Posts Tagged ‘ART’

Mary Cassatt: Painting the Modern Woman (2023)

Dir: Ali Ray, Writer: Phil Grabsky | Biopic, 74′

Mary Cassatt is often described as the most misunderstood of all the Impressionist artists but her work, and particularly her print-making was groundbreaking in showing 19th women actively engaged in their lives rather than merely as passive or decorative figures. Her radical images showed them to be intellectual, feminine and real, which was a major shift in the way women generally appeared in art during the 19th century. Part of the Exhibition of Screen series this new documentary biopic is directed by Ali Ray (Frida Kahlo) and written by Phil Grabsky (Hopper). 

In 1844, Cassatt was born into a privileged and well-connected family in Allegheny  near Pittsburgh which was then one of the largest cities in America. Beginning her career in the early 1860s, she, like other women artists, were not allowed to work from nude models so she honed her figurative painting by copying from plaster-castes. After the American civil war ended, she went to Paris where she found a stimulating art scene and studied under Jean-Leon Jerome, visiting the Louvre each day to gain inspiration and socialise with other artists of the day.

In 1867 she headed to Northern France to join an art colony in the town of Ecouen. Here she painted The Mandolin Player 1868, her first work to be accepted in a Paris salon, later returning back home, during the Franco Prussian War. But success eluded her on the home front, and she came to the realisation that her future lay in Europe where she was later welcomed into an artistic community in Parma, and then to Spain in 1872 where she settled in Seville and came under the influence of Hispanic painters and local styles.

Back in Paris, the rebuilding after the war provided a boost of creative energy and  Cassatt met Edgar Degas who had seen her work at the Academy des Beaux Arts and invited her to exhibit with the more radical Impressionists, after some false starts with the Salon des Refusés.

By 1878 she was collaborating with Degas. And the arrival of her parents and her sister Lydia provided her with support for socialising freely and making new connections. It was during this time she began working as a printmaker – a process involving etchings transferred onto a coated copper plate. With this distinctive style, she made a name for herself in works like The Lamp, so by age of 42 she was ready to show independently.

Cassatt’s career eventually encompassed not only painting and print-making but using the sale of her work to support the Women’s Suffrage Campaign. And by her sixties she had also become invaluable as an art advisor encouraging her fellow Americans on how to purchase French Impressionist paintings and build collections. Her successful career came to a close in 1914.

The world’s most eminent Cassatt curators enlighten this story of social and cultural change; a time when women were fighting for their rights, with the language of art being completely re-written. Mary Cassatt and her modern women were at the heart of it all. Sadly there is no mention here the outstanding female Impressionist, her French colleague Berthe Morisot.

In UK cinemas to coincide with International Women’s Day on March 8th 2023.

The Danish Collector: From Delacroix to Gauguin (2021)

Dir: David Bickerstaff | UK ART Doc

A private collection of modern art including works from Delacroix, Monet and Gauguin forms the subject of this latest documentary from David Bickerstaff, best known for bringing international art exhibitions to the big screen.

The Danish Collector: From Delacroix to Gauguin shows how a self made man and his savvy wife saved a treasure trove of priceless paintings from the ravages of war in Europe by transferring them to neutral Denmark.

Wilhelm Peter Henning Hansen (1868-1934) rose from modest beginnings to amass a fortune from the insurance business. At the age of 25 he bought his first painting, Monet’s ‘Waterloo Bridge’ (1903) exploring changing light and fog in the haze of industrial development, and by 1912 Hansen’s French realist and impressionist collection was well under way as he set out to acquire twelve works from each of his chosen artists mapping the development of Impressionism from its origins and early influences of Ingres and Delacroix. These included paintings by Sisley, Pisarro, Monet, Corot, Corbet and Renoir and works by female Impressionist painters Berthe Morisot and Eva Gonzales.

