I didn’t think it was possible to squeeze another gallery into the ‘Art Square Mile’ of Mayfair and St. James’s, but it turns out I was wrong! And so we welcome Skarstedt – and they’ve opened with a cracker for this joint show of David Salle’s Tapestry Paintings and the terrific Cindy Sherman and her History Portraits makes for an interesting examination on the manipulation of images.
In my eyes, you can never go wrong with Cindy Sherman. And here we have six of her well-known photographs that take classical Renaissance paintings as their source – Raphael, Caravaggio, Botticelli – and satirises them, playing up their clichés with props and prosthetics.
One of my faves, with Cindy Sherman as a Botticelli blonde, breast milk spurting out from a bare prosthetic breast, was on display earlier this year in the V&A’s Botticelli Reimagined exhibition. And it’s good to see it again here, alongside other portraits that always have the woman’s breasts on show – here both in pregnancy and breastfeeding.
Where there’s a woman in Renaissance art, there’s always a bare breast. Or two. And, of course, this is beautifully contrasted with Cindy’s photographic portraits of her dressed as a man, again based on Renaissance art, but here, obviously, the men are fully-clothed, with furrowed brows, weighing up all the big issues of the time.
And this contrast between the depiction of men and women in art follows through in David Salle’s works.
In his paintings, David blends colourful images he sourced from historical tapestries with black and white copies of photographs he took of women in his studio. The men are always clothed and well-to-do in their ruffled shirts and richly embroidered coats. And the women? Sexual provocateurs in their states of undress and provocative poses.
That both Cindy and David use existing images as sources of their works makes this a smart pairing. It’s a coincidence but as a show, it works terrifically well. One of those displays that it’s a joy to visit, and one full of historical references and challenging commentary on culture today.
Skarstedt, 8 Bennett Street, London SW1A 1RP, to November 26, 2016
All installation photos by me.