SEAN SCULLY. PAINTING AND SCULPTURE
Exhibition opening: 13 May 2022, 8 PM
Curator: Krzysztof Stanisławski
Coordinator: Paulina Kuhn
Team: Sean Scully Studio
Production: Wojciech Ruminski
The concept of the exhibition was developed in collaboration with the artist.
The works of Sean Scully will be displayed at CoCA courtesy of the artist and Sean Scully Studio.
The first Polish exhibition of Sean Scully’s (b. 1945 in Dublin) paintings and sculpture is a retrospective at the same time; the show takes up 2,000 square metres, including CoCA’s seven-metre-high Column Hall. Scully says this is one of the biggest shows he has ever had around the world.
While he is an exponent of colour abstraction, some critics and the artist himself claim that his is also emotional abstraction. One is tempted to add: meditational, ontological and spiritual. Scully seems to be following in the footsteps of the American master Mark Rothko and other artists that started the trend known as colour field painting in the 1950s, including Barnett Newman and Clyfford Still. There are also echoes of Kazimir Malevich’s iconic pieces discernible in his work (e.g. in the painting titled Black Square, 2000, or the Dark Windows cycle).
One of the leading abstractionists today, Sean Scully ranks very highly among contemporary artists. Published by the Contemporary Art Issue in 2021, the “Who is the Greatest Painter Today?” list features Scully at the eleventh position, between Anselm Kiefer and Jasper Johns (with the same two German artists – Gerhard Richter and Georg Baselitz – topping the list for the last twenty years). The exhibition CoCA is going to host will present the work of a world-class artist.
Put on view will be 50 mostly large-format oil and acrylic paintings on canvas or aluminium, dating from various periods in the artist’s work (from 1973 to 2021), and 24 works on paper. This will be a regular retrospective, allowing spectators to trace different themes and stylistic transformations in Scully’s oeuvre. The core of the exposition will be provided by 12 monumental paintings from the Doric series, created in 1990-2020. Displayed together as a complete cycle for the first time, the set constitutes the painter’s tribute to the Doric order (his ‘Doric’ pieces were first presented in Athens in 2012). These monumental paintings will be appropriately shown in the monumental Column Hall, casually referred to as the “church.” The artist believes, and so do we as organisers, that this space will best reflect the mystical and sacral character of the cycle. The Doric series will fill the 1,000-square-metre hall, while its middle section, between the columns, will hold Scully’s large-format multicoloured sculpture.
When discussing the content of the exhibition, it should be noted that, consistent with the artist’s wish, one of the paintings on display will be enriching the CoCA Collection. Wall Landline Irena was painted in 2021 to celebrate the memory of Irena Gut, a Polish woman who suffered a cruel fate in World War II – first at the hands of the Soviets, and then the Germans. She saved twelve Jews from certain death. The story of her life is a shocking synthesis of the history of Eastern European nations during and after the war. Irena Opdyke, née Gut, was born in the town of Kozienice in 1922. In 1949 she emigrated to the United States and remained until her death in California in 2003. In 1999, she wrote down her recollections, which served as the basis for a play. Her tragic story and heroism have left a profound impression on Sean Scully who decided to honour her by painting a picture dedicated to her and offering it as a gift to a Polish institution, the Centre of Contemporary Art.
On a side note, the painting is so precious that after its incorporation the worth of the CoCA collection, built up for the last 12 years, will increase by almost 50%. Talking about money, we also like to reveal that the whole exhibition is insured for record high sum. This is the most highly evaluated exhibition in CoCA’s history and possibly one of the most valuable contemporary art shows in all Poland.
Sean Scully is an Irish-born artist who lives and works in New York, Königsdorf in Bavaria, Aix-en-Provence in the South of France, and Berlin where his vast studio is located. Throughout the fifty years of his artistic career, he has staged over 200 solo exhibitions, including those hosted by the Hungarian National Gallery, Budapest (2020/21); The Modern, Fort Worth, Texas, USA (2021); Albertina, Vienna (2019); National Gallery, London (2019); Basilica di San Giorgio Maggiore, Venice (2019); Yorkshire Sculpture Park; Wakefield (2018); State Russian Museum, Sankt Petersburg (2018); Multimedia Art Museum, Moscow (2017); Hubei Museum of Art, Wuhan (2017); Pinacoteca do Estado do São Paulo (2015), National Gallery of Ireland, Dublin (2015); Chinese Academy of Fine Arts, Pekin (2014); Philadelphia Museum of Art (2012–13); Centre Georges Pompidou, Paris (2007); Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofia, Madrid (2004); National Gallery of Arts, Washington (2001–02); Städtische Galerie im Lenbachhaus, Munich (1989) and many others. This year’s shows at the Benaki Museum in Athens, Langen Foundation in Neuss near Düsseldorf and Philadelphia Museum of Art will be followed by the retrospective at the Centre of Contemporary Art Znaki Czasu in Toruń.
The artist is represented by the world’s leading contemporary art galleries: Kerlin Gallery, Dublin; Lisson Gallery, London, New York, Shanghai; Thaddaeus Ropac, London, Paris, Salzburg, Seoul; Kewenig, Berlin, Palma de Mallorca.
Sean Scully’s works are held in museum collections, including the Metropolitan Museum of Art, Museum of Modern Art, Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, Whitney Museum of American Art in New York; National Gallery of Art, Corcoran Gallery of Art, Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Smithsonian American Art Museum in Washington; Modern, Fort Worth, TX; San Diego Museum of Art, San Diego; San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, San Francisco; Tate, British Museum, Victoria and Albert Museum in London; Neue Pinakothek, Städtische Galerie im Lenbachhaus, Munich; Staatliche Kunstsammlungen, Dresden; Staatliche Museen, Kassel; Staatliche Kunsthalle Karlsruhe; Staatsgalerie, Stuttgart; Städel Museum, Frankfurt am Main; Kunstsammlung Nordrhein-Westfalen K20/K21, Düsseldorf; Albertina, Vienna; Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofia, Madrid; IVAM – Institut Valencià d’Art Modern, Valencia; Guangzhou Museum of Art, Guangzhou; Central Academy of Fine Arts, Beijing, and many others. In 2022, the Centre of Contemporary Art Znaki Czasu in Toruń will be added to the list.
The exhibition of Sean Scully’s painting and sculpture is accompanied by a presentation of several dozen of his ‘smartphone pictures’, a programme of films devoted to art and a comprehensive catalogue featuring essays by Rudi Fuchs and David Carrier, amongst others.