Noel Halifax

Lindsay Kemp: working class bohemian

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The unexpected death has been announced of Lindsay Kemp, I was going to say the dancer, but he was far, far more than this. He had a profound effect on the art and music scene of the 1970s and beyond and he was at the centre of an LGBT+ cultural revolution in London. As he once said, “We wanted to change the world, and we did for at least ten minutes.”

Robert Indiana, 1928-2018

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The death has been announced of two of the bastions of the pop art movement, the artist Robert Indiana and the magazine Interview. Together they signal the final collapse of an art movement born from the detritus of commercial capitalism and, in some of its practitioners, a critique of capitalism using capital’s own techniques and tools. Its demise can be summed up in Robert Indiana’s own life story and how his art has been rewritten to suit the 21st century art market.

He was born Robert Clark in New Castle, Indiana, on

13 September 1928. After three years in the US

Another Kind of Life

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Another Kind of Life is a large and ambitious exhibition. There are works by 20 photographers, covering a period from the 1960s to the present.

The people depicted cover a huge range of very different experiences, from the desperate homeless to neo-Nazis in the American wilderness, and many trans people across different societies surviving in the teeth of oppression.

The art of resistance

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Gay activists played an important role in anti-fascist resistance. Noel Halifax tells the little-known story of the artist and writer turned freedom fighter Willem Arondeus, who was executed by the Nazis in the Netherlands 75 years ago.

Willem Arondeus was born in 1895, the son of theatre designers, and grew up in Amsterdam one of six children. At an early age he showed an interest in art and writing, which his parents encouraged, and in homosexuality, which his parents did not.

At the age of 17 he came out fully and refused to hide his sexuality. At the time homosexuality was legal in the Netherlands; nonetheless when he was 18 his parents kicked him out to fend for himself. He survived, but in impoverished conditions, continuing his interest in painting and writing.

High and low art

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I don’t disagree with Sabby Sagall’s account of Russian music and modernism (December SR) but I do want to add a few extensions. The article mentions that Stravinsky did not like the revolution and left Russia, but it was more than dislike. As he wrote to the Nazis to get himself listed as an Aryan composer:

Art and Production

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First published in 1926 and written a few years before, this small book is a fascinating read written at a watershed of Soviet history both in the debate over art and the revolution, and more generally over the direction of the revolution. It reflects and was part of a turn away from the experimental art after 1917 to what became social realism of the 1930s and beyond, a move that mirrored the counter revolution.

Art Riot: Post-Soviet Actionism

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Art that attacks the establishment is not new. The Dadaists in Berlin from 1919 held a series of events aimed at the ruling class — they hung from the ceiling carcasses of dead pigs dressed in the uniforms of generals of the German Imperial army; they released a herd of cows among the critics at one of their openings.

Just as the horror at the First World War led to Dada so the current state of Russia has given rise to an art fuelled by anger, Pussy Riot being the most famous.

Gustav Metzger, 1926 to 2017

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The artist, refugee, political activist and influential creator of “auto-destructive” art, Gustav Metzger, died last month. Noel Halifax recalls his radical contribution to the culture of Britain in the 1960s and 1970s.

Art and artists come in and out of fashion, as does their influence and people’s interpretation of it. In recent years Gustav Metzger, who died in March, has been out of fashion. His heyday was the 1960s and 70s when he was central to the shape and direction of the British art world and ironically created one of the foundations on which the current bloated art scene is based. Ironically, because he was politically opposed to the current art world, hated the art market and all that it stands for.

Richard Linsert and the first sexual liberation movement

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The histories of socialism and sexual liberation are entwined, most clearly in revolutionary Germany a century ago, writes Noel Halifax.

The factory system tore apart the working class family. As workers were driven off the land and sucked into the new factories and cities of the industrial age, their ways of living fell apart. Many commentators from both the left and the right noticed this with varying degrees of horror and dismay, from Friedrich Engels in Manchester to the reactionary writer Robert Carlyle in London.

Bleached out pop art for the wealthy

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Neoliberalism has promoted an art market that encourages the rise of artists such as Damien Hirst as "factory" owners, employing students on low wages to churn out works for the world's super-rich dealers and collectors. Noel Halifax asks how we got to this sad state of affairs.

What is art for? Oscar Wilde famously said that art was useless and by implication outside of utility — therefore it was able to transcend the capitalist system. Today the most successful artists seem to have rejected the notion of art as transcending the market and a system of value based on money in favour of a neoliberal art world of “art for art’s sake, money for God’s sake”, as rock band 10cc put it.

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