Jeff Koons and his Play-Doh pile ‘Now’ in London | Video

Newport Street Gallery in London presents ‘Now’ a solo exhibition of work by American artist Jeff Koons spanning 35 years.

 Estelle Lovatt is an Art Critic: “The childhood sculptures are trying to take us right back to our earliest form of communication, how we sculpt with play doh or plasticine. You know it’s wonderful, how we touch and feel, messy play, and it’s trying to get rid of our inhibitions, it’s also trying to say; ‘Listen, everything and anything is art’.”

Jeff Koons: ‘Now’, runs from 18 May 2016 to 16 Oct 2016 and contains sexually explicit material.

Click image below to watch video.

Estelle Lovatt

Save the date: April 29, 2016 | TEDxLondonBusinessSchool 2016 @ The Royal Geographical Society.

Delighted to announce that I’m one of the speakers at this year’s TEDxLondonBusinessSchool. Feel free to join me on April 29, 2016 at The Royal Geographical Society.

I’ll be talking about ‘The fun and irony in art’

‘As a freelance art critic for the BBC and Sky News who is also trained as a fine artist, Estelle Lovatt is well placed to offer her expert opinion on the theory, practice and intention behind great artworks. Estelle believes art is a universal language that best communicates human emotion as it breaks down barriers regardless of idiom, race, age, culture, gender, religion, country or ethnicity. In her illuminating talk she opens your eyes to the hard-to-fathom masterpieces, explaining how best to appreciate different art styles at work and understand the artist’s original intentions, allowing you to discover the hidden critic in you.’

See all the speakers announced here.  More info & tickets. Estelle Lovatt - TEDx

Estelle

‘Go Figurative’ : Going Back To Figurative Art via Barack Obama

Since the 1990s, the phrase Conceptual Art has been unfairly manipulated to become an all-encompassing term, generating derision, which some erroneously apply to the Turner Prize, and other anti-figurative art.

As change comes politically, so it follows artistically with art imitating politics, reflecting its time.  And so it was, that under former-President George W. Bush art moved towards temporary sculpture, with artists remembering 9/11 as a ‘sculptural’ event based around two Giacometti-tall Judd-shiny minimal ‘sculptures’, razed to the ground.  Demolished as a Happening art-from.  Now with President Obama in charge, figurative artist Shepard Fairey was selected to paint Barack’s official Presidential portrait.  Deem it au courant for artists to investigate the ‘self’, promoting the figurative back into art, back into vogue.

Putting the ‘F’ word, figurative, into ‘Neo-Figurativism’, Go Figurative – a new web site gallery championed by co-founders and Directors Sally Perry and Janine Collins – respects the value and importance of reality-based fine art.  With creative ability, aesthetic value and sound artistic judgement, Go Figuratives’s Figurescapists depict life, retaining strong references to the real world and the human figure understanding what Picasso projected, when he said, “There is no abstract art.  You must always start with something figurative.”

As our visual appetite demands something that is visually easier to understand, Go Figurative believes traditional artist’s skills, which have been lost amid cries of ‘my child could do that!’ are reworked and brought up-to-date by ‘Neo-Figurativists’.

Working from reality and object sources referencing the real world, creative rationale is being brought back to contemporary art.  Reinforced by representational masters from the likes of Giacometti, Bacon, Freud and Hirst,  who all appreciate strong figurative references (marked since Egyptian idealization through Classical sculpture, the Realism of Courbet and Manet, through to contemporaneous modern art today) in fine art, as aesthetically satisfying.

Principally, the philosophical question is not whether a work of art is, indeed, a work of art, but, does it need to be aesthetically pleasing? Well, yes, it does.  If art does not aim at having aesthetic value, what then, will set it apart from non-art?  Making the ghost-of-Rubens proclaim of us again, “This Island seems worthy the consideration of a man of taste…by the incredible quantity of excellent pictures and statues.”

Ivan Massow (one-time Chairman of the Institute of Contemporary Arts) and Kim Howells (once Culture Minister who denounced the Turner Prize as “cold, mechanical, Conceptual bullshit”), think that which is artistically deficient, posing as Conceptualism, appalling.  Even the banknote-rich culture-poor agree these vacuous non-aesthetic DIY efforts fall apart, on many levels.  It is only saved from degeneration, with the talent and skill that is Martin Creed, Rachel Whitread, Simon Patterson, Simon Starling, Bethan Huws, Douglas Gordon and Liam Gillick.  Even Tracey Emin’s ‘My Bed’ is effectively ingenious.

