Howard Hodgkin: What's in a self-portrait?

Portrait of an Artist Listening to Music Image copyright PA
Image caption Portrait of the Artist... was Hodgkin's attempt to describe how he remembered himself

Sometimes with art, it is instructive to gauge public opinion. It can help blow away the cobwebs of pretension that get spun in your mind's eye if you hang around the art world too much.

It's a particularly useful exercise with modern art, and almost essential when it comes to the abstract stuff. Hence, I arrived on Piccadilly this morning armed with a photo of one of the last paintings Howard Hodgkin produced before he died two weeks ago.

Portrait of the Artist Listening to Music (2011-16) is a self-portrait, made while Hodgkin listened to Jerome Kern's The Last Time I Saw Paris and the zither music Anton Karas composed and performed for 1949 film The Third Man.

(Neither appeared on his Desert Island Discs line-up, which just goes to show what terrible frauds castaways are.)

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Howard Hodgkin's hallmark was to paint abstracted memories, not literal subjects

By now you will have seen the picture and arrived at your own first impressions. Those on the mean streets of Mayfair earlier today were not favourable.

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The harsh realities of the Oscars acceptance speech

Jimmy Kimmel hosting the Oscars Image copyright AP
Image caption The view from the gods at this year's Academy Awards

Here is the scenario. You are sitting in the Dolby Theatre on Hollywood Boulevard at the end of February in 2020. It is Oscars night and you have been invited.

Not as a plus one, or as a makeweight in a corporate sponsorship deal, but in your own right as an artist. After years of working in an edit suite/behind a camera/in the wardrobe department, your work has finally been recognised by your peers.

Read full article The harsh realities of the Oscars acceptance speech

The art of a President Trump state visit

Donald Trump Image copyright Drew Angerer/Getty Images

A current family fad is playing that word-association game in which you respond to the previous player's word with a relatable one of your own, eg me: "Annoying." Son: "Dad." Wife: "Bald eagle."

And so on. We've played a lot recently, such that I've started to react to the daily news in a similarly tangential way, where related but seemingly random thoughts pop into my head over and above more conspicuous concerns.

Read full article The art of a President Trump state visit

Is squatting art?

Squatters have turned the house into a homeless hostel Image copyright PA
Image caption The squatters have turned the house into a homeless hostel

I've been thinking a lot about ANAL today. That is the Autonomous Nation of Anarchist Libertarians who are currently squatting in a whopping five-story house in Eaton Square, an upmarket part of London near Buckingham Palace.

According to the Guardian, the "1,329 square metre property has polished parquet floors, tasteful uplighting and a grand spiral staircase" and is owned by a wealthy Russian man (media shorthand: an oligarch) called Andrey Goncharenko.

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Artes Mundi winner is 'more important than ever'

Media captionThe video that won £40,000

A video art installation inspired by migration and religious persecution has won a £40,000 prize.

London-based film-maker John Akomfrah won the Artes Mundi award for his "substantial body of outstanding work", including his latest video installation - the 40-minute film, Auto Da Fe.

Read full article Artes Mundi winner is 'more important than ever'

Is Saatchi Gallery selfie exhibition just self-promotion?

George Harrison Image copyright Harrison family/PA
Image caption Taj Mahal Self-Portrait, a 1966 photograph by George Harrison that features in the exhibition

I have never taken a selfie. I'm far too ugly.

That said, I have ruined other people's, on those occasions when asked by a friend or arts fan to join them in a smartphone photo.

Read full article Is Saatchi Gallery selfie exhibition just self-promotion?

Tristram Hunt inherits a V&A in pretty good shape

Image copyright PA

From what I saw of the V&A as a member of the Art Fund's judging panel for its Museum of the Year accolade last summer, Tristram Hunt is inheriting an organisation in pretty good shape.

After a bit of argy bargy over hot croissants and cold coffee, we judges decided to give the prestigious award to the South Kensington institution because it was unquestionably a centre of excellence serving an appreciative public to a high degree.

Read full article Tristram Hunt inherits a V&A in pretty good shape

Maria Balshaw is NOT the new director of Tate… yet

Image copyright Whitworth Gallery

Is Maria Balshaw the new director of the Tate? No.

Will she be? Probably.

Read full article Maria Balshaw is NOT the new director of Tate… yet

Arts news in 2016: Knocking on death's door

Will Gompertz with Huw Edwards on the BBC One Ten O'Clock News on the night of David Bowie's death
Image caption Will Gompertz appeared with Huw Edwards on the BBC One Ten O'Clock News on the night of David Bowie's death

Each specialism within journalism has its area of breaking news.

For foreign correspondents, it tends to be a conflict or catastrophe. Politicos deal in shock resignations or revelations. For us in the arts unit, it is award ceremonies - and celebrity deaths.

Read full article Arts news in 2016: Knocking on death's door

Art in 2017: A look ahead

Artist's impression of Stage @The Dock Image copyright Wykeland
Image caption Hull's new The Stage @The Dock has a decked performance space and terraced seating

2017 is going to be a Hull of a year. Really. Humble old Hull - a city once voted among the worst to live in Britain - has had a multi-million pound facelift, cleaned up its act, and is playing open house to the world as UK City of Culture 2017.

Do go. It's a fabulous place. And not a bit like some other cities one could mention, where a stranger saying "hello" either means you've been set-upon by a chugger or a performance artist. They're a friendly lot over on the blowy east coast of Yorkshire, and have put together a decent and diverse 12-month programme.

Read full article Art in 2017: A look ahead