Exhibition of the week
Wang Gongxin: In-Between
Multimedia installations that explore by modern means the ancient painterly problems of light and shadow.
White Cube Mason’s Yard, London, from 19 January to 26 February.
Alison Katz: Artery
Autobiographical art in an installation that suggests the insides of the human body.
Camden Art Centre, London, until 13 March.
Betsy Bradley: Chasing Rainbows
Subtle and contemplative abstract paintings and sculptures including a swing to imaginatively escape on.
Ikon Gallery, Birmingham, until 13 February
Emily Speed: Flatland
Video inspired by the Victorian fantasy novel Flatland and its vision of a two-dimensional world.
Tate Liverpool until 5 June
Fragmented Illuminations: Medieval and Renaissance Manuscript Cuttings
Beautiful images cut by brutal 19th-century book dealers from some of the greatest medieval manuscripts.
V&A, London, until 8 May
Image of the week
A staff member at the newly opened Monet’s Garden immersive multimedia exhibition, dedicated to the work of the painter Claude Monet, at Alte Muenze, Berlin. The show runs until mid-March.
What we learned
Masterpiece of the week
Jacopo de’ Barbari: A Sparrowhawk, 1510s
Nothing could be simpler or more directly observed than this Venetian Renaissance slice of life. It is not an allegory, a reference to myth or any other kind of symbol – as Renaissance art is so often assumed to contain – but just an act of observation. The artist looks clearly and carefully at a hunting bird on its perch. He captures its bright, fierce eye and tiger-striped breast feathers, the leather bracelets on its feet and bell to sound the alert if it takes flight. It waits alertly against an undecorated, meaning-free wall. This is an art of describing of the sort we associate with northern European rather than Italian painters. In fact, Jacopo de’ Barbari moved between north and south, working in Nuremberg as well as Venice. His sparrowhawk anticipates by about 150 years The Goldfinch, the painting by Carel Fabritius made famous by Donna Tartt’s novel. It’s a memorial to a nameless bird of prey that lived half a millennium ago.
National Gallery, London
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