Through the work of artists and image-makers from all across the globe, the Whitechapel Gallery will be offering a 100-year survey of the studio in their new exhibition, A Century of the Artist’s Studio 1920 – 2020, opening in February next year.
The artist’s studio, whether it’s an abandoned factory, an attic, or a kitchen table, is where the great art of our time is conceived and produced. Through dramatic juxtapositions of under-recognized artists with legendary individuals in Western art history, the wide-ranging potential and significance of these crucibles of invention take centre stage in this multi-media show, and new art histories around the contemporary studio emerge.
A Century of the Artist’s Studio is the result of three years of study headed by Whitechapel Gallery Director Iwona Blazwick and a curatorial panel that includes Dawn Ades, Richard Dyer, and Hammad Nasar. Paintings, sculptures, installations, and videos represent the studio as a piece of art, as well as documentation of artists’ studios by world-renowned photographers and filmmakers. A series of ‘studio corners’ also imitate the real-life settings in which great work has been created.
Over 100 pieces by over 80 artists and collectives from Africa, Australasia, South Asia, China, Europe, Japan, the Middle East, North and South America are featured in the exhibition. They range from modern icons such as Francis Bacon, Louise Bourgeois, Pablo Picasso, Egon Schiele and Andy Warhol, to contemporary figures such as Walead Beshty, Lisa Brice and Kerry James Marshall.
The exhibition unfolds according to two central themes: The Public Studio – Artists Together, examines how artists have embraced the studio as a factory, exhibition space, arena, a collective workspace or classroom; and The Private Studio – Artists Alone, explores how the studio can be a home, refuge, laboratory or site of political resistance.
In The Public Studio – Artists Together there is work by or depicting modern masters including Pablo Picasso’s (1881-1973) 1955 studio homage to Henri Matisse, and photographs of Andy Warhol (1928-1987) in his infamous Silver Factory in New York.
In addition to this, the Arpilleras Workshops’ exquisite hand-woven tapestries show how the studio can be a safe sanctuary for artists to engage with current political concerns while also providing a communal workspace where they can share resources and collaborate. This collective, which arose from a grassroots movement of women who banded together in response to the punishing Pinochet regime in 1970s Chile, employed stitching to anonymously chronicle the experiences of the dictatorship’s victims.
Bridging the two main sections is an exploration of the secret life of the studio, and what occurs when the artist is not physically there. The studio as a retreat from the outside world is also be examined. Broader aspects of global studio practices are explored through five thematic showreels, demonstrating how artists transform or create studio spaces to teach and give back to their communities. Other showreel topics include ‘The Workshop as Studio’, ranging from Atelier 17, Paris/New York, an art school and studio that was pivotal in the teaching and promotion of printmaking in the 20th century, to the Mansudae Art Studio in North Korea, the largest studio in the world, whose output is predominantly monumental sculptures of authoritarian leaders. The supportive role of Studio Associations is also explored, from ACME, London, to the Triangle Network, a global network of artists and visual arts organisations, which includes Gasworks, London, and The Bag Factory, Johannesburg.
A Century of the Artist’s Studio follows the Whitechapel Gallery’s history of presenting large-scale thematic exhibitions such as Faces in the Crowd: Picturing Modern Life from Manet to Today (2005) and Adventures of the Black Square: Abstract Art and Society (2015), which were instrumental in developing important new research and ideas around these art historical themes.