Don’t misunderstand; there is some wonderful, breathtaking, eye-popping Conceptualism.  But it’s dated 1960/70s. When it was truly brilliant, it responded to political and social changes of the time, and of Dadaism, Surrealism, Suprematism, Abstract Expressionism and Fluxus.  It was awe-inspiring, humbling even.  Yet Conceptual artist Sol Lewitt said, “Ideas can be works of art; ideas need not be made physical as a work of art may be understood as a conductor from the artist’s mind to the viewer’s.  But it may never reach the viewer or it may never leave the artist’s mind”.  This is the problem with today’s unskilled ‘Bob-the-Builder’ artist, refilling Duchampian type urinals with copycat tins of Manzoni-faeces. It’s been done before, only better.

A difficult symptom of the mentality of the amateur Conceptual artist is his disproportionate concern with manifestos and unintelligent commentary, absolutely necessary in explaining his political aims and methods.  All hype, this badly-made tat – unfortunately posing as Conceptual art – gives art a bad name. With no aesthetic value, its best described as rubbish-tip utility ware.  A craze mercifully not lasting its anti-establishment anti-consumerist spirit longer than Warhol’s prescribed fifteen minutes.

Wave goodbye to the shocking ‘wannabe’, devoid of originality and ignorant of any creative craft that fine art labour alone brings with competence.  The second-rate artist fraud recognised by the way he despises the delicate tools and beautiful material great artists always delight in handling.  So he fails to draw on them.

As we see the beginning of the end of this quick slick Art Star, we are now buying art for sheer enjoyment and attraction to the art itself, created by the enormously talented.  Those now reinventing the objective that is present in figurative art, focus on the positives of the aesthetic; beauty and skill.  Cherry-picking from these Go Figurative’s perhaps lesser-known artists means you pick art that will increase in value as their career credentials and sales increase.  Furthermore, as the buyer, you are rewarded from living with the artwork.

And no better time than now in a recession, to buy art, and to consider the valuable lessons we’ve learnt from the 1930s Great Depression; when money is limited, people find distraction and calm in art.  As Wall Street opened the art world to new talent and ideas, artists started making worthy, affordable, intelligent, original and innovative art.

Also remember that after the UK’s last financial crash (late 1980s), the art world’s tightly guarded gates opened up to new talent, with fresh ways of thinking and seeing, which proved magnificent with the YBAs (Young British Artists).

The virtual internet gallery and community, Go Figurative, is the latest innovative on-line market place for talented sculptors, painters, photographers and print makers to form collectives with like minded professional artists, buyers, art critics and art historians.

The response from figurative artists has been significant. Whilst many have websites, most do not, and even those that do lack the traffic to be able to create significant awareness through them. Perry adds, “The artists I have spoken with have responded well to the idea of community based website focussed purely on figurative art. They like the idea of having a platform dedicated to the work which has references to reality at its core”.  The concept of the future is figurative. www.gofigurative.com

© Estelle Lovatt FRSA

Anti-Americanism in the Art World

The public resentment and hostility for America is striking in the art world as well as the political arena. It has been for a spell. The penchant to burden America for all the evils of the world, even the art world, is completely surreal. But it is real.

The exhibition Saved! (100 Years of the National Art Collections Fund, Hayward Gallery, London), 2004, shows anti-Americanism in the European art circuit, with the saving of Botticelli’s The Virgin Adoring the Sleeping Christ Child, c. 1485 (National Gallery of Scotland, Edinburgh). This painting was saved for the nation in 1999 with the aid of 550,000, the biggest grant the National Art Collections Fund has ever transferred. It is one of the greatest Renaissance paintings secured for any museum in the UK since the Second World War. It was about to be sold to the Kimbell Art Museum, Fort Worth, USA, when the Art Fund learned of its impending export to America from editorial in the press and saved it. The idea that America would have plundered and deprived us of this Botticelli masterpiece had us digging deep into golden purses, crying and hissing that America is not worthy of it.

But how much do we in this country really think of art? Consider, that in Britain, history of art was not thought of as being important enough to be taught as an academic subject until 1932. By then it was all too late, for the French and German art fascists had already invented anti-Americanism way back in the 1920s and 1930s. The French and German were partisans of a close-mouthed pure country, against the cosmopolitan melting pot of America.

