Shocking news from the 70s and a chilling message from the far north – the week in art

Jonathan Jones
·2-min read

Exhibition of the week

Arctic: Culture and Climate
Human beings have interacted with the Arctic ice for millennia. This immersive journey into an extreme and endangered ecosystem reveals it is a part of ourselves, as well as our planet, that we stand to lose as the ice melts.
British Museum, London, from 22 October.

Also showing

Precious and Rare
Medieval Islam took up the torch of science from ancient Greece, and this liberation of mathematics and optics led to a new art of geometrical decoration. This exhibition of Islamic metalwork reveals how “arabesque” patterns and metallurgy intertwined.
History of Science Museum, Oxford, until 10 January.

Gilbert & George
In the 70s, the East End duo made shocking pictures of a divided Britain. The anger of punk and the sense of a country that loathed itself can be felt in their records of graffiti-bestrewn London, tense images that have the staying power of history paintings.
Ben Brown Fine Arts, London, until 6 November.

Katie Paterson’s science-inspired art includes a giant mirror ball covered with images of solar eclipses. Darren Almond, Shona Macnaughton and Lucy Raven also appear in this survey of current art.
Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art, Edinburgh, until 10 January.

Image of the week

It took Russian photographer Sergey Gorshkov 11 months using hidden cameras to capture this image of an ecstatic tigress hugging a fir tree in a remote Siberian forest. His patience led to him being named 2020 wildlife photographer of the year by the Duchess of Cambridge at a ceremony at the Natural History Museum, London.

What we learned

As the government caused fury with a ballerina ad, we met arts workers forced to retrain

A revamped nuclear bunker in Scotland won museum of the year …

… while Hilton Als, Mary Beard, Russell Tovey and more chose their alternative favourite museums

Sergey Gorshkov’s 2020 wildlife photograph of the year will feature alongside other category winners in an exhibition at the Natural History Museum, London

Duncan Grant’s erotic drawings provided a blast of defiant joy

Bruce Nauman’s installations dazzled in an unbearably tense retrospective

Chris Killip, a key player in British photography, died aged 74 ...

… his photographs of Britain’s working class captured human dignity amid industrial decline in England’s north-east

Polly Morgan’s art is a gloriously nasty nest of vipers

Kevin Cummins’ best shot of Damon Albarn is eerily prescient

Talking Heads frontman David Byrne despaired in lockdown

The Photo Oxford festival is highlighting the achievements of women in photography – and the challenges they face

There was a twist in the hunt for the world’s largest haul of stolen art

Intimate images celebrated men in love over the course of a century

Using fish to make ink prints? The best images from this year’s Association of Photographers awards were certainly innovative

Japanese and Korean talent took centre stage at Photo London

The London film festival took art into a new dimension

Distraught architects spoke out over lockdown exploitation

A San Francisco museum told the story of the pandemic …

… while in the UK, art is helping children make sense of lockdown

Ai Weiwei, Marilyn Minter and Shepard Fairey designed US billboards honouring Indigenous Peoples’ Day

Martin Schoeller’s new exhibition showed us the faces of injustice

Rachel Louise Brown captured Florida’s freakiest attractions after dark, including a peek inside Mar-a-Lago

Moggies met their match – their canny human lookalikes

Picturebook legend Oliver Jeffers revealed his latest book and a unique tattoo – his wife’s bite marks

We selected some of the best images from Photo London Digital 2020

Prize-winning Ivorian photographer Joana Choumali embroidered her images …

… while Spanish photographer Andrés Gallardo Albajar mesmerised with his urban shots

For the 50th anniversary of Melbourne’s West Gate Bridge collapse, cartoonist Sam Wallman created a visual retelling of the tragedy

Cartoonist Quino was remembered for a cute character that Argentina took to its heart

Masterpiece of the week

Christ Nailed to the Cross, c1481, by Gerard David
Christ Nailed to the Cross, c1481, by Gerard David

Christ Nailed to the Cross, c1481, by Gerard David
Christ stares right at you as the soldiers drive nails into him. His intense gaze is far from that of a passive lamb accepting its sacrificial fate. There are tears in his eyes. His pain is that of any torture victim. David tries to shock us into empathy, to wrench compassion. It is remarkably similar to the strategy Caravaggio would use more than a century later in his painting of St Peter being nailed upside down to a cross. But there’s mystery, too, in Christ’s eyes. He’s not really looking at us so much as past us, into the supernatural truth of this moment. He suffers yet stands outside his suffering. This is the kind of emotional complexity and tragic power ordinary people experienced every time they went to church in the late middle ages and gazed on religious images that still compel feeling, whatever you believe or don’t believe.
National Gallery, London.

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