Tony Morgan

The Day Picasso Died


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Not on display

Tony Morgan 1938–2004
26 photographs, gelatin silver prints on paper
Overall display dimensions variable
20 photographs, each 100 × 67 mm; 6 photographs, each 67 × 100 mm
Purchased 2013


The Day Picasso Died 1973 is a series of twenty-six small black and white photographs by the artist Tony Morgan. Each photograph has a silver frame and the series is arranged as if casually scattered over a wall, or several walls. Each photograph depicts the face of the artist theatrically made up with white face, black lips and exaggerated, painted-on eyelashes. The work’s title refers to the day on which the photographs were taken. The death of Pablo Picasso on 8 April 1973 prompted Morgan and a friend to explore Paris, where Morgan was living at the time. The artist has described the making of this work:       ‘This series was made with Nicolas Cincone ... where we wandered the whole day through Paris as a kind of homage. I was dressed as Pippi Langstrump [Longstocking], the girl from the Swedish fairy story. The photos were made on returning to a girlfriend’s flat in the evening.’ (Quoted in Musée d’Art Moderne et Contemporain 2003, p.77.)

Morgan’s work, particularly in the 1960s and 1970s, was diverse, encompassing performance, photography and filmmaking. It was also characterised by the artist’s iterant lifestyle. For instance, he claimed retrospectively that his first artwork was a ‘performance’ in which he walked from England to Rome in 1960, aged twenty-two. This initiated a nomadic artistic career which included periods spent in Paris, New York, Aachen, Munich, London and Amsterdam, with sustained periods in Düsseldorf and Geneva.

It was during a visit to New York with the German artist Rebecca Horn in 1972, the year before The Day Picasso Died was made, that Morgan gave birth to an alter ego, named Herman Fame. Fame was based on the cult rock musician Lou Reed and his band the Velvet Underground, and with his new alter-ego Morgan’s work was suddenly re-routed towards a more personal quest and a darker type of emotion than that displayed in earlier works such as Washing 1972 (Tate P13505). Fame was to accompany Morgan throughout the remainder of his career, with constant appearances in video, photography and performance in numerous exhibitions, most notably in Jean Christophe Amman’s exhibition Transformer at the Kunstmuseum, Lucerne in 1974. The figure of Pippi Langstrump, performed in this series, could be seen as another character performed by Morgan-as-Fame, gesturing to a longer history of artists performing different characters – most famously Marcel Duchamp’s alter-ego Rrose Sélavy.

Further reading
Tony Morgan 1960–1977: Who the Hell is Herman, Anyway?, exhibition catalogue, Musée d’Art Moderne et Contemporain, Geneva 2003.

Helen Delaney
September 2012

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