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21 Letting off steam


FOR THE LAST four months, artist Joana Vasconcelos has taken over the Palace of Versailles with strange, provocative installations that include a giant tentacled fabric monster entitled Mary Poppins and two enormous ceramic lobsters named Le Dauphin and La Dauphine, who sit facing each other at the monarchs’ table waiting to be served. Now, the French-born Portuguese artist has been given free rein to fill Mayfair’s Haunch of Venison gallery with weird and wonderful creations that weave everyday


materials and objects into colourful assemblages exploring identity, gender, class and nationality – all


with a large dose of irony. Her sculpture Full Steam Ahead is also full of irons –


FULL STEAM AHEAD (RED #1), 2012 © UNIDADE INFINITA PROJECTOS


steam irons, to be exact – which take the place of petals in a sculpture that mimics the shape of a water lily. As the petals open and close like a real flower they parp out steam, weaving the weirdly beautiful sculpture in a misty haze as if emerging from a lily pond. Elsewhere, a large textile form, similar to Mary


Poppins, is suspended from the skylight with huge tendrils that trail up the gallery’s staircase. Covered in a patchwork of traditional Portuguese fabrics, Valkyrie Crown is part of a series about the female figures of Norse mythology who were said to decide who lived or died in battle. Expect more objects of disturbing beauty when Vasconcelos represents Portugal at the Venice Biennale next year.


Joana Vasconcelos is at Haunch of Venison, 103 New Bond Street, from October 10-November 17. Tel: 020 7495 5050.


A brush with the jazz age


FORGET THE RECESSION and relive an altogether more decadent era, with an exhibition of paintings featuring the beautiful and the damned of the jazz age. As cinemas gear up for Baz Luhrmann’s film version of The Great Gatsby, Stair Sainty gallery has turned its attention to the glitterati of the 1920s, with Federico Beltrán-Masses’ portraits of movie stars, dancers and socialites of Paris and Hollywood. The Cuban-born, Spanish painter was friends with some of


the greatest celebrities of the day, including Douglas Fairbanks Sr and Jr, Joan Crawford, Gloria Swanson, Rudolf Valentino and Charlie Chaplin. He was known for his ability to capture the star quality of his subjects, and frequently set them against romantic nocturnal backdrops such as Venetian canals and deep-blue star-lit skies in tones of what became known as Beltrán Blue. Beltrán-Masses’ paintings were often controversial, however –


a portrait of Salome was withdrawn from an exhibition at Burlington Galleries in 1929 for being too risqué.


Federico Beltrán-Masses: Fantasy, Nocturnes and Portraits in the Jazz Age is at Stair Sainty Gallery, 38 Dover Street, October 3-November 16. Tel: 020 7493 4542.


FEDERICO BELTRÁN-MASSES, PORTRAIT OF DOUGLAS FAIRBANKS, JR. 1932


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