Ben Lewis finds a topical museum show that’s also safe and appealing for those who don’t “get” contemporary art. It’s at the National Portrait Gallery in London and features small works that are surprisingly relevant:
The riots in that region this week, which involved fighting between the Uighur and dominant Han Chinese and left more than a hundred dead, make Bitsakis’s portraits timely and newsworthy — but these are also stunning paintings in their own right, deserving winners of the 2008 BP travel award.
Not much more than a dozen centimetres square, the images have a powerful mood of loss and fortitude with their flattened perspective, sharply drawn brooding faces, which recall Dürer and Memling, and compressed backgrounds featuring local ornament and Communist architecture. A solo show beckons.
The rest of this exhibition — 62 pictures selected from 1,900 entries, is a case study in how good art doesn’t always have to push boundaries. It’s old-fashioned, un-experimental, sometimes stickily sentimental.
BP Portrait Award Faces Our Current Affairs (This Is London)