Don’t get me wrong, when I enter a contemporary gallery and am greeted by an outpour of natural light, pale floors and stark, white walls loosely dotted with art, my OCD side whistles a happy tune. I love that pristine look. It’s clean and effective. I feel comfortable and yet supremely on my toes, which is perhaps the perfect mindset with which to delve into an exhibition. However, sometimes enough is enough. Sometimes I want to just bask in the art, lose myself entirely, and this can be very difficult when the gallery space I’m standing in could just as easily be the hospital room of a great collector who wants to die surrounded by his art.
‘Henry Moore: Wunderkammer — Origin of Forms‘ at Gagosian, Davies Street is just the break I needed from that sterile white cube vibe. A far cry from the typical Gagosian setup (neutral, sleek, symmetrical), the two rooms were an absolute mess — filled, cluttered, no blank space on the walls, shelves and cases teeming with maquettes, fossils and shells seemingly in no particular order.
One minute in there and I was in LOVE. I felt at home.
Upon reading the brochure, I realised that this was of course because the exhibition was purposefully set up to recreate Henry Moore‘s former studio at Perry Green, Hertforshire. I applaud Gagosian (and curator/Director of the Henry Moore Foundation Richard Calvocoressi) for this atypical choice because the works on view really thrive in such an organic environment. There was an electric energy flowing through the room even though I was one of only two people in the gallery. The artistic atmosphere was undeniable — Moore’s own chair sat proudly in a corner, as if the artist, himself were holding court.
The purpose of this particular exhibition is to to illustrate the origins, inspiration and processes behind Moore’s work, to view the various steps leading up to a final sculptural piece. He was an artist who really believed in the natural world as a vital influencer of art. He spent a lot of time in Forte dei Marmi, Italy, where he kept a studio, surrounded by rolling hills, lush forests, rocky cliffs and the Tuscan sea.
On the subject of nature, he once said “The observation of nature is part of an artist’s life…I have found principles of form and rhythm from the study of natural objects such as pebbles, rocks, bones, trees, plants. There is in nature a limitless variety of shapes and rhythms from which the sculptor can enlarge his form-knowledge experience.”
We can clearly see this appreciation of natural objects through the artist’s wunderkammer (cabinet of curiosities) on display in the exhibition, which includes bones, fossils, shells and rocks to name just a few items. Viewing the artist’s brilliant maquettes in the same room as these items, is really exciting as we can make clear connections between the artwork and the objects. We can even go further and imagine his huge bronze sculptures, such as those currently on view in Berkeley Square as part of this same exhibition, and relate those pieces back to the wunderkammer too, pinpointing at least a small piece of the artist’s inspiration. It’s really incredible how these tiny, seemingly meaningless objects, in fact give so much context to the work.
Something I found quite special was being able to see so many of Moore’s drawings. I was previously only familiar with his sculptural work and found his sketches absolutely haunting and especially interesting when observed as part of the creative process for his sculpture. As I mentioned before, these works are packed, side-by-side and up-to-down along the walls of the gallery adding to the studio ambiance and making for a joyful, carefree experience.
To view the work of a genius in the most unpretentious setting possible, is not an opportunity we get every day. I’d say this exhibition is truly not-to-be-missed.
– India Irving
‘Henry Moore: Wunderkammer — Origins of Form’ is on view at Gagosian Gallery until 2 April, 2015; 17-19 Davies Street, London W1K 3DE; Open Tuesday – Saturday 10AM-6PM; Admisson: FREE