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Exhibitions abroad (Madrid, London, Amsterdam, Dunkirk)
With dazzling summer shows still running in Europe’s capitals, here’s our selection of art expos, from quintessential American Edward Hopper to the birth of Impressionism and contemporary drawing in France...
Madrid – Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza
Hopper until Sept 16
Perennially popular, Edward Hopper (1882-1967) captured the mood and feel of the mid-20th century in America. The selection of 70 major works– paintings, prints and watercolours – showing in Madrid represent the largest and most ambitious selection ever to be shown in Europe. Hopper is an emblematic figure of 20th-century realism who faithfully portrayed the America of his time. This retrospective is a chronological flow that emphasises the solitude and drama of modern existence. In France, which he visited frequently, he was called ‘the painter of solitude’ because many of his works are emptied of human figures or feature a single person. He was drawn to stark vistas, seascapes and commonplace architecture. The exhibition will move to Paris (Grand Palais Oct 10-Jan 28), where it will be enhance by other works.
London – Tate Modern
Damien Hirst until Sept 9
Drawing soon to a close, this is the first major museum retrospective of Britain’s most well-known ‘young artist’ of the 1990s, who rose from the East End to become the richest artist in the world. Hirst is a man of contradictions who divides the critics and public but who defies apathy, consistently provocative and always evoking strong reactions. The Tate shows the best of his work from the ’90s, including the notorious formaldehyde-preserved shark, among other death-obsessed works. His more recent work may be showing little signs of life, but he is still drawing in the crowds and generating media attention. Also showing at the Tate until October 14 is Edvard Munch: The Modern Eye, which is proving unsurprisingly popular. It includes 60 paintings by the Norwegian artist plus a rare screening of his work in film and photography.
London - Tate Britain
Olympic and Paralympic Posters until Sept 23
Official London 2012 posters designed by 12 leading contemporary artists, including Tracey Emin (above), Martin Creed, Bridget Riley and Rachel Whiteread.
London - Royal Academy
From Paris: A Taste for Impressionism until Sept 23
Seventy significant works are on show here by Manet, Monet, Pissarro, Degas, Renoir and others from the small but quality collection at the Sterling and Francine Clark Institute in Williamstown. The New England museum features Impressionist paintings from the private collection of Sterling Clark and his French wife Francine. It features stunning portraits, including ‘chocolate box’ pretty and flying in the face of the fashion of the time.
Amsterdam – Hermitage Museum
Impressionism: Sensation & Inspiration until Jan 13
Currently showing in the impressive Heritage-Amsterdam is a fascinating collection of impressionist works presented in the context of the art movement’s controversial beginnings. It was in 1863 that artists rejected by the official and staid Paris annual salon finally had their own show, the Salon des Refusés. The avant-garde movement was eventually disparagingly named ‘Impressionist’ by one journalist critical of Claude Monet’s 1873 painting Impression, soleil levant.
Entering the exhibition through a darkened narrow space filled with art from the official salon period is a deliberate device to contrast the difference in styles of the official and alternative salons. It leads into a large and airy room showing impressionist works on one wall and neo-classic and realist on the other to reinforce the style clash that paved the way for modern art. The dual display recreates the showdown between the new breed of artists such as Monet, Manet, Renoir, Pissarro and Degas and the old guard of Grandjean, Delacroix, Carolus-Duran and Laurents.
Outstanding works by the former include Monet’s Dame au jardin (above) in which the figure of the woman is secondary to the main focus of the painting, which is the effect of the summer light and the shadows falling on the garden. Renoir’s Portrait de Mlle Jeanne Samary is in stark contrast to Carolus-Duran’s Portrait de la Princesse Obolenskaya. While the latter is a dark and immobile canvas, Renoir’s painting is a soft and dappled depiction of a real woman.
It is difficult today to appreciate how radical these artists were as they moved into the open air to explore the relationship between colour, light and shadow. Post Impressionist works also figure in the show, with Cézanne’s Le fumeur and Gaugin’s La femme au fruit. These highlights from the Hermitage, while not breathtaking, are groundbreaking in their visual explanation of the artistic background in which Impressionism was launched and later evolved.
