Not long after MAG acquired George Condo’s 2010 painting The Clown, museum curators installed it in the gallery of 17th-century European art. Visitors’ responses to its placement amongst traditional paintings were immediate and vocal. While some found it an engaging way to look at contemporary art in the context of the historical work it references, others were affronted. Despite George Condo’s long-established career and international reputation, seeing Condo’s comically surreal clown in the same gallery as Old Master paintings seemed to call into question some audience members’ pre-existing notions about artistic taste and skill. This complex response from the public was the catalyst for this exhibition.
Beyond Beauty features artwork from MAG’s permanent collection in which artists have purposefully chosen subjects and styles that go beyond traditional associations between art and beauty to express their vision, communicate powerful messages, and evoke a response in the viewer. Themes explored include images of the human body (Body Horror), representations of women (Witch, Mother, Crone), interpretations of sin and death (The Wages of Sin), and depictions of racism, misogyny, and the consequences of war (Social Ills). These works, most of which feature the human form—represent the power of art and the artists’ varying perspectives on the human condition.