When war broke out in 1914 he capitalised on the conflict by sending the paintings to his wife Henny in Denmark where they were housed in a specially designed country house in Ordrupsgaard (near Copenhagen). He later joined a consortium of middle-class Danish collectors whose aim was to bring outstanding French art to Scandinavia during in a wave of Civic pride.

Accompanied by an occasional score of strings and more romantic vibes, Bickerstaff’s agile camera lingers over the detail – particularly lovely is Manet’s 1882 ‘Basket of Pears’ – as well as giving a broad-brush approach to the works in their various settings, interweaving informative on-screen interviews from relevant curators.

Eschewing a straightforward narrative the style here is to gather together the various specialists and then give them free rein to talk about their own research and insights. This gives the doc a random, freewheeling yet highly informative quality as the curators go off on their different tangents.

After an intro from London’s Royal Academy chief Axel Ruger we swing into the gallery where Bickerstaff takes us on a fleeting tour of the exhibition, double hanging reflecting the way Hansen hung the pictures in his own home, whetting our appetite for what is to follow.

Anna Ferrari takes over telling us how Henny Hansen realised that the works acquired by her husband were becoming increasingly becoming valuable amongst collectors, and shipping them back to Denmark. The couple were particularly keen on Monet’s ‘garden’ period and Sisley’s landscapes paintings that mapped a journey down the Seine, with smoking chimneys charting the burgeoning industrial era, his ‘September Morning’ (1887) shows leaves tussling in the fresh breeze, with the sky dominating. The film travels from London to Paris, the cradle of the Belle Époque, with its experimental artist scene, and then on to Denmark where Ordupsgaard’s curator Anne Brigitte Fonsmark enlightens with a tour of the house and its specially designed Danish furniture complimented by flower arrangements gathered from the lavish gardens, and the recently added extension by the later Zaha Hadid.

Art historian Professor Frances Fowle makes the most impact with her amusing stories about the illustrious women Impressionist collectors namely the Welsh sisters Gwendoline and Margaret Davies who built up the country’s largest and most important series of French Impressionist and Post-Impressionist works in the 1920s and bequeathed it to the National Museum of Wales, and Kentucky philanthropist Berthe Palmer (and her husband Potter) whose collection now forms the core of the Art Institute of Chicago’s Impressionist collection. MT


The Savior For Sale: The Story of Salvator Mundi (2020) Sheffield Doc Festival 2021

Dir: Antoine Vitkine | France Doc 95′

Controversy has long surrounded this emotive work of art purportedly by Leonardo da Vinci. Like a beautiful woman, many men have struggled to win her and have succeeded, but then been deceived or outwitted. But the ‘Salvator Mundi’ represents more than just a depiction of Christ, it has a deeper resonance thanks to its title: ‘Saviour of the World’ capturing the zeitgeist of our fragile planet, that resonates beyond Christendom.

Best known in France for his TV outings: ‘Magda Goebels, First Lady of the Third Reich’ (2017) and ‘The President and the Dictator: Sarkozy-Kadafi’ (2015), journalist, writer and director Antoine Vitkine explores the painting’s eventful journey from discovery to oblivion so exposing the vagaries of the international art market. This is a lushly mounted sinuously-scored thriller, its twists and turns revealing some of the most powerful players in the art world, and those making money out of them. It’s a tale of backbiting, greed and hype that shows how leverage from a handful of key players can transform a virtually valueless piece to a painting commanding millions the following day in the hurly burly of market credibility.

From the opening scenes The Savior For Sale bristles with intrigue and skulduggery transporting us into the hushed homes and yachts of the super-rich from Paris to New York, London to Monaco. A masterpiece in investigative journalism the film’s cut and thrust only adds to its allure, showing how the ‘Salvator’s’ attribution to the legendary old Italian master would see its value rise to stellar heights, becoming “the most expensive – and coveted – painting in the world”.

