Bronze: the Royal Academy’s big, bold, autumn blockbuster

Oct 2, 2012

A dazzling collection of bronze sculpture from ancient Rome to Matisse and Moore

Royal Academy

What you need to know 
The Royal Academy’s Bronze exhibition surveys 5,000 years of bronze sculpture from around the world. The show features over 150 bronze works from Asia, Africa and Europe and includes many pieces never before seen in the UK.

The bronzes are arranged into thematic sections focusing on the human figure, animals, groups, objects, reliefs, gods, heads and busts. It includes works by Renaissance artists such as Ghiberti, Donatello and Cellini, as well as works from ancient Rome.

Representing the 19th century to the present day are August Rodin, Pablo Picasso, Jasper Johns, Henry Moore, Joseph Beuys and Louise Bourgeois. Runs until 9 December.

What the critics like
This autumn blockbuster is a big blast of a show, says Alastair Sooke in The Daily Telegraph. It’s a grand exhibition of epic conception and sweep that will leave people exhilarated. “The works span aeons and continents, but have one thing in common: they all demonstrate the versatility and quasi-magical properties of a medium”.

This ambitious show features some iconic images, says Rachel Campbell-Johnston in The Times. There’s Benvenuto Cellini’s mannerist masterpiece Perseus, a cast of Rome’s magnificent marble Laocoön, and Henri Matisse’s series of four sculpted backs, alongside works viewers might never have seen before. Curators simply aim “to present the finest works that can be found”.

Bronze is all about amazement, says Laura Cumming in The Guardian. There are no angles, theories or scholarly axes to grind.

The exhibition is “entirely given over to wonder” and it is all the more wonderful for it. “Dazzling, eccentric and surprising in its every shining object from first to last.”

What they don’t like 
The concept of 'bronze' alone is not enough to make sense of this pot-pourri, or hold together a muddled collection of objects and sculptures from so many different cultures, says Brian Sewell in The Evening Standard. The Academy “should have recognised how thin and ‘anything goes’ it is”.

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