A small, but important exhibition of 20th Century British art is currently on display at the National Museum of Wales.
Ian and Mercedes Stoutzker have lent works of art from their impressive collection of 20th Century artists and sculptors. Works by many of the greatest British names appears here including Francis Bacon, Lucian Freud, Barbara Hepworth and David Hockney.
Ian Stoutzker, a successful businessman, decided to loan the works because of his connection to Wales, through his mother. She was a music teacher from Tredegar and spent all of her young life there.
When I hear my mother’s accent I say ‘I’m back in Wales’, because that was my background and she never lost her love of Wales, which she passed on to me. I looked like my mother as a boy, and I am my mother and she lives through me. And I know the contentment she would have that I share her love of the country.
It is a small exhibition only occupying one gallery. However, when looking at any Collection, it is fascinating to see how it has evolved, which Mercedes informs us was from a very modest sum of available money. The downside is that it is also, inevitably, a very narrow selection of diversity.
A selection of the exhibits on view are as follows :-
Grayson Perry – “World Leaders Attend the Marriage of Alan Measles and Clare Perry” Glazed Terracotta 2009.
Alan Measles being the name of his childhood toy teddy-bear and Clare, his transvestite alter-ego. Perry likes to place Alan Measles as a political banner, and you can notice the inclusion of Euro political figures such as Gordon Brown, Nicholas Sarkozy, Angela Merkel and others gather round for a wedding in a manner recalling earlier Christian iconography.
R.B. Kitaj – “Still – The Other Woman” 1973 Oil on Canvas
Kitaz was an American artist, who spent much of his creative live in England. He had a significant influence on British Pop Art.
Francis Bacon – “Portrait of Henrietta Moraes” 1966 Oil on Canvas
Francis Bacon’s naked 1966 portrait of his friend Henrietta Moraes lying on a bed with her feet towards us, her face an ape-like mask, her flesh blackened in places as if by disease, is a masterpiece of disturbing decadence. (The Guardian Review online).
Ben Nicholson – “Still Life – Violin” 1932
Finally, my personal favourite on display :-
Peter Doig – “Untitled” 2001-2002
The low resolution reproduction here, doesn’t do justice to the vibrancy of the flowers in the foreground and the austere icy setting behind it. The Scottish artist’s work regularly sell at auction for over ten million USD, and compared to a lot of work that passes as art in the 21st century, it is not difficult to see why.
“From Bacon to Doig” is a major exhibition of 20th Century British Art, not only in the Welsh cultural scene, but on the world stage. Indeed, it has been mentioned that it is the most important collection of art to have been exhibited at the National Museum of Wales, since the celebrated Davies sisters show of French Impressionist works back in the 1940s’.
For those who are not particularly interested in the narrow taste of the Collection, you may come away slightly underwhelmed due to it’s relatively small size and limited diversity of taste. For devotees of 20th Century British Art, then this is an exhibition not to be missed.
Combined with the Peter Hurn “Swaps” exhibition located in a nearby gallery, this could amount to an unforgettable half-day visit at the National Museum of Wales
Runs from now to the 31st January 2018
There is a talk on the exhibition at the National Museum of Wales on 17 November 2017 – admission free. The event commences at 13: 05 and you can book upon arrival to attend.