Make Artists Ugly Again; How the Villain Origin Story Invaded Pop Culture

Mirror, mirror…

When did artists become so beautiful? 'It seems wild, looking back, that ugly-mugs were ever allowed to have art careers,' writes Martin Herbert, as he gives himself an approving, Friday-night once-over in the mirror. These days, it seems that good looks and charm (plus the ability to throw a good party) have become the necessary stepping-stones to artistic success. 'I remember Matthew Barney supposedly being embarrassed about his modelling years; that seems a long time ago now.' But what if the artworld is heading towards an inverted reality where hotness is enough? With so much aesthetic pleasure on view, could we dispense with the art altogether...

Meanwhile, while contemplating another display of fashionable excess, Rachel Connolly wonders why we are so obsessed with recuperative villain-origin stories. What's with our sudden interest in 'explaining' Cruella, the Joker, even the Roman Emperor Nero in everything from 'blockbuster' movies to major museum shows (and more often than not via the medium of pop-psychology and vague, but self-serving references to current societal ills)? What does all this conceal about our own worst impulses: 'By rationalising monsters as the product of bad childhoods, society, stress or narcissism,' Connolly writes, 'I feel that we ignore a truth that can be hard to accept.'

Plus: Naomi Riddle visits the Australian contemporary art showcase The National, and finds an exhibition far removed from the escalating crises in the world around it. Deepa Bhasthi profiles Zarina, and the way in which the artist – who passed away last year – made the 'idea of home' her life's work. Over in Tokyo, Thu-Huong Ha gets sweaty in teamLab's latest immersive experience. Mark Rappolt considers Liang Hong's meditation on the changing notion of family from the perspective of ordinary citizens in rural China. And at National Gallery Singapore, an overlooked period of the city-state's art history is brought into the light.
Make Artists Ugly Again
As art itself has gotten pointedly uglier, the eye-candy has instantiated itself in the makers, observes Martin Herbertread now
How the Villain Origin Story Invaded Pop Culture
Cruella is Hollywood's latest diagnosis of wickedness via pop-psychology tropes – but our desire for monster-redemption stories often ignores a difficult truth about ourselves, writes Rachel Connollyread now
Thirst Trap: Getting Sweaty in teamLab's 'Sauna Trance'
Thu-Huong Ha visits the digital collective's newest experiential work in Tokyo, which requires viewers to strip down and enter a state of 'aroused discomfort'. read now
Zarina and the Idea of Home: What Happens When an Artist Becomes an Exile?
Revisiting Zarina's subtle and quietly devastating artworks can be anchoring to anyone cast adrift by this abnormal life, finds Deepa Bhasthiread now
Art Lovers Movie Club: Alberta Whittle, 'HOLDING THE LINE: a refrain in two parts'
Commissioned for Art Night 2021, the artist's film explores colonial histories and police brutality. Available to stream until 17 July. watch now
'What Is Missing Is Momentum': The National 2021, New Australian Art – Review
Although The National announces itself as a presentation of 'provocative, political and poetic' new Australian art, the works on display appear detached from our contemporary moment, writes Naomi Riddleread now
'I Feel Inside Myself To Be a 35-Year-Old Iranian Lesbian': Curator Francesco Bonami Posts Bizarre Rant
The director of Huangzhou's By Art Matters was responding to an article about white men dominating senior museum jobs in China. read now
Something New Must Turn Up: Six Singaporean Artists After 1965 – Review
At National Gallery Singapore, a glimpse at a neglected piece of the island city-state's art history – reviewed by Adeline Chiaread now
Art and 'Everyday Reality' in China
A new history of art in post-Mao China and a study of the fate of the country's rural hometowns – reviewed by Mark Rappoltread now
Podcast: Simon Critchley on Pandemic Mysticism
Subject, Object, Verb – hosted by Ross Simonini – explores the connections between artists, art and life. listen now
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