Monday, 14 February 2011

Farewell A Foundation

Farewell A Foundation, we barely knew ye…. Well, I – still a fairly recent import to this city – did anyway.

With the news that A Foundation is now no more, I was initially reticent about joining in with the general wailing and gnashing of teeth, but like the proposed sell-off of the collection of Southampton Art Gallery, I find myself feeling both somewhat quizzical and absolutely disgusted.

Yes, not every experience I had within A Foundation’s industrial walls was gilded. I can count some of the most queasily gauche, self aware and un-self-conscious example of contemporary art that I’ve seen in recent years as elements in exhibitions at A Foundation.

But still, it’s a great shame that it’s been wound up with a whimper, noticed only by premiere Liverpool blog Seven Streets. Whatever the consistency of the work on display, Seven Streets are so right to recognise it’s programme as possibly the most dynamic, challenging and exciting in the city.

Beyond the clearly discernible tragedy for contemporary art in Liverpool, I’ve got two burning questions:

One. What the hell is the point of the Baltic Triangle now? Apart from CUC it has very little to tempt me, and it’ll take something very special to tempt me into the oppressive confines of the Novas Centre. Now, unless I'm buying a shed or getting my non-existent car painted, why would I go to the Baltic Triangle?

Two. What does this spell out for the Biennial? After Biennial Artistic Director Lewis Biggs’ volatile blog about funding cuts back in November – which made the organisations seem to be visibly floundering even before the axe has fallen – the closure of A Foundation can only seem like a body blow. The loss of such a space (in addition to whatever funding disaster it will have to pass through in the following months) will surely have a huge impact on what the Biennial can offer in 2012. 

But right now I can only mutter and sigh and ponder what this means for quality visual art in Liverpool. I have no more information than Seven Streets, and I am very aware of the brutality of cuts that are painfully imminent and will be on going for the foreseeable future. Overshadowed by the nose drive the Liverpool Boat Show just took, this won't be the last asset to disappear from Liverpool's cultural ecosystem.

Anyway, bye bye A Foundation, I hope your legacy is more than a swathe of Big Society art students who couldn’t curate their arse from their elbow. Where else in Liverpool would I have been able to re-encounter Jacob Dahlgren’s Colour Reading Context?

Sunday, 13 February 2011

What would be in your dream art collection?

A Collector's Eye is an exhibition of paintings from the Schorr Collection assembled by a private collector, and it opens at the Walker Art Gallery next week. The exhibition promises to feature five centuries of art ranging from 15th-century devotional images to 19th-century French Impressionist landscapes. Old Master artists Rubens, El Greco, Delacroix and Cranach are included alongside Impressionists such as Pissarro and Sisley.

It’s an interesting departure from the on going trend for exhibitions based upon extremely didactic concepts, an emphasis on telling art as a heavy handed biographical or teleological story I've always round annoying. Some might find a basis in the personal tastes of a private collector problematic, but I hope the selection of works in an exhibition curated along these principals will be much closer to the diverse and changing relationship with art that most of us have.

The organisers also ask the question, what would be in your dream art collection? and I feel compelled to day-dream up an answer. 

To start with, if we are allowed to get greedy, can I have a couple of the Marie de’ Medici cycle by Rubens (1577-1640)? If I had to pick just one, give me The Disembarkation at Marseilles (1622-25), deliciously dripping with allegory and bursting with bizarre perspective and plentiful cavorting sea maidens. In a skinny-obsessed world I find the expanses of doughy flesh positively refreshing!

I’d follow this with a healthy slice of Victorian life which a complete de-emphasis on the bloody Pre-Raphaelites. Give me some monkeys and polar bears by Edwin Landseer (1802-1873) and my favourite Polar pin-up Sir James Clark Ross (painted in 1834) looking young and dashing in a dead animal’s skin. Throw in some late J M W Turner (1775-1851) too, to dazzle and shimmer.

Next I would like to get a little patriotic and whimsical, and place the illustrations of John Bauer (1882-1918), Tove Jansen (1914-2001) and Elsa Beskow (1874-1953) next to each other - a delightful flock of trolls, fairies and woodland creatures. Equally whimsical, I’d compliment the visual dreams of Odilon Redon (1840-1916) with the Art Deco graphical delights of Edouard Benedictus (1879-1930).

What else? Getting a little more modern, let’s have a healthy serving of Graham Sutherland (1903-1980) and Paul Nash (1889-1946) - skipping over anything too war-focussed for some of their lovely organic-architectural fantasies.

I’d also pinch Eduardo Paolozzi’s (1924-2005) Collage from BUNK from the Tate Modern, and ship Frida Khalo’s (1907-1954) Self-portrait with Thorn Necklace and Hummingbird over from the US.

To round things off give me Rodney Graham’s (1949- ) Rheinmetall/Victoria 8, and finally all on it’s own in a big blue room, in absolute pride of place, let's enjoy Henri Rousseu’s (1844-1910) languorous Sleeping Gypsy.

I could go on... but it’s a little akin to torture. Like most people my art collection is just a hodgepodge assortment of tattered posters and prints... *sigh*

Collector's Eye is at the Walker Art Gallery, Liverpool, 18 February to 15 May 2011