Located in the newly established Cromwell Place, international gallery Lehmann Maupin has garnered a reputation for being ahead of the curve with the artists they show and has continuously broken boundaries with their programming. Ahead of the members' tour of their current show, Body Topographies, featuring works by Louise Bourgeois, Heidi Bucher, Mandy El-Sayegh, Adriana Varejão and Cecilia Vicuña – five influential female artists of past and present – we spoke with gallery Senior Director Isabella Icoz about the relevance of the exhibition and the decision to make Cromwell Place their London home.
Body Topographies presents an alternative perspective on the female gaze. What is it, and why is it especially important right now?
Each artist in the show engages with the body in ways that are abstract, conceptual and at times surreal. The works in the exhibition explicitly examine the social, political and psychological underpinnings of the female body and present the viewer with varied depictions of the female gaze that engage complex themes including colonialism, anthropology, personal and shared history, sexuality, pain, familial relationships and identity. Themes that are prevalent and relevant today – despite some of the works dating to the 1960s.
How do the works in the show communicate the complexities and many identities of the female body?
Varejão & Vicuña have created conceptual self-portraits that examine race, historical trauma, and body deterioration. Bourgeois and El-Sayegh visualise sexuality and desire as a framework for examining the cultural, societal and familial complexities of human relationships. Bucher is fascinated with transformation and metamorphosis, articulated through her repeated use of the dragonfly motif and her wearable Body Shell sculptures.
Would you say that the artists interpret the show's theme personally, in a reflective manner or more outward-looking?
The show is deeply personal. Vicuña, for example, employs portraiture through a focus on the hand, the location of chronic pain for her while also being the tool of creation and an extension of her voice. The work essentially becomes a portrait of the cycle of life, specifically ageing and coming to terms with the limitations of one's physical abilities as they butt up against creative and mental acuity.
Do you think there are similarities – aesthetic, interpretative or otherwise – between the pieces beyond their adherence to the theme?
Absolutely. Each work in the show functions as a historical marker of sorts, considering a personal and shared history, biology, culture and politics by exploring the physical boundaries between the body and its surroundings through an acutely female lens.
This is Lehmann Maupin's fifth London show; why did you choose Cromwell Place as a home, and what has it been like to launch the gallery during the pandemic?
When we had the opportunity to open a new space in London, we asked ourselves whether the city would benefit from another commercial gallery in the traditional sense. We wanted to do something different; we wanted to create a platform for our artists and rethink the traditional gallery model. We were drawn to Cromwell Place because of its dynamic vision for what a gallery space can be and the optionality it offers us. For example, one advantage of Cromwell Place is the ability to scale up our exhibition space and realise an ambitious project or site-specific installation with an artist. We envision the space as a dynamic venue to showcase projects, activations, events, performances and artist interventions. We purposely conceived of a flexible space that can both reflect and accommodate the breadth of the work our artists make. This is integral to an artist-centric model in our eyes.
Although permanently based in the building, our space will not simply be an exhibition space or a private viewing space – it will be a hybrid public and private space that will serve as a backdrop for screenings, a home for artist residencies, a stage for performances and a salon-like space for events and talks. We believe that our innovative approach will allow for meaningful engagement with our London-based audiences. The experience of a global pandemic has reinforced this belief and also revealed how important fostering a strong local community is for our business.
Members are invited to enjoy an exclusive curator-led tour of Cromwell Place, located in the stunning setting of a renovated British period building. During the private tour, guests will get to see Body Topographies whilst exploring the thirteen exhibition spaces and elite club room – this unique experience will offer a glimpse into the art world culture of the future.
For more information, please contact your lifestyle manager.