How daring! Tate Britain has devoted a large exhibition to someone who was not an artist—the first time it's done so. Equally surprising, the subject is a figure now mainly known for a television show.
The director and curators of the Tate Britain are to be congratulated for working to restore the importance of Kenneth Clark through an excellent exhibition and catalog, both titled "Kenneth Clark: Looking for Civilisation." Beautifully installed in six rooms with more than 200 objects from Old Master to modern, most drawn from Clark's own collection, the exhibition traces Clark's life and chronicles his important role in British culture as patron, collector, art historian and broadcaster.
Why would Kenneth Clark be out of fashion? Cole explains:
More about the Tate Britain exhibit here.
This exhibit has certainly brought Sir Kenneth Clark much media attention, as reviews and profiles were published when it opened in May. Of course, he has never really gone away, because of the popularity of that Civilisation series, as this profile from The Guardian attests:
What Stourton describes as distractions now I find essential to the series. It was "A Personal View" so the person, Sir Kenneth Clark had to be himself--he did not have to look like a television personality; he had to have ideas and views to present. I like the static camera and the slow pans from Clark to the background and the great close ups of the artwork, so steady and patient--the camera is giving me a chance to see what Clark sees, to learn how to look at the art, see the beauty, and appreciate the civilization that created it.
The BBC is going to "remake" the series with another art critic who will have his or her own "Personal View"--I doubt the critic would dare have such a "conservative" view of civilization or even to concentrate on western civilization. It will have to be multi-cultural and the pace will have to be fast, with quick cuts and angles. The presenter will have to be photogenic with perfect teeth (Sir Kenneth's are horrible, one can tell). I can't imagine a remake of Kenneth Clark's Civilisation: A Personal View that could replace it in my library of books, DVDs, or memories. As Clark says at the end of the series, I may be hopeful about the new version, but not joyous.