Apollo
Previews

First Look: Photorealism

28 November 2013

In this ongoing series, Apollo previews a range of international exhibitions, asking curators to reveal their personal highlights and curatorial impulses. Katie Hall is the exhibitions officer at Birmingham Museums Trust. ‘Photorealism: 50 Years of Hyperrealism’ will be shown in the Gas Hall, Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery

Can you tell us a bit about the exhibition?

‘Photorealism: 50 Years of Hyperrealism’ is a retrospective show that includes work from Photorealism’s beginnings in the 1960s through to contemporary artists working in the style today. Historically, less attention has been given to Photorealism than other 20th-century art movements so this exhibition is a great moment to redress that.

What makes this a distinctive show?

This international tour is the first major retrospective of Photorealism staged in the UK and the largest and most comprehensive ever shown in Europe. A significant number of the pieces are from private collections so this is a rare opportunity to see many of the works.

How did you come to work on this exhibition?

We’ve been interested in holding a Photorealism exhibition for some time, particularly as we have work in our collection by Birmingham-born artist John Salt who was one of the pioneering Photorealists. This exhibition enables us to show his work alongside that of his contemporaries and examine the movement more widely.

What is likely to be the highlight of the exhibition?

It’s very difficult to choose a single highlight as the paintings are so varied and individually stunning. Personally I love the works that evoke classic American culture such as John Baeder’s images of diners, Davis Cone’s paintings of Art Deco movie theatres and Robert Bechtle’s observations of Californian suburbia.

And what’s been the most exciting personal discovery for you?

I’ve been working with two of the UK-based artists, Ben Johnson and John Salt. They’re both doing some talks for us during the exhibition and Ben Johnson has been able to send us images of him working in the studio which are a fascinating insight into the painstaking process of creating a work.

What’s the greatest challenge you’ve faced in preparing this exhibition?

We’re lucky to have a very large exhibition space that can accommodate the significant number of works in the show and there is a lot of flexibility in how the works can be arranged. It’s also been a pleasure working with the Institute for Cultural Exchange who are the tour organisers.

How are you using the gallery space? What challenges will the hang/installation pose?

The exhibition will be arranged thematically to examine the common interests of the artists across the three generations of Photorealists, including small-town America and the suburbs, automobiles, people and cityscapes.

Which other works would you have liked to have included?

The exhibition includes all the key Photorealist artists and we’re delighted to be able to show such a comprehensive set of loans. We would have liked to include Tom Blackwell’s Triumph Trumpet (1977) as it’s a painting of the iconic Birmingham-made motorcycle, but unfortunately it was sold by the owners prior to the exhibition.

‘Photorealism: 50 Years of Hyperrealism’ is at the Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery from 30 November 2013–30 March 2014.

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