reality.

In over five centuries many transformation happened and it is now easier to settle down in UK and therefore contributing to the development of the British art. “Migrations: Journeys into British Art” examines how British art has been shaped by a long and intricate history of the movement of people to and from the country.

Railings (2004) by Francis Alys © Tate

It is also amazing to see such a kind of exhibition in this particular time when many, including MPs and members of the Government, are much criticising migrations and stigmatising foreigners for the many problems the UK has. Au contraire “Migrations: Journeys into British Art” shows that interchange and comparison are constructive tools you can use to grow. Art migrates like for example, languages, diseases and the alphabet, using trade, invasion or colonisation. Artists, as many other workers, are pushed out their home countries by famine, persecution, war or simply they hope to go where the work is. Art, as much other kind of sectors such as sport or finance, mirrors the society and its growth need through the mix of ideas and culture. It is possible to find nowadays in the UK and particularly in London with its more than 300 official language communities. Migration is an opportunity that it is possible to catch.

The exhibition is curated by a group of Tate curators headed by Lizzie Carey-Thomas (Curator, Contemporary British Art).

From 31st January until 12th August 2012.

At the Tate Britain, Pimlico, London.


Written by davidfranchi

February 21, 2012 at 2:50 pm

Hajj the journey to the heart of Islam at the British Museum

Hajj the journey to the heart of Islam at the British Museum.

David Franchi – Wednesday, 15th February 2012

“Islamic pilgrimage to Mecca”

The exhibition “Hajj: journey to the heart of Islam” is the first ever dedicated to the Islamic pilgrimage to Mecca. The Hajj is the most important spiritual event in the Islamic religion.

The exhibition focuses on the Hajj as one of the Five Pillars of Islam. “Hajj: journey to the heart of Islam” investigates the importance for Muslims and looking at how this spiritual journey has evolved throughout history. It brings together many objects from a number of different collections including important historic pieces as well as new contemporary art works.

The British Museum exhibition is a partnership with the King Abdulaziz Public Library of Riyadh (Saudi Arabia). “Hajj: journey to the heart of Islam” is focused on three main aspects. The first of them relates to the major routes used – from Africa, Asia, Europe and the Middle East – and their development across the centuries. Secondly, the British Museum exhibition focuses on how is the Hajj nowadays, the rituals involved, and what is its significance for the pilgrim. The last aspect focuses on the Mecca, as the destination of Hajj but also its origins and meaning together with its history.

Mecca, known in Arabic as Makka-al –Mukarrama (Mecca the Blessed) is situated in present –day Saudi Arabia, in the Hijaz region. Mecca is the place of birth of the Prophet Muhammad (AD circa 570 – 632). There he received the earliest revelations contained in the Qu’ran, the holy book of Islam.

Mecca is a sacred sanctuary at the earth of which lies a cube- shaped building known as the Ka’ba. Muslims believe that Adam, the first prophet, built the Ka’ba and that later it was rebuilt by the Prophet Abraham (Ibrahim) and his son Ismaele (Ism’il). Prophet Abraham is revered by the three monotheistic religions- Judaism, Christianity and Islam. Muslims believes that the revelation of Islam restored the ancient Abrahamic faith in the One God to the Arab people.

Hajj is the pilgrimage to the Arab Mecca and it is considered the fifth pillar of Islam. It is a religion

Hajj certificate (detail). 17th–18th century AD. © Nasser D. Khalili Collection of Islamic Art (Khalili Family Trust)

duty Muslims should undertake, if they are able, at least once in their lives. Hajj occurs in the months of Dhu’l Hijja, the last month of the Islamic calendar. It involves a series of rituals which take place in and around Mecca over a period of five to six days. The Hajj now attracts about three million pilgrims every year from across the world, when it was 20,000 of such travellers in 1932.

Islam means surrender or submission to God in Arabic. It is based on five key principles established by the Prophet Muhammad known as the Five Pillars of Islam (Shahadah (creed), Salat (daily prayers), Zakat (almsgiving), Sawn (fasting during Ramadan) and the Hajj (pilgrimage to Mecca at least once in a lifetime).

Mecca has been a sacred site from ancient times. Even before Islam, Mecca was an important site of pilgrimage for the Arab tribes of north and central Arabia. Although they believed in many deities, they came once a year to worship Allah of Mecca.

