Turner Prize nominated artist James Richards has selected Francis Bacon’s Study for a Portrait (1953) for this fourth and final presentation of works from the V-A-C collection, Moscow, which will be on show at the Whitechapel Gallery from 23 June to 30 August 2015.
The artist has composed a new sound work for this display, which is played throughout a redesigned gallery space that has been carpeted and draped in curtains to create a dramatic atmosphere in which to present this iconic painting.
This major work from the V-A-C collection by Francis Bacon depicts an unknown, suited man sitting on a grand armchair evocative of a Papal throne, set against a midnight blue backdrop. One of the last works painted in his studio at the Royal College of Art, this unique work by the artist pre-dates his 1954 Man in Blue paintings.
James Richards (b. 1983, Cardiff) is a video artist. He uses sounds from various sources, such as late night radio and his own field recordings and musical arrangements to build suspense in his work. For this presentation at the Whitechapel Gallery, Richards has created a new composition by layering human voices with electronic, rhythmic sounds played through a multi-channel sound installation. He worked with a group of singers who can be heard inhaling and pausing before breaking into song. The artist also uses the echoing sound of church bells to fill the gallery with ambient sound and create a unique visual and audio environment for the painting.
James Richards says: “Having curated exhibitions in the past, I wanted to look at the most impactful way of presenting just one iconic work rather than putting together a more traditional group show. I was then interested in devising a layer of accompanying sound for the room in which the painting is hung, rather than a soundtrack to the painting or reference to the painting’s content, which acts as a kind of sonic filter for the work.”
This exhibition highlights the V-A-C collection, Moscow, as part of the Whitechapel Gallery’s programme of opening up rarely seen collections from around the world, supported by Hiscox. The series of four displays, which began in September 2014, are shown in a dedicated Collections Gallery. This final exhibition from the collection selected by James Richards (23 June – 30 August 2015) follows three previous displays selected by Mike Nelson (9 September – 30 November 2014), Fiona Banner (9 December 2014 – 8 March 2015) and Lynette Yiadom-Boakye (17 March – 14 June 2015). Each presentation is accompanied by a publication devised by the artist selector.
The V-A-C collection brings together a range of important art works including sculptures, paintings and photographs from leading, internationally recognised artists such as Francis Bacon, Liz Deschenes, Natalia Goncharova, Wade Guyton, Wassily Kandinsky, Lucy McKenzie, Amedeo Modigliani, Sigmar Polke to Gerhard Richter, Bridget Riley, Egon Schiele, Dayanita Singh and Christopher Wool.