Modest yet deeply resonant its depiction of a serene Christ – not unlike that of the Mona Lisa – the painting’s route to success comes courtesy of a fascinating group of protagonists whose roll-call plays out like a game of Cluedo. There is “The Expert” Martin Kemp; “The Dealer” Warren Adelson; “The Journalist” Scott Reyburn; “The Oligarch” Dmitri Rybolovlev and his Swiss right-hand man Yves Bouvier. Belgian art specialist Chris Deacon also makes his case, and soon the Saudis wade in with their billions. The aim is to prove that Leornardo was the painter, not simply his studio, and there’s a great deal to be gained – and lost – financially in the process. MT


The Lost Leonardo (2020) TriBeCa (2020)

Dir: Andreas Koefoed | Cast: Dianne Modestini, Yves Bouvier, Robert Simon, Alexander Parish, Warren Adelson, Luke Syson, Martin Kemp, Frank Zöllner, Maria Teresa Fiorio, Jacques Franck, Evan Beard, Kenny Schachter, Jerry Saltz, Robert K Wittman, Alexandra Bregman, Georgina Adam, Alison Cole

This year’s Tribeca Film Festival offers a treat for art lovers, especially those following the fortunes of “The Salvator Mundi”. Not just one but two documentaries explore the buzz surrounding the most expensive painting ever sold (at $450 million), claimed to be the work of the legendary artist Leonardo Da Vinci.

The Lost `Leonardo goes behind closed doors to dish the dirt on this ‘civilisational masterpiece’. Whereas Antoine Vitkine’s The Savior for Sale (2021) took a jaunty thriller approach to the picture’s authenticity and provenance, and its journey to acquiring that stratospheric price tag, the Danish director Andreas Koefoed takes a deep dive into the artful world world of art marketing and explores possible outcomes for the work which disappeared after being brought by a Saudi prince (surely a sacrilegious acquisition as Islam forbids any depiction of a prophet) and is now purportedly languishing in a secret location, or possibly back in the care of Yves Bouvier the world’s richest freeport owner.

Dividing into a series of Parts (I,II & III), the story is steeped in greed, one-upmanship and secrecy. The Lost Leonardo reveals how vested interests became all-important, and the painting itself almost secondary. Once again with almost the same players as Vitkine’s film, the story relies on a high profile array of compelling interviews illustrating how the work of art went from the discreet world of old masters to take on celebrity status as a ‘trophy piece’ thanks to Christie’s cunning marketing strategy. Bidders were required to transfer a percentage of the funds into a ‘goodwill’ sealed account to show their good intentions. And the bids came in thick and fast – possibly from entire countries rather than individuals, finally closing at $450 million.

But the fake tag still lingered. Art Critic Jerry Saltz was one of the painting’s main detractors, as was a stream of – mostly ignorant – twitter followers to the viral stream the Christie auction attracted. But the painting’s careful restorer Dianne Modestini stands by its authenticity, and Jean-Luc Martinez (president of the Louvre Museum) has confirmed it as a work by da Vinci in the museum’s catalogue.

As the documentary moves further away from the painting and its provenance, and more into the world of billionaires, it is revealed how vested interests are more relevant than the truth, in a film that studies each aspect of the art world and increasingly contemplates the religious, moral and ethical issues implicated by such a resonant painting.

A sinuous score by Sveinung Nygaard drives the story forward to the final – surprising – denouement in a film that is really more about social politics and one-up-manship than art history. MT

Tribeca Film Festival 2021


Sunflowers (2021) Exhibition on Screen

Dir: David Bickerstaff | Prod: Phil Grabsky | UK Do

Exhibition On Screen is a series of documentary portraits of painters and their iconic works. It goes behind the scenes at major galleries and museums offering insight from experts and curators and dramatised scenes that bring the artists to life.

