The Easel

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)

11th February 2020

British Baroque — Power and Illusion review: The magnificent emergence of a new political era

After the austerity of Cromwell, Britain opted to restore the monarchy. Welcome the extravagant Baroque! From there opinions diverge. Some critics are not bothered by paintings awash with satin and silk and “outrageous pomp”. Others definitely are bothered: “the art of power, dominance and shagging your cousins. Pompous, over-the-top, ridiculous. Call it royalty, call it parliament, it’s all power, and it’s all ugly.”

What Do We Want History to Do to Us?

More on Kara Walker’s monumental fountain, currently in London. What do we want from public art? “To memorialise”. Yes, but memorialise whom, whose history and which memories? “Public art claiming to represent our collective memory is just as often a work of historical erasure and political manipulation. Monuments are complacent; they put a seal upon the past, they release us from dread.”