Art news – weekly round-up

  • 17 January 2014

A government portrait debate, English Magic on tour and the British Museum's blockbuster year – we round up the top art stories of the week.

Portrait of Labour MP Diane Abbott, by Stuart Pearson Wright, 2004 Parliament UK/Stuart Pearson Wright

The price of portraiture

The news that £250,000 of public money has been spent on portraits of parliamentarians since 1995 has provoked fierce debate. The Telegraph reports that many have branded the commissions ‘an expensive vanity project’ in a time of austerity, whereas The Guardian’s Jonathan Jones argues that ‘painted portraits of living MPs are a decent and reasonable way’ to document political history.

It’s a kind of magic

The William Morris Gallery, winner of the 2013 Art Fund Prize for Museum of the Year, open Jeremy Deller’s English Magic exhibition this weekend. Originally shown at the Venice Biennale, it will tour three galleries this year thanks to Art Fund support. Louisa Buck compares the radical nature of Deller's and Morris's work in The Telegraph.

British blockbuster

The British Museum has recorded the most successful year in its history with 6.7 million visitors in 2013, helped by blockbuster exhibitions such as Life and Death in Pompeii and Herculaneum. According to The Independent it was the museum’s third most popular show to date, with 471,000 visitors.

Royal discovery

A portrait of Henry VIII, until recently considered a Holbein copy, may in fact be the last painting the king ever posed for. It has been displayed at Longleat since the 1680s and could soar in value from £50,000 to over £1 million if the authenticity is proven, according to The Times’ Simon de Bruxelles.

And finally...

The Art Newspaper has reported that Turner Prize nominee David Shrigley has turned his own body into art, by casting one of his teeth. The 800 brass editions are being sold in the UK for the first time, for £1,200 each.