David Bickerstaff and Phil Grabsky have already highlighted the letters and paintings of Van Gogh. This time the focus is on his famous paintings of sunflowers and how they inspired the artist to create a series of pictures that have become synonymous with the Dutch master and his tragic and extraordinary life. The image of the Sunflowers nowadays stands alongside the Mona Lisa as one of the best known and best loved images around the globe.

Van Gogh’s broad brush strokes and vibrant colour palette embody his passionate and intense nature in a prolific and struggling career that was partly funded by his brother Theo, whose letters to Vincent form part of an earlier film by the director duo (Van Gogh: A New Way of Seeing) and Van Gogh in Japan. Other films focusing on the Dutch master are the animated 2017 drama Loving Vincent with Helen McCrory, and Maurice Pialat’s drama Van Gogh 

Here the focus is on the sunflowers that inspired five related paintings. These bold and honest flowers that embody beauty, strength and vulnerability somehow grew in significance. The weed-like crop native to the arid fields of France, Italy and Spain, became the subject of a work of art now worth millions of pounds. In the same way, the flowers connect with Van Gogh’s simple and soulful nature and his struggle to find meaning through his art that still resonates deeply with audiences today.

World authorities on Van Gogh’s work provide valuable insight amongst them Louis Van Tilborg from the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam and Chris Riopelle from the London’s National Gallery who take us behind the scenes to reveal the complexities surrounding the five famous depictions of the Arles Sunflowers from collections in London, Philadelphia, Tokyo, Munich and Amsterdam.

Meanwhile actor Jamie de Courcey (from A New Way of Seeing) again fleshes out the artist in dramatised sequences that attempt to show Van Gogh’s innermost thoughts about what the flowers really meant to him. MT

Sunflowers is released in cinemas across the UK from 8 June, including Curzon, Everyman, Odeon, Picturehouse, Showcase, Vue and independent cinemas. Find your nearest cinema at

The Artist’s Wife (2020)

Dir: Tom Dolby | Cast: Lena Olin, Bruce Dern, Juliet Rylance, Avan Jogia, Stephanie Powers, Catherine Curtin, Tonya Pinkins, Caryn West, Ravi Cabot-Conyers | US Drama

Dementia is not a happy affliction so Tom Dolby’s film is bound to make for painful viewing despite thoughtful turns from Bruce Dern who plays an ageing artist stumbling on the foothills of mental decline, and his wife Lena Olin who somehow gains strength from the experience.

Claire Smythson (Olin) is a sympathetic character who has sidelined her own painting career to support her husband, a renowned abstract artist Richard Smythson. And it all starts breezily with the two being interviewed as she snuggles up affectionately to her husband: “I create the art, and Claire creates the rest of our life.”

The drama plays along similar lines to The Wife which is a shame because you can’t help feeling a sense of deja vu despite Olin and Dern who are always enjoyable to watch and bring head-nodding subtext to their respective roles.

Dern is particularly good as the vulnerable ego-driven sweetheart who realises his life – and control – is ebbing away making him hit out and occasionally become obnoxious. He’s not as funny as he was in Nebraska, but this is inspired by Dolby’s own experience so his script is all the more personal (yet sketchy – despite involving two other writers).

Olin gets the surprisingly insightful role that sees her increasingly empowered to develop her own craft, and then there’s her prickly daughter in law Angela (Juliet Rylance) a lesbian who’s – predictably – ‘so busy’ and also has a child with her partner – but  it’s a hapless “you were never there for me role” vis a vis her estranged father. There’s a bit of a romantic frisson between Angela’s nanny Danny (Jogia) and Claire but nothing happens.

The focus is Richard’s recent diagnosis which comes in the wake of some erratic behaviour. The timing couldn’t be worse as he’s preparing for a major show which also make things feel rather schematic.

Beautifully filmed in the Hamptons and occasionally moving despite its irritating score, this goes down easily – and predictably, there are no surprises. MT


Van Gogh & Japan (2019) ***

Dir: David Bickerstaff | Doc, 90′

Van Gogh was one of the most influential and prolific artists of the 19th Century so it seems reasonable that another biopic should be dedicated to him, this time looking at his influence in Japan.

