Art News Headlines: June 26, 2011

In these two portraits, the right painting is one of the artist, Vincent van Gogh, and the left is of his brother and staunchest ally, Theo.

Post Impressionist artist Vincent van Gogh is famous for his paintings with stars splashed across swirling skies, a mishap with his right ear, and a plethora of self-portraits. One of these supposed self-portraits has recently been confirmed to actually be a portrait of the artist’s brother and close confidante, Theo. The painting, the only known portrait van Gogh completed of his brother, is from the artist’s years in Antwerp and Paris from 1885-1888, a time period in his life that isn’t well studied. Almost 100 paintings from this time period were recently analyzed and interpreted for a new book by Van Gogh Museum employees Ella Hendriks and Louis van Tilborgh. Researchers and art historians realized the identity of Theo as close examination of the painting revealed a lighter beard, rounder ears, and shaved cheeks.

Distracted, Wim Helden

In other art news, June 14 marked the winner of the BP Portrait Award 2011, announced at the National Portrait Gallery in London. In a record-breaking year for entries, the prestigious first prize was won by 57-year-old self-taught artist Wim Heldens, who has been exhibited twice before in the competition but shortlisted only for the first time this year. His winning portrait, Distracted, is a picture of a 25-year-old student the artist has painted over a dozen times throughout his life. Wim Heldens wins £25,000 and a commission, at the National Portrait Gallery Trustees’ discretion, worth £4,000. The portrait has been on view at the National Portrait Gallery along with the runner-ups. The second prize of £8,000 went to Louis Smith for Holly and the third prize of £6,000 to Ian Cumberland for his painting Just to Feel Normal.

The 42nd edition of the annual Art Basel closed last Sunday after enjoying a very successful run. This year, the annual reunion of the international art world attracted over 65,000 artists, collectors, curators, and art lovers from around the globe, a new record for the festival’s attendance. The participating galleries, art lovers, and art journalists unanimously pronounced this a superlative year for the show in terms of quality. Collectors from around the world rewarded the excellent material and booth presentations with strong sales throughout the week across all levels of the market. A great many artists attended the event, among them John Baldessari, Pierre Bismuth, Daniel Buren, Cathy Wilkes. Over 50 museum groups, representing almost all the world’s major museums visited the event, as did major private collectors from North and South America, all of Europe and every emerging market of the art world.

(AP Photo/Ng Han Guan)

Popular Chinese artist Ai Weiwei was freed on bail Wednesday, coinciding with the 90th anniversary of the Chinese Communist Party coming up on July 1. State newspaper Xinhua reported that Ai had confessed to “crimes” of tax evasion and was co-operating with the authorities. According to Xinhua, police said Ai’s company, Beijing Fake Cultural Development Ltd, “was found to have evaded a huge amount of taxes and intentionally destroyed accounting documents”. His family has denied these accusations. State news reports added that the artist was in ill health, including high blood pressure and diabetes. After his release, Ai commented, “I’m fine. I’m very happy to be free and I’m very happy to be back with my family,” but declined to give any interviews.

Vienna-based photo museum WestLicht is celebrating its 10th anniversary with a show on instant photography, namely Polaroid photographs, and also rewarding a free entrance fee to visitors attending the exhibition this opening weekend. In the show, WestLicht celebrates the never-ending fascination of instant photography, recently resurrected with the excess of mobile phone photo apps similar to the classic Polaroid. Among the pieces on display is a representative cross section of Polaroid inventor Edwin Herbert Land’s legendary collection. Through the 1960’s, Land began to provide artists with Polaroid material for them to experiment with. More than 350 works by around 150 of these international artists and photographers are represented in the collection, including works by Andy Warhol and Ansel Adams. This exciting new show is on display through August 21.


Laura Lawson paints when writer’s block strikes and writes when painter’s block strikes. She has studied fine art at LCAD and is pursuing a degree in journalism. Recently diagnosed with the degenerative eye disease retinitis pigmentosa, she strives to bring hope to those without vision through her blog. She is currently working on her first book about coping with vision loss.

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.