DLA Piper: Constellations 1900-1960 at The Tate Liverpool

When I first walked into the exhibition, I had no clue what it was about, having never been to the Tate before, or read anything about this exhibition previously, I admit, at first I was a little let down. I can only blame my naivety, and the tiresome, weather beaten trek around Liverpool Biennial, for my silly expectations of an exhibition solely based upon the topic of space and stars. I feel stupid and slightly childish looking back now (even though I know I can’t have been the only one), because what the exhibition actually entailed, was a collection of contemporary art, displayed in small clusters called ‘constellations’ throughout the two floors of the Tate.

As I explored the exhibition, walking between the clusters of works, I noticed the divide among genres of art, and the separation of the different styles of work. Each of these clusters had a main ‘star’ and other pieces ‘orbiting’ around it, displayed around the room. The idea behind the presentation of the work was to show how one piece or one artist was key to the art of that time and how his/her art may have played a role in influencing the other artists around it. Crossing the borderlines between constellations I walked from a Picasso inspired grouping to a surrealist, Man ray inspired collection. Although this idea didn’t fulfil my childish wishes of a collection of ‘A starry night’s’ the idea behind it was clever and also quite informative. It was a long day trip around Liverpool, and I’m afraid I had begun to just wander the galleries glancing around, taking in very little. However this exhibition being more educational and informative than the others sparked some life back into me.

I particularly enjoyed the constellation in which Matisse was headlining. Themes that ran throughout this grouping included: colour, still life, form and women. The Mother-piece in this collection was Henri Matisse’s ‘The inattentive reader’, a melancholy piece representing a woman in thought with an open book and a vase of flowers. Its a very soft and feminine piece shown by the use of colour. Colour played a big part in this grouping of pieces. One of my favourite pieces in all of the exhibition and the reason I lingered around Mattisse’s constellation was ‘Sophie Brzeska’ by Henri Gaudier-Brzeska. Again the use of a female figure in thought groups these two pieces together, however the colour in this piece is a lot more vibrant and the line a lot denser. I think this piece is what sold me the exhibition as well, as it was a new piece to me and I felt like I learnt something from it.

Overall I found the exhibition the most fulfilling (surprisingly) of all throughout the day, perhaps because of the element of learning and informing, or maybe simply because I enjoyed the art which was on display, There were constellations which I enjoyed less than others, but I think simply because I favour some styles of art over others. I like the idea of constellations and the collections of such different artists all in one exhibition. The Tate had many big names all under one roof, and I think that’s another reason I found the exhibition sparked my interest and rounded off the day nicely.

DLA Piper: Constellations 1900-1960 at The Tate Liverpool

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