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Published September 3rd 2012
The Whitechapel Gallery is often overlooked, but it's well worth a visit to the East End of London to view the exhibitions at this unique building. The Gallery was established in 1901 and showcases contemporary art: currently six different displays are available, some of which will finish this year, and others will run through until the summer of next year. Check the gallery's website for further information. Three of the current exhibitions are on Wilhelm Sasnal, Cornelia Parker's selection from the Government Art Collection, and Mark Rothko.
The Gallery's notes state that Sasnal's paintings 'chronicle the complex experience of life today'. His work is an eclectic mix of references to popular culture, art from the past,
photography and cowboy films. There are not only paintings in this section, but also shorts and feature films. He mixes Romanticism with Realism, private with public and history with the present. I went with an open mind as I had never heard of Sasnal, but came away pleasantly surprised and intrigued by what was on show. To quote the artist 'There are no rules' but 'you must not cheat'.
Government Art Collection: Selected by Cornelia Parker
Cornelia Parker titles her display 'Richard Of York Gave Battle In Vain' a mnemonic to remind you of the colours in the rainbow; the short catalogue accompanying the works categorises the paintings by colour. The Government Art Collection contains more than 13,500 works, and seventy have been selected for this exhibition. There are paintings and sculptures ranging from the sixteenth century, right up to the present day. The pictures are hung from floor to ceiling (just like Rowlandson's and Pugin's 1808 depiction of an Exhibition of Water Coloured Drawings, Old Bond Street), which is part of the exhibition, and not side by side. The effect is to dazzle the visitor with an impression of a range of artistic styles, periods and colours in an approach that is far from the sedate presentations of most art exhibitions. Where else will you be able to view an Andy Warhol portrait of Queen Elizabeth II and a Gheeraerts's picture of Queen Elizabeth I in the same room?
Andy Warhol: Queen Elizabeth II of the United Kingdom Marcus Geerhaerts the younger: Queen Elizabeth I
When this exhibition finishes on 4 December, it will be replaced (between 16 December and 26 February) by Simon Schama's selection from the Government Art Collection.
Rothko in Britain
Mark Rothko's first solo show was held at the Whitechapel Art Gallery in 1961. The only one of his works that is currently on display at the WAG is his Light Red Over Black.
Mark Rothko: Red Over Black
The rest of the exhibition is concerned with the Gallery's archives of letters exchanged between the artist and the Gallery, plus other more personal correspondence between Rothko and friends in the UK. There are also photographs taken during his visits to this country, as well as a letter (dated 29 May 1959) naming the price of Red Over Black at $4,500.
There are other exhibitions running concurrently with these. In addition you can visit the Foyle Reading Room and the bookshop. You can have a light snack or tea and cake in the Café/Bar or enjoy a full lunch or dinner in the Whitechapel Gallery Dining Room, where the consultant chef is Angela Hartnett.
Next time you want to view some art, but would like to try something different, head East to the Whitechapel Art Gallery.