Guardian Unlimited Arts

Guardian Unlimited Arts

Latest art and design news, comment and analysis from the Guardian
  1. Tracey Emin drew her dying mother, Grayson Perry honoured Warhol, and Yinka Shonibare sneaked a bit of Africa into some English brollies … artists reveal all about their dazzling new stamps

    If your heart is set on acquiring a work by Grayson Perry, Yinka Shonibare, Fiona Rae or Tracey Emin, it would normally involve a painful conversation with your bank. Owing to a bullish market in contemporary art, Perry’s pots currently go for upwards of £150,000 each, while an Emin neon is likely to set you back £70,000-plus. Earlier this spring, a Shonibare sculpture, one of the Girl Balancing Knowledge series (2015) – life-sized, fibreglass, wearing a sky-blue dress crafted from the artist’s trademark Dutch African print – went for £236,750 at Christie’s in London, £150,000 more than the auctioneers were expecting.

    From early next month, however, there is a more affordable option: pop down to your local post office. To mark the 250th anniversary of the Royal Academy – which this month unveiled its £56m expansion – these four artists, plus the painter-printmakers Barbara Rae and Norman Ackroyd, have been commissioned to create a set of special stamps. A self-portrait by Perry and an abstract work by Fiona Rae will set you back 65p each (UK first class). Emin’s and Shonibare’s can be had for £1.55 (Europe standard delivery). You could indulge your wildest collecting impulses and snap up the full commemorative set, and still have change from a tenner.

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  2. ‘They worked among the snake-charmers and belly-dancers of Marrakech. I christened them Kesh Angels and gave them heart-shaped sunglasses’

    When I first met Karima, she was 14 years old and selling bracelets in Djemaa el-Fna, the bustling central square in Marrakech. She’s the girl on the very right here, leaning to the side. They’re all henna girls now, Karima and her friends, and they posed for this in 2010, in front of the Theatre Royal in Marrakech.

    Djemaa el-Fna, which means “internal space”, is where all the snake-charmers, storytellers and belly-dancers work, in among food stalls and other types of entertainment. The square’s been there for centuries. It’s like a vast piece of street theatre, full of people all day long – tourists and Moroccans alike, there to buy food, have henna done on their hands, or just become part of the big play.

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  3. Tate Liverpool
    The Austrian painter and US photographer are great artists who explored frank sexuality and deserve retrospectives – separate ones, that is

    There are no sharks in Liverpool’s Albert Dock, as far as I know. The deep, still water overlooked by Tate Liverpool, which opened in a sensitively converted warehouse here in 1988, is devoid of dorsal fins. Yet perhaps there are pelagic predators lurking after all, for this gallery has chosen to mark its 30th anniversary by jumping the shark – or whatever image you prefer for a staggering lapse into the absurd.

    Life in Motion, an exhibition that for no good reason asks us to compare the two extremely different artistic visions of the Austrian draughtsman Egon Schiele and the 1970s US photographer Francesca Woodman, is an exhibition so shallow and patronising that it suggests Tate Liverpool has lost all respect for its audience.

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  4. The $21.1m sale of his 1997 painting Past Times was a record for a black artist and a vital next step in a fascinating career

    In 1997, African American artist Kerry James Marshall painted Past Times, an artwork depicting a black family in high-class leisure – playing golf, playing cricket, as well as water skiing and driving a motorboat across a lake. It’s a take on a pastoral scene typically filled with European aristocratic types yet instead filled with black figures.

    Last week at Sotheby’s, it sold for $21.1m, breaking a new world record, making Marshall, according to reports, the highest-paid African American artist.

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  5. A new book documents intimate moments, familial ties and hard-won freedoms in the Argentinian transgender community

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  6. Sotheby’s predicts that artefact from Qing-dynasty China, found in shoebox in French attic, will sell for upwards of €500,000

    A Chinese vase discovered in a battered shoebox stuffed in an attic in France is set to be the star of a Sotheby’s auction next month.

    Experts have identified it as an exquisite porcelain vessel made for the 18th century Qing dynasty Emperor Qianlong. The guide price for its auction on 12 June starts at €500,000 (£438,000/US$590,000).

