So I’ll start off with the Tate’s main current exhibition ‘Works to Know by Heart: An Imagined Museum’… a masterclass in the understanding and value of contemporary modern art. Taking stock of twentieth century art from every conceivable theoretical angle. They have cleverly collaborated with the prestigious Centre du Pompidou (a mammoth Parisian institution) and MMK (Museum fur Moderne Kunst) based in Frankfurt.
The 60 plus artworks on display may not seem many (it is!) for an institution as big as the Tate Liverpool but its layout beholds a warren of intrigue, presenting world class luminaries including Marcel Duchamp, Claes Oldenberg, Sigmar Polke, Bridget Riley and Rachel Whiteread next to lesser known artists. Such a roster of works could appear too many so as to lose its impact, though this formidable exhibition exudes a maze of enlightenment.
Drawing upon the sci-fi novel ‘Fahrenheit 451’ the Tate is inviting audiences into a fictional scenario in which the exhibits are about to disappear so the only way to save them is to learn them by heart. How this will play out will be a first for the gallery and attempts to push barriers with an intriguing performance element combined when all the works leave their exhibition spaces later this February.
It’s an interesting concept and has extra credence in our increasingly isolating digital world. Tackling themes of psychology, visual language, perception, knowledge – past, present and future. By bringing in sculpture, ‘Avenza’ by Louise Bourgeois, Trompe-l’oeil ‘trick-of-the-eye painting, ‘Shower’ by Daniel Spoeri to Dorothy Tanning’s soft-textile ‘Interior Room’ you can begin to assess the multiple emotions that art brings to us.
Dan Flavin’s ‘Untitled’ Swiss-inspired light installation sits opposite Bridget Riley’s complex use of visual fields in ‘Fall’. Offering up notions of how we can define the world we live in… you can see (and feel) how each artwork has been specially selected for the potential value it brings to the viewer.
|‘Shower’ by Daniel Spoeri (BBC image)|
Another major coup for Liverpool is the display of ‘The Snail’ arguably one of Henri Matisse’s most iconic works. And I was completely blown away by its size. Like with anything, until you see something in person you never knowingly know how you will feel when standing in front of an ‘image’ you’ve seen reproduced so many times before.
It’s three metre square size blew me away and as I surveyed the cut-outs within the piece I could tell there was a consensual awe surrounding it by everyone else in the room. Unfortunately it means the rest of Matisse’s work is slightly overshadowed by ‘The Snail’ but does provide a small insight into his extensive 50 year artistic career. And you can’t disguise his passion for the human figure, his series of bronze casts ‘The Backs’ are huge, powerful in their silent contemplation, eerie and stylistic in their simplified forms.
On until May, this is the only chance you’ll have to see ‘The Snail’ before the Tate’s next instalment ‘Enim in Focus’ comes to town.
‘Works to Know by Heart’
Matisse in Focus – on until 2nd May
An Imagined Museum – ends on the 14th with performances on 20th & 21st February