Fine Art Collector | Spring 2021

From the world of art

Here’s our regular digest for all the latest news and trends, including robot art, a century- old secret in one of history’s best-known artworks, and how galleries are making art accessible for everyone.

Credit: National Gallery of Norway

Credit: Felipe Simo

Credit: Viktor Forgacs

Credit: James Eades

Credit:André François McKenzie

Credit: Taylor Heery

Despite the UK government’s £1.57 billion rescue package for the arts, culture and heritage industries, many art galleries and museums have been hit hard by the COVID-19 crisis, with some – including the Royal London Opera House – forced to sell their art to raise crucial funds. In the USA, the prestigious Metropolitan Museum of Art is facing a $150 million budget deficit, and its director, Max Hollein, told The New York Times that it would be “inappropriate” not to consider selling items from its permanent collection. The idea has divided critics, with some stating that it could disincentivise future art donations, potentially leaving future generations without access to groundbreaking works. In more positive news, the museum also recently announced its first fully-paid internship programme. London’s National Gallery has also revealed plans for a £25 million upgrade ahead of its 200th anniversary in 2024.

With art such a visual medium, it can be difficult to imagine how it can be enjoyed by those with limited or no sight. But galleries and artists around the world are now exploring ways to make their art more accessible to visitors with alternative needs. The V&A has a ‘Touch Tour’ playlist that describes the items available to touch at the museum, while the Guggenheim Museum recently launched ‘Mind’s Eye: A Sensory Guide to the Guggenheim New York’, which is an audio experience that transports listeners into the space through descriptions of sensory aspects like sound, touch and light. For more news

A team of archivists, conservationists and curators at the National Museum of Norway have uncovered a secret message in the Norwegian Expressionist artist’s infamous 1893 work. Long thought to reveal the complexity of Munch’s mind, the rumoured self-portrait is a haunting depiction of human fear. Now, using infrared technology, experts have matched handwriting samples from his letters to an inscription in pencil on the top- left of the painting: ‘Can only be the work of a madman’. Curator Mai Britt Guleng believes that the “ironic comment” was Munch’s way of regaining control amidst speculation regarding his mental health. His sister was institutionalised in a mental hospital, while he once wrote: ‘My sufferings are a part of my self and my art. They are indistinguishable from me, and their destruction would destroy my art’.

We’ve all been starved of cultural excursions during the last year, which is why more of us than ever are supporting art galleries by attending virtual tours, classes and lectures. Until we can visit our favourite venues once more, we’re spoilt for choice when it comes to cultural entertainment. At the epicentre of the creative industry, London has been one of the key players, with the V&A, British Museum and National Portrait Gallery all offering virtual experiences for anyone interested in art. At the top of our wish list is a virtual reality tour of the National Gallery’s Sainsbury Wing, housing a world-class collection of Early Renaissance paintings. Over at the Royal Academy of Arts, you can watch their video for the fascinating Picasso and Paper exhibition, which spans the artist’s 80-year career.

Controversial art is nothing new, with artists historically pushing boundaries to provide commentary on societal and political issues, or simply for the ‘shock’ factor. From female nudity in Édouard Manet’s ‘Le Dejeuner sur l’Herbe’ (1863) to Marcel Duchamp’s ‘Fountain’ urinal (1917), no subject has been off limits. But at what point does outrageous become offensive? As people become more educated on topics such as race, what has previously been considered art has instead become a bone of contention. In 2020, the art curator of the Palace of Westminster admitted many of its artefacts had a “racist history”, while Marc Quinn’s statue of a Black Lives Matter protestor provoked a similarly heated reaction. Some critics have claimed that ‘cancel culture’ will erase key moments from history, while others say it will create a more harmonious society. What are your thoughts? Let us know on social media at @castlegalleries.

As if the art industry wasn’t already hard enough to break into, budding artists may now have to compete with robots! Ai-Da, the world’s first AI robot artist, will headline her own exhibition at the Design Museum in London in May 2021. Named after the pioneering female scientist and mathematician Ada Lovelace, this life-size humanoid uses AI algorithms to produce self- portraits that explore the use of artificial intelligence and the “confusion in human/machine relations”. She was created with the help of PhD students from the University of Oxford. In February 2021, Christie’s made its first foray into cryptocurrency – a digital or virtual currency that is secured using codes – for the auction of ‘Everydays: The First 5000 Days’ by the digital artist Beeple. It is believed that this new payment method will allow the auction house to a reach a new audience and engage more people with the arts.

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