Magazine article The Spectator

Visual Treats for 2007

Magazine article The Spectator

Visual Treats for 2007

Article excerpt

Andrew Lambirth finds plenty of exhibitions to look forward to in the coming year

Although it must be a nightmare to administer a museum in these philistine and turnstile-obsessed times, the nation's galleries are still doing their best to provide a service of sorts to the minds and hearts of the populace. If there is a perceptible drift towards dead-cert favourites, who can blame the institutions which now have vast bureaucracies to support, as well as lighting and heating bills to pay? So at the National Gallery, hard on the heels of the prestigious Velazquez exhibition, is a display of Renoir's landscapes (21 February to 20 May). Well, that should keep the crowds happy, but it's hardly nourishing fare - spiritually, intellectually or aesthetically.

More rewarding, I hope, will be the autumn show Renaissance Siena: Art for a City (24 October to 13 January 2008), with some of Leon Kossoff's pictures in the Sunley Room (14 March to 1 July) offering a usefully contrasting contemporary take on the Old Masters.

The Whitechapel is enmeshed in empire-building, with a £10 million extension under way, which means it will be operating a reduced service of film and video for 18 months.

I just hope that by the time it reopens, a sufficiently impressive and varied exhibition programme is in place that's not ghettoised by political correctness and the fads of fashion.

Too many London venues still show the same kind of 'trendy' art (some call it State Art), and there are inevitably no surprises at the once-wonderful Serpentine Gallery (where the showman and film-maker Matthew Barney is the star turn, from 14 September to 11 November), or at the Hayward Gallery. That rudderless flagship on the South Bank is pleased to announce another show of the Arts Council's favourite son, Antony Gormley (17 May to 27 August), followed by an earth-shattering display about the importance of photography in art, misleadingly titled The Painting of Modern Life (4 October to 30 December).

The Tate can usually be relied on to come up with a couple of crackers, and this time the older masters are favoured, with major displays of Hogarth (7 February to 29 April) and Millais (26 September to 13 January 2008) at Tate Britain. Why does the prospect of yet another Gilbert & George show seem so much less stimulating? Tate Modern plays host to the terrible duo (15 February to 7 May) before offering a solo show to the grande dame of French-American art, Louise Bourgeois (11 October to 27 January 2008). Inbetween, we are offered Dali and Film (1 June to 9 September), timed to coincide with the V&A's annual ism-fest, this year attempting to encompass the ever-popular chic naughtinesses of Surrealism (29 March to 22 July). There's a nice link here with Lee Miller, who was, of course, married to one of Britain's leading surrealists, Roland Penrose, and the V&A devotes its autumn spot to a comprehensive show of Miller's photographs (6 September to 6 January 2008. ) I'm an admirer of her work, but surely we've seen enough of it recently? It seems only yesterday that the National Portrait Gallery put on a show, though it was actually back in spring 2005.

Talking of the NPG brings me to its highlight of the year, which is an exhibition of Pop Art portraits (11 October to 20 January 2008). If some of this seems a bit lightweight, be assured that there's Canaletto in England at Dulwich (24 January to 15 April), which documents the Italian artist's nine-year exile in this country and the magnificent panoramas he painted for the aristocracy. …

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