Tate launch new UK partnership with EY and major Paul Klee exhibition

On 15 July Tate announced a new partnership with EY (Ernst & Young) who will support the development of three, major autumn exhibitions. With Tate currently dealing with the biggest cuts to funding since the war, the partnership will help to sustain the gallery’s ambitious programme of exhibitions and events. EY, a global leader in transaction, tax and advisory services, welcomed the move, describing it is a “unique relationship” that will contribute to the growth of the UK economy.

As Director Nicholas Serota explains, “Tate depends on such support from the private sector in order to deliver its programme”. So whilst some may be sceptical of Tate – one of Britain’s most valued public institutions – welcoming more corporate sponsors, the partnership reflects the need for innovation and collaboration in the face of economic austerity.

Tate’s partnership with EY will run for three years, its impact soon to be made visible at Tate Modern with an extensive survey of work by European Modernist Paul Klee (1879–1940). Showcasing over 100 of the artist’s paintings, watercolours and drawings, it promises to provide new insights into the artist who famously described drawing as “taking a line for a walk”.

Well known as a forerunner of abstraction, Klee was an incredibly prolific artist who worked on several paintings and drawings at once. It is this aspect that Tate will emphasise at the forthcoming EY Exhibition, Paul Klee: Making Visible, due to open on 16 October 2013.

As curator Matthew Gale explains, unlike previous retrospectives – such as Paul Klee: The Nature of Creation at the Hayward Gallery in 2002 – the exhibition will move chronologically, exploring “how Klee worked on different sequences simultaneously”. Rather than take a thematic approach, it will show how the artist produced formally abstract paintings at the same time as more figurative works such as Comedy (1921). Through such juxtapositions, visitors will see how Klee’s eclecticism belies a surprisingly methodical approach. Shaped by a rigorous cataloguing system, the titles of his works are routinely followed by a number that shows how two consecutively completed paintings would often differ radically in style.

At heart, the exhibition will aim to debunk popular misconceptions of Klee as “a solitary dreamer” prone to stylistic experimentation. In fact a highly organised artist and intellectual, who wrote extensively on colour theory, his idiosyncratic approach to painting was underpinned by strong work ethic and a patient, artistic temperament. Perhaps best encapsulated by Marcel Duchamp: “His extreme productivity never shows evidence of repetition, as is usually the case. He had so much to say, that a Klee never became another Klee”.

As well as showcasing abstract works such as Fire in the Evening (1929) and Steps (1929) Making Visible will provide an opportunity to view the artist’s delicate “oil transfer” paintings. In addition, it will foreground the decade he spent working as a lecturer at the Bauhaus and the challenges he faced as an artist in Nazi Germany. Like many European artists – such as Kurt Schwitters (1887-1948), subject of the recent Tate exhibition Schwitters in Britain – Klee’s work was labelled “degenerate art” and removed from many collections in the early 1930s. At Tate Modern, curators Matthew Gale and Flavia Frigeri are keen to emphasise how, despite political turmoil and declining health, Klee remained a “prolific” artist who continued to experiment in the years leading up to his death in 1940. Playful, yet disciplined; spontaneous, yet systematic, Klee is an intriguingly paradoxical figure in the history of modern art. For this reason, Making Visible seems set to be a significant exhibition—providing new perspectives on a renowned, yet sometimes misunderstood, artist.

Paul Klee: Making Visible, 16 October – 9 March, Tate Modern, Southbank, London.

Emma Cummins

1. Comedy (1921), Paul Klee, courtesy of Tate.