Dear Henry Tate,
From the late 1960s Alighiero e Boetti produced embroidered maps and text works in collaboration with local craftsmen in Kabul, Afganistan, until the Soviet invasion forced him to move production to Peshawar, Pakistan. The texts he included, such as ‘to leave certainty for uncertainty’, now have an eerie ring to them in the post-9/11 climate. At the time, however, they were produced, as Brooks Adams writes, with ‘a runic, laid-back grace’. The same could not be said for master of erotic theatre Gustav Klimt, whose image and career was skilfully managed behind the scenes. Timing often helps – Klimt’s passion for the female form coincided with Freud’s theories of the unconscious – so his imagery struck a nerve. It was a period made particularly exciting by the old Viennese appetite for irony and ambiguity, not only among fellow artists, but also with their forward-looking patrons who didn’t seem to mind the idea of Klimt expressing the sexual energy of their wives on canvas.
The radical late 1960s English group King Mob preferred the platform of political revolution, tapping into the international mood of that era, and, as Hari Kunzru explains, their actions were ‘witty, carnivalesque and confrontational’. Now their archive is part of Tate’s collection. There is a different kind of confrontation in the work of Cy Twombly, who, as John Berger has written, ‘visualises with living colours the silent space that exists between and around worlds’. He celebrates his 80th birthday with a retrospective at Tate Modern featuring several series of paintings (and sculptures) from the 1950s to the present day. Happy birthday.
Bice Curiger and Simon Grant
In this issue
As Adams writes: “This is a tale of four contemporary art shamans, in a pre-9/11 world that could still entertain rosy illusions of prelapsarian time and space.”
As Tate Britain mounts an exhibition of work by nineteenth-century Western artists who travelled east, Briony Llewellyn delves into the archives, journals, manuscripts and letters of Edward Lear, Richard Dadd, William Holman Hunt and David Roberts.
To coincide with Tate Modern’s survey exhibition that explores the parallel worlds of photographs taken in the urban environment and those taken as studio portraits – including the work of Helmar Lerski, Rineke Dijkstra, Malick Sidibé and Paul Strand – Kozloff argues that such distinctions have become blurred over the years
To coincide with Tate Modern's survey exhibition Juergen Teller enjoys the timeless charm of a Cecil Beaton portrait, David Goldblatt believes Helen Levitt is one of the 'truly great photographers'; Sarah Jones finds inspiration in the work of August Sander for her photographic series Actor, while Chris Killip celebrates the brutal power of Boris Mikhailov's portrayal of post-Communist Russia.
The recent Simon Sainsbury bequest that consists of a gift of five paintings to the National Gallery and thirteen to Tate is one of the most important in Tate’s history. Among the works by Bacon, Bonnard, Freud and Zoffany are three paintings by Balthus, including Still Life with a Figure, explored by a Balthus specialist who met the sitter in the painting.
Coinciding with Cy Twombly’s 80th birthday, Tate Modern is staging the first retrospective of the American artist’s work for twenty years. Claire Daigle charts his time since the 1950s.
In 1975 the Belgian artist Marcel Broodthaers (1924–1976) made the piece Décor for the ICA, London. A large crab and a lobster sit at a table playing cards. By the window is a small nineteenth-century cannon, and behind this is a cannonball covered in flowers. In the adjoining room a half-completed jigsaw depicting the Battle of Waterloo sits on a plastic garden table. Broodthaers regarded Décor as a’sculptural conquest’ of an institutional space. Several decades on, this work seems as fresh as when it was first shown
The American artist John Baldessari has influenced several generations of younger artists, and has, since the 1960s, consistently renegotiated his own working practice – from his earlier text paintings to his reworkings of old film stills and the commissioning of paintings made by amateur artists to his specifications. Christopher Miles pays him a visit.
‘The wall between Ben’s and Terry Frost’s studio was so thin we could hear sounds through it. We could hear him… wind up the handle of his gramophone… and Jelly Roll Morton would strike up the beat. We could hear Ben begin to scrape at the surfaces of his paintings with a razor blade – scrrch-scrrch-scrrch-scrrch.’
The radical 1960s English group King Mob called themselves the ‘gangsters of the new freedom’, and combined hard-edged politics with the disruptive potential of Dada. Kunzru looks back at their world after sifting through their archive, which has recently been acquired by Tate.
To coincide with Tate Liverpool’s exhibition Gustav Klimt: Painting, Design and Modern Life in Vienna 1900, we bring together a cultural historian and a Klimt specialist to debate how the man who remains one of the world’s most popular modern artists took voyeurism to new heights.
In his new book Neuroarthistory: From Aristotle and Pliny to Baxandall and Zeki, John Onians argues that advances in the scientific study of the brain can add a new dimension to our understanding of art – drawing on the writings of philosophers, art historians and writers from across the centuries