David Bickerstaff once again directs with a similar format to Van Gogh, A New Way of Seeing using the artist’s personal letters from close friends and his brother Theo to reveal Van Gogh’s deep connection to Japanese visual culture, and its importance in understanding his most iconic works. 

Although the Dutch artist never infact visited to Japan, his work had a profound impact on his contemporaries there including calligrapher Tomoko Kawao and performance artist Tatsumi Orimoto, and film provides a modern perspective on the rich, symbiotic relationship between Van Gogh and Japan.

Dramas such as At Eternity’s Gate and Loving Vincent have helped to flesh out what the Dutch artist was like as a man. Van Gogh & Japan shows how the European avant-garde went hand in hand with Japan art in the 19th century, and how artists such as Hokusai, Utagawa Kinuyoshi and Hiroshige captured the imagination of those painters who laid the foundations of modernism in Europe, on the other side of the world: Manet’s American friend Whistler was influenced by Japanese artwork in his painting Nocture: Blue and Gold – Old Battersea Bridge.

Bickerstaff films in the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam where there is perhaps the most direct example of how Van Gogh was influenced by Hiroshige’s prints, The Residence with Plum Trees at Kameido, 1857; and he went on to paint his own version in 1887, Flowering Plum Orchard (after Hiroshige).


As the Edo period came to an end in 1860s and Japan opened up to the West, Paris became awash with all things Japanese in the form of decorative objects and colourful woodcut prints called ‘ukiyo-e’. This was known as ‘Japonisme’. And whilst Van Gogh was not tempted to visit, he became fascinated with elements of Japanese visual culture and studied Japanese works carefully, learning from their compositional fluidity of line. He also acquired a large quantity of Japanese prints which he tried to sell without success, although they did provide a great source of inspiration. Van Gogh always brought his own unique style to his paintings even when directly copying and duplicating the imagery of the Japanese originals. There’s a full-bloodied richness, a vibrancy that is often oppressive, violent even.
In 1888, Paris became too much for Vincent and he left for the South of France, in the pursuit of new subject matter and a healthier life. In Provence, he discovered a beautiful landscape, powerful light and exotic people which spoke to his idealised vision of Japan – his Japanese dream. The productive yet fraught years that followed produced some of the most unique works in Van Gogh’s oeuvre such as ​The Sunflowers​ and his series of iconic portraits.

Other later self-portraits further underline his own unsettled state of mind. Infact, the exhibition only goes to accentuate Van Gogh’s own alienation. The Buddhist calm is in contrast to his own desperation as he flails around unreconciled with his own life. He clearly sought emotional refuge in this Zen influence.

One of the final paintings, Rain at Auvers (from the Museum of Wales), completed just before he killed himself in 1890, is the saddest comparison between East and West, and was possibly inspired by Hiroshige’s Night Rain at Karasaki. But it feels more like an interpretation of Munch’s The Scream in its depiction of the dark desperation of man who has finally lost his way.

Although these influences fascinated him for a while, his own style was always prominent in his work, the sheer force of his personality producing a passion not only in his bold strokes but also in his striking colour palette with marks that made his work significant and highly personal. They vibrate with allure and transmit the strength of his charisma, whilst the Japanese works often feel tepid in comparison. Van Gogh pours his heart and soul into his work. And that is why it resonates with his admirers. MT

Van Gogh & JAPAN 

The Price of Everything (2018) ****

Dir.: Nathaniel Kahn; Documentary with Amy Cappellazzo, Stefan Edlis; Jeff Koons, Larry Poons, Gerhard Richter, Jerry Saltz; USA 2018, 98′

Does the global art market benefit the many, or just the very few? It’s an valid question and one that Nathaniel Kahn explores in his entertaining examination of those who have the funds to buy any artistic creation they fancy. Only to lock it away in their private collections while it makes more and more money. The work is question is of no benefit to the general public, because the inflationary prices have made it almost impossible even for the most elite museums to buy and display these works.

