Sophie Taeuber-Arp ★★★★★ Tate Modern | Jul 15 - Oct 17, 2021


Sophie Taeuber-Arp is currently being fêted as one of the great exponents of Dadaism and this large, wonderfully spacious exhibition shows almost every aspect of her work. Robert Short's seminal 1980 book Dada & Surrealism barely gives her more than a footnote, concentrating instead on her husband, Hans Arp. How times have changed! Taeuber-Arp challenged social conventions, and here we see works full of flashes and edges, packed with dazzling light and having the penetrating intensity her broad approach to abstraction brings to her works. Taeuber-Arp's architectural and interior designs stand shoulder to shoulder with upholstery, wood-turning and furniture; everything shows a wonderful economy of form. Strikingly displayed stained glass panels contain glowing blocks of colour. We were particularly charmed by seventeen delightfully magical string marionettes never before seen in the UK; they were designed for the stage production King Stag in 1918. These are justly the centrepiece of the exhibition. Her three-dimensional pieces demand viewing from several angles. Most of the works are relatively small but intensely fascinating, her frequent use of rectangles and circles of colour display ideas which were innovative at the time and remain fashionable today. So much of her work feels familiar – most likely due to imitation. During the Second World War, her work became more monochromatic with curving lines that almost meander. Her tragically accidental death at only fifty-three leaves a huge question mark about what could have been. This wonderful retrospective shows us Taeuber-Arp's brilliantly fluid invention. It's an exhibition not to be missed.

Rated: ★★★★★

Reviewed by D.S.J.
Image: Sophie Taeuber-Arp Six Spaces with Four Small Crosses 1932. Kunstmuseum Bern. Gift of Marguerite Arp-Hagenbach.

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