Salvador Dali, Alfons Mucha and Andy Warhol are not three artists you would automatically group together – but the surrealist, art nouveau, and pop-art styles complement each other in the Gallery Of Art Prague (or GOAP for short). Under the shadow of the Church of our Lady before Tyn and housed in a historic building within the city’s Old Town Square, the gallery dedicates each of its three floors to one artist. It opens with Dali, showcasing the Spanish artists’ surreal drawings, etchings, paintings and sculpture which feature imaginative and often disturbing characters and scenes. This exhibition also draws attention to his lesser known explorations into ceramics with many pieces painted directly onto plates, as well as furniture (a red sofa inspired by the actress Mae West’s lips) and cosmetics (a range of glass perfume bottles). The next floor sees a complete change in mood with the ethereal works of Mucha, as muted colours, shapes inspired by nature, seductive women with long flowing hair and delicate illustrations and advertising posters line the walls. Following the spiral staircase up to the final floor you are greeted with oversized Campbell’s soup cans and Brillo soap boxes now synonymous with Warhol. Neon pink and blue letters spell out the artist’s name, which leads onto the more typical silk-screen images of flowers, dollar bills, Marilyn Monroe and Lenin as well as album covers designed for the Rolling Stones and Velvet Underground (a bright yellow banana with the caption ‘Peel slowly and See’). Despite deploying diverse styles and techniques all three artists were united in their ability to create popular images used by global advertisers; Dali designed the logo for Chupa Chups lollipops, Mucha created posters for various products and a stage production of French actress Sarah Bernhardt, and Warhol appropriated numerous logos and created iconic album covers – and GAOP illustrates why all three continue to share mass popularity today.
An iconic legacy of 1960’s French Prime Minister George Pompidou and architectural anomaly created from glass and steel with suspended escalators and covered in coloured pipes (blue for air, green for water, yellow for electricity and red for passageways), The Pompidou Centre continues to be a thriving arts hub in the centre of Paris. With a permanent museum collection boasting works by Matisse, Picasso, Chagall and Cezane to name a few and host to over thirty temporary exhibitions on its gallery floor each year, I was fortunate enough to visit last week and view their ‘Magritte’ retrospective. The eccentric building feels like an apt home for surrealist Belgian artist Rene Magritte and the hundred or so paintings, drawings and documents collated in this exhibition. His intense interest in philosophy is palpable and evident throughout; from his infamous ‘Ceci n’est pas une pipe’ painting inspired by philosopher Michael Foucault’s 1973 publication of the same name to his constant use of motifs and symbolism. The exhibition is separated into five rooms each focusing on a different theme ranging from chance, to words and images, problems and solutions, the allegory of the cave, and curtains and illusionism. Stunning works including ‘The Philosopher’s Lamp’ featuring a portrait of a man whose nose morphs into a pipe alongside a candle melting in controlled swirling motions, ‘Hegel’s Holiday’ highlighting Margitte’s background in graphic design and advertising using the simple shape of an umbrella with a glass of water suspended at its apex, and my personal favourite ‘Decalomania’ showing the outline of a man in a suit and bowler hat against an optimistic background of a blue sky with clouds beautifully reflected next to the same mans’ silhouette yet this suit is transparent allowing you to see the sky through it. Ignore the daytime queues if you’re in Paris and head over in the evening to see this idiosyncratic show before it closes in January.
Directly across the hallway from ‘Performing Sculpture’ at Tate Modern is ‘Performing For The Camera’ – a photography exhibition spanning fourteen galleries and exploring the relationship between photography and performance. Taking a thematic approach the exhibition looks at how the camera has been used as a tool for exploring identity, gender and sexism, race and politics, and manipulated in advertising and by society’s portrayal and construction of themselves from its invention in the 1800’s to contemporary social media. It comprises over 500 images and several stand out; three large black and white images of Ai Wei Wei holding a 2,000 year old Han dynasty urn, dropping the urn, and the urn smashing on the floor, as well as Tomoko Sawada’s ‘ID400’ showing a collection of passport photographs taken by the artist over a 4 year period highlighting her diverse looks and identities yet still being the same person, Jemima Stehli’s ‘Strip’ which depicts the artist taking her clothes off in front of six different subjects who control the camera and timing of photos being taken, and Romain Mader’s ‘Ekaterina’ which humorously discusses Ukranian mail-order-bride tourism through a series of nine staged photographs. Another highlight of the exhibition was being introduced to Japanese photographer Eikoh Hosoe whose collaboration with the dancer Tatsumi Hijikata are documented in wonderful black and white images densely hung against bright red walls. With such a large volume of photographs on display there were bound to be some notable images, however the exhibition as a whole lacked something, and in contrast to the Calder exhibition across the corridor I felt that sculpture ‘performed’ much better than the camera on this occasion.