Capturing the Moment

Tate Modern
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Andy Warhol, Self Portrait 1966-7, Yageo Foundation Collection.© 2023 The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, Inc.

Opening tomorrow, Capturing the Moment explores the dynamic relationship between contemporary painting and photography. This group exhibition unfolds as an open-ended conversation between some of the greatest painters and photographers of recent generations, looking at how the brush and the lens have been used to capture moments in time, and how these two mediums have inspired and influenced each other.

The exhibition is a rare opportunity to see extraordinary works from the YAGEO Foundation Collection, including paintings by Francis Bacon, Gerhard Richter and Peter Doig and photographs by Thomas Struth, Andreas Gursky and Hiroshi Sugimoto, shown in dialogue with many recent additions to Tate’s collection, including works by Lorna Simpson, John Currin, Laura Owens, Cecily Brown, Michael Armitage and Louise Lawler.

Capturing the Moment begins with some of the most renowned expressive painters of the post-war period. Visitors can discover how the inventive and painterly realism of artists like Lucian Freud and Alice Neel developed alongside the emergence of documentary photography and ground-breaking photographers like Dorothea Lange. Francis Bacon’s Study for a Pope VI 1961 shows the role that photographic source material played for many artists, while Cecily Brown’s Trouble in Paradise 1999 and George Condo’s Mental States 2000 reveal the legacy of expressive figurative painting in a world of increasingly prevalent photographic images.

The exhibition also shows how the influence runs in the opposite direction, with a series of strikingly painterly photographs. These range from the dramatic large-scale tableaux of Jeff Wall’s A Sudden Gust of Wind (after Hokusai) 1993 and Andreas Gursky’s May Day IV 2000, to Pushpamala N’s playful take on grand history painting and Hiroshi Sugimoto’s atmospheric near-abstract seascapes. Photographs by Thomas Struth and Louise Lawler, capturing famous paintings on display and in storage, reveal another way in which the two mediums have found a home within each other.

The largest section of the exhibition explores how painting and photography have converged, with a selection of major contemporary works which show how both art forms attempt to capture fleeting points in time or moments in history. Gerhard Richter’s photo-realist paintings such as Two Candles 1982 and Aunt Marianne 1965 encapsulate one approach to this, alongside later works by Luc Tuymans and Wilhelm Sasnal. Pop artists like Richard Hamilton, Andy Warhol, Robert Rauschenberg and Pauline Boty offer another approach, incorporating and collaging photographic images in their paintings, as can also be seen in Lorna Simpson’s Then & Now 2016 and Njideka Akunyili Crosby’s Predecessors 2013.

Key works by Lisa Brice, Miriam Cahn, Peter Doig, Marlene Dumas, David Hockney and Paulina Olowska show yet more ways in which the style, composition, content and meaning of contemporary painting exists in dialogue with photography. And as screen-based images become ever more ubiquitous, recent canvases by Laura Owens, Christina Quarles and Salman Toor offer a glimpse of how digital media is now reshaping the way painters work today.

Tate Modern
June 13, 2023
January 28, 2024
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