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