Photo Credit: Author’s Own
Catapult yourself into the year 2052, and walk around Tate Liverpool’s upper galleries determined to commit the influential works that you see before you, to memory. If you don’t, they’ll be lost forever – art and culture dies tomorrow. What would you remember? The architectural blackness of Rachel Whiteread’s Untitled (Black Bath), lying stark and rude against the white gallery walls; or perhaps the confrontational gaze of the female subject of The Last Resort 23, one in a series taken locally, at New Brighton beach by Martin Parr.
In its newest exhibition, Tate Liverpool brings together three European art museums to show over 60 post-1945 artworks. At a time when the world looks to unite in the face of adversity, the idea that galleries based in Britain, France and Germany can pull together for such an exhibition is in a way, comforting. Whilst some seek to destroy culture altogether in the name of spreading terror, An Imagined Museum is about its preservation, as well as the discourse of memory and interpretation that undoubtedly goes along with it.
An Imagined Museum is different to other Tate shows. It is clear from its outset that it is a display as much about the viewers heightened relationship with art, as it is about the art itself. No doubt thousands will flock to Tate Liverpool over the coming months for the chance to see works by artists such as Claes Oldenburg, Sigmar Polke, Bridget Riley and Marcel Duchamp. Even after the exhibition’s end, the gallery becomes a performance space for the general public, where all artworks leave the gallery, and will be replaced by people recounting the things that were there before them. This breeds inclusivity, something that should only be welcomed into an artworld that is increasingly trying to battle its elitist image.
Photo Credit: Authors Own
The exhibition allows the viewer to think about the values and themes that art can bring into our lives. Exhibits are displayed in sections, and we are first confronted with ‘Transformation’, an exploration of artworks that document metamorphosis or evolution of some kind. Acting as markers around the exhibition, the subtitles are helpful – I find that they create a method of thinking to be followed, allowing easy interaction with the pieces. Gasping away in the corner is Robert Malaval’s Big White Food, giving deep mechanical exhalations as a sinister grey organism moves up and down, a gentle reminder of life, death, and mortality.
Pirogenētico, pirogenētico Photo Credit: Author’s own
The exhibition to me, is about interconnections. The art shown here is art that has altered public perceptions. It is art that asks its audience to engage with it in new ways. It’s the end of art, but it’s also a new beginning. In many ways, the works that are gathered in the exhibition changed the face of western art forever. Close to the exit, and one of the last pieces in the exhibition, sits Pirogenētico, pirogenētico – a beautifully striking work made of three pieces of shining obsidian, cast as a double in German silver, and then displayed alongside each other. On exit, passing this piece, we’re reminded that art still does possess aesthetic value, yet it’s meaning has transformed. An Imagined Museum shows the metamorphosis that art underwent at the beginning of the 20th century, in a tangible way. Art has become much more than purely aesthetics. It now has the power to convey a truth or a message, and it has gained power. An Imagined Museum is a must see.
‘An Imagined Museum’ runs at Tate Liverpool from 20 November 2015 – 14 February 2016. Its follow up exhibit, ‘2053: A Living Museum’, is free entry, and occupies the galleries from 20 – 21 February 2016. After attending a workshop, members of the public are invited to perform the artworks. Register your interest at Tate Liverpool.