Editor's Leader:Transatlantic art
While preparing this modern British-themed issue of Apollo for press, we were saddened to learn of the death, aged 90, of William Turnbull, a gently iconoclastic sculptor and painter.
Oscar Humphries, Friday, 21st December 2012
While preparing this modern British-themed issue of Apollo for press, we were saddened to learn of the death, aged 90, of William Turnbull, a gently iconoclastic sculptor and painter whose practice abutted two of the 20th century’s most important – and, as tradition has it, opposed – art movements. Turnbull was among the first British artists to fall under the sway of Abstract Expressionism, befriending Mark Rothko and Barnett Newman following a visit to New York in 1956. Thirteen years previously Rothko, together with Adolph Gottlieb, had, in a ‘manifesto’ submitted to the New York Times, professed a ‘kinship with primitive and archaic art’ which permitted only the ‘tragic and timeless’ as subject matter. Turnbull’s deceptively serene paintings and pared-back sculptures, being celebrated in a major exhibition opening this spring at Chatsworth House, Derbyshire (10 March–30 June), evince a similar preoccupation – after all, this was a man who, as a nascent artist in Paris, once door-knocked Constantin Brancusi. Yet Turnbull seemed possessed of a more humanist, egalitarian spirit than the pioneers of Abstract Expressionism (or, for that matter, the post-war British art establishment); certainly he was less given to earnest bluster. Artistically omnivorous, he bonded with fellow Scot and Slade student Eduardo Paolozzi over a shared love of comic-book illustrations, and in the early ’50s the pair became key members of the ICA-based Independent Group, nowadays considered a forerunner of Pop Art in Britain and America alike. Although Turnbull’s can hardly be described as a Pop aesthetic, one occasionally detects a not-inconsistent drollness – in the later Horse sculptures, for instance, which curiously recall cartoon figures as much as ancient totems. With Tate Modern’s Roy Lichtenstein retrospective (21 February–27 May) imminent, Pop Art’s claim to a distinct British lineage is worth emphasising. The movement’s American bigshots have tended to over shadow British Pop artists – with the notable exception of David Hockney – such as Joe Tilson, Peter Blake, Allen Jones and Gerald Laing, whose work is so much more than merely derivative (see feature, pp. 50–55). The market finally seems to be recognising this: at auctions in London last May, sculptures by Jones and a painting by Gerald Laing sold for record prices. Artworks emerge from a complex, international dialogue about identity and inspiration. How they are received and, crucially, reevaluated by the art market depends on a similarly unpredictable interplay. Art-market infrastructure, by contrast, follows the less mysterious imperatives of financial opportunities and incentives. Increasingly, owing to competitive tax laws as well as geography, that place is London – specifically Mayfair, where last October no fewer than four major New York galleries, Michael Werner, Pace, David Zwirner and Skarstedt, opened new spaces. One day London will no doubt be the centre of another game-changing art movement; for now, it will have to make do with being a centre for a game-changing art trade.
LATEST NEWS & COMMMENT
Brussels plays host to a trio of outstanding fairs at the Place du Grand Sablon in early June, and the ever popular Carré Rive Gauche – now in its 36th year – returns to the Left Bank in Paris.
The work of John Nash has often been overshadowed by that of his contemporary, John Soane. But his pragmatism, as well as his experiments with the picturesque, make him one of the most significant of all British architects.
Apollo is published in London, one of the world’s great art capitals and home to extraordinary, thrilling exhibitions such as last year’s ‘Bronze’ at the Royal Academy