BBC BLOGS - Gomp/arts

Archives for January 2011

What is the Royal appeal?

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Will Gompertz | 17:57 UK time, Wednesday, 26 January 2011

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Do the Oscar nominations for the King's Speech point towards a truth about how the Americans see themselves in relation to the British? Take Shakespeare in Love for instance - the story of a lowly playwright capturing the heart of a noble woman, or Mrs Brown - where Queen Victoria develops a very close relationship with her servant, or The Queen - where Her Majesty is counselled by Tony Blair.

All were Oscar nominees (with some going on to be winners), all are stories where the commoner gains parity with a Royal or aristocratic personage. Here's Dame Judi Dench and Nick James, the editor of Sight & Sound, on the subject.

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What is the future for arts funding?

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Will Gompertz | 13:44 UK time, Tuesday, 25 January 2011

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I've been watching this morning's culture select committee where the Arts Council England's chair Liz Forgan and chief executive Alan Davey were being put through their paces.

After a nervous start by the duo (Alan Davey appeared both shaken and stirred under Labour MP Tom Watson's interrogation regarding the ACE's funding of The Public arts centre in Wolverhampton), they settled down to explain how they were going to fund the arts in this time of cuts.

The question of flogging parts of their art collection to help raise money was brought up. Liz Forgan batted this away as a source for funding arts organisations but agreed to consider selling certain works (de-accessioning) to provide extra money to buy new art.

But the meat of the conversation was about the imminent cuts ACE is going to make to the organisations that it currently funds on a yearly basis, which they call Regularly Funded Organisations, of which there are 840.

They have asked all of them to reapply for their funding, as well as inviting previously unfunded organisations to put in an application. The upshot is a total of 1,340 applications. Given that the intention is to cut their existing portfolio by between 100 and 200 arts companies, this new level of applications is going to make their work much, much harder. It's possible nearly half of the applicants will be disappointed and displeased.

So when they make their announcement in 60 days' time there will vociferous criticism from a lot of disgruntled people. That's to be expected. But what will we end up with? Will tough decisions have been made? And will they, as Labour MP Paul Farrelly MP asked, take the opportunity to re-draw the arts map and spread their largesse more evenly across the country and not have so much of it concentrated in London?

Martin Creed

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Will Gompertz | 09:07 UK time, Thursday, 20 January 2011

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Conceptual artist? Poet? Musician? Choreographer? Or simply a bloke who produces things that he hopes will make a connection with people. He'd say the latter, and I'd say he succeeds. I'm talking about the Glaswegian Martin Creed, who made his name by winning the Turner Prize in 1991 with his work # 227: The lights going on and off.

Since then he has created a musical instrument out of some stairs in Edinburgh and turned Tate Britain's Duveens Gallery into a space of perpetual motion.

On Friday he opens a new show at Hauser & Wirth in London and to coincide with it he has released his first ever single Thinking / Not Thinking. Check it (and him) out.

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Sir Anthony Caro: Stretching sculpture

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Will Gompertz | 09:24 UK time, Wednesday, 19 January 2011

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Early One Morning (1962) by Sir Anthony Caro is a great work of art, about which I have written in the past. Made of steel yet appearing as light as paper, it formed part of a radical body of abstract work by the innovative artist that was presented at the Whitechapel Gallery, London in 1963. The world was shown that sculpture neither had to be bulky nor presented vaingloriously upon a plinth. These were just two of the ideas that over many years he passed on to his students at St Martin's School, which included the likes of Gilbert and George, Richard Long, Richard Deacon and Barry Flanagan.

When I saw the nattily dressed, still actively sculpting, octogenarian at the Royal Academy yesterday for the press view of their show Modern British Sculpture, I asked him if would mind spending a couple of minutes with me to talk about his modern masterpiece. He agreed immediately and proceeded to chat about the work with the sort of unpretentious candour that seems beyond many younger artists.

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New commissions for the Fourth Plinth

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Will Gompertz | 17:35 UK time, Friday, 14 January 2011

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Here's a few words from the artists who have just won the next two commissions for Trafalgar Square's Fourth Plinth: Elmgreen & Dragset and Katharina Fritsch:

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Elmgreen & Dragset's, Powerless Structures, Fig.101, will be unveiled in 2012 with Katharina Fritsch's Hahn / Cock coming a year later.

Dancing the difference between white and black swans

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Will Gompertz | 10:42 UK time, Wednesday, 12 January 2011

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Darren Aronofsky's soon-to-be-released movie Black Swan has been ruffling some feathers in the dance world. There has been criticism about its lack of authenticity and for being riddled with ballerina-as-a-paranoid-neurotic clichés as Deborah Bull (an ex-principal dancer at the Royal Ballet) and I discussed on Today this morning.

