By David Wistow
A lot rides on a title. How do museums like the AGO name their exhibitions? Sometimes the process can be long and complicated, and involve many players both inside and outside the institution. It can be a big challenge to capture the complex ideas of a show in just a few pithy words. Usually the exhibition team of interpretive planner, curator, public relations and marketing experts meet for an hour and toss around ideas. Then they meet again a week or so later and continue the discussion, followed by conversations with colleagues in other departments on what they think, until a fairly wide consensus is arrived at. Only to come back to the table, and narrow it down to the one title that represents all feelings and opinions.
With the Henry Moore exhibition the process was similar, with all but one feeling and theme for certain.
Anxiety is a key word that embodies so much of Moore’s work in the 1930s. We kept seeing it over and over again in our research. During the 1920s Moore still lived in the shadow of the horrors he experienced in combat during World War I. In the 30s he witnessed the mounting tensions provoked by the rise of Nazi Germany, and new developments in psychoanalysis. It really was a time of change, uncertainty, threat, and violence. As a result, when you look at Moore’s sculptures of that period – brutally distorted bodies, almost sci-fi-like – one can’t help but feel anxious.
For more information on The Shape of Anxiety: Henry Moore in the 1930s click here.