praise famous men (and women)…back in the 1970’s when I worked at the major regional gallery our Director, the amazingly independent creative thinker Hugh Stoddart, hatched an ambitious plan. We would show, over a year or so, three seminal figures in the USA’s then nascent Conceptual/Performance Art scene – Dennis Oppenheim, Chris Burden & Vito Acconci. Hugh sadly departed the Gallery (to concentrate on his own creative career as a screenwriter) before we could carry out the full plan. We did manage to invite Chris Burden to make a piece – Diamonds Are Forever – and he arrived in Birmingham replete with a diamond (alledgedly purchased en route at Covent Garden) that formed the centrepiece of an installation that comprised the diamond twinkling in the velvet blackness of the entire basement gallery (quite a large space) [see here p.21 for an illuminating if partial account of the event. And sometime later, just after I departed Ikon for the East Midlands, Denis Oppenheim arrived to install his Vibrating Forest.
But sadly the trail then went cold…for what reason I don’t know…and Vito never made it to the gallery. He recently died and this touching tribute to him seemed to me to sum up what we missed all those years ago. With Dennis & Chris having shuffled off stage a while back a generation of amazingly inventive and revolutionary artists is slipping away.
has been keeping me from here for very nearly a week… I had hoped to post a considered reflection on the current Ikon Gallery exhibition As Exciting As We Can Make It, Ikon in the 80’s that in a very modest way I made a contribution to but it seems now that the moment has gone. However as a tiny contribution to the celebration the picture above is the only image I have of the major Sean Scully show we mounted in 1980/1 – just a pity that it is so murky. The catalogue for the show has quite a number of my pictures taken at the time and full credit to their team for cleaning them up to make them acceptable for publication! The current show was quite a nostalgic occasion, meeting old friends and colleagues and being re-acquainted with work I hadn’t seen since back then. Some pieces stood up remarkably well – a sculpture by Shelagh Cluett and a beautiful drawing by Ron Haselden flanked by a huge Terry Shave canvas; a lovely Bert Irvin (who turned up at the event still a sprightly 92!): the imposing Dennis Oppenheim piece that dominated the large rear gallery on the top floor. Overall it’s well worth a visit – and I say so not simply because I was a very small cog in the machine from 1977 to 1981.