Tag Archives: London art

film screening

Hi everyone. If you are in London, come down to the Hackney Attic on August 28 at 7.30 pm. TAKING OVER THE KING’S LAND is screening at the Hackney Attic Film Festival alongside several other fine films in the Documentary Shorts programme. It will be a great evening! Best of all, it’s FREE!


Tickets bookable here: https://www.facebook.com/events/1256360871050516/

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Art History for Film Makers Facebook page

I have set up a FB page for readers of my book Art History for Film Makers and anyone else who’s interested in the junction between art and cinema.

here’s the link


I would love it if people would actively engage with the subject, so we’ll see.

Meanwhile here is some Eugene Delacroix in advance of the exhibition opening at the London National Gallery on 17 Feb – I have an opening day ticket (excited)


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TAKING OVER THE KING’S LAND is now Officially Released

The street art documentary I made is now available to view online.


TAKING OVER THE KING’S LAND is now Officially Released online for free viewing. Go to http://film.kingslandmural.co.uk
Please share freely.


 “In a forgotten corner of East London, in the shadow of the Olympic site,  artist Nazir Tanbouli is battling weather, vandalism and lack of funds, to create a massive mural installation throughout a condemned housing estate.”

After doing the rounds of the festival circuit including Sheffield Docfest and Portobello Festival in London, as well as screenings all over the place as far afield as Hungary and Egypt, it’s time to make the film more widely available since the fact is not that many people actually go to film festivals 🙂

More info, including full crew list and lots of material about the film as well as my still photography,  is at http://kingslandmural.co.uk/

chld-02 estate-01

dual-wall rain2 wetwall

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Would I go across town for that?

London transport is too expensive

This is my big question when I am thinking about and looking at the art that erupts all over London and sometimes elsewhere. What do I think of it? Should I go and see it?

London has hundreds of exhibitions on every week. I know the agony of being in or curating a show and having to fight for a share of the 11 million +/- 10% that inhabit this city. Although to be fair the actual audience for art is not that big…

So I have developed a few criteria. The first is the old word-of-mouth test. Has someone I know personally recommended it to me? That is usually enough, since I tend not to hand around with people whose taste I despise.

The second is the “would I go across town for that?” test. London’s transport fares are eye-watering. My day out at the Serpentine two weeks ago cost me £4.40 (US $7.22) and I live centrally. So even though the show is free, the excursion costs. Throw in the obligatory coffee, and you’re looking at about a tenner all told. So, “would I go across town for that?” means, it is really worth leaving my house and taking expensive transport, or can I just look at the jpegs online?

I’ll go across town for a master (best show in London in recent years was Miro) and even out of town (to Liverpool for Magritte) but contemporary art?

My Serpentine tour was pretty much worth it, but a large part of that was just having a bracing walk through Hyde Park, and disappointingly the restaurant was closed. The art, as I reviewed it, had some elements of interest but in hindsight was it alone worth the trip?

Closer to home but well worth a trip across town for was the show Modern Panic IV [review here] and I think this was so worthwhile because it has work in it that was unusual, well chosen, intricate and well made (I am big on craft and skill, I have little time for coarse appropriation and “referencing”) and frankly, it was all stuff you just don’t see often in London. Despite London’s size there is a very clear monotony that runs through most of the major museums and spaces including commercial spaces (The Hayward being probably the big exception). Waldemar Janusczak calls it the Tate tendency, but to be fair the monotony stretches far beyond Britain’s flooded shores. Let us instead call it “Internationalist Monotony” and it is the product of a pod mentality of dealers, curators, museum directors, buyers (directed by the former) and academics.

So, would I got across town to be bored to tears, fork out cash for an afternoon of ennui? How about you?


 ps.notice the bus is going the wrong way. It’s called detournement. No actually, just some stupid photoshop. really.

worth a read: http://www.vice.com/en_uk/read/how-to-make-british-art-better-in-2014

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Why you don’t need to Debut

2012-10-19 21.31.15

George Bodocan working at Studio75


I heard recently about the furore surrounding an enterprise called Debut Contemporary. This is an outfit that runs a kind of finishing school for art graduates. Appropriately it’s in Notting Hill, location of I Saw You Coming.* Appropriately it’s very expensive to go. It purports to prepare art grads to “enter the art world.” The furore is that some of their participants have publicly said that they were deeply unhappy with the finishing school’s service. Because, I’m sure, they did not realise it was just a finishing school. I don’t need to say anything more about them since they are not the subject of this article; I want to talk now about why no art graduate needs a “finishing school.”