The story started on 18th October 1973, when the private collector and NY taxi-fleet owner Robert Scull sold about 50 of his paintings at Sotheby Park-Bernet Gallery. Among them was Jasper John’s ‘Target’, which went for a (then) amazing 135 000 US Dollars. It is now worth a cool hundred million Dollars, after being bought by the private collector Stefan Edlis for ten million in 1997. The Scull auction captured the imagination of the banks. who had never previously considered modern Art as an investment. Prices were driven up – artificially or not – and today’s inflationary sums are paid, ten times higher than they were at the beginning of the millennium. Obviously, the people who profit defend the system. Especially auctioneers such as Sotheby’s: “Great art, almost by nature, needs to be greatly valued” (ie. expensive), “because that’s the culture’s way of protecting it.”

 But what about the painters? There are certain superstars like Jeff Koons who are ‘untouchable’ – even though one of Hirst’s private collectors has recently seen his artwork go down in price. In today’s market it’s not worth the five million Dollars he paid for it originally. Koons, looking like a playboy gone to seed, is seen working in his atelier, around hundred painters taking orders from the master (no, it does not look like Warhol’s Factory at all), whilst the Koons explains that he could only finish one painting a month without his ‘little helpers’. One should mention that Jeff Koons was once a Wall Street trader, which chimes in with Kahn’s reference to The Wolf of Wall Street.

The director then turns his attention to artist Larry Poons who is at the other end of the scale. Now in his eighties, but still very feisty, Poons “fell off the grid” after his success in the 1960s, with his minimalist dot paintings. After he changed his style, moving on to large scale expressionism, his emotional paintings rapidly feel from grace and he became a ‘non-entity’. But, as fate would have it, his work is now popular again – “I wouldn’t be alive, if I had gotten rich”. Seeing him on his vintage motor bike, enjoying himself, you can believe every word. The Cologne based artist Gerhard Richter is now the best-selling artist in Europe. Whilst lecturing about the importance of museums, we see him at a major auction he professes to hate so much. And Amy Cappellazzo, Chairman of Global Fine Arts at Sotheby’s, calls her marketing strategy “hunting” – returning us to the Wolf of Wall Street theme. 

Kahn never really comes down on one side or the other in his fascinating debate. But goes on to show how the future holds even more opportunities for the chosen few: An artwork “created” be AI just fetched $ 432000 – so superstars like Koons and Richter better be careful: AI will need much less maintenance – until they take over the whole human bamboozle. AS




Artes Mundi 8 Award | National Museum Cardiff

THE NATIONAL MUSEUM in Cardiff is playing host to the UK’s largest international art prize Artes Mundi. From the 26 October until 24 February 2019 the exhibition showcases the five finalists competing for this coveted award.

Thai auteur Apichatpong Weerasethakul has joined the list with his latest work INVISIBILITY, a short film melding cinema with contemporary art and riffing on the signature themes that permeated Cemetery of Splendour (2016) and his 2006 debut Syndromes and a Century. Also short-listed for this year’s Artes Mundi award is French-Moroccan artist and filmmaker, Bouchra Khalili. Her short film Twenty-Two Hours took part in this year’s BFI London Film Festival. 

In Twenty-Two Hours, Bouchra Khalili (left) considers how celebrated French writer Jean Genet was invited by the Black Panther Party to secretly visit them in in the U.S in 1970. The film features Doug Miranda, a former prominent member of the Black Panther Party. Echoing BlacKKKlansman, the film questions how we might transmit the historical voice of resistance into the present.

This year’s selection has been distilled from over 450 entries, from 86 countries. The judging committee includes Anthony Shapland, creative director of Cardiff’s g39 gallery. Artes Mundi is a charity founded in 2002.










