Royal Academy Of The Arts London 22 January – 7 April 2011
Unknown work by Damien Hirst, a barnyard outbuilding and a smattering of 20th century masters are included in the first extensive survey of Modern British sculpture to be held in a major London gallery, in thirty years. Sir Anthony Caro, who features in the show, hopes it will raise awareness to a younger generation of Artists and Art Enthusiasts. This latest exploration of three-dimensional work has been curated by Dr Penelope Curtis, Director of Tate Britain and former head of the Henry Moore Foundation. The sculptor Keith Wilson is co-curating in conjunction with Dr. Adrian Locke the Exhibitions Curator at the Royal Academy. The team have chosen 120 pieces, which deliberately challenge and encourage an examination of the progression of sculpture, in Britain. It highlights work from 1880 – 21st century. Jacob Epstein, Henri Gaudier-Brzeska, Leon Underwood, Frank Dobson, Barbara Hepworth, Henry Moore, Antony Caro, Richard Long, Tony Cragg, Sarah Lucas and Damien Hirst are some of the key Artists exhibited. The Royal academy is no stranger to sculpture, having recently mounted successful shows of both Antony Gormley and Anish Kapoor. However both are conspicuously absent from the gallery and this has perplexed even the casual gallery goer. If this is a comprehensive survey it is impossible to overlook their contribution to the British scene. The survey, never the less shows just how many high level international figures the UK has produced, in the field of sculpture, in the last century.
My favourite piece in the exhibition is the architectural work by the German born artist Kurt Schwitters, it is both exciting and intriguing. The” Merz Barn” was created in Elterwater in Cumbria in 1947 and was painstakingly reconstructed in the Royal Academy’s Annenberg Courtyard with the help of local craftsmen, skilled in dry stonewalling. Schwitters fled the Nazis and was interned in Britain; He died a year after starting the unfinished project, which fell into disrepair. This is one of four structures that he decorated with his found object / murals in the UK and Scandinavia.
Schwitters work is in desperate need of re-evaluation and this is a great opportunity for the public to engage with his sculpture. He has had a huge influence on Pop Artists such as, Sir Peter Blake and has also inspired Damien Hirst, whose Let’s Eat Outdoors Today, a picnic table covered with living flies encased within a glass vitrine, is on show for the first time.
Modern British Sculpture, January 22-April 7 at the Royal Academy, Burlington House, Piccadilly, W1. £12, concessions available. Bookings 0844 209 0051 Visit The Exhibition