  1. because there is no one way to “enter the art world.” This is highly individual and is part of your path in life, and you need to tramp that path yourself.. You cannot hire someone to get you there. It helps to have famous parents, yes. But most of the great artists did not have famous parents. Picasso’s dad was an art teacher, but Rembrandt’s was a miller. Peter Greenaway’s dad was a builder’s merchant and Jeff Koon’s parents were a furniture dealer / interior decorator and a seamstress. Warhol’s father worked in a coal mine.
  2. A “finishing school” (or “charm school” – love that!) as defined by Wikipedia is “a school for young people, mostly women, that focuses on teaching social skills and cultural norms as a preparation for entry into adult society. The name reflects that it follows on from ordinary school and is intended to complete the educational experience, with classes primarily on etiquette. It may consist of an intensive course, or a one-year programme.” Replace the term “into adult society” with “into the art world” and you have got Debut nailed. But come on, this is the 21st century. We laugh at the idea of going to school to learn to cut muffins and to simper appropriately. So you don’t need to do it to “get ahead in the art world.”
    Unless you are rich and don’t really know what to do you with yourself, and fancy dabbling a bit in art. Then it is a good idea to go and you will have fun and then go off and get a proper job, or just relax with your feet up. But for the rest of us, not useful.
  3. You cannot learn to “get ahead in the art world.” Your art practice is yours alone and your work plus luck / Fortuna will propel you forward. Success has many definitions. It might be about selling, but it might be about having a fantastically interesting life. It might be about making a difference to others, touching them by what you do. It might be about striving to be in the history books, whatever the art world may think of you today you have got your eye on posterity. All of these things could be success. Only you determine what your success is. Charm School cannot do that for you.
  4. Attending a charm school in itself cannot help you to “get ahead in the art world.” However influential the school purports to be, and however influential its patrons (and there is no actual evidence for this in the case of the school referred to earlier) you know your heart that the work is the main thing. If you spent the money you could spend on the charm school on your work, you will have a much better chance of progressing. In any case, you have already been to an art school, so that is all the institutional kudos you need at this stage.
  5. Be very careful of wolves in sheep’s clothing. There are armies of charlatans out there ready to fleece new artists. They know you are insecure about your work. They know that flattering you with one hand while digging into your pocket with another will be easy and sweet for them. I wrote about this recently: https://blog.gillianmciver.org/2013/11/28/follow-up-to-my-post-on-film-festivals/
    These experiences sound ludicrous but they are real and I have more of them in my repertoire of anecdotes about Horrific Art World Delusions and Rip Offs. You will not be able to go through your life avoiding all of them but you could avoid signing up a year of your life and thousands of pounds of your money.
    What can you do to avoid this? Well, research! And more research. Be wary of wild claims on the part of the offering. Find others who have been involved with the offering, what kind of experiences did they have? I just read an online interview with the creator of the offering mentioned above and it is clear straight away this is highly embroidered. Further research proved my hunch correct. Research! One HUGE clue, as we all know from spam emails – is if the offering promotes themselves with faulty grammar or spelling. This means they get interns to do the work for them and cannot be bothered even to check. If they are so careless with their own marketing what kind of care will they have for YOU?
  6. Following on from that, if an offering has already accrued a reputation of being a bit dodgy, this will stick on to you. The very kudos you seek will be denied to you.
  7. You already have all the knowledge you need to “enter the art world.” You have a direction for your work and you – hopefully – have some friends and a work ethic. There is a reason why, traditionally, art courses don’t teach business skills as part of the curriculum. Although there is a pressure on them to do so now, it is misguided.
    Industry knowledge, and “powerful art and business networks” are things that accrue over time. They can’t be bought. Anyway, as I said above, one man’s meat is another’s poison. The “industry knowledge and powerful art and business networks” useful for one artist are not going to be the same for another. The “art world” is diverse!
    Doing short courses, seeking mentors, and building your own networks to create events and exhibitions will serve you better as a graduate. There is so much support out there for emerging artists! But YOU have to do the work.
putting up the new show at THE YELLOW WALL, Chalet Cafe London

putting up the new show at THE YELLOW WALL, Chalet Cafe London

So, what to do?

You have decided not to go to an art finishing school. OK, so far so good. So what DO you need to get on?

  1. A massive reality check. A copy of Alastair Gentry’s book Career Suicide [http://www.lulu.com/spotlight/alistairgentry] It’s funny and entertaining but gives you a lot of useful information. It might burst your bubble, but better to let a book do it than you having it burst all over you!
  2. Some basic self marketing skills. Learn to make a simple attractive website using free tools such a Picasia and Blogger, put up the best photos of your best work, and your contact details. Eschew the desire to put the hideous statement they made you write at art school. Keep everything as real as possible.
  3. Find some like minded people. You could start with ones you went to art school with, or you could join a studio. Remember all the £ you are saving by not going to charm school? Use that to fund a space no matter how small, in a lively studio.
  4. Club together and put on your own shows. Publish a zine. Make videos of your show and interview your fellow artists and put it on YouTube.
  5. Seek a mentor. There are artists out there who are willing to work with new artists without a fee! They will help you in exchange for studio assistance and so on. At Studio75 we have been doing an informal mentorship programme. Young artists work with us as assistants and in exchange they get all kinds of tuition, from learning to Photoshop their pictures to drawing techniques. How did we find them? They found us. We do not take everybody. The chemistry has to be right. And they have to work like the devil.
  6. Join group shows, but avoid things with hefty entrance fees. You are not experienced enough and you will just lose your money. If you want to join these things (e.g. Jerwood prize etc.) go and see the shows for a few years till you get a measure of what they actually want, and if it fits with what you want to do, go for it. Open exhibitions have clearly-visible yet never-mentioned agendas of what they like, no matter who’s on the jury. See Emily Speed’s blog Getting Paid [http://www.a-n.co.uk/artists_talking/projects/single/497389]
  7. Keep working. Whatever else you might be doing to make money, art is your full time job.
  8. Do your fellow artists a favour and make this post viral!
Keep working! Nazir Tanbouli at work.

