5 March 2007 –
Tate Britain opens a new series of BP British Art Displays on 5 March 2007. For the first time the entire main floor of the gallery is devoted to Tate’s world-famous collection with 38 rooms of British art ranging from the Mediaeval period to the 21st century.
This ambitious programme of rotating displays allows Tate Britain to tell a dynamic story of British art encompassing the most famous and popular artists and works of art alongside lesser known figures and forgotten gems. The 2007 series of displays shows more contemporary art at Tate Britain than ever before, with artists ranging from such senior figures as Francis Bacon, David Hockney and Bridget Riley to the 2006 Turner Prize winner, Tomma Abts. Many new acquisitions are displayed for the first time including works by Francis Hayman and Jeremy Moon and the archive of John Piper. A selection of highlights from the new displays is listed below:
Demonstrating the strong sculptural tradition that existed in Britain before the reformation, these exquisite carvings are a much-neglected but vital part of Britain’s artistic heritage.
A recently acquired masterpiece – Francis Hayman’s portrait of Samuel Richardson and his family – provides the centrepiece for this display of 18th century depictions of family groups, and the origins of the modern family portrait. It was at this moment that the modern ‘permissive’ family – regulated by love rather than control – emerged and this was reflected in the new style of informal portraiture by such important artists as Thomas Gainsborough, Joseph Highmore, William Hogarth, Allan Ramsay, Wright of Derby and Johan Zoffany.
Dadd’s Fairy Feller’s Masterstroke is one of Tate Britain’s most popular works. Dadd was overlooked as an artist when he murdered his father in 1843 and was committed to an asylum. All of the works on display were made during his confinement. Only in the 20th century with the rise of Surrealism was Dadd’s art reassessed. This display is the first significant look at Dadd’s career in recent years and is a rare opportunity to see a whole room of his work.
James Clarke Hook & Painters of the Sea
The paintings of dramatic seas and fishing communities by such Victorian artists as Frank Bramley and Stanhope Forbes are well known. The pioneer of such subject matter - James Clarke Hook - has been forgotten. This display recovers this neglected artist and sets his work alongside those of his more famous followers.
John Piper Archive
This display shows a number of Piper’s paintings and prints alongside a selection from his archive which Tate recently acquired with help from the Heritage Lottery Fund. This rich resource reflects all aspects of Piper’s eclectic career. It charts his journey from the international avant garde of the 1930s to stage design and his recording of English architecture in writing and photographs.
Moon was one of the brightest abstract painters of his generation before his tragic death, aged 39, in 1973. He was known for his casually composed, large, strongly coloured canvases. This group, recently acquired by Tate, proves he is ripe for reappraisal and shows how his work anticipated recent developments in painting.
Araeen is best known as a political artist and as a writer and activist through his journal Third Text. However, in the 1960s, shortly after he moved to Britain from Karachi, he was one of the few British contributors to Minimalism. Tate Britain shows for the first time a group of his Minimalist constructions. These open structures are based on geometric principles, using repetition and strong colour. Some hang from the wall, others are free standing and the major work Zero to Infinity consists of a series of identical cubes which members of the audience are invited to arrange as they wish.
St Martin’s School of Art
This display looks at the ground-breaking teaching of sculpture at St Martin’s in the 1960s. It draws on the archive of its then Principal, Frank Martin, which has never been exhibited before. It shows how different approaches changed sculpture in Britain forever. Two courses produced, on the one hand, the ‘new generation’ sculptors who followed Anthony Caro and, on the other, a generation of artists who challenged the idea that sculpture had to be a single object. Works by both tendencies are displayed but this room focuses particularly on the latter tendency including rarely seen early work by key figures such as Barry Flanagan, Richard Long, Richard Deacon and Bill Woodrow.
Audio Arts is a magazine distributed on cassette. Founded in 1973, it set out to document the art of its time through interviews with artists. Tate Archive has these recordings and this display presents a sample selected by its founder, the artist William Furlong. Visitors can sit and listen to artists ranging from Joseph Beuys and Andy Warhol to Tracey Emin and Mark Wallinger.
BP British Art Displays 1500-2007 is supported by BP. BP has supported Collection Displays at Millbank since 1991, first at the Tate Gallery and then from the opening of Tate Britain in 2000 to the present. BP’s continued support, which was recently extended until 2012, allows Tate Britain to create a broad and dynamic displays programme which explores in depth British art from 1500 to the present.