Exhibition "Francis Bacon: the beauty of meat"

Wed27Mar10:00Sat27Jul20:00Exhibition "Francis Bacon: the beauty of meat"Contextualized in the year dedicated to Stories of LGBTQIA+ diversity at the museum, the exhibition highlights the queer aspects that run through the artist's work and the way in which his sexuality emerges in different moments of his productionMASP, Avenida Paulista, 1578, Sao Paulo


MASP — São Paulo Assis Chateaubriand Art Museum presents, from March 22 to July 28, 2024, Francis Bacon: the beauty of the flesh, which occupies the exhibition space on the first floor of the museum. Curated by Adriano Pedrosa, artistic director, MASP, Laura Cosendey, assistant curator, MASP, and assistance from Isabela Ferreira Loures, curatorial assistant, MASP, the exhibition aims to highlight how the artist, with his innovative and impactful painting, opened paths for queer presence in visual culture .

Covering more than four decades of work by the Briton, the exhibition, with master sponsorship from Nubank and sponsorship from Vivo, brings together more than twenty works by Bacon, from the initial decades of his production until the 1980s, and is accompanied by a catalog with unpublished essays. The works come on loan from museums such as Tate (England), MoMA (New York), Metropolitan Museum (New York), Museum Boijmans van Beuningen (Netherlands), Museu Tamayo (Mexico), Fondation Beyeler (Switzerland), Stedelijk Museum ( Netherlands), among countless other internationally renowned institutions and private collections.

Francis Bacon (Dublin, Ireland, 1909—1992, Madrid, Spain) is considered one of the most important painters of 20th century art, with more than six decades of production. Son of English parents, he had a difficult childhood in a violent family environment. At sixteen, he was expelled from home by his father and, after spending time in Berlin and Paris, he settled in London in the 1930s, where he would begin his career as an artist. Bacon created a forceful and striking work, becoming a fundamental name for the renewal of figurative painting.

The artist turned especially to male figures, his object of desire, in portraits and nudes. The exhibition features portraits of men with whom he had remarkable relationships, such as Peter Lacy (1916-1962) and George Dyer (1934-1971), as well as other important figures in his life, such as his close companion John Edwards.

The title of the exhibition, The beauty of the flesh, refers to a report by the artist in one of the interviews conducted by the art critic and important interlocutor throughout his career, David Sylvester. Bacon says that, when faced with the window of a butcher's shop, he reflected: “[…] as a painter, we must remember that there is this great beauty in the color of meat. […] We, obviously, are meat, we are potential carcasses. When I go to a butcher's shop, I always think it's surprising that I'm not there in the animal's place.”

The physicality of the body is translated by the artist into thick, oily textures, giving the figures almost abstract shapes. Bacon's paintings bring together a wide variety of iconographic sources, revisiting canonical themes and combining references from art history with his personal experiences and perceptions about the male body.

“Whether in his initial works, which often transgressed symbols of Christianity, or in those that portrayed male nudes, the physicality of the body is also a central subject of his work”, analyzes curator Laura Cosendey. “This symbolism of flesh by Bacon condenses in itself extremes: the spiritual and the animal, freshness and putrefaction. It is the very materiality of our existence 'in the flesh', but it is also an icon of carnal desire, of the body's natural instinct”, she concludes.

Bacon's production follows the significant changes in the queer experience in the British social context, since the practice of sexual acts between people of the same gender was only decriminalized in England in 1967, after the promulgation of the Sexual Offenses Act. Such transformations brought significant developments for the artist's work. Still in the 1950s, Bacon produced Two Figures (1953) and Two Figures in the Grass (1954), works that mark a turning point in his work. In both, two male bodies on the scene intertwine and overflow the boundaries of the body. These pairs of figures, which the artist referred to as couplings, could be confused with images of fighters merging in a hand-to-hand clash, expanding the ambiguity of the queer images presented by Bacon.

If initially his production was marked by a certain ambiguity between desire and violence, especially in the 1950s, the presence of the erotic and same-sex relationships gradually became more evident. The work Man at a Washbasin (circa 1954) also points to a bond of intimacy based on a common gesture: an arched human figure leaning over the sink. The painting suggests this bond by portraying a moment of privacy when dealing with the body.

In subsequent years, Bacon began to work with thick masses of paint to characterize his paintings. The viscerality with which the artist portrayed these bodies bursts onto the surface of the skin, exceeding its limits, as if painting the underside of the flesh. Paintings such as Two Figures with a Monkey (1972), which also features one of his couplings, highlight these couplings. “Here, carnality is placed in its literal matter, in the foreground, but it also appears in the voracity of the bodies in action, highlighting the clash between their intertwined figures. The sexual act once again appears as the protagonist”, explains Cosendey.

In some interviews given by Bacon throughout his career, the artist commented on how his emotional life profoundly affected his production. His work was impacted by two turbulent relationships that marked his life: Peter Lacy, his partner throughout the 1950s, and George Dyer, whom he met shortly after Lacy's death and became his great inspiration during the almost ten years he lived. passed together.

The men the artist loved remained as spectral presences in his paintings, lasting even after the end of their relationships. Study for Three Heads (1962), for example, one of his first smaller-scale triptychs, combines a portrait of Lacy with his self-portrait. After Dyer's tragic death on the eve of the opening of Bacon's solo exhibition in Paris in 1971, the artist also painted important triptychs dedicated to him.

For Laura Cosendey, the artist's personal life significantly influenced the production and understanding of his works: “the sum of the artist's intimacy with the expressive gestures of his brushstrokes is what gives power to Bacon's work, which even today takes away from us the breath. His images bring us the vigor of life, but also the imminence of death – this ambivalence of the beauty of the flesh that, for decades, impacted the painter’s eyes.”

Francis Bacon: the beauty of flesh is part of MASP's annual program dedicated to Stories of LGBTQIA+ diversity. This year the program also includes exhibitions by Gran Fury, Mário de Andrade, MASP Renner, Lia D Castro, Catherine Opie, Leonilson, Serigrafistas Queer and the large collective Stories of LGBTQIA+ diversity.

Exhibition | Francis Bacon: the beauty of the flesh
From March 22nd to July 28th
Free Tuesdays, from 10am to 20pm (entrance until 19pm); Wednesday to Sunday, from 10am to 18pm (entrance until 17pm); closed on Mondays


March 27, 2024 10:00 - July 27, 2024 20:00(GMT-03:00)



Avenida Paulista, 1578, Sao Paulo

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