Though it’s not officially summer yet, I’ve recently seen quite a few ‘summer blockbusters’. ‘Solo’ and Jurassic World’ of course (!) but also some of the big art exhibitions around London – Rodin at the British museum, Picasso at Tate Modern and ‘All Too Human’ (Freud and Bacon) at Tate Britain.
I found them all interesting, largely enjoyable and managed to see them without the usual teeming crowds. The only gripe was the cost – each one tipped the £20 mark. Were they worth the money? Here’s how they shaped up for me.
Rodin and the Art of Ancient Greece:
Taking up the large new extension at the British Museum, Rodin’s sculptural work is spread over an open plan space, through which you can glimpse tantalising views of what is to come. His work is complimented by Classical Greek art from the Museum archive, namely the Parthenon ‘Elgin’ marbles, which Rodin visited many times at the Museum. To see these ancient pieces in a different context together with Rodin’s sketches, subsequent maquettes of new interpretations and finished pieces is inspirational.
I would have liked there to be more of a journey – surprises around the corner, rather than seeing everything in one go. That said, the sculptures are large and need the space to step back and admire them. You can see where the money has gone. Transport and positioning alone must have been costly.
Overall, well presented and worth the money.
It is an imaginative idea – to present a year in the life of one of our greatest artists; a turning point in love and career.
Picasso was in danger of becoming a ‘has been’. Despite his earlier successes, he was looking to try something new. He experimented in different styles, different mediums and with a different woman. At 50 years old, he found a new muse in the shape of 22-year-old Marie–Thérèse Walter.
His portraits of Walter begin to contort into strange, sexually suggestive shapes of vivid colour which we are familiar with today, but at the time were revolutionary.
I have to say though, that a couple of rooms on this theme would have been enough. There was not enough variety of image (which I suppose was the point), with too many rough sketches and discarded ideas and the story eked out till it was paper thin.
It may have taken a while to pull all these pieces together – especially a series of paintings done within a week of each other. I can’t say that it was worth the cost of admission – but if you are an ardent fan of Picasso, maybe.
All Too Human:
This exhibition at Tate Britain grouped a series of figurative paintings together under the mantle of influential London- based artists from the early 20th Century to the present. The two main painters being Francis Bacon and Lucian Freud.
There is an interesting chronology and it is great to see how Bacon and Freud were influenced by earlier artists such as Sickert and Spencer.
There was a mixture of portraits and landscapes with F N Souza’s illustrative imagery, colourful and iconic, standing out as a highlight.
Then there were the last two rooms. Suddenly, we are in a different exhibition altogether. Without an explanatory introduction, there is a room dedicated to Paula Rego and a final room of female portrait artists. It seems like a guilty add on for the ‘Me Too’ generation. The art is great, some arguably better than that which came before – but it is out of context, and jars.
The curators should have introduced female artists alongside Bacon et al, even if we had not heard of them, to show the state of play at that time. Then, when the latter two rooms appear (together with some contemporary male artists such as Jonathan Yeo) we could see that female artists are now more widely recognised and stand shoulder to shoulder, as it were – then there would be a natural flow to the story.
There were lots of works to be seen and a good variety. It is hard to say what were already in the Tate archive and which had to be brought in. Worth the money? Not sure again.
It seems wrong to be talking about whether an art exhibition is ‘worth the money’. You could argue that art is educational, that it allows the public access to world- class artworks and enriches life and how could you put a price on it? On the other hand, not everyone can afford £20 per head for an hour-long experience. You could spend a whole day at a stately home and see hundreds of pieces of art and architecture for that. If art is to be accessible for all, then the cost needs to come down.
I can see the point. It costs a lot of money to put on a show, and most of the larger museums and galleries are free entry to the public, so they need to pay for them somehow. To be honest, in most cases, I’d rather just pop into the National for free and have a browse around their permanent collection for half an hour, than spend a fortune being jostled in a ‘blockbuster’ show.
As a compromise, perhaps the answer is to begin charging a small entry fee to the permanent collections and heavily reduce the price of the shows?