More London Art Exhibitions Spring 2021 – Paul Carey-Kent




Skarstedt’s fascinating new exhibition Painter / Sculptor brings together a sculpture and a painting by nine artists who says the gallery, ‘have mastered both painting and sculpture to formulate a unique artistic language’: Alberto Giacometti, Willem de Kooning, Martin Kippenberger (see his startling ambiguously-toned vision of himself as a persecuted heavy-drinking artist), Georg Baselitz, Eric Fischl, George Condo, Jeff Koons, Dana Schutz and KAWS. The highlight is a room in which Giacometti’s plaster of his brother, Diego, looks across to a painting of his mother; and de Kooning’s ‘Large Torso’ (one of only 22 bronzes he made) faces a late painting. Both were masters of both media, but there’s no doubt that the former was first and foremost a sculptor, the latter primarily a painter.

That raises the question: just how many great artists are genuinely equal in the reputations of their painting and sculpture? Perhaps Leonardo would be, had more of his sculptures been realised or survived, but the only pre-modern figures I can think of as plausible contenders are Michelangelo and Degas. In more recent times, you could make a case for Picasso, Modigliani and Rauschenberg, or if you expand ‘painting’ to mean ‘2D work in general’, Bourgeois and LeWitt. It would probably be more accurate to describe Matisse and Warhol, like Kippenberger and de Kooning, as painters who were also sculptors; and Duchamp, like Giacometti, as a sculptor who also painted. Koons and Hirst make – or, at least, ask to have made – plenty of paintings, but it’s not the defining area of their work. Skarstedt’s show could plausibly have included Yayoi Kusama and Takashi Murakami as the most ‘balanced’ current practitioners. And a recent possible addition is sculptor Thomas Houseago, who has just recently started to show paintings. (Top photo)

Flowers’ solo show of recent work by Bernard Cohen

Flowers’ solo show of recent work by Bernard Cohen

As non-essential shopping becomes a normal activity again, one question is: which businesses won’t reopen? No doubt some galleries will close, but to counter that there are some new developments. Sticking with the Mayfair zone: Cork Street has its mojo back, with gallery businesses helpfully prioritised by planning policy. Lisson’s extra space, Saatchi Yates, Holtermann Fine Art and South Africa’s top gallery, Goodman, have arrived to complement such established presences as Waddington Custot, The Mayor Gallery, Redfern, Messums – all of which have shows worth visiting at the moment. My illustration is from Flowers’ solo show of recent work by Bernard Cohen: his works are abstracting rather than abstract, and ‘Clown’ derives from a performance he saw as a child – he’s 87 – in which Kelly the clown stood in a multicoloured pool of overhead lighting that was adjusted to match his actions in seeming to sweep it away with a broom.

Russian-born American artist Ebecho Muslimova

Russian-born American artist Ebecho Muslimova

Zurich gallerist Maria Bernheim has taken advantage of a shoe shop closure to mount – on Mount Street – a planned year of shows. Russian-born American artist Ebecho Muslimova features in the opening group show – she has made a strong impact with her corpulent alter ego Fatebe (say ‘Fat Eebee’) whom she describes as ‘like a surrogate sister who can do amazing feats that I physically or socially can’t’.

Thomas Dane has, for the first time, put on a show (revisiting Michael Landy’s ‘Break Down’ on its 20th anniversary) on the lower floor of their 3 Duke St space: add the ground floor (Arturo Herrera) and the first floor of 11 Duke St and there is the potential for three exhibitions.

Stephen Friedman has not only expanded into a third space on Old Burlington St, but you can also see many of their artists at the House of Modernity, 14 Cavendish Square.

Rudolf Stingel’s depiction of a Kirchner

Rudolf Stingel’s depiction of a Kirchner

Sadie Coles has opened another separately located space: next to Modern Art in Bury Street. The first show is decidedly deadpan: from the street, you see what looks like a large painting by Kirkner. Entering, you find it is the only work in the show and is actually Rudolf Stingel’s depiction of a Kirchner painting on the cover of a catalogue, complete with creases. And it’s much bigger than the original painting, let alone the catalogue.

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