The Tate’s blockbuster The World Goes Pop has been met with largely positive reviews. It’s been often praised for the variety of works on show, which together show an effort to rewrite the art history books on perhaps the most recognisable art movement of the 20th Century. This is an exhibition of subversion; taking our preconceived ideas of what constitutes Pop Art, be it a humungous Lichtenstein or a disembodied Marilyn. Instead, the exhibition presents the viewer with a huge sculpture of a tongue impaled on a spike (Jerzy Ryszard Zieliński’s Without Rebellion, 1970).
The exhibition has been further lauded for its success in presenting a global view of Pop Art. However in doing so it begs the question of why this view needed to be shown in the first place. For instance, the final room of the show holds two oil paintings by Alexander Melamid and Vitaly Komar, produced in 1973. These paintings depict the most famous images of American Pop Art as blackened and burned objects. While they may convey an arresting statement on what Pop Art actually is, the fact that the works mimicked in Melamid and Komar’s painting are more well-known and admired than the artists themselves speaks volumes. It cannot be denied that Pop Art was a western art form, and so much of what is presented in this exhibition feels vapid and derivative – Sergio Lombardo’s John F Kennedy and Nikita Krusciov (1962) looks like something on loan from a GCSE art class rather than something hand selected to sell the idea of non-American/British Pop.
Ironically, this feeling of selling the idea that obscure Pop Art is worth our time is what sours the exhibition. Each over-crowded room feels like its own little Piccadilly Circus – political one-liners scream at the viewer from every conceivable angle and are forgotten the moment they are no longer looked at - in this exhibition of forgotten Pop, it is clear why the works have not been remembered.
This article was written for the December/January edition for the paper. It features content appropriate to the intended date of publication, and hence it might not be possible to visit or see the events/objects mentioned anymore. We apologise for the delay in the publication of the article.