13 December – 31 May 2004
The Shape of Ideas examines small-scale sculpture, models and maquettes by some of the most important and innovative artists of the twentieth century. It includes both familiar and rarely-seen works, many on display for the first time since they were acquired by Tate, by artists including Henri Gaudier-Brzeska, Reg Butler, Naum Gabo, Barbara Hepworth, Jacques Lipchitz, Joan Miró, Henry Moore, and Kurt Schwitters.
Complementing The Stage of Drawing: Gesture and Act (on the second floor until 28 March 2004), this display consists of models, maquettes and small sculptures. The model constitutes the primary materialisation of thought – a way of thinking about form and space in three dimensions which can be likened to a record of thought in progress. This thought assumes a permanence in the maquette, a small-scale version of a final work. The maquette is a more utilitarian form: it is a small-scale version of a sculpture that can be easily transported (for patrons or competitions). The display also includes small sculptures that are finished works in which scale is an essential element – size does matter!
Many artists included in this display were part of a generation that had hoped the formal innovations of Modernism could be used to make sculpture and architecture that would have a social function. This sense of building and optimism is present in many of these modest models and maquettes.
With the exception of two sculptures, the works are organised into the following ten groups, each of which is arranged on a 3 metre plinth: Lipchitz; Gabo; Schwitters; Moore; Hepworth; The Unknown Political Prisoner – models and maquettes submitted to the controversial international competition to design a monument in 1953; Constructions – which looks at the artist’s almost architectural use of space; Rhyming Forms – works as diverse as Arp and Turnbull linked through similarities in form; the Female Body; and, finally, the Object Refigured – ways in which artists have figured the everyday object.
The two other works included are Cesar’s striking Thumb 1965 and Jean Tinguely’s animated junk constructions – Débricollage 1970 which whirrs into life.