Category Archives: Exhibitions

Go for gold! Vintage portraits of California prospectors – in pictures

Young gold-rush prospectors stare down the camera in these striking daguerreotypes and tintypes of the 1850s, from a time before California boomtowns became ghost towns

Gold and Silver: Images and Illusions of the Gold Rush is at the National Gallery of Canada, in Ottawa, until 2 April. Luce Lebart’s book is published by RVB Books

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Lady and the Unicorn: Mona Lisa of the middle ages weaves a new spell

The tapestries on display at the Art Gallery of NSW have appeared in everything from the writings of George Sand to those of the poet Rainer Maria Rilke

For a mythical creature that is supposedly very shy, the unicorn sure is getting around. The white horse with a long horn and Bambi eyes is popping up everywhere from decal on children’s backpacks to T-shirts, key rings, flags, toys and tattoos, often accompanied by a little rainbow. The unicorn aesthetic has dominated music videos for the last few years. It’s been borrowed for queer raves and even as a descriptor for (usually) women who are the third party joining a couple in bed. These creatures – the mythical animals, that is – are nothing if not versatile: they’ve even been used in art as stand-ins for Jesus Christ.

Related: Illustrating the Nauru files: ‘We have to fight with something’

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Metropolis: Bauhaus-inspired urban photography – in pictures

In his series Metropolis, photographer Alan Schaller interprets the disconnection between people in the digital age. The series examines the way in which we are dwarfed by the world around us, and how that feels. Schaller was born in London, where Metropolis also began. The majority of the photographs were taken on the streets candidly, because Schaller wanted them to convey a true sense of urban life in its many facets. The work is being exhibited at Leica Story City, London EC3, until 10 February

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Cézanne: Portraits of a Life review – engaging primer paints strong picture of celebrated artist

Cinema’s latest exhibition tour chronicles of the painter’s shift from impressionist-influenced work to a revolutionary and individual vision

After a stream of films about user-friendly artists such as Monet, Goya and David Hockney, the estimable Exhibition on Screen series tackles the slightly tougher subject of Paul Cézanne, taking its cue from the touring Cézanne Portraits show which is nearing the end of its run at the National Portrait Gallery in London. Because of the show’s organisational history, there’s an interesting transnational flavour to the comment, with curatorial input from France (intense) and the US (scholarly) alongside the careful Brits.

The format of these films is by now well-established, operating with watchmaker-level precision: slow, swooping shots of the artist’s environment, letters and the like voiced with full throated emotion (here by the familiar molten-honey tones of Brian Cox), and leisurely inspection of the paintings themselves in situ.

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Andreas Gursky on the photograph that changed everything: ‘It was pure intuition’

It went against all he had been taught. But this image of Salerno harbour was a turning point for the great photographer, paving the way to his epic landscapes

It was 1990 and I was out driving with my family, sightseeing in and around Naples. Late in the afternoon, we came across this view over the harbour of Salerno. The sun was setting over the city so I had to hurry. I set up my tripod and my 4×5 inch camera, then took four frames. There was no time to weigh up whether it was worth it or not.

Visually, everything was completely at odds with what I had been taught. My teachers, the conceptual artists Bernd and Hilla Becher, had told me to avoid photographing with sunlight, blue sky or strong shadows. But I thought the warm sunlight here made for something quite kitsch. Also, up until this point, human beings had been the focus of my work – but here there were none in sight. Yet I was overwhelmed by what I saw: the complexity of the image, the accumulation of goods, the cars, the containers. I hadn’t been sure the photograph would work. I just felt compelled. It was pure intuition.

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Bridget Riley review – a blast of pure psychedelic energy

David Zwirner Gallery, London
In her new show Recent Paintings 2014-2017, the great shapeshifter rediscovers the hallucinogenic power of her youth, with dizzying works that turn perspective inside out

To walk into Bridget Riley’s exhibition of new works – everything here, with a couple of exceptions, has been created in the last four years – is to see a mighty brain fizzing away with ideas that blow away all the sentimental cobwebs from art. Riley is a philosopher who is interested in perception – and nothing else. For her, a work of art is not a picture nor a political comment nor a splurge of self-expression. It is a way to explore seeing. If it does not leave you with your sense of the visible world shaken and reborn, what’s the point of it?

In the early 1960s, she took on the epic sweep of American art and gave it a sharp scientific twist. Jackson Pollock’s paintings absorb the beholder in poetic tangles and forests of colour. Riley liked the scope and sweep, yet she put it all in a more solid psychological basis. The curves and eddies, twists and vortices of her early black and white paintings such as Hesitate (1964) are mathematically calculated. Their discombobulating effects are precisely planned. They turn perception inside out as you find spaces move and melt, shapes materialise in front of the canvas, reality itself burst open to reveal new dimensions. In the decade of psychedelia, Riley invented a legal hallucinogenic.

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