Eleanor Nairne

Eleanor Nairne is the senior curator at Barbican Art Gallery.

At the Met: On Cecily Brown

Eleanor Nairne, 19 October 2023

The painter​ Cecily Brown offers a short biography on her website: ‘Born in London. Lives and works in New York’. But there is more to her than that. Her mother is the novelist Shena Mackay; her father was the art critic David Sylvester, though she thought of him as an ‘uncle’ until she was 21. She took life drawing classes at Morley College in the late 1980s, which...

When Irving Sandler​ asked Joan Mitchell what she felt about the word ‘nature’, she didn’t mince her words: ‘I hate it. It reminds me of some Nature-Lover Going Out Bird-Watching.’ It was 1957 and Sandler was interviewing Mitchell in her fourth-floor walk-up on the Lower East Side. Mitchell’s gestural paintings were admired for their glowing abstraction,...

At Modern Art Oxford: Ruth Asawa

Eleanor Nairne, 4 August 2022

Writing of​ Ruth Asawa’s first solo exhibition in New York in 1954, the critic Parker Tyler described her sculptures as inviting the viewer ‘to be as still as they are or to tremble when they tremble’. He was responding to what had become her signature works: biomorphic forms woven from industrial wire, hung from the ceiling like lanterns. The first of these on display at...

At Tate Modern: Nam June Paik

Eleanor Nairne, 21 November 2019

In​ the first room of the Nam June Paik retrospective at Tate Modern (until 9 February), an 18th-century carved wooden Buddha sits on an oblong plinth. Facing him is an image of his own face, which is being recorded by a closed-circuit television camera and relayed onto a 1970s JVC ‘videosphere’. The monitor’s white plastic casing, which looks like an astronaut’s...

At Tate Liverpool: Keith Haring

Eleanor Nairne, 18 July 2019

A voiceover​ on the CBS evening news of 20 October 1982 described the American artist Keith Haring: ‘He stalks the New York City subways waiting for his chance to strike. When the opportunity comes he moves fast. He has to.’ We see Haring furtively alight a subway car at Madison Square Garden, take a stick of chalk from the back pocket of his jeans and draw onto a blank...

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