Modigliani Plus Three, Tate Modern, Tate Britain & Royal Academy, 22 & 24 November 2017

The big idea was for me and Janie to take Wednesday 22 November off work to enjoy a members’ preview of the Modigliani exhibition at the Tate Modern.

But the idea grew like Topsy. We both quite fancied seeing Impressionists in London at Tate Britain and also liked the look of a couple of Royal Academy exhibitions showing at the moment: Jasper Johns “Something Resembling Truth” and Dalí / Duchamp.

In the end, it occurred to both of us that four exhibitions in one day is overdoing it at our age…actually WAS overdoing it even when we were younger and less discerning.

So, we resolved to visit the Tate galleries on our Wednesday off (I was so tempted to use the headline “Tate-à-Tate”), then to take in the two smaller exhibitions at the Royal Academy a couple of days later, by taking advantage of late Friday opening.

We enjoyed all four exhibitions, but the highlight for us was undoubtedly the first one we saw; Modigliani.

Following my Evening Of Economics With Eno Comics earlier in the week – click here – I was clear in my mind that the exhibition featured the work of Amadeo Modigliani, the painter & sculptor, not, as I might otherwise have assumed, Merton Miller’s co-author, Franco Modigliani, the Nobel-winning corporate finance economist.

Just in case any Ogblog readers remain confused, I have embedded the trailer for the wonderful Modigliani exhibition below:

We both really loved this exhibition. Not only does it show a superb selection of Modigliani’s work, but you get some real insight into his working world, from his early days in Paris to the end of Modigliani’s relatively short and tragic life.

A tip for anyone planning to go to this exhibition; do make sure you bagsy a (free) ticket for the Modigliani virtual reality studio: The Ochre Atelier. Both Janie and I thoroughly enjoyed that experience. You feel that you are sitting in Modigliani’s studio from three different angles. You can’t quite smell the smouldering Gitanes in the ashtray, but you do sense the breeze coming in through the window.

Impressionists In London – French Artists In Exile 1870 to 1904

We had the car with us, making it a surprisingly short hop from the Tate Modern to the Tate Britain, via Lambeth Bridge.

This exhibition has been somewhat maligned by the critics, but we enjoyed enough of it to justify the visit.

Many of my old school friends, for example, will appreciate the scenes from suburban London where the French artist refugees seemed to congregate for a while; doing some interesting impressions of 1870s Upper Norwood, Sydenham, Lordship Lane and the like – Sarf London Ooh La La?

Cricket loving friends, d’autre part, should love the impressions of 1870s cricket, from Tissot (surely not an Impressionist) hanging out with the I Zingari lot in St John’s Wood to Pisarro’s wonderfully impressionistic crickety park scenes.

In fact, there were quite a lot of Pisarro works on various subjects, probably worth the visit alone. Monet’s foggy London scenes are also well worth seeing if you have never seen them before – as it happens we had seen them before but were very happy to see them again.

Jasper Johns – “Something Resembling Truth”

This was a far more interesting exhibition than I expected. I had a few key images in my head for Johns (flags, numbers…) and didn’t realise the diversity of his work when you see a full tilt retrospective, which this undoubtedly is.

It’s patchy; Janie and I both enjoyed some but not all of the works, but there was plenty to enjoy and I (for one) was very pleasantly surprised by the quality of the work and variety of styles. A lesser-known middle period in the 1980s, for example, yielded interesting work to my eyes.

Dalí / Duchamp

Janie and I both love Dalí’s better works and many of those were on show in this exhibition. Duchamp’s art, we felt, was less interesting. Marcel Duchamp was clearly a very interesting thinker, but perhaps not such an interesting artist.

Well worth a look at this exhibition, though, with a good selection of artefacts and photographs as well as art works.

Further, with the Jasper Johns and the Dalí / Duchamp exhibitions located next to each other, it really does make sense to see both in one go, unless you are very short of time and/or have an aversion to seeing two shows in one go.

We had a mixed juice (or non-alcy cocktail) in the RA members bar after the shows, served by a comedy combination of competent barman and clueless waiter.

Here are some link terms to reviews of the four exhibitions:

But don’t take the experts’ words for it – we’ve all had enough of experts after all. Janie and I thought all of the exhibitions were worth seeing, but if you can only see one of these exhibitions, for us it would have be the Modigliani.

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