I’m Iria Candela, the co-curator of Lichtenstein: A Retrospective at Tate Modern, a major new exhibition which was conceived by Sheena Wagstaff at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York and James Rondeau at the Art Institute of Chicago. As most of you know, Roy Lichtenstein (1923–1997) is one of the central figures of American Pop art. Internationally famous for his iconic comic book works showing war scenes and romantic vignettes, he somehow does not need an introduction. And yet, when we started this project, it was a surprising revelation to discover how many areas of his varied and expansive practice remain comparatively unknown. This is the first comprehensive retrospective of the artist ever attempted. We therefore conceived the exhibition as a long overdue reassessment of his artistic achievements, exploring both famous and little-known aspects of his work.
The show brings together approximately 125 of the artist’s most definitive paintings and sculptures, as well as a remarkable selection of works on paper. Their display at Tate Modern has been organized chronologically but attending to themes and subjects that concerned the artist at different stages of his life. Besides including his most iconic Pop paintings which many visitors will be expecting to see, there are some other unexpected works that may blow your imagination, such as his series of Mirrors or his landscapes in the Chinese style.
Lichtenstein was one of the more intellectual of the Pop artists – commenting on the artifice of painting and, among other things, the notions of authorship and originality in the context of mass media culture. At the same time, his paintings have a sensational visual power, and emanate high doses of humour and wit which I hope you will appreciate when you visit the show.
Working on this exhibition took four years of preparation – extensive research followed by curatorial travel and loan negotiations to be able to secure many works that are kept in private collections, some of which have never been publicly seen. I look forward to hearing your comments and impressions and to share more stories with you throughout the duration of the show, which opens to the public on 21 February.