Macabre exhibition at Christie’s

Christie’s is to present an examination of the artistic treatment of the macabre through the ages in a selling exhibition co-curated by the British artist Benjamin Spiers.

Macabre will run from October 29 to December 9 and promises to display everything from “the grim and eerily strange to the distorted and fascinatingly dark” It will place fantastical relics of bygone centuries alongside cutting-edge creations of today – from Bosch to Burra, Rodin to Rego, a cross-section of uncanny artistic production is traced through a range of media.

Jacob Isaacsz van Swanenburgh (1571-1638), Sinners being punished in Hell
Jacob Isaacsz van Swanenburgh (1571-1638), ‘Sinners being punished in Hell’

Macabre offers viewers and collectors the opportunity to consider how these diverse works contrast with and speak to one another, offering a rounded dialogue on humanity’s collective fascination with the curious, peculiar and mysterious.

The exhibition will present 60 works spanning 500 years. Highlights include Paula Rego’s Wide Sargasso Sea (2000), a multi-figure narrative composition that takes its name from the novel by the British-Dominican author Jean Rhys, and Otto Dix’s Neue Sachlichkeitmasterpiece Sitzender rothaariger Akt mit Strümpfen vor rosa Touch (1930). The Surrealist visions of Salvador Dalí and Max Ernst are placed in dialogue with Lucas Cranach the Elder, Auguste Rodin and Marlene Dumas.

George Grosz, Paar im Zimmer (1915)
George Grosz, ‘Paar im Zimmer’ (1915)

Benjamin Spiers showcases an exploration of the pursuit of the macabre in his own work and that of his contemporaries. Drawing upon his knowledge and vision, Spiers will integrate a selection of contemporary artists with an array of works spanning centuries and mediums. His intention is to fuse dialogues and perspectives on the macabre throughout the ages. He commented: “The macabre takes painting and literature to a place it has never been before. It is very playful, as well as being quite troubling, when there is something in a painting that is unpalatable, it is often the most exciting element. The macabre is often the kind of focus for that emotion and that thought. It breaks something open and allows it to become much more meaningful and radical.”

The exhibition is presented at Christie’s headquarters in London.