Keep working! Nazir Tanbouli at work.

*I Saw You Coming is a comedy sketch in the Harry and Paul show, about a Notting Hill antiques shop salesman (Harry Enfield) who sells junk to gullible wealthy women (usually portrayed by Sophie Winkleman) for extortionately large quantities of money. In the second series, he also owns a store called ‘Modern Wank’ claiming to his customers that it is considered retro to mix old items with modern furniture.

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Strength in decay

In a decaying society, art, if it is truthful, must also reflect decay. And unless it wants to break faith with its social function, art must show the world as changeable. And help to change it.
Ernst Fischer (Ernst Fischer, The Necessity of Art: A Marxist Approach)

“The things of mortals, mortal are as they: All pass us by, quickly to fade away, If not, we pass by them and they decay.”
Lucian, Syrian writer, circa 150AD

ALLOWING the work to decay was Nazir Tanbouli’s choice as he announced the end of the King’s Land project. Initially the idea was to keep making murals until the building was hoarded and demolished. However several things intervened to change this plan.

Firstly, the building work was put back and put back. This meant that the mural making could have gone on until October or even November. By which time any impact would have been lost, if the artist was even still interested.

Second, the weather this year has been unprecedentedly wet. As the project was based on the idea of paste up changing murals, there were just too many days of soaking rain when no work was done, or murals melting and dying before their time. 2012 is the wettest  year even in British history. No other year has been recorded this wet. Ever. And it’s Britain., That tells you how wet it its. It became a Sisyphus task of putting and reputting. That might have been interesting in itself but it was not the aim of the project.

Lastly and most importantly, Tanbouli wanted to make an impact and with The King’s Land he did. He also wanted to make something for the place, and as some of the murals are indeed painted, there is a good selection of murals that will stay until the building is torn down. He also wanted to make a point about decay: that this is an estate that has been left to decay for a long time by the powers that be – lives blighted, neighbourhood made ugly and embarrassing. The murals were not meant to hide that. Now the murals play their part in making a comment about urban environments and the politics of decay. Had it not rained so much, the murals might have lasted the summer. But let Nature do what it does, and let the artist do what he does.

Tanbouli finished the project by holding a big party and declaring the murals “open to view for as long as they last.”


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some photos from the King’s Land

As my job is to document the King’s Land project with still and moving images I am just putting a few shots here that I took in the last couple of days:

all photos ©GillianMcIver 2012 all rights reserved.

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tales from the electric forest

“Monsters of London!” the invitation proclaimed, like a 19th century penny dreadful.

My review:




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I went to see Altermodern, the 2009 Tate triennial, as curated by Nicholas Borriaud. My review is posted on A-N here:


A few immediate thoughts:

  • Either there really are no good painters catching curator’s eyes right now (so they should look harder!) OR, curators think painting is dead.
  • If painting is “dead” then we are in trouble because painting, together with drawing, is the fundamental, most basic art from. Picking up the piece of charcoal and using it to draw on the wall of the cave is one of the first steps that made us “human.”  If we are fundamentally  incapable of making art that is  based on pure imagination and simple tools, then the subsequent art  forms that are so prevalent (installation, video, performance, etc.) are really meaningless.
  • How could Borriaud allow Shezad Dawood to put such a dreadful, nay, abysmal painting in the show? His film not much better, despite the parading of many funding marks.
  • I now have respect, and even liking, for Patrick Brill, whom I used to dismiss. Mea culpa, Pat, you are damn smart.
  • Nathaniel Mellors is channelling Alfred Jarry, which in some ways is fun and even admirable, but at the same time Jarry is way, way out of  Mellors’ league.
  • It seems many artists in the show want to somehow be “like” historians, without really understanding anything about the practice of history. So their pronouncements, and their catalogues [written by curators and critics] sound like first year history essays.
  • Appropriation has had its day, and most people are not very good at it (hats off to Tacita Dean whose Russian Ending is an example of a successful appropriation).
  • I assumed Altermodern was a German neologism combining Old (alt) and Modern — but it isn’t.
  • Artists should maybe stick to exhibiting the one or two things they are REALLY good at – be it sculpture, photography OR painting etc…. and consider the rest a hobby.

enough for now.

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“Private Nightmares” an exhibition by Nazir Tanbouli

nazir tanbouli

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