Art Under Attack: Histories of British Iconoclasm
2 October 2013 – 5 January 2014
An exhibition examining the deliberate destruction of art in Britain over the past 500 years.
From the religious iconoclasm of the sixteenth century to the contemporary defacement of oil paintings by the Chapman brothers, this exhibition explores the causes that have led to assaults on art over the centuries.
It begins with the smashing of statues and stained glass windows during the Dissolution, before introducing a number of political motivations that caused art works to be damaged in the 1800 and 1900s. In particular the slashing of paintings by the suffragettes in the early part of the twentieth century and then later by feminists protesting the way women were depicted. Also on show are artworks that reveal how destruction can be a creative force, like in the acid paintings of auto-destructive artist Gustav Metzger.
There’s plenty here to excite the mind- from John Singer Sargent's portrait of the novelist Henry James that was attacked by a suffragette in 1914, to Pop artist Allen Jones’ chair, featuring a female figure clad in bondage paraphernalia. Yet it is still the destruction of religious iconography during the Puritan uprising that remains the most shocking aspect of this exhibition, leaving a gaping hole in the history of British art.