Paul Neagu. A major retrospective in Timisoara 2022-2023

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paul neagu
Paul Neagu, Hornsey School of Art, Alexandra Palace, London, 1974/75 (detail), Photographer: unknown

„Paul Neagu. A Retrospective” is the first exhibition of such an importance dedicated to Paul Neagu (1938–2004), Romanian artist who has lived and worked in London since 1971.

The exhibition highlights all the working stages of Paul Neagu’s activity, presenting a vast selection of drawings, objects, sculptures, documentation of performances, as well as other adjacent materials (artist books, sketchbooks, photographs).

Neagu’s work is today rediscovered by artists, critics and curators, by intellectuals with various interests and specializations, becoming a source of inspiration thanks to its multidisciplinary character, which transcends cultural and geographical contexts and overcomes dualities such as natural / cultural or subject / object in practicing and receiving the artistic act.

Along with many other characteristics that make it exciting for the present, Neagu’s art is particularly relevant due to the innovative way in which it conjugates the body and the senses to reach a spiritualized knowledge that re-imagines man’s place and role in the world and his relationship to the cosmic dimension.

Paul Neagu’s art is expressed through object, sculpture, performance, drawing, in inventive gears of artistic environments and thematic directions that branch out over time. The artist has always tryed to create a visual language with a power of universal communication.

Paul Neagu is deeply connected to Timisoara, where he lived most of his childhood and youth, before he left for studies in Bucharest. Since the early period spent in Romania, which was marked by the fertile contact with the neo-avant-garde of Timisoara, Neagu assimilated currents such as kinetic art, neo-constructivism or cybernetics, defining the main coordinates of his artistic methodology

In the Manifesto of Palpable Art, written in 1969, on the occasion of his exhibition in Edinburgh, Neagu formulates a critique of sight as a primordial vehicle of perception, advocating for the inter-relationship of the sense organs and their mutual potentiation. A number of successful exhibitions in the UK position him as an important figure in his country of adoption.

Becoming more and more interested in exploring the environment of sculpture, Neagu produces in the mid-1970s his most famous invention The Hyphen. In the 1980s and 1990s, Neagu continued to experiment with increasingly complex sculptural formulas – within his work cycles Nine catalytic resorts, Unnamed or NewHyphen – aggregating related and disparate elements in his endeavor to construct a “visual hermeneutic”, in which the visual and the discursive respond to each other and extend their creative potential. 

The retrospective, organized in its largest form at the Kunstmuseum Liechtenstein in 2021 (and presented in a reduced version at the Neue Galerie Graz in 2022), included the reconstruction of important works from the Hyphen cycle, under the coordination of the artist and architect Johannes Porsch, who also designed an exhibition system that has as its main point of reference the exhibition vocabulary developed by Paul Neagu.

This versatile repertoire of design elements adapts to the configuration of each exhibition space, giving each new iteration of the exhibition a distinct identity. By including some significant works from Timișoara collections, the Paul Neagu retrospective at the Timișoara Art Museum is therefore not a simple itinerary of past exhibitions, but is constituted as an original version of a major cultural event, with local, regional and international relevance during the exhibition in February 2023.

The launch event of the monograph dedicated to Paul Neagu, which represents the first large-scale publication analyzing all the stages of his artistic trajectory, will be organized. Based on archival research and an extensive investigation of available documentary sources, the monograph covers multiple facets of Neagu’s practice, bringing bringing into light contemporary perspectives on a singular artistic and cultural path, while deepening its historical contextualization.

The monograph is edited by Magda Radu and Georg Schöllhammer, together with Diana Ursan, assistant editor, being commissioned by The Paul Neagu Estate (UK) and published by JRP|Editions; the essays in it are signed by Ivana Bago, David Crowley, Tom Holert, André Lepecki, Friedemann Malsch, Anca Oroveanu, Ileana Pintilie, Magda Radu, Yehuda Emmanuel Safran, Kristine Stiles and Diana Ursan.

Paul Neagu was born in 1938 in Bucharest, Romania. In 1946 he moved with his family to Timisoara. Between 1959 and 1965 he studied painting at the Institute of Fine Arts “Nicolae Grigorescu” in Bucharest. Before becoming an artist he worked as an electrician and technical draftsman. In 1971 he emigrated to England, and in 1976 he obtained British citizenship. In London he was a teacher at Hornsey College of Art, the Slade School of Fine Art, and at Chelsea College of Art and Design. In 1976 he was appointed Associate Professor at the Royal College of Art, having as students, among others, Antony Gormley, Anish Kapoor, Tony Cragg and Perry Robinson. His works are in the collections of institutions such as: British Museum, London; Victoria and Albert Museum, London; Tate, London; National Galleries of Scotland, Fonds Départemental d’Art Contemporain, Seine-Saint-Denis; Hugh Lane Municipal Gallery of Modern Art, Dublin; Musée Cantonal des Beaux-Arts, Lausanne; Kontakt Collection, Viena; Art Collection Telekom, Bonn; Romanian National Art Museum, Bucharest; Museum of Contemporary Art, Bucharest ; Philadelphia Art Museum; Tochigi Prefectural Museum, Japan; Tokyo Museum of Contemporary Art, Japan.

The exhibition is curated by Friedemann Malsch, Magda Radu and Georg Schöllhammer, and co-curator Andreea Foanene from MNArT. Exhibition display is signed by Attila Kim Architects and is based on Johannes Porsch’s concept. Visual identity is signed by Larisa Sitar.

Exposition organized in collaboration with: Kunstmuseum Liechtenstein, BRUSEUM / Neue Galerie Graz și The Paul Neagu Estate (UK). Co-organizer: Association Salonul de proiecte.

The project is part of the “Timișoara’s Cultural Program 2023 — European Capital of Culture” and is financed by the Timiș County Council, Romania.

Opening: Thursday, 15 December 2022.

Exhibition period: 16.12.2022 – 15.04.2023

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