Trafalgar Square in London has a new statue — a giant blue cockerel. It’s the latest work of art to adorn the Fourth Plinth, a nineteenth-century base flanking Nelson’s Column. The other three plinths all have statues but the Fourth Plinth never got one, and so in recent years it’s become home to a series of temporary sculptures.
The giant blue cock, as the British media can’t resist calling it, has caused a bit of a stir. The cockerel and the color blue are both symbols of France, and this is a square dedicated to one of the British Empire’s greatest victories over Napoleon. German artist Katharina Fritsch, who created the sculpture, said she wasn’t aware of the symbolism. As London Mayor Boris Johnson says (he’s the blond guy with the awful haircut in this video) it could mean a lot of things, such as the British victory in the Tour de France. At the very least, the royal blue hue ties into London’s recent baby boy mania.
Madrid is one of the best destinations in the world for art, and this summer its many museums and galleries are putting on an impressive array of temporary exhibitions.
The blockbuster of the season is at the Reina Sofia, which is having a major exhibition on Salvador Dalí. “All of the poetic suggestions and all of the plastic possibilities” brings together almost 200 works here by the famous odd man of surrealism.
Organized in roughly chronological order, the earliest paintings in the exhibition date to the mid-’20s and show a surprisingly traditional technique. Once he’d mastered the basics, however, Dalí soon plunged into his own unmistakable style. The exhibition is accompanied by detailed texts on Dalí’s life and career. For example, we learn the reason why we keep seeing the same set of cliffs in Dalí’s work. In his youth Dalí and his family would vacation at the seaside town of Cadaqués, where he became obsessed with the cliffs of Cape Creus. He once said, “I am convinced I am Cape Creus itself. I am inseparable from this sky, from this sea, from these rocks.”
%Slideshow-2876%Many of his best-known works are here, as well as early sketches and little gems, like a painting of Hitler masturbating. Who but Dalí could pull that off? (Pun intended.) Numerous video screens shows Dalí’s many film experiments, including the famous “Un Chien Andalou” with Luis Buñuel and several other lesser-known films. The show runs until September 2.
The Reina Sofia has two other exhibitions. “1961: Founding the Expanded Arts” looks at a vital year in the history of modern art that saw the expansion of artistic collaborations and music experimentation and the launch of Concept Art. It runs until October 28. At the museum’s annex at Retiro park is “Cildo Meireles,” which looks at the acclaimed Brazilian conceptual artist’s work and runs until September 29.
The Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza has a major exhibition on Camille Pissarro. This cofounder of Impressionism was the only one to take part in all eight Impressionist exhibitions from 1874 to 1886. The museum brings together more than 70 of his works, mostly the lush landscapes for which he was known. The show runs until September 15.
El Prado also has three temporary exhibitions. The headliner is “Captive Beauty: Fra Angelo to Fortuny.” This exhibition brings together almost 300 works characterized by their small size and technical excellence. The point is to demonstrate the ability of some of Europe’s greatest artists to create beauty in a confined space and to highlight works that are often missed hanging next to giant, better-known works. They are arranged chronologically from the 14th to 19th centuries. The show runs until November 10.
Another of El Prado’s exhibitions examines the relationship between two 18th-century artists,Anton Raphael Mengs and José Nicolás de Azara. The two painters traded ideas and collaborated on projects throughout their careers. “Mengs and Azara: Portrait of a Friendship” runs until October 13. “Japanese Prints,” which runs until October 6, showcases items from the museum’s collection from the 17th to 19th centuries.
This year Spain and Japan are celebrating 400 years of friendly relations. In 1613, a group of Japanese emissaries set out to visit Spain. They crossed the Pacific, passed through the Spanish colony of Mexico, and then crossed the Atlantic. After touring Spain they continued on to visit the Pope in Rome before heading back home. The whole trip took seven years. We talk a lot about adventure travel here on Gadling, but nothing in the modern day can measure up to what these early travelers did.
To honor the anniversary, the Museum of Decorative Arts is hosting “Namban,” a fascinating look at the artistic influence these two distant cultures had on one another. One interesting object is a large screen in the Japanese style, yet bearing a Spanish colonial painting of Mexico City. There is as yet no closing date for this exhibition.
If you hurry you can still catch a free exhibition of the work of Swiss surrealist Alberto Giacometti at the Fundación Mapfre. The exhibition includes numerous examples of his famous statues of elongated human figures as well as his lesser-known paintings. This exhibition runs until August 4.
We’re suffering sweltering temperatures here in Madrid right now, so beat the heat and go see some art!
“Shaping Power: Luba Masterworks from the Royal Museum for Central Africa” examines the royal art of the powerful Luba Kingdom, which from 1585-1889 dominated central Africa. Its royal lineage was highly regarded and developed an elaborate artwork to reflect its prestige.
The exhibition includes many objects loaned by the Royal Museum for Central Africa in Belgium, like this mask of a legendary hero. Many of the items depict women. While they didn’t rule, they were considered the spiritual guardians of the kingship and the creators of life. A Luba proverb says, “Men are chiefs in the daytime, but women are chiefs at night.” Among the works of art are masks, headrests, sceptres, thrones and cups.
The new Africa gallery is located next to the Egyptian gallery to highlight the influences the two regions had on one another. In addition to special exhibitions, the gallery will also host the museum’s permanent collection.
“Shaping Power: Luba Masterworks from the Royal Museum for Central Africa” runs until January 5, 2014.
Yoko Ono turned 80 earlier this year and to celebrate, the Louisiana Museum of Modern Art in Humlebæk, Denmark, has opened a retrospective covering more than half a century of her work.
“Yoko Ono Half-A-Wind” looks back at Yoko Ono’s influence on avant garde art and how her personal expression has changed over the decades, using various media such as installation pieces, poetry, music and film.
Much of her work is interactive. One of her most famous installation pieces, “En Trance,” is included in the exhibition. This architectural construction can be entered six different ways depending on the viewer, allowing for various experiences. There’s also a new installation, “Moving Mountains,” in which visitors are encouraged to create mobile sculptures from cloth bags.
This isn’t the only new work Yoko Ono has created for this exhibition. A series of billboards have been set up around Copenhagen with words such as “DREAM,” “TOUCH,” “IMAGINE” and “BREATHE” to encourage commuters to take time out of their busy urban schedules. She’s also distributed free postcards bearing her art in Copenhagen’s cinemas, restaurants and cafes.
Jim Henson’s family has donated nearly 400 puppets, costumes, props, and other objects to the museum. They include items from all of his major projects such as “The Muppet Show,” “Sesame Street,” “Fraggle Rock,” “The Dark Crystal” and others. The biggest stars included in the collection are Kermit the Frog, Miss Piggy, Elmo, Ernie, Bert, Count von Count, Gobo Fraggle, the Swedish Chef, and Statler and Waldorf.
The 2,200 square-foot exhibition space will also feature storyboards, scripts, and video clips.
The new gallery will open in the winter of 2014-15. It will cost $5 million to build and has already received $2.75 million for the City of New York.