MC Escher exhibition headlines the National Gallery of Victoria in summer 2018



April 24, 2018 18:30:03

Off the back of their chart-topping inaugural Triennial (which drew more crowds than any other exhibition in its 157-year history), the National Gallery of Victoria looks set to have another record-breaking year — no small thanks to MC Escher.

The late Dutch artist will headline 2018 at the gallery, in the summer “blockbuster” slot, occupied in recent years by the Triennial, Viktor&Rolf: Fashion Artists, Andy Warhol/Ai Weiwei, and The Fashion World of Jean Paul Gaultier.

The exhibition, which will present works by Escher within an immersive space by Japanese design house Nendo, will constitute the first major survey of the artist’s work in Australia.

Between Two Worlds | Escher X nendo will comprise 160 prints and drawings by the artist, spanning from a 1916 portrait of his father, to his final work in 1969, the complex woodcut print Snakes.

Maurits Cornelis Escher is best known for his works from 1936 onwards, which traded in impossible geometry, optical illusions and tessellation. These captured the attention of scientists (including British physicist and mathematician Sir Roger Penrose, and Canadian geometer Donald Coxeter, both of whom he corresponded with), hippies and musicians (his art appeared on album covers for Mott the Hoople and Pink Floyd, among others; Mick Jagger personally requested it for the Rolling Stones’ 1969 greatest hits compilation, and was rebuffed).

Between Two Worlds | Escher X nendo will include best-known prints from this era, including Drawing Hands, Relativity, Waterfall and Day and Night.

But it will also provide a window onto the lesser known landscape work Escher did in his early years, living and travelling in Italy.

“His work was much more engaged with the external world [at that time],” curator Catherine Leahy said.

“What you start to see in those landscapes is his interest in exaggerated perspective.”

The exhibition will also give an insight into the way the artist planned and developed his works, by presenting preparatory drawings for major works such as Encounter, Waterfall and Drawing Hands, and his early studies of tessellation, created in response to his visits to the Alhambra in Granada, where he became fascinated with Arabic patterning.

“When you’re confronted with the Escher works in the flesh, his immense technical skill is evident. He’s an extraordinary craftsman,” Leahy said.

In 2011, the Centro Cultural Banco do Brasil (CCBB) shocked the art world by poaching top spot in overall attendances for the year with its exhibition The Magical World of Escher, which drew in crowds of almost 10,000 per day, and a total of more than 570,000 visitors.

It is safe to say the world’s major institutions would have pricked their ears up at those numbers. In fact, the Nation Galleries Scotland mounted The Amazing World of MC Escher in 2015, which also transferred to London.

This year, Boston’s Museum of Fine Arts is mounting MC Escher: Infinite Dimensions, and the Italian exhibition producer Arthemisia is transferring Escher: The Exhibition & Experience to Brooklyn, following stints in Rome, Bologna, Milan, Singapore, Madrid and Lisbon.

The NGV have cannily chosen to pair Escher’s works, which are small, with a more dramatic setting, which Leahy says will pay homage to the artist’s black and white palette, and his interest in reflection, architectural space and metamorphosis.

Nendo, renowned for their playful but pared-back industrial design (recently showcased as part of the NGV Triennial), have already drawn comparisons to Escher with works like their Dancing Squares furniture series and their Block Memo pad.

Leahy said: “This pairing with Nendo is a way of bringing Escher’s work to life, and showing that the ideas that he was thinking about still have real relevance today for design.”

Between Two Worlds | Escher X nendo will open on December 2 at the National Gallery of Victoria.










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