Vertigo. Op Art and a History of Deception 1520–1970 (group show)
23 November 2019 – 23 August 2020
The art movement Op Art emerged around the mid-1950s. Geometric patterns, optical illusions, and light effects in diverse manifestations constituted its artistic content. Op artists worked collaboratively on a notion of "Visual research" in art. To realize new expressive forms, they tried out materials like corrugated industrial glass and black and laser light and explored the effect of moving artworks on viewers.
Works of Op Art overwhelm viewers in various ways. After all, Op Art doesn't just address our sense of sight; by manipulating perception, it provokes an experience that affects the entire body – to the point of possibly triggering a dizzying sensory overload. The show's title, "Vertigo", taken from Alfred Hitchcock's famous film of 1958, refers to this aspect.
The exhibition comprises a broad spectrum of panel paintings, reliefs, and mechanically driven objects as well as installations, experience spaces, and computer-generated art from the 1950s to around 1970. Op Art was a European movement, and thus on view are among other things works by Bridget Riley (GB), Gianni Colombo (IT), Gerhard von Graevenitz (DE), Nicolas Schöffer (HU), and Victor Vasarely (HU). The show also demonstrates that Op Art had precursors in earlier, anti-classical eras and in this sense can be referred to as the Mannerism of Concrete Art. The presentation therefore includes artworks from the sixteenth to the eighteenth centuries by artist such as Giovanni Battista Piranesi, Erhard Schön, and Claude Mellan, in which optical effects likewise play a role.
Bridget Riley et al.
Living with art. Picasso to Celmins (group show)
Spanning almost one hundred years of modern art, this exhibition will showcase highlights from the wide-ranging collection of Alexander Walker (1930–2003), longstanding film critic for London's Evening Standard newspaper and prolific collector of modern and contemporary prints and drawings.
In life, Walker surrounded himself with works from his collection in all rooms of his Maida Vale flat including his kitchen and bathroom.
He bought works of art for pleasure rather than financial gain and generously left his collection of over 200 works on paper to the British Museum when he died. This is the first exhibition in over 10 years to showcase the art through the lens of his collection. The exhibition will include 30 prints and drawings by artists ranging from Pablo Picasso and Henri Matisse to Lucian Freud, Bridget Riley, David Hockney and Vija Celmins. It will demonstrate Walker's interest in artists' working methods and in transitional pieces that show an artist developing a new style or subject, or experimenting with a new technique.
The exhibition aims to trace the development of 20th-century art in Europe and America through key pieces in Walker's collection, which he viewed as a record of his own art-historical education. It will also demonstrate Walker's own tastes from the figurative to the abstract and consider what motivates collectors like Walker to surround themselves with art. With the support of the Dorset Foundation, the exhibition will travel to four venues from April 2020 until May 2021.
British Museum, 14 January – 5 March 2020
Danum Gallery, Library and Museum (postponed)
F. E. McWilliam Gallery and Studio, Northern Ireland, 17 October 2020 – 30 January 2021
National Gallery of Ireland, Dublin, 20 February – 30 May 2021
Messengers (wall painting)
The National Gallery, London
From 17 January 2019
See Messengers, a new large-scale wall painting by Bridget Riley: one of the most important artists of her generation.
The title, Messengers, is inspired by a phrase Constable used when referring to clouds, and might also be an allusion to the numerous angels, bearers of news, that we see in the skies of so many National Gallery pictures.
Painted directly onto the wall of the Annenberg Court and spanning a vast 10 x 20 metres, the abstract work, comprised of coloured discs, carries influences from our historic collection over into the 21st century. Throughout art history, harmonies of colour have played a large part in pictorial composition.Taking as a point of departure the paintings of George Seurat, in particular Bathers at Asnières, Bridget Riley’s 'Messengers' transforms the Annenberg Court into a great white space in which coloured discs float as clouds drift in the lanes of the sky. By leaving after-images on the viewer's retina that suggest volume and movement the longer it is perceived, the work becomes a tribute to its artistic predecessors and to the process of looking at art itself.
Bridget Riley (born 1931) has a long-standing relationship with the Gallery; she made copies of paintings in the collection including Jan van Eyck’s Portrait of a Man (Self Portrait?), 1433, as a teenager as part of her portfolio when applying to Goldsmiths College, London, just after the end of the Second World War, and Georges Seurat's Bathers at Asnières while training as an artist.
In 1989 Riley was invited to select that year’s Artist’s Eye exhibition and between 2010 and 2011 the Gallery held her acclaimed exhibition Bridget Riley: Paintings and Related Work.
The National Gallery, London