RA Magazine Summer 2012
Issue Number: 115
London preview: The best shows in town this summer
The best shows in town this summer include Warhol in glorious colour, a major survey of Munch, and the Whitechapel’s take on the art stars of tomorrow. By Simon Wilson
Dulwich Picture Gallery:
Andy Warhol: The Portfolios
20 June–16 September
Andy Warhol, 'Marilyn', 1967. Bank of America Collection, © The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts/Corbis/Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York / DACS, London 2012. When Pop art appeared in the 1960s it seemed a total break with tradition. But Pop artists were always savvy about the art of the past. This makes the Dulwich Picture Gallery an intriguing venue for its striking exhibition of the themed portfolios of silkscreen prints on paper that Andy Warhol made throughout his career. In these he exploited the silkscreen process with great imagination and ingenuity to create dazzlingly rich and complex, astonishingly varied, highly expressive, colour compositions of the iconic images he had such a genius for identifying. These range widely and encompass key aspects of our world and of art, and some may surprise. The famous Marilyn set, from 1967 is represented – his greatest work, I always think – but also the less well known Endangered Species (1983), Ten Portraits of Jews of the Twentieth Century (1980) and Myths (1981) among much else. Hung eighteenth-century style, wall to wall and floor to ceiling, these stunning works create a sensational visual and intellectual feast in Britain’s oldest gallery.
Edvard Munch: The Modern Eye
28 June–14 October
Edvard Munch, 'The Girls on the Bridge', 1901. ©The National Museum of Art, Architecture and Design, Oslo /DACS 2012. It is 61 years since the last Tate exhibition of the work of Edvard Munch, in 1951. This could be construed as neglect, the more so as one of his masterpieces, The Sick Child (1907) has been in the Tate Collection since 1939. It is all the stranger since, as we have just been reminded by Sotheby’s, with their sale on 2 May
of The Scream (1895) for a staggering £74 million, Munch is one of those very few great artists who have deeply penetrated the popular imagination. Perhaps that has been the problem and Munch has been the victim of a certain curatorial snobbery. Indeed, the Munch exhibition opening at Tate Modern in June actually originated in Paris at the Pompidou Centre, where I saw it. The good news is that it is a fabulous show, containing arrays of his most iconic works among the 60 paintings and 50 photographs on display. Munch was also a brilliant and innovative printmaker, and a complementary exhibition of his woodcuts and lithographs, including a very rare hand-coloured lithograph of The Scream also from 1895, is running at the Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art in Edinburgh (until 23 Sep, www.nationalgalleries.org).
Munch was neurotically reluctant to part with his major paintings, referring to them as his ‘children’. When he did sell one he immediately painted a replacement for himself – there are, in fact, four versions of The Scream. But each was painted with no less intensity than the previous one, and a unique feature of the Tate exhibition is the presentation of multiple versions of key works such as The Sick Child (1885-1927) and Puberty (1886-1916). Among his most popular paintings is The Girls on the Bridge (1901) a rare image of innocence and redemption, of which he made seven versions. As the RA show ‘Edvard Munch: By Himself’ in 2005 revealed, Munch was also one of the great self-portraitists and the climax of this show is a room of his haunted, sometimes tortured self-images, that seem to encapsulate his searing vision of the agonies and ecstasies of human life, love, suffering and death.
4 July–14 September
The London Open is the Whitechapel Gallery’s triennial open submission exhibition. It started in 1932 as the East End Academy, ‘for all artists living or working east of the famous Aldgate Pump’. But from 2012 the exhibition will extend to artists London-wide to recognise the gallery’s cultural role across the city. The RA Summer Exhibition it is not, although illustrious alumni include the young Antony Gormley and Anish Kapoor. Juried by luminaries of the contemporary art scene, including the Vancouver-based photographic artist Rodney Graham, this year’s edition embraces the full range of contemporary media, from painting to performance and photography.
Thomas Ball, Athabasca Lodge, '2007'. Courtesy Thomas Ball.
The show will foreground an engagement with political and social themes – as in Thomas Ball’s Athabasca Lodge (2007) from his series on the exploitation of Canadian tar sands – at a time when, as Iwona Blazwick, the Whitechapel Director says, ‘There has never been a more exciting time to be an artist in London.’ Look out for the fake Versace scarf printed with a design of Saddam Hussein’s gold bath taps, by Pio Abad or, for connoisseurs of pure conceptualism, Martin Callanan’s International Directory of Fictitious Telephone Numbers (2011).
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