Exhibition review: Matisse to Freud: A Critic's Choice

Yes, it's me again, with another of my scintillating reviews of exhibitions at New Walk Museum. Actually I haven't got a lot to say about this one to be honest, having been completely stupefied by the bog-standard, minimalist approach to the gallery design and the pseudo-expert musings of equally bored, but desperate-to-look-like-they-have-a-clue-what-they're-looking-at posturings of other visitors* (big yawn). I shall, instead, quote from the flyer:

Matisse to Freud
A Critic's Choice
27th January - 18th March 2007

Free admission

Matisse to Freud: A Critic's Choice is an exhibition drawn from the art collection of the late Alexander Walker, which was bequeathed to the British Museum in 2003. Walker, one of London's most highly regarded film critics, amassed an outstanding collection of over 200 works on paper by some of the best known artists of the twentieth century, including Lucien Freud, David Hockney, Bridget Riley, Chuck Close, Jasper Johns and Philip Guston. The School of Paris (Picasso, Matisse, Miro), the English avant-garde (David Bloomberg and Edward Wadsworth) as well as 1960s figuration, geometric, abstraction, minimalism and photo-realism are all represented within this fabulous collection.

As far as the works on display go, I wasn't terribly excited. There was a nice orange aquatint by Howard Hodgkin and a kind of ethereal wintry scene in the darkest indigo blue and 'mucky' (but in a good way) green by Peter Doig, and some small illustrations by Joan Miro (which reminds me - if you ever get the chance to go to Barcelona, make sure you visit the Joan Miro Foundation - fantastic views of the city from the roof-terrace - and pretty good art too). Compared to the permanent German Expressionist gallery - which is much more my thing - it all felt a bit soulless. But I freely admit I actually didn't really know what I was looking at (and I'm an art historian!!!), and others might completely disagree with my assessment. But, as they say, the proof is in the pudding, and while the Kathe Kollwitz prints in the aforementioned German Expressionist gallery are always affecting and have inspired me to do a print workshop, the works in 'Matisse To Freud' largely left me cold. Oh, and I've decided I really DO NOT like Paula Rego's work. Very worthy it may be. But it actually really upsets me. (Perhaps that's the point?)

To be fair, while the other visitors were acting out that predictable how-to-behave-in-an-art-gallery mode of behaviour, there were actually quite a lot of them. Which is a good thing. In fact, the museum was positively heaving today. I had to fight through a right scrum in the corridor that goes alongside the shop! How many were really there just to see Rolf Harris' portrait of the Queen, I'm not sure. Not that there's anything wrong with that...

*Of course, I'm being terribly unfair. I can completely accept the argument that in order to set the exhibits off to their best advantage, they need to be displayed against a neutral background, blah, blah, blah. But, there's no getting away from it: that approach is deathly dull. Makes me appreciate the full-on, in-yer-face design of the recent Black British Style exhibition which used the same space. I'm dead keen on the concept of sound and music in the gallery environment now.


Christa said…
I have to agree with the sound bit in the gallery. This is slowly becoming more acceptable. Have you checked out Tate Modern's new programme where they are having musicians write songs in relation to artwork? http://www.tate.org.uk/modern/tatetracks/
The one I saw this summer was the Chemical Brothers (forget the artwork, but wasn't very impressed). But it was the Chemical Brothers....

Also the Natural history museum in LA was doing a similar thing...using ipods and myspace to publicize. http://www.sonicscenery.com/

It was a one time thing, but now they are selling the CD! Profit making as well...good job!
Amy said…
Yeah, where does this idea that we have to wander around museums and galleries maintaining a reverent hush come from? Let's start a campaign for more noise! ;)Of course, iPods are great - you can build your own museum visiting playlist. Hmmmm - that's an idea. Ought to blog that!

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