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  7. They rapped in its tunnels and played instruments made out of old science equipment. Could this be Cern’s most amazing experiment yet?

    ‘Anyone attending the performances,” says Jack Jelfs, “will find themselves in a 12-dimensional quantum superposition.” This superposition, adds the artist, will contain three overlaid elements: our mythic past, our scientific present and our unknown future. “So,” concludes Jelfs, “you may wish to prepare appropriately.”

    Jelfs is talking about The Wave Epoch, a high-concept performance piece that is the result of four British artists spending time at Cern (the European Organisation for Nuclear Research), where particles are accelerated and bashed into each other to reveal the secrets of the universe. When it’s described as “something between an installation, a music performance and a rave”, The Wave Epoch might not sound like anything particularly new, but it all becomes a lot more original when you realise it was conceived 175 metres underneath the Franco-Swiss border in the presence of the Large Hadron Collider, the biggest single piece of machinery in existence.

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  8. Kettle’s Yard, Cambridge
    As the famous artist returns to his alma mater’s town, he could do with a rigorous professorial interview about his art

    Antony Gormley floats in space with his eyes fixed on infinity. His arms and legs are straight and relaxed, his posture passive and meditative as he hangs about half a metre above the floor.

    Wake up, it’s time for a tutorial. What does this cast-iron replica of your own body bolted to a wall by its feet mean, exactly? I don’t want to hear a lot of vacuous guff about “activating spaces” and “undermining our assurance about the stability of the world”, Gormley. Finals are in a few weeks and you urgently need to clarify your thinking.

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  9. Wandsworth, London
    This stylish new 27-storey residential tower is an exemplar of innovative modular housing, each flat built and fitted out off-site, then craned into place at the rate of one storey a day

    It’s a beautiful chimera, now more than a century old, that a house might be built in the same way as a car. It has long seemed so practical, so sensible and at the same time inspiringly progressive that the benefits that Henry Ford discovered in the production line – speed, efficiency, cheapness, quality – might be applied to the places where we live. Le Corbusier had a go in the 1920s. So did Buckminster Fuller, with the aluminium yurt he called the Dymaxion.

    Somehow, their machine-age nirvana keeps on not quite happening. The world is not covered with Dymaxia, nor the many other variations on the theme. The nearest Britain came to living the dream was with the postwar prefab – quick and cheap, for sure, but rationed in their comfort and beauty, modern nostalgic revisionism notwithstanding. In the 1960s, government promotion of factory-built housing tended to produce results that were not particularly cheap, or functional, or good-looking, but were at least numerous.

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  10. Tate St Ives
    Patrick Heron’s giant abstracts could make you swoon – if the thematic organisation of this show weren’t so infuriating

    Patrick Heron’s Cadmium With Violet, Scarlet, Emerald, Lemon and Venetian: 1969 has about the most prosaic and cumbersome title of any work of art I know: say it aloud, and its pedantry and precision sound close to comical. But to stand before it – all 80 or so square feet of it – is to experience a powerful sense of exaltation. This is a painting that seems so absolutely right, falling on the enthralled visitor, to pinch from Philip Larkin, like an enormous yes. Its colours, its shapes, its scale: what incredible joy and heat these things stir up. From a distance, I stared at it, and thought of something I liked to do as a child, which was to lie on the ground in warm sunshine, and close my eyes, and wait for swirling patterns of rose-red and gold to appear on the inside of my lids. Suddenly, for a fleeting moment, I was that child again.

    But there’s more. Stand well back, and Heron’s great mid-period works, painted in the late 60s and early 70s, have a blocky feel, the oil seemingly so smoothly applied, you wonder what thinner he used, what kind of airbrush. Move closer, though, and the ground shifts beneath your feet. Unbelievable as it sounds, these vast canvases were painted end to end with small Japanese watercolour brushes, and once you’re only a few inches away, everything looks at once rougher and yet more beautiful: here are patterns within patterns, a delicacy that is in almost total contrast to the painting’s overall effect. Do the two things work together? Heron certainly believed that they did. “One doesn’t hand-paint for the sake of the ‘hand-done’,” he said. “One merely knows that surfaces worked in this way can – in fact, they must – register a different nuance of spatial evocation and movement in every single square millimetre.”

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