Page 20 - Studio International - February 1969
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that there are scarcely any wrong reasons for   artists, whom we have not seen properly or   much as I hate purely didactic propaganda
      liking works of art. One can have a natural   at all in England. I was very glad to dis-  theatre, films, poetry or novels, but I think a
      leaning (as I do) towards an art which is   cover that Bryan Robertson had made firm   way could be found, using closed circuit tele-
      emotional rather than intellectual in. its im-  plans for a Helen Frankenthaler exhibition in   vision, projected colour slides changing every
      pact without wanting to scratch Marcel     May and early June. It also seems probable   few seconds, photographic blow-ups and
      Duchamp from the history books. The pri-   that there are some very remarkable artists   architectural models, of presenting an exhibi-
      marily intellectual nature of his work has   working in Canada at the moment. North   tion on this theme which would be visually
      made him a most creative critic of twentieth-  America will not be the only source, of course.   lively and at the same time inspiring and
      century art.                               In late February an exhibition of the Brazilian   constructive from the point of view of provid-
      Two more points arise out of this. We expect   artist Helio Oiticica will open at the White-  ing information to the people who will be
      artists to have exceptionally deep and pas-  chapel. This will be the first one-man en-  responsible for future building and planning.
      sionate convictions. The one-sided view that   vironmental show that the Whitechapel has   A boring exhibition plus a shrill protest in a
      some, though not all artists hold as a result of   ever had. It will be an introduction to a new   catalogue, blaming the Spillers of spilt milk,
      these convictions, their deliberate refusal to   and special Brazilian sensibility. It will also   would be worse than useless. The art of dis-
      become detached when they leave their own   give the art critic Guy Brett an opportunity   play is undergoing revolution at the moment,
      studios, is often an inseparable and valuable   to present his views on an artist in whom he   and although there are many exhibitions
      part of their make-up. Their judgements may   passionately believes. Even if certain purists   which should be left to speak for themselves
      be based on formidable knowledge even about   jib at the participation that the exhibition   in the beautiful architectural surroundings of
      the type of art they dislike; the sort of know-  requires (taking off shoes, walking in sand,   the Gallery, it would be good if the White-
      ledge that professional critics might do well to   putting on exotic cloaks) the Whitechapel will   chapel could help lead the way in a certain
      envy. It is natural that artists should feel and   have done precisely what it should be doing   sort of exhibition design.
      think more intensely than the rest of us, but it   in drawing critical attention to an unfamiliar   Another year the same sort of thing could be
      would be shallow for the rest of us to pretend   artist of originality and integrity.   done for book illustration. It is rather upset-
      to the same sort of intense participation and   2. At least one retrospective of a British artist who   ting to discover a French edition of an English
      enthusiasm and by being partisan miss out on   may not have shown in London for a long   novel beautifully illustrated by the best foreign
      developing a wider taste and understanding.   time or if he has shown in a dealer's gallery, has   artists but not available in English.
      Second, although I am in favour of a catholic   only 'shown two or three years' work. There   The following year one could go on to furni-
      taste in art, I am most certainly not in favour   are and will continue to be a number of   ture. Later, at the risk of being thought
      of the mushy 'anything goes' school or non-  British artists, and there are more coming on,   frivolous, one might exhibit the most usefully
      school of exhibition goers, which thinks that   who more than merit (and would benefit from)   and beautifully designed clothes.
      everything in modern art from winking lights   a large show where we can see works stretched   That leaves two exhibitions. One of these
      to blank canvases is equally 'fabulous' and   out over ten or more years.            might be a  réclame  for a dead artist who has
      `great'. Putting on exhibitions is in a sense a   3. A group exhibition of British artists. I sincerely   been neglected perhaps because he over-pro-
      branch of art criticism, and if the Whitechapel   hope that the Peter Stuyvesant Foundation will   duced but whose reputation could live again
      could do something to raise critical standards   continue its most generous support. There are   if one carefully selected fifty or sixty of his
      in London (and I think it could as I will   plenty of groups, themes, schools and genera-  best works. Another possibility would be an
      explain) that would be something worth-    tions that have not been tackled yet.     artist whose work had suddenly gained new
      while. We do not have a mind to equal      4. An annual theme show from which the White-  relevance, as Monet's did for the Abstract
       Clement Greenberg's here either in breadth   chapel would gain force as a centre to counteract   Expressionists.
      or acuteness. He is also too great a critic, I am   philistinism in the visual arts and all the ways   I also hope to work out an exhibition that is
      sure, to claim the infallibility that others   that this philistinism has affected the quality   both aesthetically sound and at the same time
      sometimes thrust upon him. Some of our critics   of our lives. I am aware that this is the first   connects with the East End of London as a
      are perhaps less industrious than those in New   new idea on the list.               locality, so that local residents could feel
      York. But such critical writing as we do have,   Let us take architecture first. One does not   doubly proud of the Whitechapel.
      though this may surprise the editors of the   have to be a genius to notice that those who   Then one would want to leave a space for a
       Pseuds Corner column in Private Eye, is less jar-  commission architects in this country are ill-  possible exhibition on offer from the Stedelijk,
      gon-ridden than most American criticism and,   informed and that the English architectural   Amsterdam, or Moderna Museet, Stockholm,
      given the right circumstances, perhaps we can   establishment is, with a few brilliant excep-  or the Museum of Modern Art, New York; or
      develop a clear language which artists and   tions, either corrupt, mediocre and insular, or   for the undiscovered hoard of African shield
      critics can share and in addition communicate   all three. How is it that we waste our own   painting or miraculously transportable mud
       to the intelligent and interested public.   native talent so that the best architects in this   sculpture. Or perhaps, now that the British
      To return to my commitment theme: I feel   country do not get the best commissions? Why   Museum is becoming increasingly responsive
       that the Whitechapel's commitment should   have the great architects of the twentieth   to the demands that more of its treasures could
       be devoted to values rather than schools and   century such as Frank Lloyd Wright, Cor-  be on display one might persuade them of the
       I outline a tentative, balanced exhibition   busier, Mies van der Rohe, Aalto, Nervi,   value of temporarily transferring some Greek
       policy which would both follow Bryan Robert-  Gropius, scarcely ever been asked to build in   pottery, say, to where it could be seen under
      son's achievement and build something new   London or anywhere else in England ? Why is   ideally spacious viewing conditions.
      on it.                                     so much energy of intelligent people wasted   All this is beginning to sound like fantasy. I am
      The six shows a year might be made up as   in noticing that eighteenth-century archi-  brought sharply back to earth by the thought
      follows (some of this may make dull reading   tecture has more pleasing' proportions than   that even in the field of contemporary art,
      as I do not intend to mention the individual   Victorian architecture without distinguishing   which is the Whitechapel's main responsi-
      artists I have in mind until I have consulted   the good Victorian buildings from the bad ?   bility, we will have to compete with the Tate,
       them) :                                   Could we not spend this energy on doing   which now has more money for temporary
       1. A retrospective of a major foreign artist. There   something about the fact that most twentieth-  exhibitions; the Arts Council, who will be
      are still a number of modern American mas-  century buildings in England are in many   putting on shows both at the Tate and the
      ters, some of whose work (e.g. that of Barnett   ways worse than nineteenth-century ones?   Hayward and elsewhere; the ICA; and even
      Newman) has retained its relevance to young    I hate didactic propaganda exhibitions as    the Royal Academy, who accommodated the
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