Published on Friday, February 18th, 2011
Exactly ten years after the first major retrospective on twentieth century British sculpture, then curated by Nicholas Serota at Whitechapel Gallery, another exhibition with this focus has just been launched. Modern British Sculpture
is indeed a grand celebration of the ever-recurrant linguistic and formal boldness of great British sculpture.
As in any respectable tribute, it is imperative to recall the important role played by large institutions. From the British Museum collections and the performed examples of decorative art at the Victoria and Albert Museum, representing the inexhaustible source of inspiration of modern masters. It is compulsory to observe the renown work of the Presidents of the Academy, bulwarks of the education and promotion of young artists. And the Genghis Khan
realized by Philip King
in 1963 symbolizes the monumental triumph of ancient sculpture.
Suggestions received as well as exercised. The relationship between English and American art is the main protagonist in the second part of the exhibition. The Land Art represented by Richard Long
sits at the table with the Minimalism of American artist Carl Andre
. Later, the irreverence of Jeff Koons
is the forerunner of the revolting decadence inspiring Let's Eat Outdoors Today
, the famous abandoned barbecue signed by Damien Hirst
All historical milestones are marked: the shift from figurative to abstract, the adoption of prefabricated materials, the involvement of the spectator in the making of the artwork. An Exhibit
by Victor Pasmore
and Richard Hamilton
seems to be its overall sum.
While a thematic path is logically trackable, a chronological evolution leads to the last room, where the diversity of work reveals the impossibility of cataloguing the sculpture of our days. The precariousness of life and the ensuing search for order are the commonly researched patterns in rigorous spatial works by Liam Gillick
as much as in everyday objects embedded in the art by Bill Woodrow
The curator Penelope Curtis has chosen conscientiously. The Contemporary British Sculpture Archive is a kind of press coverage in progress closing the exhibition. It is a courageous response to the attacks launched by many critics rather than a comparison between the public and the private sphere. In fact, there is no doubt that Henry Moore
and Barbara Hepworth
are cornerstones of world sculpture. Yet the absence of big names like Anish Kapoor
or Rachel Whiteread
leaves a sense of emptiness in an exhibition having such an ambitious title.
A show that is not to be a conventional history of sculpture and that certainly has the merit of raising the level of discussion on art. But it seems that in crossing the boundaries of tradition, one will find ones own.
show visited on January 23rd, 2011
From January the 22nd to April the 7th, 2011
Modern British Sculpture
curated by Penelope Curtis
Royal Academy of Arts - Burlington House
Piccadilly - W1J 0BD London
Opening Hours: Saturdays to Thursdays 10-18 (last entrance 17.30); Fridays 10-22 (last entrance 21.30)
Entrace fee: full £ 7; reduced £ 6
Info: tel. +44 02073008000; www.royalacademy.org.uk