Modern Sculpture – what is this?

British Museum in London hosts an interesting sculpture project – Statuephilia – open just until 25 January 2009 (see here for details), so – hurry up, anyone interested… It features recent work of six distinguished, contemporary artists: Antony Gormley, Damien Hirst, Ron Mueck, Noble and Webster (they present one collaborative piece) and Marc Quinn. The sculptures are ‘hidden’ among the artifacts of the permanent collection, which introduces an element of a play, a surprise and a fascinating dialogue with the history and different cultures. I remember, being in a hurry, I couldn’t find Hirst’s proposition – after glancing impatiently the glass cabinets filled in with countless antiquities, bones, masks etc. I asked a member of the staff: ‘Hirst – please’ – and she pointed towards a cabinet, just few yards away, full of brightly coloured, plastic sculls02 – which, obviously, I failed to notice on my own… Not being a particular fan of this artistic ‘celebrity’ of today, I just had to admit it – it was so simple and brilliant – Hirst’s exposition, difficult to digest in any other context, worked very well there, teasing the solemn contents of the room and the ‘elevated’ expectations of the visitors (at the same time, making evident existential comments on the human condition in general).

Ron Mueck’s hyper-real self-portrait: Face II – 2002 (look my photo – above) makes you think about the “Big Brother”‘s eye scrutinizing every imperfection of your daring image, and about Leonardo’s anatomical drawings where faces of would-be angels has been transformed into the knots of muscles, and about your post-mortem mask – defenseless facing stares and comments, and… about many other things. Quite to the contrary – Antony Gormley’s huge, winged statue: Case for an Angel I – 1989 (look my photo – below) takes a bird-view on the human condition.  It greets visitors with a wings-giving message – there is an angel hidden in us, the wings are there to stretch them out and to learn how to fly – again, very simple language,  yet bearing quite an intense compilation of meanings.03

Generally, the show proves the strength of the contemporary sculpture as an artistic discipline and the means of an artist’s self-expression. Answering question from the title and in a described context: What is the modern/contemporary sculputre? It’s a meaningful, distinct voice making eager, expressive figurative/human figure-based comments; it’s a playful and provocative proposition able to engage the modern viewer into a thoughtful interaction; and it’s a grandgrandhild of all great artworks of the ancient past – still willing to keep a dialogue with the tradition. I really enjoyed that exhibition, looking forward for similar collaborative projects around Europe…


About kasia

Born in Poland. Lives in Ireland, Cork. Visual artist. View all posts by kasia

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