Picasso on the Beach

One of Peggy Guggenheim’s favourite works of art forms the core of this show themed on beach works by the great Picasso. The star of the exhibition is On The Beach (La Baignade) (PICS A, A2) shown next to its preparatory sketch for the first time and astonishingly executed on the same day. The works prove the truth of a comment I once heard from a Malaga-based artist who knew Picasso: “He was very popular with the art dealers because he could churn out works very fast so they could always rely on having a steady stream of product to sell.” This exhibition is part of Picasso-Méditerranée initiative in which 60 institutions offer a journey across the Mediterranean to the places that inspired Picasso.

Until 17th January at the Peggy Guggenheim Collection, Venice, Italy

Leon Golub, H.C. Westermann and Famous Artist from Chicago

This highly unusual and major show is devoted to a generation of artists formed in Chicago in the aftermath of World War II. The curator Germano Celant has brought together a mass of figurative and political works generated in Chicago’s art schools but rejected by mainstream New Yorkers obsessed with action painting, abstract expressionism and minimalism. The most shocking of those on show here in the Nord and Sud galleries are the huge acrylics by Golub (PIC B) denouncing the brutality of war, racism, torture and violence. Westermann, (PIC B2) a highly influential sculptor and printmaker who excoriated militarism and materialism, became a key figure for later artists from Chicago, the most notorious being Jeff Koons, a one year wonder at the Art Institute of Chicago. Koons, a notorious ‘borrower’, appropriated figures from Westermann’s print Dance of Death for one of his own bizarre works Elvis but got away with the snatch.

Until 5th January at the Fondazione Prada, Milan, Italy

Louvre Abu Dhabi opens

It has been a decade coming but those who said the Louvre’s Middle East outpost would never open have been silenced. I first saw the stunning models of the design by French architect Jean Nouvel in 2007. At that time there were to be five museums on Saadiyat Island but at least two have been shelved, including almost certainly the Frank Gehry Guggenheim. The new Louvre, built on the £18billion manmade island that boasts a Ferrari World theme park as its other main attraction, will open in November. (PIC C) Buying the Louvre’s name cost Abu Dhabi £663million and today that looks like a good deal: the Louvre branding is estimated to be worth £344million for the duration of the contract. Oh, have I forgotten the art? A series of exhibitions and loans will see masterpieces from the Paris HQ brought before an audience with a growing appetite for, and appreciation of, art and culture.

Opens end November on Saadiyat Island, Abu Dhabi

Major sales at Sotheby’s

November sees three important sales from Sotheby’s. Property from a Hampstead collection includes Modern & Post-War British Art on the 21st and 22nd. (Pic D). This follows the inauguration of Sotheby’s new Dubai office with a sale November 13th spanning 20th century and contemporary art, design, photography, books, manuscripts, jewellery and Islamic art and including important works by Jean Dubuffet, Idris Khan and Khalil Gibran. And all eyes will be on Sotheby’s 16th November New York sale where Jean-Michel Basquiat’s Cabra from the collection of Yoko One comes up (Pic E ). Basquait holds the record as the most expensive American painter; in May Sotheby’s sold Untitled for $110 million in a riveting auction house battle. Seems Cabra, which commemorates the 1970 knockout victory of Muhammad Ali over Oscar ‘The Bull’ Bonavena, could punch above its $US 9-12million estimate.

Basquiat: Boom for Real

The first retrospective of the work of Jean-Michel Basquiat is the hottest show in the London winter season. (PIC x TO COME) Don’t miss it. The tragic life of Basquiat, genius street artist and now the most expensive American artist of all times (recently a work sold for $110,000) reads like the biography of the archetypal tragic artist. Established by 20, close friend of Warhol and even faster than Andy at churning out works – how the dealers loved him for that – he was dead at 27 from an overdose of the very stuff that fuelled this manic output. Gagosian, who was just establishing as a gallerist, says in the film of his life that he was often paid in “dollars and drugs” but of course not by him. The exhibition has plenty of photos and footage of Basquiat’s lifestyle, hanging out with Warhol (they practically invented the selfie) but above all that you should go for the boundless energy, raw primitive agony and dark genius of the actual works of art.

Until 28th January at the Barbican Art Gallery, London

Reflections: Van Eyck and the Pre-Raphaelites

This certainly is an odd marriage; not that of the enigmatic portrait of a pregnant woman and a Bruges merchant but an attempt to marry a 15th century Dutch realist with the 19th century English brotherhood of symbolist painters whose figurehead was Dante Gabrielle Rossetti. The argument is that the Arnolfini Portrait, (PIC F) which the National Gallery acquired in 1842, could have been seen by Rossetti, (PIC F3) Sir John Everett Millais and William Holman Hunt, (PIC F2) all Royal Academy students at the time of the purchase, and may have inspired their search for a purer, more formal style of painting (hence ‘pre-Raphael’). There are however no letters or other documents which substantiate the claim. Much is made of the convex mirror ( a fashionable accessory at the time) with examples of other work with mirrors on show. We no longer have Brian Sewell to shred the argument but critic Jonathan Jones steps into his shoes: “We might as well be seeing the Arnofini Portrait next to Damien Hirst, Beryl Cook or Quentin Blake as the claustrophobic 19th-century daubs gathered here from the museum store rooms where many of them rightfully belong,” he rages. Clearly one for the shortlist!

Until 2nd April at the National Gallery, London


I remember stepping out from the huge Modigliani exhibition in Paris in 1984 and finding the street full of people with elongated limbs and blank almond-shaped eyes. Momentarily, I was able to see through the eyes of Modigiani – the effect of the repletion of his unique style on my synapses. Amedeo Modigliani is another of the ‘cursed genius’ with a show in London this winter. The comparisons are hard to resist. Like Basquiat, had a prolific output – as many as 100 drawings in a day – fell into drug abuse and died young. Both painters’ works now make millions – the only difference being that Modigliani died destitute while Basquiat was rich by 25. Some of Modigliani’s best known works are the nudes (PIC G, G2) executed in Paris where he held his only solo exhibition. It is a famous story, for the nudes scandalised society and the show was closed on the opening day. Two years, ago one of the nudes from that event $170,405,000 at auction. Today it seems inconceivable that such elegant and beautiful works could have excited anything but admiration and pleasure.

From 23rd November until 2nd April at Tate Modern, London

Ruth Gruber: Photojournalist

If you are heading to Art Basel Miami this year, try and take in one of the headline shows of the season. Devoted to the remarkable Ruth Gruber, who passed away recently aged 105, it documents the milestones of her monumental life in photos. As the first correspondent granted permission to travel throughout the Soviet Arctic and Siberian gulag in the 1930s, Gruber documented frontier life in the Arctic and the unique role of women here (Pic H). At 30, she was appointed US Field Representative to the Alaska Territory, travelled throughout the vast and largely unknown expanse documenting its people and sending back reports on the territory. In 1944, Gruber accepted an assignment to bring Jewish refugees to America on board the Henry Gibbins, despite the dangers and from that point on devoted her life to causes connected with displaced peoples including from Yemen, Iraq, Romania, Morocco, Tunisia, and Ethiopia.

Until 7th January at The Jewish Museum of Florida-FIU, Miami Beach