Sunday, 23 December 2012


© Isa Genzken Courtesy the artist, Hauser & Wirth and Galerie Buchholz, Cologne

 Saville Row
 until January 12th

 Never feature the same artist twice - a rule I instituted fairly soon after I started my blog. It makes sense as I live within reach of hundreds of galleries and thousands of  artists. No two days are alike. But I'm making an exception: I have featured Isa Genzken's work before when it was at the Saatchi Gallery (Blog number 137)

This piece makes a striking impact as it greet you in Saville Row. At first glance it's nonsensical: a column of tall white plinths topped by plaster casts of busts of Nefertiti. As the wife of the Egyptian Pharaoh Akhenaten 3,300 years ago, she remains one of the most famous icons of feminine beauty of all time. Leaning at her feet is a reproduction of the Mona Lisa, painted by Leonardo da Vinci a mere 500 years ago - and still a Western icon of a beautiful woman.

But what is Nefertiti doing masking her face with something designed to put her in the shade, to obliterate her beauty? Like any gangster or celebrity-seeking-anonymity she has a pair of  sunglassess perched on her lovely nose.And the Mona Lisa is 'de-faced' too, for Genzken has collaged an image of herself onto the reproduction.

So here we see a striking .column of totemic poles which are at one and the same time nonsensical, playful, harmonious - and salutary. At a time when women hobble around in ricketty shoes seeking painful procedures and expensive products in the hope that they will be admired and loved for what they are not - because they do not trust what they are - we need art like this. It doesn't wag fingers or scold. Instead it invites us to reflect on a lineage of feminine beauty and examine the (usually passive) place of women in art history.

As Genzken says. 'There is nothing worse in art than 'you see it and you know it...that's a certainty I don't like'.

 There is a beautiful piece about her work by Colm Toibin in

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