This new exhibition at London’s Victoria and Albert Museum covers an astonishing 500 years of art history looking at the influence of Botticelli on other artists.
This huge exhibition devoted to the lasting impact of Sandro Botticelli is bold, colourful and hugely successful in its attempt to celebrate the legacy of the artist through the work of other artists, showing the importance of his work through the eyes of those who followed in his footsteps as an artist.
Botticelli Reimagined is not a retrospective of his career – in fact visitors don’t get a glimpse of his work until the last section of the exhibition that leaves you on a high. But it does take visitors on a journey that Botticelli’s original work is still making an impact on contemporary culture today.
The exhibition opens with the global, modern and contemporary approach to his work. featuring a wide variety of media such as an album cover created by Jeff Koons for Lady Gaga’s latest album Art Pop or Dolce & Gabbana’s trouser suit of spring/summer 1993. This section is bold and colourful, fully embracing the ways in which Botticelli’s ideas have had a positive influence on artists today.
Throughout this opening section, visitors get a real sense of how Botticelli’s The Birth of Venus represented the ideas of beauty and nature has been adapted to our contemporary concerns about the environment and obsession with beauty – such as in David LaChapelle’s Rebirth of Venus . The strength of this section is that it reinforces effectively the message of how one piece of artwork can be interpreted in a million different ways.
It might seem slightly unfair to say this considering the strength of the exhibition overall, but there is a tendency to repeat the same piece of information with similar paintings or other items by the same artist – why not save time and put both together and use the same information that way?
However, this slight niggle is forgotten as you step into the the next room, that takes visitors further back in history, showcasing artwork from the Pre-Raphaelite circle in the mid-19th century – a time when Botticelli’s work is rediscovered after disappearing from the public eye soon after his death.
This room is crammed full of exquisite pieces of work that have clearly been carefully selected by curators to ensure that the main point of the exhibition is reinforced and keep the exhibition focused. Although this works well and means that for the most part the work speaks for itself, it seems too crowded at times – not giving enough space between works for visitors to appreciate properly.
But the climax of the exhibition that gradually builds as visitors wonder around is the superb last room that showcases the work of Botticelli himself. It is an effective way to layout the exhibition, as visitors have seen enough of the work of other artists to make the compare and contrast between styles and consider the level of impact Botticelli for themselves.
Looking at the paintings on display in this room such as Mystic Nativity (the only signed and dated painting by Botticelli in the exhibition) and Christ the Redeemer (Man of Sorrows) have a contemporary feel about them that is startling to look at.
Overall, it is a refreshing way to look at an artist – not simply through his own work but through the eyes of other artists influenced by his work, it gives visitors a new perspective of an artist whose work was forgotten for a long time but thankfully rediscovered. Another success for the Victoria and Albert Museum.
Botticelli Reimagined opens at the Victoria and Albert Museum from the 5th March to the 3rd July 2o16. To book tickets visit: Love Theatre.com.