A retrospective of one of the most famous female painters of the 20th century is currently on at the Tate Modern in London until 30th October.
The main attraction for me to see this exhibition was having studied O’Keeffe’s floral works. Which is all I knew her for: her florals. (Probably similarly to the rest of the world.) But, she is so much more than that, and her body of work encompasses many more themes than her famed floral close-ups.
The exhibition is thematically displayed in a very logical easy to digest way (which is what you’d expect from any Tate exhibition.) We are guided through O’Keeffe’s back catalogue, starting from her earliest charcoal pieces, to more personal displays about her life, Stieglitz and their inner circle, to her New York cityscapes and of course, to her flowers and still lifes.
I enjoyed weaving my way through the rooms and seeing works I didn’t know existed. I also really enjoyed seeing O’Keeffe’s work that I was more familiar with. (There’s nothing quite like experiencing artworks in real life that you’ve seen time and time again in books or online.)
The stand out work for me is ‘Special No.9 – 1915’ (see image above). Reproductions (as ever) don’t do it justice. It is something you’ve got to see in person. O’Keeffe’s mark making and feeling in this piece is just something I find very difficult to put into words.
I only have one reservation about this exhibition: the price. It is too expensive. It is far too much money. For a student ticket it costs £15.40, for an adult (with no additional donation) it costs £17.20. And that is a lot of money. A lot. I assume (and we all know what you say when you assume) that the money recovered from the cost of tickets will go towards covering the exhibition, any additional staff costs, and (probably) any profit will just be pumped back into Tate Modern and its permanent collection, as all of that is, spectacularly free. But still, when it comes individually to coughing up this money, it is a lot. And it’s a shame, because the hefty price tag makes it an exhibition you will not take a gamble on. Only those who know O’Keeffe, will go to see O’Keeffe. It alienates a whole untapped audience.
And because of the price tag, I would only really go to this exhibition if you like O’Keeffe, or want to see the range of her work.