The Hermitage opened three years ago in a renovated hospice overlooking the River Amstel as an offshoot to the world-famous Saint Petersburg institution. Housing two major multifunctional exhibition areas, the lofty white spaces have a contemporary feel. Large windows, including those of the café restaurant Neva, overlook a courtyard garden. When Amsterdam’s famous Van Gogh Museum closes down next month for refurbishment, its collection will join the Impressionists for a parallel exhibition (Sept 29-April 25).
Dunkirk – LAAC (Lieu d’Art et Action contemporaine)
Wols et Dessin phénoménal until Sept 16
The port town of Dunkirk in northern France may now be synonymous with cross-channel ferries, but it is worth lingering awhile for its excellent musuems as well as its sea breezes and swooping seagulls. A siginificant port since the Middle Ages, Dunkirk was one of France’s most bombarded cities in France during World War Two. The legacy of this conflict is still evident and still shaping the regeneration of the town centre. Despite difficult times new projects are slowly transforming Dunkirk into a tourist and cultural destination.
Across the Nord-Pas de Calais region of France, 20 museums are presenting a series of exhibitions dedicated to drawing under the umbrella name Dessiner-Tracer. At Dunkirk’s Lieu d’art et action contemporaine (LAAC), a temple to art from the 1950 to the 1980s, an additional show of work by Wols, a pioneering post-war German abstract artist, is staged in addition to drawings by local artists.
Dessin phénoménal presents three artists, Christian Jaccard, Bernard Pagès and Bernard Moninot, who have created without the intervention of pencil, pen or brush. The trio have all experimented with natural ‘phenomenens’ such as light, fire and sound, all working on the theme of nature. Moninothas developed an interesting procedure that ‘draws’ the wind. In the Dunkirk dunes nearby, he captured the movements of the wind through branch ‘needles’ that scratch the inside of Petril dishes. Each unique ‘drawing’ is also screened as a light projection. Among the local artists, Chantal Fochesato’s Dessins sur le fil are intricate ebroidered drawings – delicate yet provacative depictions of nude women that raise questions about femininity, sexuality and relationships. Intiguingly beautiful and question-raising.
The LAAC, which was inaugurated in 1982 and re-opened in 2005 after major refurbishment, has one of the largest collections of graphic art in the north of Europe. The building is worth visiting in its own right: a white ceramic spaceship-like structure surrounded by a lake amid a sculpture park close to the beach and port. It houses the private collection, some 1,000 works from the 1960s and ’70s, of art lover Gilbert Delaine. A further 400 works have since been bought or acquired by donation. The result is a rare collection and testimony to French art from the second half of the 20th century. The movements and artists that it encompasses are Abstraction (Serge Poliakoff), Expressionist (Karel Appel), New Realism, Figurative, Pop Art (Andy Warhol) and the CoBrA group.
Musée des Beaux-Arts de Dunkerque
Autre pareil until July 13 2013
‘Sans titre’ by Joan Mitchell, on display at the 'Autre pareil' exhibition in Dunkirk. Photo by Jean-Claude Mallevaey © ADAGP, Paris 2011
This long-running exhibition created by artist Philippe Richard is a dialogue between the museum and LAAC’s permanent collections and the French sculptor’s personal vision. The title Autre pareil is inspired by Samuel Beckett’s first poem in French and the exhibition’s theme is James Joyce’s Ulysses, hero Stephen Dedalus and the notion of travel and interpretation. As a port town, the Dunkirk musem boasts many seafaring works and objects from countries across the globe, and these are weaved into the narrative of the show. The journey through the nine rooms is an intriguing and surprising parcours featuring traditional and contemporary works. A connecting thread is a cube that in some form or other can be found in each of the rooms.
First constructed in the 19th century, the museum situated in the town centre, was destroyed in World War Two and subsequently re-built in the early 1970s. Further renovation is planned for the museum as part of a massive urban regeneration project.
For more information on Dunkirk, read The Bulletin’s travel article of June 1, 2012.