Sometimes you have to visit an exhibition more than once to fully appreciate it and I found this to be the case for the Sonia Delaunay exhibition at the Tate Modern.
There were two reasons I think this is one of those exhibitions which requires a revisit:
1) The sheer vivid colour within this large retrospective can be overpowering at times
2) There is so much detail which can be missed on first viewing because this is a large exhibition.
One of the benefits of having Tate Membership is that it is possible to make those multiple visits. For those unaware of Delaunay and her work (as I was before my first visit) she was, according to the exhibition guide, “one of the pioneers of abstraction and a central figure of the Paris avant-garde.”
The work here spans from the first decade of the 20th century to the 1970’s and contains painting, drawing and textiles. Wandering through the twelve rooms I was particularly drawn by those works which combined text and colour as well as the textiles.
Some of the text in the work is obvious and some is not. For example the prose in Electric Prisms was initially easy to miss whilst the cover design for the catalogue of the Stockholm exhibition was not. What they had in common was that both displayed her interest in graphic design.
The exhibition guide is worth reading more closely than many because it reminds you of the tumultuous events of the early 20th century and the contradictions they produced. The artist opened a hop in Madrid in 1918 following family funding being stopped due to the 1917 Bolshevik revolution in Russia. The fashion she produced was worn by the rich and beautiful when many others were suffering from destitution. This included a beautiful coat designed for Gloria Swanston which is displayed.
My favourite rooms were in the middle of the exhibition. Room 6 is the fashion and textiles room and this was my favourite although room 7 Poetry and theatre came a close second.
The most entrancing piece in room 7 is the “surie vent (on the wind)” curtain poem with text by Philippe Soupcarlt.
Amid the abstraction and fashion Room 9 Paris 1937 contains vast canvasses celebrating modernism in bright and vivid colour. These are murals which were shown in the Palace of the Air at the International Exhibition of Arts and Technology in Modern Life.
The exhibition is one which I would say is best enjoyed when the gallery is quieter and you can wander and linger as you wish. I found visiting just after 3pm on a Tuesday ideal.
Would I recommend this exhibition? Certainly, if you are in London at any point to the 9th August. If you are making a special trip I would you visit from 3rd June onwards when you will also be able to catch the Agnes Martin exhibition.