Research Forum Summer Term 2011
east wing nine lecture 2011
Francis Bacon in Moscow: James Birch in conversation with Darren Coffield
Wednesday, 4th May 2011 CANCELLED
18.00 -19.00, Kenneth Clark Lecture Theatre
Speaker(s): James Birch (curator) and Darren Coffield (artist)
Ticket/entry details: Open to all, free admission
Organised by: East Wing Nine committee (www.eastwingnine.co.uk)
James Birch has been a gallery owner, art dealer and curator for thirty years. He presented Grayson Perry’s first solo show in 1984 at his gallery on the King’s Road, before moving to Soho in 1987 where he curated a series of exhibitions that brought new light to the British Surrealists, including Clive Barker, Colin Self, and Alan Jones.
In 1988, after a lifelong friendship with Francis Bacon, James Birch organized a retrospective of the artist’s work at the Central House of Artists in Moscow, the then USSR. This landmark show was the first retrospective granted to a living British artist in Moscow since the Russian Revolution, inciting passionate and polarized responses from the public and international press. The exhibition was appropriated by the state as a symbol of the new era of Glasnost, but as such it helped to reveal cracks in the weakening Soviet administration. Sergei Klokov, working for the Soviet UNESCO Committee with James Birch to make the exhibition happen, said: ‘This exhibition is only possible, administratively, morally, ideologically, at this particular moment in Soviet History. Bacon paints the evil in humanity, without mercy. That is new in Russia. The exhibition is a symbol of our whole concept of perestroika – now, thanks to Gorbachev, we are not afraid to show the dark side of life, the dark side of society – of our society.’ Francis Bacon’s retrospective set a precedent for future exhibitions of prominent British artists behind the iron curtain such as Gilbert and George in Moscow in 1990, as well as in Shanghai and Beijing in 1993.
Darren Coffield is a British artist whose works consistently deal with themes of political controversy and unrest. Most recently, his series of paintings detailing men and women with covered faces, entitled ‘Insurgent Works’ probe at ideas of national identity and a fear of the unknown. He has also contributed to the current East Wing Nine collection, which is on display until July 2011.