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Wednesday, 1 April 2009
Blockbuster & Bugger All
This post has absolutely nothing to do with April Fool's Day beyond the fact that the first item is a very suitable one for April 1st. Actually, it would have been even more apt had I left until the end the fact that the exhibition which forms its subject closed ten days ago!
The exhibition in question is the one shown in my first image. there are (or were!) five rooms. The next five images cover the whole scope of the exhibition, depict all the exhibits... at least, I think they do, for some reports have said there were five rooms, but others have put the figure at nine. It's all most confusing. It could well be that there should be another four images like the five I have included. Speaking of which... you are not mistaken and there is no malfunction. The photographs are empty. The exhibition was called Void. It was staged at the Pompidou Centre in Paris and was a retrospective.
"Whose retrospective?" I hear you ask. Wrong question. The exhibition catalogued the fifty year history of the art of absence, of nothingness, of the minimal carried to the extreme, to the point where it ceases to exist. Did I say catalogued? Ah, well, that reminds me: there was a very expensive, glossy catalogue produced to go with the exhibition. More than most people would be willing to pay for most catalogues, I guess, so it must have been something special! You've guessed it... blankness abounds!
Top of the bill was Klein. You probably remember him. He staged the first ever Void show, snappily entitled The Specialisation of Sensibility in the Raw Material State into Stabilised Pictorial Sensibility, the Void. That was in 1958. Three thousand people queued round the block (guess that's why they called it a blockbuster) to pass through a blue curtain into an empty room.
However, visitors this time were considered more deeply. They did not have only the empty whiteness of the rooms to meditate upon, they were also treated to silent music as they made their way between the absent exhibits.
My apologies for delaying the posting of this piece (peace?) until after the closure, but you have no need to worry, it is going on tour and will be coming to a gallery near you!
My other piece of news is that on this coming Sunday The Whitechapel Gallery in East London is to reopen after a two-year closure, during which it has been extended in to what was a library next door and extensively refurbished. To mark the occasion it will launch four exhibitions. My post concerns one of those.
The Whitechapel has a proud history of staging what have come to be seen as iconic exhibitions. Notably, it is still the only British gallery ever to have brought us Picasso's Guernica. Some would say it is about to cap that by exhibiting Picasso's tapestry of the same subject. The tapestry normally hangs in the U.N. building in New York. It was commissioned for the U.N. by Nelson Rockefeller. It is the same size as the painting, but many who have seen both, believe it to be more impressive, being less colourful and therefore more starkly dramatic. Others who know both the painting in Madrid and the setting for the tapestry in the new Whitechapel, say that the latter offers the great advantage over the former of being able to approach the work directly from the front and to being able to approach it closely or to move away from it.