EXHIBITIONS IN MÁLAGA - MAY, 2018
GUSTAVE DORÉ: VIAJERO POR ANDALUCIA
Centre Pompidou – 21st March to 24th June, 2018
MODERN UTOPIAS: A JOURNEY THROUGH THE ART OF THE 20TH AND 21ST CENTURIES
Centre Pompidou – Ongoing
THE RADIANT FUTURE: SOCIALIST REALISM IN ART
THE TRAVELLER’S GAZE: RUSSIAN ARTISTS AROUND THE WORLD
AND FELLINI DREAMED OF PICASSO
Reviewed by Jim Burns
As the exhibition notes point out: “One of the avenues they explored was a new classicism……classical forms are intermixed with primitivism, geometrisation and abstraction as natural consequences of the modern interpretation of the clarity, balance and moderation of classical art”. The sixty or so works on display very much represent that description. And their vibrancy is highly effective and striking, as if the painters were delighted to be where they were.
Also at the
One of the good things about gallery-going in Málaga is that most of them are within easy walking distance of each other. The Centre Pompidou is situated near the port and its Brancusi exhibition is largely built around photographs and short films, with only a few examples of his work. It’s a fascinating show, nonetheless, fully illustrating Brancusi’s working methods and the development of some of his major and most notable constructions, in particular the rhomboids, the long columns reaching towards the sky.
Utopianism is probably not much in vogue these days, and the Centre Pompidou’s Modern Utopias tries to demonstrate how the idea developed or otherwise in the twentieth century and into the current one. People are rightly suspicious of claims for a society in which perfection – of aims and achievements - is held to be the order of the day. Some untidiness may be safer. The Russian Revolution invited artists to participate in the making of a new world: “The Romantic claim to autonomy of the modern artist on the fringe of society, gave way to a civil and political commitment that was particularly strong in an age when the extremely direct relationship between art and power compelled artistic creation to become an instrument of propaganda”.
What happens when “artistic creation” is taken over by “propaganda”
can be seen in an extreme form in the
It’s easy to be satirical or cynical about art like this, but perhaps one ought to try to consider how it seemed at the time. It’s probably true that some artists were opportunists and thought a friendly portrait of Stalin might assure them of a place in the new society. Or perhaps just survival as the purges got under way. It isn’t that many of the paintings are bad in themselves. Vasily Yakovlev, G.M. Shegal (his Leader, Teacher and Friend: Joseph Stalin at the Presidium of the Second Congress of Collective Farm Shock Workers in February, 1935, is a story in itself) and Vasily Efanov, were clearly competent-enough painters. It’s the purpose to which the competence was applied that disturbs. It’s sobering to wonder what happened to many of these artists, most of them unlikely to be known to many non-Russian viewers.
A much more interesting array of Russian paintings is displayed in
The Traveller’s Gaze: Russian
Artists Around the World. The period covered is wide – through
the nineteenth century and into the twentieth – and takes us to
Mikhail Shvartsman was born in 1926 and died in 1997, so he missed the Stalinist purges, but in the 1960s his work was considered sufficiently provocative enough for it to be looked on unfavourably by the authorities. It wasn’t that it was overtly political, but Shvartsman’s somewhat mystical canvases didn’t suit what was considered acceptable at the time. They offered a view of “a complex and subtle spiritual world expressed in a high style”. Shvartsman himself referred to it as “Grand Architectural Style”. He was something of a loner, disliked conceptual art, and it was only after the collapse of communism that he began to achieve any sort of recognition.
Finally, Fellini’s dreams of Picasso at the ever-popular Picasso Museum in Málaga, where I often feel that the crowds are dutifully going from room to room whereas they might be happier at one of the other galleries. But Picasso is a name that most people will recognise so the tourists are encouraged to visit the Museum. They just don’t seem very contented with what they’re seeing or convinced that it is major art. It’s simply another experience on the tourist trail.
I have to be honest (and almost heretical) and admit that I’m not a
great enthusiast when it comes to a lot of Picasso’s work after his
early days in