Why had the French and German such disrelish for America, when on the whole and for various reasons, the USA was more receptive to the art of continental Europe with L’Esprit Nouveau, the School of Paris and the Bauhaus? Proven, when the Nazis shut the Bauhaus, and many teachers and artists went into exile in the United States.

France and Germany wanted to challenge the United States. The anti-American feeling spread amongst the arts world intended to blitz the command of the American art scene. Why? Such a slow project, you’d go through purgatory quicker than understand this. Today it is the 1930s all over again. European artists are jealous of their American cousins.

I thought art was supposed to deliver the universal qualities within us. To pass boundaries. To identify us from one another. To be the best form of diplomacy. Instead, it is surprising that European artists should have so little respect for American art and culture. A bit too humdrum and impotent in their anti-Americanism, what the Europeans don’t realise, is that America’s culture, makes America the greatest mechanism of modern art. Remember that America has two margins; The Atlantic and the Pacific. On the one side it looks towards Europe, on the other to the Far East. From European art to Oriental painting. This is an example of the roads of culture crossing paths. And that from the USA began the all-influential shaping of an international art and culture, that I shall name Internationalism.

The American dream then shifted, as the new artist hijacked art of its antique responsibility of bearing witness to events, to political beliefs that enabled us to ‘live’ in art, politically. When Andrew Wyeth, Grant Wood or Grandma Moses painted a farmer and his wife, the American painter was unconditionally preoccupied in the passion that is only the American life – the American dream.

American art and culture is not only songs by Madonna and sci-fi action films starring Schwarzenegger the governor of California; it is 1,700 symphony orchestras, opera visited by 7.5 million people annually, and museums that are seen by 500 million every year. All American museums where entrance is free owe their existence and subsidy to private supporters. Isabella Stewart Gardner is an inspiration. So is the Harvard University Art Museums collection donated from past graduates. And the Las Vegas casino billionaire, and one of the world’s biggest private art collectors Steve Wynn.

The narcissistic use of American symbolism grows as the world becomes more fearful of terrorism. Why? Because the animosity attached to America is stuck on American culture, as American culture is so all-powerful.

Take a look as German artist Sigmar Polke takes pot shots at American gun law, Afghanistan, Iraq and al-Qa’eda. And the French, who opened Disneyland Paris in 1992 and unveiled the event as a ?cultural Chernobyl.? But, the Europeans can’t get enough of America’s 3 Cs (culture, cinema and consumerism). Ironically, the anti-American extremists triumph in making Europe even more clinging on the United States.

Works by Turner Prize artists Jake & Dinos Chapman show African masks and fetishes as ideal and appropriate for celebrating contemporary leading culture by applying American McDonalds symbols and emblems.

Inasmuch as six hundred galleries up and down the country benefit from the NACF, the Arts Council is supposed to be the national development agency for the arts in England. The problem was, and is, the total inadequacy of government funding for the arts here in this country to create anything of any benefit. Distributing public money from Government and the National Lottery, where are Tessa Jowell and Estelle Morris keeping England in the first rank of world arts?

The Arts Council England serves the truly talentless. With a grant from the Arts Council, a replica of Camp X-Ray complete with blindfolded prisoners in orange boiler suits was built in Manchester. This mock Guantanamo Bay prison is nothing but a Herculean political misappropriation and an outrageous waste of public money, on a political subject, that has nothing to do with art. The Arts Council is simply being dishonest funding this as art, when it is nothing more than anti-Americanism expressiveness.

The influence of American culture is now so all-pervasive, it seems like art history has come full circle, and imperious European artists just about cope with their American peers. Take a look at Paul McCarthy’s video, showing the Queen hosting a disgusting tea-party orgy for George Bush, with Bin Laden. It’s a cathartic artless and boring insult, screened at you.

Bill Viola best uses video to illustrate his interest in religion. I’ve heard people say “what a waste of money! Religious voices drive us mad!” But they are positively at home in a country whose money has “In God We Trust” on each coin and note. Viola champions differences between the religious right and the non-religious left, between conservatives and liberals.

America’s monumental personality is victorious in symbolising free-expression in art. We can bear democracy and individualism, so long as it’s not American. When you get to this, the scale of antipathy and disdain of the perverted level of which you would associate with propaganda about an enemy in wartime, you realise European art that is anti-American is nothing more than a little cultural jerk, done by the same.

© Estelle Lovatt FRSA