A brief (re)introduction

And an artwork I'm not sure about

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Welcome if you’re a new subscriber, and hello again to the Old Faithfuls. I’m Victoria Powell, I’m the voice behind The Gallery Companion, and I’m delighted that you’ve found your way here.

You’re in the right place if you are curious about art, if you want to explore what it all means and if you’re interested in what art does in our world, what its purpose is.

This isn’t where you’ll find chat about the minutiae of art history, or the academic blah blah blah about brush strokes or provenance. But it is where you’ll find thought-provoking ideas which come from looking at art and thinking about its meanings.

Art is a representation of thoughts, feelings, ideas and experiences. For me art is about people, stories, and the things we need to express. I’m interested in how ideas that are circulating in culture and society are filtered through the artist and emerge in visual form.

I’m an historian so I look at artworks as cultural sources. I’m always thinking about how ideas change over time, and how they get interpreted in different ways. Looking at art and artists is, I think, a fascinating way of doing that.

I’m also interested in the role of art in the world, what its function is, what it does for us, both as makers and viewers.

That’s the stuff I write about. And in sentences that actually make sense. There's no confusing art speak here. None of the hifalutin, hoity-toity, dry and frankly boring language which you often find in the Art World, on the walls of art galleries, and in quite a lot of books about art.

That language makes me start yawning immediately, and my eyes glaze over. It switches people right off, and I want to do away with it.

For The Gallery Companion I write about art that interests me. That’s not necessarily what I like. I don’t like everything, no one does, but I am interested in why I don’t like some art – and that’s rarely to do with how it looks. I went to see the Milton Avery exhibition at the Royal Academy of Arts in London this week.

Milton Avery, Little Fox River, 1942. Oil on canvas. © 2021 Milton Avery Trust / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York and DACS, London 2021.

Avery was an American painter, working from the 1920s through to the 1960s. It was an immensely interesting period of American history. But I did not enjoy that exhibition at all. It was not interesting. Why not? Well, for lots of reasons, which I’ll talk more about in the Sunday post next week. But it wasn’t because of Avery’s art.  

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Wednesday and Sunday posts

I’ll be posting twice a week for The Gallery Companion. Sunday posts are just for paid subscribers. I’ll send you a voice note with some thoughts on art stuff I’ve seen. And I’ll also include an image (or a video) of an artwork that I’ve seen that week, either in a gallery or online, that has caught my attention. I’ll tell you some of my thoughts on it and then I’d love to know what you think about it.

And if you’ve seen an interesting artwork during the week it would be great if you would share a link to it in the comments so that other subscribers can see it and also comment. I want to know what you think and to get chat going between us, like a conversation.

The idea behind The Gallery Companion is that it’s like a book club but with art.

On Wednesdays I’ll send out a longer post (which will include a voice note if you prefer to listen to me rather than read) which takes a deeper dive into an artist and the ideas that their work brings up for me. This is post is for everyone, but only paid subscribers can comment and be part of the conversation. You can upgrade to paid here.


An artwork I’m not sure about

This week I saw an artwork on Instagram by the digital artist Beeple (the video above). You might have heard of Beeple because he made a name for himself in March 2021 when the auction house Christie's sold an NFT by him for $69 million. It was a collage of 5000 graphic images Beeple had created, and he called it Everydays: The First 5000 Days:

I have struggled with Beeple’s work because, like a lot of crypto art, I find it completely banal. His images and videos often respond to current affairs or pop culture, and they are typically set in futuristic landscapes. This is an example, it’s an image of the actor Tom Hanks in a fight with coronavirus:

But there’s no denying that Beeple has created ripples in the art world, and up until now I’ve parked him and thought ‘I need to figure out what I think about him at some stage’. And actually I think this video is that moment, because I found myself watching it over and over again trying to figure out what I was looking at, and thinking about whether it was art rather than animation, what its meaning was etc.

I’m going to write more about this subject in the next few weeks, but I wondered what you think of his video as an artwork? Let me know in the comments. And if you’ve seen any interesting art this week please do share it with us!


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