Marianne Faithfull. “Innocence and Experience” at Tate Liverpool

Over the last few years the Tate have let a number of celebrities loose amongst their collection to select works to put on display at the Gallery on the Albert Dock in Liverpool. Exhibitions have been curated by the designer Wayne Hemingway, the Poet Laureate Carol Ann Duffy and the hat designer Philip Treacy. The latest celebrity to have been given the opportunity to choose works to put on display is Marianne Faithfull and the resulting exhibition DLA Piper Series: Innocence and Experience, is being shown at Tate Liverpool until 2 September.

I called in to have a look while I was in Liverpool the other week. There was an interesting, eclectic selection of works on display reflecting Marianne’s influences and experiences. There were photographs by Robert Mapplethorpe including one of a young Marianne taken in the 1960’s, paintings by Francis Bacon, Lucien Freud, Peter Blake, David Hockney and William Blake (the exhibition takes its name from one of his books of poetry) amongst others and sculptures by Man Ray and René Magritte. . Apparently the works were selected in conjunction with John Dunbar, who was her husband at the time she met Mick Jagger, in the 1960s. To be honest I’d never heard of him but the publicity for the exhibition mentions that he was the founder of the Indica Gallery. According to Wikipedia

Indica Gallery was a counterculture art gallery in Mason’s Yard (off Duke Street), St. James’s, London, England during the late 1960s, in the basement of the Indica Bookshop co-owned by John Dunbar, Peter Asher and Barry Miles. It was supported by Paul McCartney and hosted a show of Yoko Ono‘s work in November 1966 at which Ono first met John Lennon.

Indica folded in just two years, after which Dunbar became an artist and exhibited work alongside Peter Blake and Colin Self.

I wonder to what extent Marianne was involved in curating the exhibition. I suspect John Dunbar was the dominant partner when it came to selecting the works.

Some of the works were quite disturbing. Two were paintings by Marlene Dumas. Lucy, in which the head of a dead woman with a gash across her neck fills the canvas, and  Stern, a very similar work, in this case based on the photograph taken of Ulrike Meinhof, the Red Army Faction, after she had died in her prison cell (she was either murdered or committed suicide depending on who you believe), published in the German magazine of the same name. Another was a photograph by Nan Goldin entitled Greer and Robert on the bed, NYC (1982), The two subjects are clearly drug addicts, the woman in particular

Greer, whose supine body extends through the centre of the frame to the left side, gazes blankly in the direction of the camera. There are dark shadows beneath her eyes; one skinny hand clutches the wrist of the other arm as if to support it; she is lost in contemplation of something not accessible to the viewer. (Source: Tate website)

One work that caught my eye was in the corner of the first room. There were a number of glass tetrahedrons in a random pile inside a perspex box. There was a light source underneath directing  a beam of light through the tetrahedrons which scattered the light rays and creating interesting patterns on the adjacent walls, floor and ceiling. I thought it was very effective

I was surprised when I discovered that it had been created by Yoko Ono; the first of her works that I’d seen.

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Parts of a Lighthouse 1956-6 by Yoko Ono

Also included in the exhibition was a 12-minute film directed by Derek Jarman in 1979 to promote Marianne Faithfull’s album “Broken English”. The subject of the title song is Ulrike Meinhof, who is depicted in Marlene Dumas Stern.