Deborah ends by suggesting you don't take your young daughter to see the film if she wants to learn about ballet (it's cert 15). Well, perhaps she could look at my short film instead, in which the Royal Ballet's wonderful Zenaida Yanowsky shows me how a dancer becomes a good (white) swan and a bad (black) swan with little more than a head gesture and arm movement. She is terrific.

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You can see more of Zenaida Yanowsky at the Royal Opera House later this month where she is dancing the lead in Swan Lake (the role that Portman takes on in the movie).

PS. Frankly I think the ballet world is being too literal; Black Swan is as much about ballet as the King's Speech is about royalty. Yes, the film's story is framed around a ballerina and the ballet Swan Lake, but only as a device for a melodramatic physiological thriller, with a bit of werewolf-like action thrown in for good measure.

New faces at the ICA

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Will Gompertz | 11:10 UK time, Tuesday, 11 January 2011

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Out with the old and in with the new and unfamiliar. That's been the abiding spirit of the ICA and continues today, at least when it come to staff.

Gregor Muir

 

This morning Gregor Muir was announced as the beleaguered institution's new director. He takes over at a time when the Mall-based arts centred is a shadow of its former self, having withered while others flourished in a decade of heightened interest in contemporary art.

Gregor's warm charm, wry humour and self-confidence will be a tonic in itself. As will his keen curatorial eye and bulging address book of A-list artworld figures. He joins a new top team, headed-up by Alison Myners as chair.

The job has been called a poisoned chalice by some, but Gregor is a canny fellow. He'll know that should he succeed in turning the ICA around (and I very much hope he does) he will be hailed as a key figure in a new generation of arts leaders. And if he fails, he can say the place was beyond repair and go back to a cushy job in a private gallery.

We'll have to wait and see what the future holds, but I do think it is a smart move to appoint an experienced curator into this role, especially one who has worked in both the public and private sectors. A good start.

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Sound of 2011

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Will Gompertz | 12:26 UK time, Friday, 7 January 2011

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So, Jessie J has won the Sound of 2011. These things are subjective (Yuck are much better), but is the endorsement of her musical talents by Simon Cowell a good thing or a bad thing?

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What can we read into this? According to its website the BBC Sound of 2011 list aims to "highlight the most promising new music for the year ahead". Could it be that the X Factor impresario's taste in music might be changing or that its pervasiveness has unconsciously influenced the pop pickers who choose this year's winner?

The arts in 2011

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Will Gompertz | 12:31 UK time, Thursday, 6 January 2011

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Arts-wise there's plenty to look forward to this year. Gustavo Dudamel and Simon Rattle at the Barbican and Claudio Abbado at the Royal Festival Hall are all putting in shifts on these shores.

Anna Nicole Smith

 

Mark Anthony Turnage's opera about Anna Nicole Smith and Bartabas at Sadler's Wells could turn out to be the arts events of the year. And if the previous efforts are anything to go by, it's worth booking in for a summer season in Manchester for their International Festival.

Danny Boyle's Frankenstein at the National Theatre and the Modern British Sculpture show at the Royal Academy are bankers. And I saw an early preview of the film Submarine, directed by Richard Ayoade from the IT Crowd. It comes out in mid-March and is a clever, funny and whimsical Brit flick.

Beryl Bainbridge

 

But it's the posthumous publication of Beryl Bainbridge's book The Girl in the Polka Dot Dress (Little, Brown) that most caught my eye. Not just because the great dame was a witty, direct and brilliant writer, but also because I thought it would put her in the frame for wining the Booker Prize.

On the Frequently Asked Questions page of their website it states the following rules for eligibility:

"Any full-length novel, written by a citizen of the Commonwealth or the Republic of Ireland and published in the United Kingdom for the first time in the year of the prize. The novel must be an original work in English (not a translation) and must not be self-published."

She ticks all those boxes. I saw a vision of Beryl Bainbridge, fag in hand, laughing from above - having won the 2011 Booker Prize - after being overlooked five times when she was short-listed for the award while still alive. She'd be the first posthumous winner to-boot.

But alas, it is not to be. Dig a little deeper and rule 3.b states the author must be alive at the time of the award. This wasn't always the case; the rule was changed some years ago when a recently deceased author made it to the shortlist. Maybe now is the time to change it back?

Finding the King's Speech

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Will Gompertz | 18:02 UK time, Tuesday, 4 January 2011

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The King's Speech which goes on general release on Friday 7 January tells the story of King George VI's friendship with Australian speech therapist Lionel Logue, who helped the monarch's debilitating stutter.

Nine weeks before filming started Lionel Logue's grandson, Mark, who had recently unearthed letters and diaries belonging to his ancestor in a relative's attic, got a call from the film's director asking if he and the actors could come and see the archive.

For them it was a revelation.

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Update, Wednesday 5 January: Here is my report for BBC News bulletins.

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