Tate Britain presents Schwitters in Britain, an exhibition on view 30 January–12 May 2013.
Kurt Schwitters was a pivotal figure in the 1920s German avant-garde; a bold and experimental artist who created his own form of Dada called ‘Merz.’ This involved working with found and everyday materials anything from old bus tickets to newsprint to pram wheels, to create collages which were both beautiful arrangements of colour and form, and visual narratives of the urban environment. Schwitters’s use of rubbish to make his work gives a fascinating snapshot of German and later English life in the early 20th century.
‘Merz’ also included sculptures, sound poems and artist’s periodicals and sculptures which filled whole rooms of his house, what would later be called ‘installations.’ The most important of these, was the Hanover Merzbau which he began in 1923. This architectural construction was was destroyed by wartime bombing, and is considered to be one of the key lost works of European Modernism In fact, Schwitters is considered to have anticipated many later developments in art including Pop Art, Happenings, and multimedia art and his work has had a profound influence on many modern artists including Damien Hirst, Richard Hamilton, Eduardo Paolozzi and Robert Rauschenberg. He has also inspired musicians including Michael Nyman and Can. Billy Childish is even believed to have a Kurt Schwitters poem tattooed on his left buttock!
This major exhibition focuses on Schwitters’s short but extraordinary exile in Britain. After being declared a ‘degenerate’ artist in pre-war Nazi Germany, he lived in Britain from 1940 up to his death in Cumbria in 1948. The show includes over 150 collages, assemblages and sculptures many of which haven’t been shown in the UK for over 30 years.
Britain provided fresh inspiration for Schwitters and he produced some of his most experimental and beautiful collages here. On arrival in the UK Schwitters was sent to an internment camp in the Isle of Man where took part in group exhibitions and poetry performances with his fellow inmates. A year later he was released and became involved in a bomb-ravaged London art scene where he exhibited with Ben Nicholson and other British artists. After seeing his solo show in 1944, the influential critic Herbert Read described him as ‘the supreme master of the collage.’
Schwitters finally retreated to the hills of the Lake District where his assemblages and sculptures began to use more natural and organic materials. The move culminated in his last great sculpture and installation, the ‘Merz Barn,’ and you can see its photographic history in the exhibition. Schwitters died in Cumbria in 1948 before finishing the piece.
The exhibition concludes with a celebration of Schwitter’s artistic legacy through commissions to artists Adam Chodzko and Laure Prouvost made in collaboration with Grizedale Arts. The exhibition is organised by Tate Britain and the Sprengel Museum Hannover in cooperation with the Kurt und Ernst Schwitters Stiftung, Hannover.
Don’t miss your chance to see Schwitters in Britain at Tate Britain until 12 May 2013.
Coming soon! – An evening dedicated to Kurt Schwitters at ‘Late at Tate Britain’ on Friday 5 April 2013 including performance, music and much more.
Don’t miss your chance to see Schwitters in Britain—presenting an overview of the twentieth century’s master of collage, including many artworks which have not been shown in the UK for the past 30 years.
London SW1P 4RG
Category: Fine Art