At the Whitechapel Gallery, most of the free exhibitions are of a quality comparable to the major artistic institutions in the country. Here again, with their new exhibition ISelf: Self Portrait as Billy the Goat, they were able to exhibit a few artists, with each being internationally renowned.
It included Pawel Althamer, Louise Bourgeois (the famous French visual artist, known for her massive spider sculpture), André Breton (the creator and leader of Surrealism) and other Surrealist artists, Enrico David, Tracey Emin (the major English artist from the Young British Artists Ensemble), Gilbert & George (the artist couple known for their self-portraits), Gabriel Kuri, Yayoi Kusama, Linder, Aditya Mandayam, Raqs Media Collective, Prem Sahib and Cindy Sherman (the American artist known for dressing up in self-portraits).
As all these artists are famous and have a real personality, it is interesting to discover in this exhibition how they see themselves. Some can be just representative, like the André Breton photobooth self-portrait, others much deeper, like the sculpture Self-Portrait as Billy the Goat, by Pawel Althamer, which is a direct inspiration from Rodin's Thinker. The title of this last work also inspired the name of the first free display of the year at the Whitechapel Gallery.
The curator explained that this exhibition was inspired by our fascination with selfie culture, that prompted the series. She wanted to show the artworks taking a much deeper look at this question of self-representation. The works here show that our sense of self is based on lots of different things; our thoughts, feelings and emotions, our bodily sensations and our relations with other people. Each work attempts to highlight the complexities of being human. Bourgeois's sculptural works question a woman's role as a vessel, creator of life and ultimately a mother, with apparent references to the egg and the woman. The drawn self-portrait of Tracey Emin explores a new dimension of her body, being represented nude.
It is rare to see such amazing works at a free display in London, so go see it, as well as every amazing exhibition that the Whitechapel Gallery has.