Addendum re: modern art

A quick addition to my musings on modern art.

This past weekend I visited the Royal Academy of Art specifically to view the Rubens exhibition. (& also stumbled upon a Michelangelo sculpture… who knew?)
The exhibition, which explores Rubens’ legacy and influence on painting ‘from Van Dyck to Cezanne’ was a beautiful exhibition, exploring several themes. It also inspired several conversations about legacy, influence, and the individual inspiration of the artist (born in large part to recent academic debates about Greek influence on Roman works), and whether or not the links were always clear or not (so sometimes, perhaps a bit superficial- but I also didn’t take the audio tour). But I digress…

The main exhibition was also accompanied by La Peregrina, a curated show of contemporary works meant as a response to the exhibition. This included some works by Picasso and Warhol, in which you could perhaps see tentative links to themes, and several works which seemed to be less successful, either because there seemed to be little connection, or because it seemed to be a bit forced. Including the piece that inspired this post- two fried eggs, a donair (sorry- Canadian; that’s what it looked like, but I think it’s not called that here), and a picture of a face, laid out on a table. This was inspired by the fleshy women of Rubens?  My favourite response to this piece was an overheard remark as I was leaving the exhibition “all it’s doing is making me a bit hungry…” So I left feeling a bit amused, but also a bit unimpressed- two fried eggs, clearly meant to represent ovaries. Maybe not particularly thought provoking or original. (Also wondered about having food in the gallery spaces… does it get replaced? Is there extra monitoring? Have there been any weird issues with it?)

I’m all for contemporary responses to classical / Master works, but I think it needs to be done really well, and it truly needs to make sense- not just a haphazard collection. I think the main part of the Rubens exhibition does this fairly successfully, where you can truly see the influence and parallels for many of the themes, and text labels sometimes contain statements directly from the artists whom Rubens influenced, but La Peregrina was a bit lacking in this. But maybe I’m missing something here… Thoughts?


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