Art in The Week That Was

A selection of creative current affairs and events which have hit the headlines in the last week…

1.  Notting Hill Carnival ’17

A touching tribute to the Grenfell Tower victims. Nottinghill Carnival-goers donned green to signify their solidarity in grief and remembrance.

Nearly 1 million revellers were expected to descend on Notting Hill, London, this weekend for its 51st street carnival.  Emergency services worked together tirelessly to achieve a smooth-running and safe event for such a large crowd.  The Carnival curators themselves efficiently kept visitors up-to-date with safety information via their Twitter account, and all-in-all much fun was had.  Some stunning costume designs graced the procession: huge, mirrored peacock tails; traditional, tribal dress; tartan corsets and iridescent jewels a-plenty.  Certain costumes even featured huge, architectural details such as African flags making up the image of a face measuring over 20 feet high.

The carnival was initiated in 1964 as a means by which African communities in London could celebrate their culture together.  It is now the largest street festival in Europe and is set in multiple streets in Kensington.  Led by the British West-Indian community, the procession attracts an eclectic mix of acts, radiating a sense of togetherness, festivity and like-mindedness.  This year, for example, the entire carnival held a 1-minute silence to commemorate the Grenfell Tower victims.

2.  Christies New York Sale

Enamel cloisonné crane detail from Lot 169, Christies New York ‘Living With Art’ sale, 22-23rd August.

The ‘Living With Art’ sale held at Christies New York earlier this week achieved a high percentage of lots sold.  The highest bid went to Lot 169, ‘A Very Large Pair of Chinese Cloisonné Enamel Models of Cranes’.  Whilst some lots achieved bids of around the $30,000 mark, this lot achieved the highest by far – $162,500.  The auction house estimate for the pair was $10,000 to $15,000 but bidding far outstripped expectation.  Dated to the 19th Century, the cranes were similar to another pair sold at Christies New York in 2014 in their ‘Rivers of Color’ sale.  Although valued at $60,000 to $80,000, Lot 645 achieved a stunning $197,000.

In the book ‘The Palace Museum: Peking, Treasures of the Forbidden City’ by Wang-go Weng and Yang Boda, it is stated that such candlesticks were seen flanking the throne in the Hall of Great Harmony where various cloisonné censers ’emitted fragrant smoke that spiralled upward to envelop the Son of Heaven in ethereal haze…’*.

3.  Tate Late ‘Soul of a Nation’

The book to accompany the exhibition can be purchased from for $39.95.  Features substantial essays by Mark Godfrey and Zoe Whitley, and covers artists such as Sam Gilliam and Melvyn Edwards.

To coincide with the Notting Hill Carnival, the Uniqlo Tate Late programme offered a limited number of free tickets to its ‘Soul of a Nation: Art in the Age of Black Power’ exhibition.  Usually, free entry is reserved for Tate members only, but the gallery flexed its ticketing policy for this special event.  The event itself runs until 22nd October, so there is still time to view it.  According to the Tate, Soul of a Nation: ‘shines a bright light on the vital contribution of Black artists to a dramatic period in American art and history’.  Beginning in 1963 with the American Civil Rights movement and its aspirations for societal integration, the show illustrates how this protest gradually became more militant and interrogatory.  Artwork became a medium through which provocation and confrontation could be achieved effectively without physical contact and to a huge audience.  As such, the face of American art was changed permanently.

According to sources, Amy Lamé (London Night Czar) said about the exhibition:-

‘The Mayor and I believe it’s really important that London’s night life reflects the incredible diversity of the city – whether you want to go to the theatre, visit an exhibition or party the night away. Uniqlo Tate Lates are a mainstay of London’s night life, so it’s great to see Tate Modern open up the Soul of a Nation exhibition free to all Londoners for this distinctive mix of art, music and entertainment. This is a fantastic way to experience the capital’s exceptional night time culture, showing London is open to creativity and to all people.’.

2017 marks the 50th anniversary of the first use of the term ‘Black Power’ by student activist Stokely Carmichael.

4.  Celebrating the Bantu Culture

Hull was proud to be announced UK City of Culture 2017, back in November 2013. It beat Leicester, Dundee and Swansea Bay to the coveted title.  According to TV producer Phil Redmond who chaired the judging panel, Hull was the unanimous choice because it put forward ‘the most compelling case based on its theme as ‘“a city coming out of the shadows”.

Touching base with this year’s City of Culture, Art Today found that Hull’s back-to-basics project most recently took place on Saturday at Thorpes Resource Centre, Orchard Park.  Throughout the year, ‘Celebrating the Bantu Culture’ has permeated various areas across the city, celebrating ‘the humble but fantastic creativity of people from southern regions of Africa’.  

Organiser Cathrine Israel is one of many Bantu people originating from African regions south of the equator.  They have previously emigrated to the 2017 City of Culture, and are happy to call Hull their home.   She commented: ‘We want to share with you how we embrace culture in the southern regions of Africa…  We enjoy creativity using natural substances. For our people, creativity is of necessity!’.

Other venues set to host this Creative Communities Programme include Wawne Village Hall (23rd Sept) and Priory Baptist Church (28th Oct).  The project runs from 1pm to 6pm and entrance is free.

Martin Green, Director of Hull 2017, stated: ‘What a great way to get creative in ways you probably never have before.  Creative Communities celebrates the diverse culture we have in the city and this is another great example of that…’.

5.  VMAs Fashion

Lady Gaga shocked and stunned the crowd at the Video Music Awards back in 2010 when she stepped out dressed head-to-toe in her infamous ‘Meat Dress’.

The MTV VMA Awards Ceremony took place this week, attracting eclectic (and some daring) fashion choices by the usual flock of A-Listers.  Gal Gadot (star of the recent ‘Wonder Woman’ movie) surprised the media with her conservative and chic offering (a blue/black, iridescent, tea-length cocktail dress).  Katy Perry – one of the hosts for the evening – wore a captivating, a-symmetrical Stephane Rolland evening gown, achieving an elegant, adult look.  Unfortunately, some of her comedy and costume choices fell a little flat during proceedings – including wearing a baby doll in a papouse for a joke about children currently being a trendy accessory.  Previously controversial outfits have included Lady Gaga’s ‘Meat Dress’ (2010) and Miley Cyrus’ silver belts accompanying bead-encrusted, sheer apron (2015).  It seems for some that where the VMAs are concerned, the more outrageous the outfit, the better…


[Credits: Feature image – ‘Living With Art’ auction programme cover;;;;;;;; @W11Carnival Twitter]

*p44-45.  Published in New York, 1982.


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