The Royal Academy of Arts presents the first exhibition for 30 years to examine British sculpture of the twentieth century. The show represents a unique view of the development of British sculpture, exploring what we mean by the terms British and sculpture by bringing the two together in a chronological series of strongly themed galleries, each making its own visual argument.
The exhibition takes a fresh approach, replacing the traditional survey with a provocative set of juxtapositions that challenges the viewer to make new connections and break the mould of old conceptions.
Key British works include: Alfred GilbertQueen Victoria, Phillip King Genghis Khan, Jacob Epstein Adam, Barbara HepworthSingle Form, Leon Underwood Totem to the Artist, Henry Moore Festival Figure, Anthony Caro Early One Morning, Richard Long Chalk Line, Julian Opie W and Damien Hirst Let’s Eat Outdoors Today.
Through these and other works, the exhibition examines British sculpture's dialogue within a broader international context, highlighting the ways in which Britain’s links with its Empire, continental Europe and the United States have helped shape an art that at its best is truly international in scope and significance.
The selection of works is not limited to the British Isles, but looks outward at Britain in the world including sculpture from Native American, Indian, and African traditions. These are represented by a series of significant loans from the British Museum and the V&A, which are shown alongside modern British sculptures from the period 1910-1930 to highlight the inquisitiveness of British artists when the Empire was at its peak and London was, almost literally, the centre of the world. The visitor is invited to make comparisons between these pieces and consider the dramatic effect that non-western techniques, iconography and cultural sensibility had on the development of British sculpture at the beginning of the twentieth century.
The exhibition is designed to be site-specific in relation to its own location at the Royal Academy in London. It shows how, for over 100 years, London and its museums have had a powerful appeal for sculptors, and how the Royal Academy itself has played a significant and controversial role in shaping modern British sculpture. To highlight the extent of the Royal Academy’s influence, the exhibition also features sculptures by three of its former presidents – Frederic Leighton, Charles Wheeler and Phillip King.
The exhibition provides a view onto this period of modern British sculpture without attempting to be comprehensive or definitive in its treatment of the subject. As such, it represents a point of view about the work of the period and seeks to highlight certain ways of looking at sculpture by thinking about its relationship with the wider world.
Modern British Sculpture has been organised by the Royal Academy of Arts. The exhibition has been curated by Dr Penelope Curtis, Director of the Tate Britain, and sculptor Keith Wilson, in conjunction with Dr Adrian Locke, Exhibitions Curator, Royal Academy of Arts.