Apichatpong’s work deals with memory, personal politics, and social issues in his native Thailand. With over 40 films under his belt, and still only 48, he is a Cannes Film Festival regular, where he won the Palme d’Or in 2010 for his fantasy drama Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives, and the Jury prize for Tropical Malady in 2004. Cemetery of Splendour (2015/above) was selected to World premiere in the arthouse Un Certain Regard sidebar, and his love story Blissfully Yours won the UCR award in 2002. His surreal and enigmatic open-ended outings evoke the essence of his homeland through mysterious narratives that often remain unsolved, and are best savoured rather than explained. These fables often have a political undercurrent that we can take or leave, depending on our mood. The past and the present co-exist, and while the focus is general Thai history and folklore, the features have a universal quality exploring love and loss, tradition and the supernatural. His rich reveries explore dreams, nature, and sexuality, alongside Western perceptions of Asia. His recent outing Ten Years in Thailand (2018) is a collaboration between three of his compatriots, and premiered during this year’s Sitges – Catalonia Film Festival.

Experimental in nature, Mysterious Object at Noon (2000) is a film of captivating beauty that blends facts and fiction in a story passed from one person to another, Blissfully Yours (2002)is a languid affair that sees two illegal Burmese immigrants enjoys a leisurely afternoon at a remote rural backwater, in the politically charged location between Thailand and Myanmar). One of them is suffering from the after affects of hiding from the authorities in a septic tank. Tropical Malady (2004) sees a love affair gently blossom in the twilight zone between reality and the spirit world, and Uncle Boonmee (2010) also deals in this dreamlike world when a dying man communes with his family, past and present, roaming to the north of Thailand where spends his final days in the birthplace of his first life. Syndromes and a Century (2006) and psychic drama Cemetery of Splendour (2016) both deal with patients and their carers in a rural hospital setting in lush jungle. Bangkok and a countryside clinic is also the backdrop to the unconsummated love story Syndromes and a Century, one of  Weerasethakul’s more accessible films. Music plays a vital role in his features. More often than not, his lulling melodies and soft refrains complement the dreamlike narratives that ask us to abandon ourselves to reverie – and go with the flow. In Mekong Hotel (2012) guitar music accompanies a shifting tale of fact and fiction between a vampire and her daughter in a hotel situated by the Mekong River. Ambient sound in also a used to recreate the intensely sensuous nature of the early scenes of Syndromes and a Century. Traditional folks songs also feature in this autobiographical work that explores the director’s early days at home with his medic parents.

Moroccan-French artist Bouchra Khalili works with film, video and mixed media. Her focus is on ethnic and political minorities examining the complex relationship between the individual and the community. She is also a Professor of Contemporary Art at The Oslo National Art Academy and a founding member of La Cinematheque de Tanger, an artist-run non-profit organisation based in Tangiers, Morocco. She was the recipient of the Radcliffe Institute Fellowship from Harvard University (2017-2018). Her latest film installation is Twenty-Two Hours (2018).

The three other short-listed artists are: Anna Boghiguian, Otobong Nkanga and Trevor Paglen. The prize will be awarded in January 2019.




Kusama: Infinity 2018) ****

Dir.: Heather Lenz; Documentary with Yayoi Kusama; USA 2018; 78 min.

Heather Lenz’s captivating debut feature documentary is a portrait of Japanese painter, performance artist and film maker Yayoi Kusama, today the best-selling living female artist, whose long career was rescued from oblivion in the 1980s, when she shared the limelight with such luminaries as Jackson Pollack.

