Issue Number: 96
This September Bob Dylan releases remixes of his classic 1960s songs. To some, this may sound like sacrilege, but Dylan is more interested in reinvigorating his music for a new generation than in maintaining the purity of the past.
Remixing is standard practice in pop music but in art it is rare. We think of a painting as created in a particular moment, emerging from an elusive interplay of the head, hand and heart that can never be repeated.
But the German painter Georg Baselitz challenges this, reworking motifs from his past in his ‘Remix’ series, on display in his major retrospective at the Royal Academy this autumn.
For Baselitz, remixing can add extra layers of richness and colour to his work and epitomises what this retrospective – a look back at his career on the cusp of his 70th birthday – is about. As Jill Lloyd writes , ‘He has come to a stage in his life when it is natural to reflect on the past… The artist explains this in terms of his response to the contemporary art world associated with the Young British Artists. “They have opened everything up. They make a lot of nonsense, so I feel free to paint more scandalously than before.”’
The Society of Antiquaries, the Academy’s neighbour in Burlington House, is also remixing this autumn at the hands of historian David Starkey. He has selected many of their finest treasures for an exhibition at the RA marking their 300th anniversary. As Jenny Uglow notes , the Society, founded in the same year as the Act of Union, witnessed a turning point in British history, when the newly unified and internationally powerful nation wanted to reconstruct its own history out of the fragments of a largely mythical past.
The American philanthropist Paul Mellon also believed in re-examining the British past, in particular its art, which he collected so passionately that he built one of the world’s best collections of work from the Tudors to Turner, on view this autumn at the RA to celebrate his centenary. He adored the eighteenth century, and Giles Waterfield suggests that, while its art may now be out of fashion, ‘This show has the ability to persuade a broader public that what superficially appears a highly traditional form of art is more than that: it is a radical, exploratory art reflecting a society in the throes of social change’.
The RA is a product of this age of change. Founded in 1768, it created the first contemporary art exhibition space in Britain and the first art school. Yet even here it is time for remix and regeneration. The architect and President of the RA Sir Nicholas Grimshaw recently announced his plan to modernise the RA for the 21st century, while retaining its time-honoured traditions.
Soon it will be possible to remix the RA Magazine when you click on our new interactive magazine website, launching on 20 September. You can view the layout of the magazine, turn the pages online, clip particular articles to send to friends, search the whole magazine quickly and easily and click through to the links of every article and advert. Please try it – and tell us what you think.
Sarah Greenberg, Editor