Yesterday I had the opportunity to go and see the Botticelli Reimagined exhibition at the V&A Museum – https://www.vam.ac.uk/exhibitions/botticelli-reimagined. Not knowing what to expect (as I had not read any reviews or write ups) I was pleasantly surprised. The exhibition was split into three sections: 20th and 21st centuries: Botticelli as a brand; The rediscovery of Botticelli in the 19th century; and Botticelli in his time.

I was struck by how often his work, in particular, the Birth of Venus is replicated, reimagined, reinvented, revised (need I go on) in contemporary art, photography, design and fashion. It really made me think about how we are merely reinventing what has already been done (yes Zig I know you’ve said this already, but its always good to arrive at the same destination having thought about it yourself), because by now, it has all already been done.

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© Cindy Sherman – I find this picture uncomfortable, mostly because of the stare of the eyes and the prosthetic nose, which reminds me more of some alien creature from Star Trek…. (no comments about the breast). But it does evoke the air of the type of painting of that era and genre – looking away from the viewer at something else, a face devoid of real expression. The lighting and framing adding to reinterpretation of the original work.

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© Tomoko Nagao – I really like this reinvention of the Birth of Venus… it is so ‘playful’ pardon the visual pun! It is quite flat in presentation and draws on contemporary influences while clearly paying homage to the original.

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© David LaChapelle – for me this reinvention is highly sexualised in a way that the original was/is not – the conch shell being provocative in its placement and what it seeks to represent. Being typical LaChappelle, it is highly stylised and the use of colour and lighting is borderline overpowering. That being said, the attention to detail is great e.g. Nike and Puma being referenced on the feet of the male models.

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© Xin Yin Guillaume Duhamel – A South-East Asian representation of Venus.

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Rene Magritte – Le bouquet tout fait. Surrealism at work. Nuff said.

The second section was also diverse in terms of artwork, as it included a tapestry and a large statue, but I did find this section of the exhibition the least inspiring, probably because it was dominated by paintings.

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This tapestry by William John Morris and John Henry Dearle in my view is drawn directly from Primavera by Botticelli, but is a magnificent piece of work.

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The other work that I was drawn to in this section is this piece by Dante Gabriel Rossetti – La Donna della Finestra. Although clearly a woman, the facial features have very strong masculine elements, providing a androgynous feel to the painting.

The final section was work attributed to Botticelli and/or his studio. Of course the two most famous pieces, the Birth of Venus and Primavera were not there as they can only be seen in Florence, but a range of his other work was exhibited. Including two Venus paintings – shown below.

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Overall this was a good exhibition in demonstrating how the work of one person has had a strong influence on certain artistic areas of the contemporary world, after being rediscovered in the 19th century. Definitely worth a visit even if you are not permitted to take pictures or even sketch… you can always make notes 🙂

This blog post covers assessment criteria references for Unit 2: 1.1 & 2.1 where photographer’s work is referenced.

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