The Easel

25th February 2020

Steve McQueen tells us about the lesser-known details behind his films

Having won both the Turner Prize and an Oscar (12 Years a Slave), McQueen is a maestro of film. His retrospective in London has been acclaimed – “a brass-knuckled punch of reality in the face of everyday complacency”. Better than most reviews, which seem not to have the knack of discussing the moving image, is McQueen’s own commentary. “I don’t know what the truth is. I just want to be naked and things to be raw.”

EU Brings Greek Demand for Elgin Marbles Into Brexit Talks

The EU wants its trade negotiations with Britain to be contingent on repatriation of “unlawfully removed cultural objects”. That’s code for Greece wanting Britain to return marble carvings that had, for 2000 years, adorned the Acropolis. British officials are dismissive of this move, perhaps confident that possession is 9/10th of the law. An interesting podcast is here.

18th February 2020

Easel Essay: A Cook’s tour of the 2019 Turner Prize(s)

The four shortlist nominees for the 2019 Turner Prize requested that the prize be shared equally “in the name of commonality”. “Excited” by this request, London’s Tate complied. More than a few critics are furious. For some it’s the political nature of the art involved. For others, it’s the political correctness of sharing the prize, one describing it “a virtue signal for the snowflake era”.

Amidst the furor, Morgan Meis has managed to remain calm. “To be honest, the debate bores me. I have no problem with the 2019 Turner artists sharing the award. But the unintended consequence of this decision has been that no one talks much about the art.” His short review puts that to rights.

21st century paintings is essential viewing at Whitechapel Gallery

The ‘painting is dead’ mantra is seemingly used to help market this show. It’s an unneeded distraction from what is “an ambitious attempt to define the zeitgeist”. Political commentary is frequent, sometimes deft and other times “smug”. The influence of Peter Doig is widely seen. This writer is impressed, calling it a “gripping” show, notwithstanding some grouching about artists left out. (If you cannot get through the FT paywall, an alternative review is here)