Exhibition of the week
Gainsborough’s Blue Boy
One of the most famous portraits ever painted in Britain returns from the US for the first time in a century.
National Gallery, London, 25 January to 15 May
British Art Show 9
Michael Armitage, Alberta Whittle, Jamie Crewe, Florence Peake and many more feature in this sprawling attempt to catch the pulse of art now.
Wolverhampton Art Gallery and Wolverhampton School of Art, 22 January to 10 April
America in Crisis
Photographs from the Vietnam era and today offer a historical perspective on what the hell has gone wrong with the United States.
Saatchi Gallery, London, until 3 April
Phyllida Barlow, Jeremy Deller and Mark Wallinger are among the artists rethinking memorial monuments, after Colston and Covid.
Goldsmiths CCA, London until 3 April
The celebrity street artist offers a show that’s in the gallery, but also on Fortnite and an augmented reality phone app.
Serpentine, London, until 27 February
Image of the week
Ways of Seeing, John Berger’s TV show that changed the way we see art, has turned 50. In 1972, Berger’s groundbreaking series confronted the blind reverence of art, showing viewers how oil paintings such as Hans Holbein’s The Ambassadors were in fact commodities made for the rich as a way to assert their power and worldview. As Olivia Laing writes about how the series opened the public’s eyes: “A landscape was not innocent, and nor was a lobster, let alone a nude of Venus.”
What we learned
Masterpiece of the week
Le Petit Parc by Jean-Honoré Fragonard, c1762-64
Fragonard – even his name sounds like, and is, a perfume. This radical, provocative stylist painted hedonist scenes of aristocratic decadence at a time when other French artists were getting into a proto-revolutionary mood. His seductive scenes include that notorious Rococo idyll The Swing, also in the Wallace Collection. But nothing he created is more erotic than this landscape. He doesn’t need to depict flesh to suggest sensual delights in this silky, melting image of soft foliage opening like a mouth in a wet french kiss. It is oil painting as orgasm.
Wallace Collection, London
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