On our recent visit to Liverpool I was really quite taken with the Magritte exhibition.
I’m not a huge fan of the surrealists – they’ve never really spoken to me in the way other artists have – but I have to say that this exhibition took me by surprise. It’s an exhaustive trawl through Magritte’s back catalogue that fills an entire floor of the Tate Liverpool and it draws the visitor in from the outset.
Many of the paintings are the equivalent of household names and it is an absolute joy to see them in the flesh. The vibrancy of the images and technical skill used is dazzling – something that always strikes me when seeing art in a gallery. The book does them no justice at all.
Not surprisingly for me, Magritte was also a commercial artist (which he hated) but these skills clearly informed his ‘serious’ art and vice versa. His work manages to be simultaneously surreal and real. Incredible.
I loved the fact that he was party of the Belgian surrealists, who had a chip on their shoulder about the French surreallists, who didn’t take them seriously enough, he felt. An entire section of the show was devoted to some shoddily painted canvases that were intended to cock a snook at the Parisian snobs and their notion of what art should be.
This is a very complex show, jam-packed with ideas that have been subsequently nicked by countless artists since. Around every corner there are arresting images, with the final room containing the big guns – saving the best til last in true showbiz fashion. It’s a well paced and sensitively curated exhibition, taking the visitor on the same journey Magritte went on as his work developed.
The show finished on the 16th and is definitely worth a diversion to Albert Dock in Liverpool if you’re in the vicinity.