"London Calling: Bacon, Freud, Kossoff, Andrews, Auerbach, and Kitaj" is at the Getty Museum through Nov. 13, 2016.
I was at the opening of "London Calling" at the Getty on Monday night, and the excitement was palpable. People weren't just milling through, chatting with their friends — they were turning to strangers and talking about the works.
Co-curator Julian Brooks laughs and says, "I think it's just amazing visceral work. Paintings, drawings and etchings that, when you see them, they really move and affect you."
They're 74 paintings and drawings of the so-called London School, men who were developing a sort of radical conservatism in the 1940s to 1980s.
"They were working in a figurative style at a time when that was deeply unfashionable. Everything around them was abstract and conceptual. And what they were doing at the time seemed to be old hat," Brooks says. But what Francis Bacon, Lucian Freud, Leon Kossoff, Michael Andrews, Frank Auerbach and R. B. Kitaj did was to use some of the new methods of the new school to take the old school one step further. They liked and respected the work of Turner, Constable, Degas and others, "but they took that to the next level," Brooks says.
Brooks says 85 percent of the works came from the Tate Museum in London, and happened because of their previous collaboration, the massive and massively popular exhibit of J.M.W. Turner's works, "And that was a great success for all of us, and so the Tate did an exhibition (just) on Frank Auerbach, and they said 'Would you like to take that?' And we said we're very interested, but we thought it would actually be better to show him in context with some of the other people working in the city at the same time." The Tate agreed, and Brooks says, "amazingly enough," this is the first major exhibition of these artists together in the U.S.
But there are two more firsts.
Getty director Timothy Potts, who also co-curated "London Calling," said in the news release, “The majority of paintings and drawings in the Getty Museum’s collection are fundamentally
concerned with the rendition of the human figure and landscape up to 1900. This shows ... what happened next.”
And, big news for Instagrammers and Snapchatters: the Getty is not only letting you take photos of the artworks, but encouraging you to do so (#LondonCalling). Brooks says, "Increasingly, everyone realizes that actually there's no harm done" by people taking and sharing photographs. And of course, it speaks to the younger audience the Getty hopes to bring in along with its other patrons. When they do, they'll be moved, too.