British sculpture survey sharply divides critics

Fri Jan 28, 2011 10:40am EST
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By Mike Collett-White LONDON (Reuters) - By replacing a traditional survey of 20th century British sculpture with a "provocative set of juxtapositions," London's Royal Academy has made both friends and enemies among the critics.

Some welcomed what the gallery called a "fresh approach," but others attacked it for omitting several important British and foreign sculptors.

Most outspoken was Andrew Graham-Dixon, writing in the Sunday Telegraph's Seven magazine in his no-star review:

"This lamentable exhibition has no coherence, no clear purpose and fails to mention many of Britain's best sculptors of the past 100 years."

Laura Cumming, of The Observer, drew attention to the absence of pop art, and the lack of "advanced conceptualism."

"And if (Carl) Andre's 'Equivalent VIII' can make the cut, though the American's minimalism never took root here, then why not Marcel Duchamp, whose influence is infinitely greater?"

The exhibition, which runs until April 7, opens with a towering wooden reconstruction of the landmark Cenotaph which stands on Whitehall in London to honor the war dead.

Edwin Lutyens, who designed the original, was actually an architect, and the Royal Academy sought to "demonstrate the formal affinities that exist between sculpture and architecture." It also "manifests the power of the abstract."

In the second room, titled "Theft by Finding," 20th century works stand alongside ancient sculptures from Egypt, India and the Easter Islands, many from other British collections.   Continued...