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Indepth Arts News:

"Century City: Art and Culture in the Modern Metropolis"
2001-02-01 until 2001-04-29
Tate Modern
London, , UK

The first major temporary exhibition at Tate Modern examines key moments of cultural creativity in nine great cities across the world. At different times in different places through the twentieth century, the energy of the modern metropolis peaked to produce a cultural explosion in which art, architecture, cinema, dance, fashion, music and theatre flourished in a dynamic and radical interchange. The reasons for these creative flashpoints are diverse, but each city, at its particular time, can be seen to become trans-national, acting as a magnet for artists from different countries and continents as well as from their own regions.

The cities and periods are:

Paris 1910s: The French capital became the centre of an international avant-garde, following the explosion of the Fauves onto the Parisian art scene in 1905. Paris during this period is where the Cubism of Picasso and Braque evolved in parallel with the innovative music of Debussy and Stravinsky and dance of the Ballet Russes.

Vienna 1910s: In the city of Freud, the development of a singularly Austrian form of Expressionism, with its emphasis on psychological introspection and frank sexuality, was reflected in the art of Egon Schiele and Oskar Kokoschka, as well the music of Schoenberg.

Moscow 1920s: In the red heat of the Russian Revolution artists seized the opportunity to give their work social relevance. A flood of newspapers, posters and pamphlets engulfed the city, designed in dramatically new ways by leaders of the avant-garde. The painting and sculpture of the Constructivists and Suprematists expressed a utopian vision of the future.

Rio de Janeiro 1950s: In the post Second World War era Latin America could be seen as a collection of cities rather than individual countries. Rio de Janeiro emerged as the leading cultural centre embracing the new possibilities of the time. Architecture, art and design were suffused with the sounds of the Bossa Nova, whose rhythm seemed to drive the city forward.

Lagos 1955-1970: By 1960 Lagos was becoming a postcolonial site of great social and cultural as well as economic and political importance. A focus was the pan-African and international Mbari Club, founded by a seminal group of Nigerian artists, writers, musicians and designers. The popular music of the time was Highlife which captured a strong sense of emergent African nationalism, and as prosperity amongst the growing middle classes grew, so a vibrant culture of studio and domestic photography, fashion and magazines grew alongside. The exhibition also looks at the work of Lagosian and British architects in constructing the infrastructure to serve the new state.

New York 1970s: Often seen as post-movement or post-modern, the period 1969-1974 in New York was one of intense artistic and social experimentation. Numerous underground clubs, alternative spaces, artist-run journals, and the city itself, were catalysts in a frenetic cultural scene in which Pop, Minimalism, and Conceptual art, laced with feminism and radical politics, clashed and interacted to create a rich and extraordinary mix. Moving out of their studios and into the world, many artists sought to reinsert the content that Minimalism had earlier sought to expunge, and investigate the collapsing boundaries between art, performance, film, fashion, and architecture.

Tokyo 1970s: During the post-war era, Japan underwent dramatic changes on many fronts. The convergence of political, economic and cultural activities was to result in important structural changes. Nowhere was this more evident than in Tokyo. The period 1967 - 1973 was especially vital, as cultural developments spurred a decisive shift away from modernism to a new contemporary understanding. Tokyo's urban scape offered a backdrop for these cultural interventions. The sub-title for this section of the exhibition, 'I have no umbrella', is taken from Inoue Yosui's 1972 song of the same title, and suggests the mood of this period, in which city dwellers felt` a need for introspection as well as an urgency to move forward.

Bombay/Mumbai 1990s: Bombay had already embarked on a course of vigorous economic and cultural globalisation when it was racked by intercommunal rioting in 1992-3. This resulted in changes to the visual culture of the city, which continued to flourish, resulting in an outpouring of new architecture, art, and literature - the Dalit poetry movement - and perhaps best known of all, the Bombay film industry, all of which have attained a worldwide audience.

London 1987-2001: Against the backdrop of extreme economic swings from boom to bust and back again, the exhibition takes as its starting point the notion of the city as a work of art, collectively created by all its citizens. Rather than focusing on the fashionable London art scene in the 1990s, this section looks at how artists and designers and other cultural producers use city life as both inspiration and raw material. Alongside the development of a self-confident DIY, 'anything goes' culture amongst artists, the exhibition reflects the importance of London's style magazines in imagining and representing a pluralistic and inventive society.

Century City will provide an exceptional insight, with a global perspective, into defining moments of modern art and culture. Each city section will be selected by a curator with specialist knowledge of the city and of the period. This inaugural major exhibition at Tate Modern will be accompanied by a fully illustrated book with an essay by each curator, and will occupy the whole of Level 4 and the Turbine Hall.

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