Yayoi Kusama was born Matsumoto, Japan in 1929. Her parents were respectable middle-class people whose torrid marriage was the troubled backcloth to Kusama’s early life. When still a young teenager, she was forced to work in a military factory, producing parachutes for Japanese soldiers. In 1948 she enrolled at the Kyoto School for Arts and Crafts, gaining success afterwards with her lively watercolours. Emigrating to New York in the late 1950s, she became famous for her room-sized installations such as Mirror/infinity (1963). This concept was a first for the New York art scene, but being a woman and a foreigner, she was literally written out of history: Andy Warhol and Claes Oldenburg exhibited work “very much unlike their past creations”, commented one art critic, implying that Kusama’s ideas had been “borrowed” by men, who dominated the galleries in the 60s and 70s when women artists could never hope to exhibit on their own, only in groups.

During the Vietnam War, Kusama staged many ‘happenings’, and nudity featured proudly. In 1966 she visited the Venice Biennale, which she ‘crashed’ with her installation of many hundred spheres on a ‘kinetic carpet’. But when the spheres went on sale for $4 each, she was evicted. In 1993 she would be the first Japanese artist at the 45th Biennale to have a solo show at the place she had ‘crashed’ in 1966.

Tension with her father gave way to difficulties with intimacy in adulthood. Her longest platonic relationship was with the artist Joseph Cornell, and lasted until to his death in 1972.  When Cornell and her were kissing in the garden of the house he shared with his mother, she would ambush their intimacy by pouring cold water over Kusama. Returning to Japan in 1973, her name in the annuals of her High School in Matsumoto was soon obliterated due of her “shameful” behaviour. Today, her permanent life sculptures still stand in front of the Matsumoto City Museum of Art, where she had last exhibited in 2005.

In 1977 Kusama checked into the Seiwa Hospital for the Mentally Ill – where she returned every night, having spend the day working in her studio. Sporting her ‘signature’ red Wig and Polk-Dot clothing in the studio, she works intensively to finish her intricate paintings in three days “because I am in the last phase of my life, and have to no time to lose”. Clearly her work is informed by her complex past.

Since 2001 Kusama has had eight major exhibitions all over the world; in 2017 “Yayoi Kusama Infinity Mirrors” opened at the Hirshhorn Museum in Washington DC and will travel to five major museums until the end of 2019. The exhibition celebrates her 65-year long career comprising six of her stunning “Infinity Mirror Rooms” and other key works of together with her latest series “My eternal Soul”.

Lenz captures the personality of this amazing artist who has triumphed over adversity. Today, Yayoi Kusama is serene, her colour schemes reflect optimism through vibrant primary colours. She is an incarnation of the phrase: “if it wasn’t for art, I would have killed myself long ago”.   AS



Cezanne: Portraits of a Life (2017)

Dir: Phil Grabsky | David Bickerstaff | Doc | 85′

Phil Grabsky directs in this documentary exploring the life, art and legacy of the “father of modern art”, Paul Cézanne. 

Based on his extensive correspondence with painters including Émile Zola and Camille Pissarro, plus interviews with curators, experts and the artist’s great-grandson Philippe Cézanne

The film uses the exhibition Cézanne Portraits, on display at the National Portrait Gallery in London, as a launching off point to uncover the story of the man credited with bridging the gap between Impressionism and Cubism and heralding in a new generation of artistic tradition. This “once in a lifetime” exhibition was first mounted in the Musée d’Orsay in Paris and was also shown in the National Gallery of Art in Washington DC, featuring fifty of Cézanne’s portraits from collections around the world.

Cézanne – Portraits of Life also travels to Paris, where Cézanne mixed in the emerging circle of Impressionists, and to his childhood and family home in Aix-en-Provence, giving viewers an unprecedented insight into one of history’s most significant yet, until now, lesser-known artists.

Impossible to appreciate 20th century art without understanding the significance and genius of Paul Cézanne. The immersive documentary includes interviews with curators and experts from the National Portrait Gallery London, MoMA New York, National Gallery of Art Washington, and Musée d’Orsay Paris, and correspondence from the artist himself, and takes audiences beyond the exhibition to the places Cézanne lived and worked and sheds light on an artist who is perhaps the least known of all the Impressionists. MT

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