Art exhibition review: Modigliani at Tate Modern (23 November 2017 to 2 April 2018)

 

As an Italian and art lover, I could not be more proud and joyful at the opening of new Tate Modern’s major autumn exhibition about Modigliani. I had a sneak peak before official public opening today. Here are my highlights.

 

Modigliani was very controversial at his historic moment as he painted modern women and their pubic hair for the first time in the art world. But the nude paintings are some of his best artwork. 

 

First of all a little introduction. Italian artist Amedeo Modigliani (1884-1920) produced some of the most memorable art of the early twentieth century. This exhibition is the most comprehensive UK survey of his work ever held, covering all aspects of the artist’s tragically short but important career. Modigliani’s sculpture, portraiture, nudes and paintings of young peasants reveal a body of work that borrowed from – and contributed to – the visual culture of his time.

Modigliani was a troubled man who had a problematic life. He came from a privileged background so he managed to do what he loved, i.e. being an artist. He moved to Paris, which at the time (1910-196) was the main attraction for talented people from all over Europe, and there he found benefactors who supported his Bohemian lifestyle to keep him creative and productive. He had a weak health which combined with an unhealthy lifestyle in poverty and dominated by lots of affairs with women, drugs abuse and alcohol led him to an early death (aged 35).

Even his wife was often painted with ghostly eyes.

 
The ghostly deadly zombesque eyes in many paintings show that he could not fully empathise with people. Some drawings look a bit childish or cartoonish so it could be a way of showing that he did not want to grow up.

Self portrait

 
In all his artwork Modigliani conveys a strange mix of passion and death. His late wife killed herself soon after he died. He never grew up and he died young so he never really found a focus in his life.

 
You need to see all the work in this retrospective to understand how he developed his work trying different things inspired by already well known artists such as Picasso and Cézanne.

This portrait of one of Modigliani’s benefactors was painted inspired by Cezanne’s style. Doesn’t he look like Johnny Depp? Or maybe Johnny got the inspiration for his look from Modigliani.

 

 

He made lots of small changes throughout his work and overall you appreciate a lot of his typical features like the cartoonish portraiture that is quintessentially Modigliani.

Image credit: The Little Peasant c.1918, presented by Miss Jenny Blaker in memory of Hugh Blaker 1941 © Tate 2017

 

 

One thing I did not know before this exhibition is that Modigliani was also a very successful sculptor. In fact he said his passion was in working with stone. His style suited sculpture for the striking features.

His Polynesian Egyptian looking elongated faces in stone resemble like some of the late portraits of women which characterised his late artwork. The fact that he had had tuberculosis and could not breathe properly could be one of the reasons that led him to stop sculpting and dedicate himself to painting instead.
 
 

 

The 3D virtual reality tour of Modigliani’s studio

A great bonus of this exhibition is the integrated virtual reality experience using Vive’s VR technology reimagining Modigliani’s final studio in Paris. The Ochre Atelier invites visitors to step into the studio where Modigliani lived and worked in the final months of his life, vividly enhancing our understanding of one of the early twentieth century’s greatest artists.

 

A first for Tate, the VR room with nine Vive headsets is positioned right in the heart of the exhibition. It is a seated experience which takes visitors on a journey through Modigliani’s studio. Following five months of mapping and rigorous historical research, the space, its interiors and objects are meticulously brought to life at Tate Modern. Tate selected BAFTA-winning games and VR studio Preloaded to create the experience, using historical and technical research, working from first-hand accounts by those closest to the artist.

 

While listening to narrated first-hand accounts from Modigliani’s friends and commentary from Tate’s experts, visitors can explore the objects in the studio, learning more about how Modigliani worked and details of his materials and techniques. Each of the over 60 objects featured in The Ochre Atelier has been carefully researched and authentically modelled by 3D artists and modellers at Preloaded, from a packet of cigarettes to the way the windows would have opened to let in light. Two late works, Jeanne Hébuterne 1919 and Self-Portrait 1919, have also been painstakingly reconstructed using technical research by conservators at Tate in collaboration with colleagues at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, and the Museum of Contemporary Art, University of Sao Paulo. Free timed tickets are available for The Ochre Atelier to Modigliani ticketholders on a first-come first-served basis. These can be collected near the entrance of the exhibition as visitors arrive. An ‘At-Home’ room-scale version of The Ochre Atelier will also be available to Vive users via the VIVEPORT, Vive’s VR app store in December.

 

Modigliani is at Tate Modern from 23 November 2017 to 2 April 2018 bringing together a dazzling range of his iconic portraits, nudes and sculptures. With 100 works covering all aspects of the artist’s tragically short but ground-breaking career, this exhibition re-evaluates this familiar figure and confirms Modigliani as one of the greatest artists of the twentieth century.


While it is an amazing retrospective for any art lover to see, I would recommend to take children only from the age of 10+ rather than younger children. There are a lot of nude images and Modigliani’s lifestyle might be complicated to understand for younger children.

 

If you are after an exhibition to take the children head to the Tate Britain instead where there’s one of the most amazing exhibitions ever presented in the Capital, Impressionists in London.

 

Impressionists In London, Press View, Tate Britain, October 2017

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