What does bronze mean to us? The Olympics and Paralympics have taught us that it’s something to be proud of, but we’d rather have silver or gold. It’s also the copper alloy that is used in most of the statues spread around town.
Considering the number of these statues in London, can an indoor bronze exhibition still enthral us? In a word, yes. The exhibition starts off strongly with a room dedicated to human figures, ranging from the sinuous lines of a Rodin to the monstrous melting Clam Digger by Willem De Kooning. Yet towering over all of these is Perseus holding aloft the head of medusa in an exquisite replica of the Florentine masterpiece by Cellini.
Animals carry on the intensity with a tiger devouring a gavial and a threatening chimaera, plus great modern works such as Richier’s angular praying mantis and Louise Burgeois’ spider that appears as if it’s scrambling across the gallery wall.
Another impressive aspect of this exhibition is the variety of sculptures on display including many works from Asia and Africa such as the detailed relief from Benin featuring a warrior with his attendants. It’s remarkable that there are also many Italian works on display as Italy is usually loath to see any of its treasures travel, yet there is even a Donatello on show.
This is an excellent survey of works cast in bronze from across the world, and highlights the amazing abilities of sculptors in this medium, from ancient times through to the modern day. It’s an exhibition not to be missed and might help us Londoners appreciate our own bronze statues a little more.
Bronze is on at the Royal Academy of Arts, Piccadily, W1J 0BD until 9 December. Tickets are £14, concessions available.
Also still on at the Royal Academy, but closing soon, is the excellent Impressionism exhibition.
A ticket to either of these two exhibition grants visitors free entry to the experimental Artist’s Laboratory.