Hajj: journey to the heart of Islam” displays an ample range of objects, many loaned, such as historical and contemporary coming from major public and private collections in the UK and around the world. This wide variety of objects bring to mind the difficulties that pilgrims have had encountered in their journeys. Archaeological and contemporary art are present together with manuscripts, textiles and historic photographs. Significant personal and artistic materials on show at the British Museum exhibition are evidences that the Hajj has a strong emotional and spiritual impact on Muslims. Video installations are key points for a better understanding of the phenomenon.

Pilgrims in Ihram at the sanctuary in Mecca, Iskander Sultan Miscellany, Shiraz, 1410-1411 © The British Library

Being non-Muslims, neither Neil MacGregor, director of the British Museum, nor Venetia Porter, lead curator, were able to enter at the sites or experience the Hajj rituals. Therefore, organising such an exhibition should have been quite hard for them. However, the purpose of the British Museum is to assist its visitors to understand the world better and “Hajj: journey to the heart of Islam” seems to reach the target.

This exhibition concludes the British Museum’s series of three exhibitions focused on spiritual journeys.

HSBC Amanah has supported the exhibition’s international reach outside the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. The British Museum has been awarded an AHRC – Arts and Humanities Research Council – grant to support the research for the exhibition and accompanying publication. The outcomes will include an academic conference on Hajj and collaboration with the Department of Theology and Religious Studies, University of Leeds to explore British Muslim communities’ experiences of Hajj.

At the British Museum, London, from 26th January until 15th April 2012.

Written by davidfranchi

February 15, 2012 at 3:10 pm

Massimo Vitali at the Brancolini Grimaldi Gallery

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Massimo Vitali expresses contemporary society”
by David Franchi – Monday, 16th January 2012
With a solo exhibition, Massimo Vitali comes back to the UK, at the Brancolini Grimaldi gallery, Mayfair.Massimo Vitali last exhibition in the UK was dated 1997.

Massimo Vitali has become one of the most renowned contemporary photographers worldwide. He is celebrated for his large colour prints depicting the crowded beaches and shorelines of the Mediterranean Sea.

The new series at the Brancolini Grimaldi gallery pays attention at the elements of the nature such as shores, beaches, rocks, cliffs, waterfalls, caves and quarries, but also contains socio-political aspects.

People pictured are always on mass, in crowded places. Nevertheless, they seem to have no personality reduced to simple colour spots. More often persons are similar to coloured points framed in monumental natural landmarks. Human bodies resemble animals undistinguished from those usually seen on the beaches. The environment is a protagonist with the power of the nature jumping out of the images. Our frailty in the face of such power is thrown into focus and we are forced to confront our mortality and our inability to resist the forces of nature.

Massimo Vitali expresses contemporary society as any good artist should. His images are critical expressions of the mass culture worshipping money and holidays but spending those in another mass-crowded-environment not at all different from their everyday life – therefore having no advantages from it. People are reduced to colour spots without a personality, such as it is imposed by modern society, that considers people as numbers instead of human beings. Natural environment relates to the environmentalist issues, the greenhouse effect, the impoverishment of resource, and modern ecologist problems our society is facing nowadays.

In the Vitali’s body of work there are also socio-political aspects. He commenced his series of Italian beach panoramas in 1994, coinciding with a period of dramatic political change in Italy. “It had happened on 2nd August 1994, right after Berlusconi was elected. I found myself in a state of shock. How could have it happened? I then was on holiday on the beach of Marina Pietrasanta in Tuscany. All of sudden I made the decision to have a closer look at my compatriots, and I spent many a day observing people” Vitali said.

Since then he had major solo exhibitions around the world and his prints are included in various major international collections. Over the last 15 years, the subtle shift in Vitali’s work from crowds to sparsely populated landscapes seems an attempt to understand how we can avoid colonising that which makes our environment meaningful and balanced, and an almost Romantic vision of the sublime power of nature.

Massimo Vitali is born in Como, Italy, in 1944. He studied photography at the London School of Printing. He first worked as a photojournalist in the 1970s and then worked later in the 1980s as a movie camera operator. His more recent work is fine art photography.

For many of his works, Vitali stands on a podium four or five meters high, and uses large-format film cameras to capture high-resolution details over a broad expanse in locations such as beaches.

Showing from 18th November 2011 until 28th January 2012.

At the Brancolini Grimaldi gallery, 43-44 Albemarle Street, London, W1S 4JJ

Published for: www.remotegoat.co.uk

Direct link: http://www.remotegoat.co.uk/review_view.php?uid=7966