Welcome to our new-look Tate Etc. On the cover of this issue there is a sculpture by Gaudier-Brzeska, whose works feature in Tate Britain’s exhibition The Vorticists: Manifesto for a Modern World, alongside a photograph of René Magritte – himself taking a photograph, outside the Israel Museum in Jerusalem. It is an apt image, as Tate Liverpool’s exhibition of Magritte reveals how the artist sourced his images from photographs, magazines and advertising. The picture was taken in 1966, several months before the start of the Six-Day War between Israel and neighbouring states Egypt, Syria and Jordan.
Several decades on, and Israel is watching extraordinary events unfold across the Middle East. The political upheavals in Egypt, Libya, Bahrain, Yemen and Syria had not yet happened when Tate Etc. invited four panellists to discuss art in the region. One of the questions asked was: is contemporary art from the Middle East more political than from elsewhere? How might they answer this question now? And how will artists from these countries, and beyond, respond to and process such turbulence and uncertainty. Time will tell. However, for one man this will no longer be possible. Ahmed Basiony was a promising young Egyptian artist who was, tragically, shot dead by a sniper in Tahrir Square, Cairo, on 28 January. Here, we publish an image from one of his last performance works. For those who can, the process of documentation is one possibility. As Simon Baker explains in his introduction to Tate Modern’s forthcoming series of new displays New Documentary Forms, works by an increasing number of artists are concerned with politics at a global level – from the political upheaval as seen in Guy Tillim’s Congo Democratic to the ongoing conflicts in Afghanistan and the Middle East referenced in Luc Delahaye’s series History. These artists feel a need to bear witness to the world. One wonders, if Magritte had been in Jerusalem a few months later, whether his camera would have documented a very different reality from that which he saw.
Bice Curiger and Simon Grant
In this issue
The short-lived Vorticist movement was often seen as a predominantly masculine, muscular affair, but as one of the descendents of the group of female painters of the period reveals, their work was equally compelling and innovative – and deserves to be better known today
The British avant-garde group was formed in London in 1914 by the artist, writer and polemicist Wyndham Lewis. Their idea, according to their manifesto BLAST, was to produce ‘a new living abstraction’ that expressed their sense of the dynamism of the modern world. Henri Gaudier-Brzeska was an important figure in the movement. With the support of Tate Members, Tate recently acquired one of the artist’s sketchbooks from this period. Here, the curator of Tate Britain’s The Vorticists takes a close look at this extraordinary and rare item, and finds many parallels in Gaudier-Brzeska’s sculpture.
In 1937, at the height of the Spanish Civil War, several Spanish artists were commissioned by the Republican Government to make a work for the Paris World Fair. Picasso’s contribution was Guernica, while Joan Miró created an extraordinary 5.5 metre high anti-war mural called The Reaper. Miró would continue to produce many politically charged works throughout his life
When Miró was a penniless painter in Paris in the 1920s, he became friends with the writer Ernest Hemingway, who fell in love with the artist’s work and bought one of his early masterpieces, The Farm. This was later donated to the National Gallery of Art, Washington. Here, in a story originally written for Cahiers d’Art in 1937, Hemingway tells how the purchase came about
The celebrated zoologist and Surrealist painter shared his first London exhibition with Miró – and introduced him to a snake at London Zoo
Magritte’s particular style of Surrealism, to be explored in a new show at Tate Liverpool, has become a favourite, with his works appearing in advertising and on album covers and book jackets. While most people assume these images were his own invention, many were, in fact, sourced from film posters, scientific journals and literature
The Belgian Surrealist remains an influential figure among contemporary artists. Tate Etc.’s Mariko Finch spoke to four admirers. One shares his passion for Magritte’s rarely seen postcards sent to a friend that he chose as a format for his magazine La Carte d’après Nature, while another recounts his time designing the space for a Magritte exhibition – and persuading the staff to dress in suits and bowler hats
Several displays this summer explore ways in which ideas surrounding performance have come to occupy a defining place in art in the past 30 years. Looking at different approaches to the use of narrative, tableaux and found objects, Has the Film Already Started? presents installations by artists across three generations – from Marc Camille Chaimowicz to Cathy Wilkes – whose work features arrangements of objects that could be seen as settings for a performance
Tate Britain’s recent rehang, which follows a broadly chronological sequence, includes focused individual displays that highlight new research as well as new acquisitions, several made with help from Tate Members. Tate Etc. asked a Tate Member, an explorer, a curator, an artist and a writer to talk about a work from the new displays
Tate Etc. invited the fashion designer Erdem on a special tour of the new hang at Tate Britain, where he selected his favourite paintings of women through the ages.
The documentary photograph has a history as old as the art itself, but recent practitioners from across the globe, some of whose work is being shown in New Documentary Forms, one of a series of new displays at Tate Modern, reveal an increasing political motivation behind their projects. Here, the curator introduces the show, while two of the photographers talk about their images
Jacob Epstein’s Jacob and the Angel. Currently on display at Tate Liverpool, this much-loved work was once viewed as shocking – and spent more years being exhibited in sensational shows on seaside promenades and in a Blackpool waxworks than in an art gallery. In fact, it took more than 50 years until the sculpture’s art historical value was finally acknowledged
Recent openings of art centres and national museums in Algiers, Alexandria, Doha and other cities in the Middle East and North Africa visibly acknowledge a thriving contemporary art scene. Tate Modern has recently acquired works by ten artists from these regions, many of whom exhibit on a global stage while remaining rooted in their home countries. Two artists, a critic and a curator working in four different countries discuss what it means to be an artist from the Middle East, the impact of politics on their work and the role that art can play in their respective societies. The conversation took place at the Townhouse Gallery, Cairo, before the recent people’s uprising
Individual reflections on a work in the Tate collection
The daughter of the St Ives-based artist Denis Mitchell once played with a doll’s house made by Ben Nicholson, which now resides in Tate archive
Simon Grant travelled to Art Dubai in March, and reports back for Tate Etc
G.F. Watts (1817–1904) has been variously described as one of the ‘heroic failures of British art’ and ‘shallow and pretentious’. He fell out of favour for many years and was sidelined as a late Victorian oddity – an artist who neither fitted into the Pre-Raphaelites mould nor that of the more strident 19th-century moralists. However, Watts is currently enjoying a boost thanks to the meticulous renovations of the Watts Gallery in Compton, Surrey where many of his works, including a selection loaned by Tate, are on display
The celebrated nature writer takes a personal tour of those lesser known pictorial heroes that feature in many works within the Tate collection – weeds
To coincide with Mike Nelson representing Britain at the 54th Venice Biennale of Art, Tate curator Clarrie Wallis talks to the artist about his extraordinary installation The Coral Reef, currently on display at Tate Britain
Steven Shearer’s work draws on various styles of figurative painting throughout history, song lyrics and archived images. He collects images from fanzines, websites and newspapers that lend his otherwise formal subject matters a contemporary perspective. In recent years he has begun to explore text through his Poems series, and he continues this in Venice with a nine-metre high freestanding mural on the exterior of the Canadian Pavilion.
The recently opened Hepworth Wakefield gallery includes an impressive selection of Barbara Hepworth’s relatively unknown plaster and aluminium prototypes that were donated by the Hepworth estate and are currently on display. Tate Etc. editor Simon Grant talked to the artist’s granddaughter Sophie Bowness about the gift.