Alice Neel – Collector of Souls at the Moderna Museet, Stockholm
Moderna Museet Now *
Alice Neel – Collector of Souls
Exhibition > 7 December 2008
* Moderna Museet Now is a series of small scale exhibitions of contemporary art, occasionally featuring historically interesting oeuvres. This new series comprises some four exhibitions per year. Moderna Museet Now is sponsored by Vinge.
With unusual psychological and painterly brilliance, Alice Neel (1900-1984) painted the most interesting subject she could imagine: people.
Don Perlis och Jonathan, 1982
© Alice Neel
The American artist Alice Neel is the first to be featured in the new exhibition series Moderna Museet Now.
Her imposing portraits and self-portraits earned her influence and acclaim, despite private and professional hardships. In recent years they have become highly appreciated by younger generations.
In the 1950s, she was under investigation for alleged contacts with the Communist Party. In the years when pop art and abstract expressionism dominated the art scene, her psychologically realistic style was not in great repute, and she lived on welfare. Alice Neel was a rebel, socially and politically aware, and also entertaining: the year she died she appeared on the legendary Johnny Carson talk show twice – most likely a record for a visual artist – and was photographed by Robert Mapplethorpe.
Nadya Nona, 1933
© Alice Neel
Frank O’Hara no2, 1960
© Alice Neel
Alice Neel’s paintings from the 1960s and 70s portray the New York art scene at the time. At the Abstract Artists Club she met the poet Frank O’Hara, later to become curator at the Museum of Modern Art, and portrayed him. This painting, one of the eleven shown at Moderna Museet, was reproduced in Art News, and an article in the same publication led to her breakthrough. She was soon painting other famous artists, including Duane Hanson and Andy Warhol.
Alice Neel was fascinated by the psychology and sociology of the person she was painting. With a keen eye she portrayed the touching side of the individual, along with their weaknesses. “Regardless of whether I am painting or not, I have an immense fascination for humanity. Even when I’m not working, I’m analysing people,” she once commented.
Jeremy Lewison, former director of the collections at Tate, London, where he curated numerous exhibitions, including Barnett Newman and Jackson Pollock.
Curator Moderna Museet Now: Magnus af Petersens
Text © Moderna Museet
Images © Alice Neel / All rights reserved