Tuesday, April 27, 2010

I’m upset about Amsterdam

I stopped in Amsterdam on my way to give a lecture in Groningen, with the specific purpose of visiting the exhibition at the Hermitage entitled Matisse and Malevich: Pioneers of Modern Art. I was in fact especially interested in seeing the Malevich paintings on display, since I am myself preparing a Malevich event for October (about which more later). But there was ONLY ONE Malevich in the Amsterdam exhibition, entitled Black on White. It is at the very end of the exhibition. I felt cheated by that…especially since Matisse and Malevich are advertised in letters of equal size on the posters. I wonder whether there is a Trades Description Act in Holland, equivalent to the one in England. If there is, I think that there would be a good case for saying that the act has been infringed.

The curators may have done this deliberately…and tantalized the visitor to the end, or they may have had another symbolic idea in mind. Whatever, I still feel cheated.

Of course I could have asked for my money back…but actually, the rest of the exhibition was very enjoyable, so I didn’t (not that they would have given it back, I imagine). There are some wonderful paintings from Matisse and Picasso, as well as many others. Perhaps the most memorable quote in the exhibition is one attributed to Picasso, which I had not encountered before.

Picasso, apparently, did not want to dissociate himself completely from depicting the external reality, as Malevich did. “You have to start somewhere” he is quoted as saying. “You can always erase reality later on”.

Interesting thought, that. I think that artists always do erase reality to a greater or lesser extent, and substitute their own reality – created by their brains, instead.

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