I thoroughly enjoyed this exhibition – I had no expectations admittedly but the layout, coherence and quality of the artworks exhibited were surprisingly good!

Botticelli Reimagined

The exhibition was divided into 3 parts – the theme throughout was the influence of Botticelli on artwork:

  • On contemporary artwork: these rooms explored a variety of different art forms including photography, prints, paintings and fashion.

  • During Victorian times when Botticelli’s work was rediscovered by the Pre-Raphaelites: There were 2 large rooms with numerous artworks that demonstrated Botticelli’s influence on their style: the bold and linear outline of figures in drawings/paintings and the ‘wet’ drapery on figures as well as the stylised hair we have come to know so well in images such as the ‘Birth of Venus’.

  • The last phase of the exhibition were two further rooms painted a brilliant white with light pouring in. These rooms house a large number of Renaissance paintings attributed to Botticelli and his workshop.

What was interesting to note was the contentious nature of attributing a painting to an artist: there is relatively little documentation cataloguing commissioning and sales of artwork from this time in particular. What is endlessly fascinating is whether a hand, details of the face and robes were by Botticelli or not – if not, why? Whether there is enough work within the artwork to confidently attribute it to the artist.

I would like to highlight a handful of contemporary artworks that were inspired by Botticelli; these demonstrate his enduring legacy to the world of art:

David Lachapelle
Rebirth of Venus (2009)
Lachapelle is an American photographer and video artist; he often refers to Old Masters paintings in his work. Botticelli’s goddess is transformed into a blonde model flanked by 2 muscle men. The artist uses the shell as an iconic and frankly erotic device.

Andy Warhol
Detail of Renaissance Paintings (Sandro Botticelli, The Birth of Venue, 1482) (1984)
Warhol was the founder and most significant exponent of Pop Art. His choice of silkscreen, originally used for commercial reproductive printing emphasises the universal acclaim of Botticelli’s Venue and contrasts with the fine art status of the original. The artist reduces Botticelli to the painter of a single, iconic image: the Venus in the Uffizi

Yin Xin
Venus after Botticelli (2008)
The Chinese artist Yin Xin adds Asian characteristics to Botticelli’s ‘Birth of Venus’- an icon of Western culture. His work combines Western and Asian elements to show how our perception of a work of art is determined by the culture that produced it.

Jeff Koons
Album cover for Lady Gaga’s ‘Artpop’ album (2013)
There were 2 euro coins commemorating the 500th anniversary of the death of Botticelli in 2010.

Rip Cronk
Detail of the Venice of the Half Shell (1981)
This parody of Botticelli’s Birth of Venus is a reproduction of a large mural in acrylic paint at Venice Beach; a hip counter-cultural neighbourhood of Los Angeles.

Rineke Jijskra
Hilton Head Island, South Carolina, USA (1992)
These beach portraits explore the heritage and culture of young people across the world. The Dutch artist did not intend to reference Botticelli’s Venue but the resemblance of the subjects’ pose in this picture suggests how it has pervaded popular consciousness.

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Botticelli Reimagined is currently on at the Victoria and Albert Museum from now until Sunday 3 July 2016. Find out more about the exhibition here