What is the role of the artist? And how does one challenge existing perceptions of what an artist is? Simple questions perhaps, but ones that Italian artist Alighiero Boetti (1940–1994) took seriously, as will be explored in Tate Modern’s forthcoming retrospective. As the curator of the show, Mark Godfrey, writes, Boetti ‘recognised the contradictory nature of the artist as both private creator and public showman’, and this led him to a radical idea of art production: a work could be authored by different people so that it had a multiple character itself. The best known example of this is seen in his embroidered maps of the world made by Afghan women (often including their own Farsi text stitched around the borders), which were symbols in themselves of Boetti’s understanding – years ahead of his time – that globalisation would change the art world forever.
The Japanese artist Yayoi Kusama (born 1929) shares Boetti’s restless quest for answers in the world around her. As Ali Smith writes, Kusama is an artist who is ‘fascinated by the attractions and horrors of multiplicity and individuality in the universe’. Her wish to measure this unbounded space has taken many forms, and you get a sense of this in the photograph on our cover of Kusama in her New York studio in 1963. She looks out from behind one of her Infinity Net paintings and down on to what became part of her Aggregation: One Thousand Boats installation, works to be included in Tate Modern’s Kusama exhibition. Through her painting, sculpture, performance, poetry and fiction, she has continually, as she puts it, ‘examined the single dot that was my own life’. And along the way she has come into contact with diverse and numerous art groups and artists with whom she has exhibited, from Donald Judd (who apparently helped her to stuff the innards of the rowboat) to Group Zero and Andy Warhol, although her work has remained singularly distinctive.
The writer Italo Calvino no doubt would have enjoyed the complexities of both Boetti’s and Kusama’s work. Calvino regarded the novel as a ‘vast net’, and looked to art to reassure us of what meaning is and how it works. As Ali Smith notes of Calvino, he understood human language as ‘signs, packed as closely together as grains of sand, representing the many-coloured spectacle of the world on a surface that is always the same and always different, like dunes shifted by the desert wind’. That seems a good place to start.
Bice Curiger and Simon Grant
In this issue
For the Love of God, Hirst’s diamond-encrusted skull, has already become one of the most talked about works of art in recent years, but what was the inspiration behind it? The artist explains its Mexican roots in advance of his forthcoming exhibition
It is well known that Pablo Picasso initiated many important developments of twentieth-century art, but we know less about his extraordinary impact on British modernism. Tate Britain’s exhibition Picasso and Modern British Art explores the artist’s lifelong connection with this country, from the inclusion of his cubist works in UK shows prior to the First World War, as well as his scenery and costume designs for Sergei Diaghilev’s production of The Three-Cornered Hat, through to his influence on a wide range of artists, including Duncan Grant, Wyndham Lewis, Ben Nicholson, Henry Moore, Francis Bacon, Graham Sutherland and, more recently, David Hockney.
An artist who has long been associated with his neo-Romantic painterly eulogies to the English and Welsh landscape, Graham Sutherland was also deeply enthralled by the work of Picasso and made regular visits to see him in the South of France
Picasso’s Guernica went on display in a Manchester car showroom in early 1939, in support of the Spanish Republican cause. Despite its importance, there are no surviving photographs of this extraordinary exhibition, and only piecemeal accounts of the event, as the assistant curator of Tate’s new Picasso show discovers.
The curator of the forthcoming exhibition by the German abstract painter introduces her work, and a fellow artist pays homage
One of Japan’s most prolific artists, Yayoi Kusama is probably best known for her spot-covered rooms and objects. On the eve of her first major retrospective in Britain, the writer Ali Smith charts her long and distinguished life and career. As part of the thriving New York art scene in the 1960s, she began her Infinity Net paintings and Accumulation sculptures, and subsequently established a strong presence in the worlds of performance and fashion design. Now back in her homeland, the 82-year-old continues to produce energetic and rigorous studies of the way she sees the world around her
One of the Japanese artist’s earliest memories was of the seed-harvesting field in the plant nursery owned by her family, and since then organic motifs have been the central element of Kusama’s work, providing powerful subject matter to reflect her restless state of mind
To coincide with the exhibition which explores British art through the theme of migration from 1500 to the present day, one writer focuses on the sixteenth-century émigré painter Hans Eworth, and finds some poignant contrasts with current policy regarding the complex rules for visiting artists
One of the most important and influential Italian artists of the twentieth century, Alighiero Boetti (1940–1994) is renowned for the extraordinary diversity of his works. The curator of his Tate retrospective discovers ‘a world of fascinating ideas, playful and critical, political and poetic’, as he explores an oeuvre that encompassed a consuming interest in numeric, linguistic and classificatory systems – games, numbers, words, dates and sequences – in the artist’s dual role as divine shaman and public showman, and in geopolitics, which resulted in him setting up the One Hotel in Kabul and employing local craftswomen to create large embroidered maps
A long-term friend remembers his first encounter with the artist at the age of eighteen, and the subsequent effect this meeting had on the way he looks at art to this day
Artist and filmmaker Patrick Keiller is best known for his essay films that chart the progress of the fictional character Robinson, an elusive would-be scholar who wanders the English landscape, taking the viewer on unpredictable journeys. As part of this year’s Tate Britain Commission, he continues his quest by displaying objects, artworks and films from the collection and beyond. For Tate Etc. he focuses on one of the Tate works that caught his imagination
Until the 1960s it was seen as a secondary act in the process of art making. Now a new generation of artists, some of whom feature in a Tate display, are pushing the limits of drawing, as well as redefining how it is perceived and experienced
A display featuring Tate artworks and rarely seen archival material explores how these four trail-blazing London galleries introduced British audiences to the international avant-garde and the likes of Yves Klein, Mira Schendel, Heinz Mack, Lygia Clark, Carlos Cruz-Diez, F.N. Souza, Anwar Jalal Shemza and Takis
Royalist, revolutionary, pacifist, arms dealer, Communist, right-wing extremist, con man and traitor. Who was Gerald Hamilton (c.1888–1970)? He claimed among his friends Christopher Isherwood, Jean Cocteau, Guy Burgess, Richard Strauss and Aleister Crowley. As one writer discovers while researching Hamilton in the Tate archive, the truth about the man is elusive.
How incredulity and irritation turned to fascination when an artist encountered Christopher Williams’s image of a cutaway section of a camera lens
Stories of hallucinations in art and literature date back to the Bible, but the idea of the artistic hallucination is more recent. As the author of a new book on the subject reveals, the terrain that encompasses artists from William Blake to Sigmar Polke ‘covers a vast field of experiences between terror and ecstasy’, and has embraced many art movements, including Romanticism, Symbolism, Expressionism, Surrealism and the psychedelia of the 1960s