Bridget Riley at Hayward Gallery: then and now

Wednesday, January 15, 2020 - 16:08

As our 2019-20 exhibition of Bridget Riley's sensational paintings came to a close, we looked back at her 1971 solo exhibition at Hayward Gallery – which was also the artist's first large-scale solo exhibition in the UK – to see how the two shows compare, with the help of these fascinating interactive 'then and now' photos.

Move the central 'slider' left and right to see the difference between the two exhibitions.

The two photographs above, both taken from Hayward Gallery’s front staircase, give an impression of just how little the gallery space has changed in the half century between the two exhibitions. It’s the same story upstairs, too.

Bridget Riley likes her exhibitions to include lots of open space, so that people can identify their own preferred way of looking at her paintings. Journalists who reviewed her 1971 show picked up on this, commenting that the spaciousness of Hayward Gallery encouraged new ways of appreciating her work.

You could see many of the paintings that were included in Riley’s 1971 exhibition in her recent retrospective. Some of them – including her black-and-white painting Climax (1963), on the far left of the 1971 image – have only moved a few feet from their original spot.

Both exhibitions featured drawings and paintings that Riley made when she was just starting out as an artist. In the far right of this 1971 image, you can see a visitor studying Riley’s copy of Georges Seurat’s The Bridge at Courbevoie (1886-87), a key painting for the artist.

Since her 1971 solo exhibition, Riley has taken part in many further shows at Hayward Gallery. These include her 1992 solo show According to Sensation, and the 1985 Hayward Annual, selected by Nigel Greenwood.

Bridget Riley — organised by the National Galleries of Scotland in partnership with Hayward Gallery — was at Hayward Gallery from October 2019 until 26 January 2020.

A world renowned contemporary art gallery, Hayward Gallery hosts exhibitions featuring adventurous and influential artists all year round.

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All images: Installation views of Bridget Riley: Paintings and Drawings 1951-71, Hayward Gallery, 1971. Photos: John Webb; Installation views of Bridget Riley, Hayward Gallery, 2019 © Bridget Riley 2020. Photos: Pete Woodhead.

by Glen Wilson