Art / Exhibitions

Basquiat: Boom for Real

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Prior to the Barbican’s latest exhibition, Boom for Real, I knew very little about Jean-Michel Basquiat beyond the fact that he was black, hung out with Andy Warhol and died at the age of 27. Like most casual observers then, I was astonished when one of his untitled portraits sold for $110.5 million (£85 million) at Sotheby’s earlier this year.

You Say You Want A Revolution?

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This exhibition is one of the best I’ve ever seen. I’ve visited plenty in my time so that’s a bold assertion but one I make without hesitation.

Taking its title from the first line of The Beatles 1968 song “Revolution”, it leads you on an interactive journey through the years 1966 to 1970, combining art, costume, film, music and propaganda.

As you embark, you are invited not simply to reflect upon times past, but to consider their contemporary relevance and the lessons we can learn for the world we live in today.

Feminist Avant-Garde of the 1970s

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This is a timely exhibition of art from second wave feminism, which emerged in the 1960s. By the 1970s artists were using photography, performance and installations as tools for activism. Women’s emancipation and gender equality became a visible part of a wider movement for liberation. Famously the personal became the political.

This is very much in evidence at the exhibition which takes an unflinchingly intimate view of female representation in art and society. Over 200 works by 48 international artists are shown on two levels of the gallery.

Abstract Expressionism

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At the close of the Second World War, the Western art world pivoted from Europe to the United States. The great wave of artists influenced by the Russian and German revolutionary movements had crashed in the 1920s when socialist realism became only art style sanctioned by Moscow.

In New York a collection of ambitious young emerging artists was producing work that escaped the confines of representation and sought to interrogate the feelings and emotions of the age. Some were natives of the city, some were escaping the horrors engulfing Europe.

The Body Extended: Sculpture and Prosthetics

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I wear prosthetics and I have never considered them to be sculpture or an object of art. My prosthetics aren’t quite me nor are they quite distinct from me. Are they the creation of Deborah the prosthetist, or are they now my creation, wearing the scratches and scuffs of my everyday use?

This exhibition appears to clearly place these prosthetics in the realm of the creator, whether this is by artist, sculptor, engineer, craftsman or doctor. This challenged me emotionally more than I expected, and probably affected my response.

Superwoman: Work, Build and Don't Whine

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This exhibition documents women in Russian art and society from the great advances of the 1917 revolutions through to Perestroika in the 1980s. It identifies the double burden of oppression which women experienced in Stalinist Russia: exploited in the workplace and bearing the brunt of household chores and child rearing, all under the banner of being “liberated women”.

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