Visual arts: The art of perception

Two neighbouring galleries are currently mounting ambitiously titled exhibitions. But do they live up to their billing?

In the Eye of the Beholder, the inaugural exhibition at Blains Fine Art in Mayfair, is subtitled "The portrayal of women in art over the past 200 years" - quite a mouthful and, for a new gallery opening its doors for the first time, quite an ambitious note on which to start. The title sets up expectations of a definite thesis, or, at least, of some sort of theme: that the exhibition will reveal something happening to the portrayal of women in art over the years.

But no. As it turns out this is a rather loose collection of paintings and sculpture which might have been titled "Works with women in by artists whose names you ought to know". It's an odd and indiscriminate selection in which some really good things - particularly the smaller bits of sculpture, such as a Henry Moore maquette and a little figure by Niki de Saint Phalle - mingle with a lot of second-rate works by first-rate artists.

There's more to curating exhibitions than the gathering of pictures, but it's early days at 23 Bruton Street and Blains may yet become a worthy addition to London's gallery scene. They've got plenty of style and, on the evidence here, no shortage of resources. I wish them well and look forward to their next move.

The Lefevre Gallery, seven doors down the street, has been in the business rather longer. Not for them an exhibition on a loose theme, they state the case for their Christmas show very simply: Important XIX & XX Century Works of Art. It's a grandiose title, but then the Lefevre Gallery is rather a grandiose place - dark and expensive. It's not the easiest threshold to cross, but usually worth the effort. The current selection includes three delightful little Picassos and, best of all, a spare and rather empty painting of fishing boats by Derain. Not perhaps an important picture, but one of the most pleasing that I've seen for weeks.

`In the Eye of the Beholder', Blains Fine Art, 23 Bruton St, W1 (0171- 495 5050) to 31 Jan 1998. `Important XIX & XX Century Works of Art', Lefevre Gallery, 30 Bruton St, Wl (0171-493 2107) to 18 Dec

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