Hayward Gallery

The Painting of Modern Life: 1960s to Now

The Painting of Modern Life: 1960s to Now, 4 October – 30 December 2007, Hayward Gallery. The first major museum survey of its kind, The Painting of Modern Life re-examined what was arguably the most influential development in the history of contemporary painting: the use and translation of photographic imagery. 

Beginning in the early 1960s with seminal works by Warhol, Richter, Celmins, and Morley, The Painting of Modern Life surveyed the different ways that artists have made use of snapshots, news images, family portraits and archival photos as source material for paintings that address the epic as well as the everyday. 

The exhibition explored how this work provides a compelling artistic chronicle of the past half-century, scanning vivid scenes of modern leisure, politics, fashion, war, domesticity and urban life. At the same time The Painting of Modern Life examined how these artists transformed representational painting into a conceptually driven practice.

Eschewing an emphasis on the subjectivity of the artist, the works in the exhibition instead called attention to our activity of reading images, highlighting processes of translation and interpretation that are shared by painter and viewer alike. In the process these paintings provoke us to reconsider the degree to which our pictures of reality are shaped by the visual conventions and codes of particular media.

Artists included: Richard Artschwager, Robert Bechtle, Vija Celmins, Peter Doig, Marlene Dumas, Thomas Eggerer, Judith Eisler, Franz Gertsch, Richard Hamilton, Eberhard Havekost, David Hockney, Johannes Kahrs, Johanna Kandl, Martin Kippenberger, Liu Xiaodong, Malcolm Morley, Elizabeth Peyton, Michelangelo Pistoletto, Gerhard Richter, Wilhelm Sasnal, Luc Tuymans and Andy Warhol.

The exhibition travelled to the Castelli di Rivoli, Turin (4 May 2008 – 6 February 2009).

The accompanying publication featured essays by Carolyn Christov-Bakargiev, Martin Herbert, Hayward Gallery Director Ralph Rugoff, Barry Schwabsky, and Kaja Silverman. 

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