I think our short film of the play ‘One Mans Battle with the British Art Establishment’ is oddly on the mark concerning how Epstein was sidelined by the British Art Establishment. In his biography you get a sense of his feelings of growing paranoia which lead him to be suspicious of keys figures like Augustus John, Roger Fry and Henry Moore. It’s hard now to imagine the different power groups that existed but if they are anything like what they are like now he was right to feel actively excluded.
All artists are of course paranoid. My favourite Scene was where Epstein calls Henry Moore an M.F. when Moore fails to support him as a Tate Trustee. After Epstein died, Moore wrote an obituary. I forgot to point out in the film why Morrissey narrates it. It’s, of course, because Morrissey is a fan of Oscar Wilde; whom Epstein built a tomb for. On last weeks Desert Island Discs, Morrissey chose Oscar Wild as his favourite author. My wife Jessica Voorsanger likes the appearance of Kathleen the best.
Visit to the Tate Archive
Our Visit to The Tate Archive was amazing. It is a very different set up to the Walsall archive. Seeing letters is like ordering food from an expensive restaurant. They take a while to come but when they do its worth it. I am not naturally a scholar. The most illuminating aspect was looking at the photographs the Head Archivist showed us on the extensive tour we had. They have so much great stuff back there. Turner’s model boat, Francis Bacon’s suit case. When they open Tate Modern Two they should do a show of Artist Memorabilia. Is that what you have in mind with the new exhibition case? Many of the photos were of the sculpture ‘Adam’ taken at various stages. You could see Epstein’s working method played out in the images.
Epstein at Royal Academy
Yesterday I went to the Royal Academy. The RA is amazing at the moment. There is a great show by Anish Kapoor. This show is exceptional, funny, beautiful, and architecturally quite magnificent. It put my faith back into the idea of large scale sculpture. Big lumps are good; I hope they will get him to do something really big for the Olympics. I met Kapoor recently, he is a pretty formidable person. He told me it has taken him weeks to recover from making the RA show. You can see why. The show is encyclopaedic in its enquiry of different types of meaning in sculptural forms. I imagine Kapoor to be a bit like Epstein in character.
He is fiercely ambitious and obviously lets very little get in the way of his vision. He is also seen as a bit of an outsider at least compared to Anthony Gormley who is very much more an accepted insider.
Outsider/Insider what a load of Crap. Only the English think like this. Upstairs is Wild Thing. The billing for this show is silly. The press release even mentions the Troggs song. Epstein’s Rock Drill looks great. It is clearly the iconic piece in this show rivalled perhaps by Eric Gill’s X.T.C. It’s a great show. Gaudier Brzeska’s death was a disaster for humanity. I can well imagine we might think of him like we think of Picasso had he lived. Give the RA one more chance. There is even a rather limp show about climate change round the back.
Harlow Sculpture Town
Recently I visited Harlow Sculpture Town. Harlow is the New Town which features works by iconic British sculpters of the period just after Epstein died. They have an important early Elizabeth Frink. The architecture is similar to Coventry Cathedral and is absolutely great. The Henry Moore they have is the first public commission he was given after World War 2. It was a far sighted commission that really got him started on the career that is so celebrated now. I was visiting Harlow to see a possible site for my own attempt at Public Sculpture. I had to meet members of the Harlow Sculpture Trust. I mentioned I was working in the Epstein Archive and that he was excluded from participation in the British Art World in the way he would have wanted by Roger Fry and the Bloomsbury Group. One of the Trust Members told me the critic Herbert Reid got the same treatment from Roger Fry. Not sure if they deserve such a bum rap what do you think?
Eppy Daddy and the Aztecs
In the Tate Archive we saw a signed photo of Epstein with ‘Eppy Daddy’ scrawled in the bottom corner of it. I took my kids to see the wonderful Aztec show that is in the British museum last week. My god, what a fantastic culture that was. I said to my son it was a bit blood thirsty. He said ‘”get over it Dad. We have a guy nailed to a cross, they had jugs in the shape of eagles full of human hearts. What’s the difference? And they were brutally murdered by the lot who believed in the guy on the cross.”
I replied “Ok Simon Schama…” Eppy Daddy lived around the corner from the British Museum in the 1910’s. You can see his love of Assyrian sculpture in his Oscar Wilde Tomb. All his carvings show a powerful interest in the African, Egyptian and Aztec monumental sculpture. Ecce Homo is very Aztec looking. If you think of Eduardo Paolozzi it’s impossible not to see Epstein in his work. You not only see the influence of the Aztecs through Epstein but also the fact that Epstein was the inventor of the ROBOT with the Rock Drill. I think the inventor of the robot deserves to sign himself Eppy Daddy.
When we went to the Museum of Everything, we saw some wonderful 20th century outsider robots made of wire and transistors. It would be great to do a show of the great Robots. Actually Paolozzi did a show like this in the old museum of mankind. I saw it when I was a kid. It was great.
On Friday 28 August at 1pm, our director, Stephen Snoddy, climbed up the 4th plinth of Trfalgat Square as part of the One & Other project by Antony Gormley. Stephen presented 22 ways to change the world created by artist Bob and Roberta Smith.
Check out the link below for some of the day’s images and the lucky folk that ended up with a Bob and Roberta Smith shirt!