Feature: ArtScene

ArtScene - Manet at Orsay, Miro at Tate, Tracey Emin at Hayward

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Paris in the spring. Manet and my favourite gallery, Musee d'Orsay - just a walk from my old studio. My sniffy waiter says the curator should be fired. Not enough variety. Maybe just enough. Like Manet's Paris, just enough ankle showing. More sniffs. Maybe he should stick to serving coffee.
This is a brilliant exhibition.  To stand in front of Manet is nearly as good as standing in front of Matisse. The Musee d'Orssay is almost a Manet lockup.  Here is late nineteenth century Parisian society as we would like to imagine it. Men dressed well, but casually. Ladies expecting to be in love.  Tight waists, tight wrists and silly small hats. Just look at the adoration in the beau's eyes in Chez le Pere Lathuille. His poetic intentions are gloriously dishonourable. But don't miss the waiter in the background sneering with his coffee pot at hand.  Why can't the lovers find somewhere else to be stupid?  No wonder they call this show Manet, the Man who Invented Modernity.  

This is Paris when the French capital was Manet. He could do what he wished with it. But it is not all love and slowly warming wine. There is nothing romantic about L'Execution de Maximillien. It's dark and smudgy. The figures bunch like sticks or charcoal not wanting our attention but even from the back, they get it. Whatever the crime, can it ever fit the gruesome moment of a blindfolded firing squad? Manet was not all nudes at le picnic. He's sometimes predictable but never boring. Wherever you are, get a cheap ticket before the exhibition closes on July 3rd. Ignore my waiter.
The Eurostar to London is simply not a railroad full of promise. But pause when you get to the London terminus, St Pancras. Wonderfully restored with bewilderingly brilliant glass ceilinMiro Tate.pngg.
A stroll by the Thames to Tate Modern the one time power station with the best view of St Paul's Cathedral. It's Joan Miro - the first proper retrospective for half a century. This is the work of more than an icon. It reflects the tiredness of a Europe so dreadfully in conflict for more than his lifetime in the war that so divided his native Spain, to the Second World War.

For me two things stood out: the collection of 50 black and white prints from the Barcelona Series. Strong and self assured mark making, expressing the vulnerability of the human condition and no room for self doubt. The second: the two vast triptychs. Beautiful application of paint utterly pure and joyuous colour. I left overawed, but then with, I confess, a sense of dread I trudged along to the Hayward Gallery and the Tracey Emin retrospection

The London art luvvies tell us Tracey is brilliant, and to paraphrase Ms Germaine Greer, "Tracey can really draw".  Sorry luvvies (including Professor Greer) but Tracey is trash. She can't draw. No discipline. I wish she'd stuck to textiles.

Tracey Emin.jpgI don't always agree with London art critic Brian Sewell, but he got it right after the opening last night: "Like some fraudulent medieval marketeer of relics, gulls us into venerating the trivial keepsakes of herself... skill, if she ever had any, has been usurped by celebrity."

Old Sewell got it right. Old Emin did not. The sadness is that the London art scene with its pretensions is conning us and Tracey is just going along with it. Go to Miro instead.

What really hurts is that the real exhibition this week was scarcely noticed: The campaign to get Ai Weiwei out of that gruesome Chinese jail.  Like all good hostage stories, maybe Tracey would offer to take his place.
ArtScene Quote of The Week: "I draw like other people bite their nails", Picasso.

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Fiona Graham-Mackay, is London's newest royal portrait painter. She is also recently back from painting in the Pakistan-Afghan border. She studied at London's Royal College of Art, had a studio in Paris before returning to the UK to paint and teach in London, Spain and Italy. Her next assignments are…

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