We take a look at what critics have had to say about this new exhibition devoted to the work of the American artist.

Support the Union, 1937. Photograph: The Estate of Alice Neel

The Guardian: **** “Neel had a light but full-bodied touch. You don’t get a sense of multiple revisions let alone struggle in her art (although her late self-portrait apparently took her several years to get right).”

The Observer: ***** “This is a terrific selection, superbly curated by Eleanor Nairne and her team with utmost empathy (and the most eloquent captions you will find). It never betrays Neel by sidestepping the graceless, sorry or awkward in her art, just as she never ignored it in life. Her method, Neel said, was to converse with her sitters until they unconsciously assumed their most characteristic pose, thereby revealing “what the world had done to them and their retaliation”.”

iNews: ***** “The Barbican’s atrium-like gallery has been brilliantly put to service by curator Eleanor Nairne and exhibition architects Gatti Routh Rhodes. The result is a full-body immersion in Neel’s world, which though marked by episodes of unspeakable suffering, including the deaths of both her daughters, is a place of love and optimism – a place you couldn’t fail to want to be.”

Evening Standard: ***** “But she was years ahead of her time. There’s nothing remote about these paintings, decades after they were made: her struggles and her subjects remain current. Unlike so many of her contemporaries and even followers, the community we see in her work is enormously diverse in race, class and sexuality. They still speak to us. No wonder contemporary painters can’t get enough of her. That humanism, anarchic or otherwise, is enthrallingly abundant.”

Culture Whisper: **** “For the importance of her political work, what follows you once you leave the Barbican Gallery is the urge to solve the riddles and answer the questions posed by her portraits.”

The Telegraph: ** “The American artist’s portraits, championing the marginalised in society, may resonate today – but it’s hard to look past their weaknesses.”

The Upcoming: **** “This absorbing retrospective is brought to a close with a documentary film by Nancy Baer that offers the opportunity to hear Neel herself discussing her life and art.  The artist’s so-called “anarchic humanist figuration” and its ability to bring out the humanity in individuals, regardless of race, class or gender, promises to continue to enthral and inspire future generations of artists.”

Time Out: **** “This isn’t art about Neel or her ego, it’s art about people, about how they’re good and kind and flawed and how they’re all quite beautiful, even the ugly ones.” 

The Independent: **** “The New York portrait painter gets her biggest UK exhibition to date in a show that looks at her fascinating life as well as her art.”

Alice Neel: Hot Off the Griddle is on display at the Barbican until the 21st May.


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