GALLERIES by Leigh Hatts
BRITAIN'S leading visual arts showcase enters the new decade saddled with a difficult exhibition thought up in the middle 1980s.
The Hayward Gallery is staging The Other Story (daily until February 4 £4) which seeks to celebrate the contribution of artists from Asia, Africa and the Caribbean to art in Britain over the last 40 years. This multimedia show raises many questions such as "do black artists consider themselves a separate community?" especially when we move into a period when so many grew up in the British Isles.
Also, "why have some made such efforts not to be part of this exhibition?"
Birmingham-born Keith Piper's Adventures Close To Home tape-slide installation is a reminder of sickening police brutality towards black people in the 1980s. But should it be at the Hayward? It probably deserves a wider platform outside ethnic art gatherings. Piper's colleague, Eddie Chambers, has produced a criticism of the Robertson's Jam "golly" and the "gollies" in Noddy stories which at least one black visitor claimed not to understand.
Japanese-born Kumiko Shimizu, who seems to specialise in decorating churchyards and redundant churches with painted car exhausts and pots, has been commissioned to cover the Hayward's concrete exterior. It will be interesting to see her collection on the side of Wolverhampton Art Gallery in March when the exhibition moves to Chambers' home town on a tour which may raise more interest than the London launch.
Soon the Hayward will be hosting The World as Seen By Magnum Photographers about the collective agency founded by Henri Cartier-Bresson. This exhibition is part of last year's 150th anniversary of the invention of photography which has been marked by so many art galleries including the Royal Academy. But the old question "is photography art?" remains unanswered.
The centenary of artistphotographer Paul Nash was marked last year in the Buckinghamshire church at Langley Marish which had such a profound effect on him. His anniversary exhibition, toured by the South Bank Centre although not visiting London, reaches Exeter's Royal Albert Museum today (daily Tuesday to Saturdays until 10 February; free) before going on to Colchester. The drawings and photographs develop Nash's vision of places including Iver Heath near Langley.
More honoured in 1989 was his contemporary Eric Gill in important exhibitions in Camden and Ditchling marking the distressing end of the Sussex artistic community. But these were not the only Gill exhibitions and currently at Manchester City Art Gallery there is Eric Gill: Body and Soul (daily until 11 March; free) showing rarely seen drawings and paintings from the Manchester collection.
Birmingham Art Gallery has been marking the city's centenary with an exhibition of Dutch seventeenth century paintings which include Rembrandt, HaIs and Vermeer. Images of a Golden Age (daily until 14 January; £2), which is being shown only in Birmingham, has been partly selected by the controversial Christopher Wright and is a major coup for the provinces.
1990 London highlights will include at the Tate Gallery the first major exhibition of the eighteenth century "Wright of Derby" whose interests embraced science and natural phenomena giving him an astonishing perception of light in his paintings. During the summer "On Classical Ground" is to explore for the first time the revival of the classical tradition among Picasso, Matisse and Leger.
A major contribution to the Cardinal Newman centenary programme is the free exhibition planned by the National Portrait Gallery for the spring. Sections will focus on his early life and the Oxford Movement which he abandoned. A leading attraction must be the first London showing for many years of the portrait by John Everett Millais which normally hangs in Arundel Castle.
The biggest loss this year will be the Crafts Gallery from London's Waterloo Place. Not only is the shop and gallery due to leave its premier position but the Crafts Council is likely to be subsumed into the Arts Council. At a recent gathering of 250 craftspeople only one voted in favour of the merger.
Among staff who have left the beleaguered Victoria and Albert Museum (another victim of government meanness) is Dr Rosa Maria Letts. Last summer her ambition was realised when the Accademia Italiana opened in the old French consulate in Rutland Gate behind The Oratory. This much-needed exhibition space is a brave venture dependent mainly on sponsorship but shows on every Italian period up to present day are planned.
Another exciting project is the Design Museum on Butler's Wharf reached by ferry from Tower Pier. The Conran-funded gallery is planning its first thematic programme looking at Spanish design including popular taste. Already a great delight for visitors is the opportunity to browse through computer information banks or attempt a new toothbrush design on a screen. It is just a pity that lunch in the restaurant is over £20.