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New body of work by prominent artist Pablo Bronstein: “Hell in its Heyday” opens at Sir John Soane’s Museum

New body of work by prominent artist Pablo Bronstein: “Hell in its Heyday” opens at Sir John Soane’s Museum

The past and the present, the monumental and the mundane, are combined throughout Bronstein’s new body of work, with elements that unnerve as well as entice the viewer. 

This major solo exhibition shows a series of large-scale watercolours, created especially for Sir John Soane’s Museum, that present visitors with a vision of hell that is both seductive and deeply ironic. Imagined as a monumental city, visitors will be guided through casinos, ports, department stores, botanical gardens, pool resorts, and oil rigs, in an exploration of the last two centuries of progress. 

Pablo Bronstein, Container Ship, 2020-2021

Alongside these works is a new thirty-minute film produced by Bronstein in collaboration with performer and choreographer Rosalie Wahlfrid, which shows a group of diabolical antique dealers performing a masked ballet. The performance toys with the idea of desire as conjured and frustrated by luxury marketing, suggesting that in hell, shopping is the ultimate cultural experience. 

With medium spanning drawing, film, watercolour, choreography and performance, all which explore themes of consumerism, Queer identity, and, prominently, architecture, Bronstein, like Sir John Soane, blends references to the contemporary and historical in his artworks. 

Bronstein says, “this watercolour panorama that I’ve spent the past two years working on is a reinterpretation of the 19th and 20th century glorification of technological and economic advancement. Not a traditional hell as such, but a bombastic cityscape in which the noew misplaced optimism in ‘progress’ is drawn as a hyperbole.”

Pablo Bronstein, Flight, 2020-2021

This body of work was developed and expanded over the last year after the exhibition was postponed due to lockdown restrictions. This delay has meant that the show now coincides with the 700th anniversary of the death of Dante, whose Inferno has shaped our idea of hell. Bronstein’s own epic depiction of the underworld explores themes of frustrated desire, consumption, nostalgia, over-production and environmental destruction, as well as the seductive power of images themselves

Exhibition curator, Louise Stewart, says of the pandemic, “having that year’s delay has resulted in an incredibly rich, very very detailed, and seriously ambitious body of work. Bronstein has created a sophisticated and conceptually rich vision of hell which has many resonances in our contemporary world with its focus on luxury, advertising and consumption.”

Bronstein emphasises his excitement to be at the Soane Museum, “I’ve been obsessed with the Soane since I was a student. Making this work has been daunting as it is a total work of art in its own right, so I decided to make work in parallel to the museum rather than directly about it.”

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Date: 6 October 2021 – 2 January 2022

For more information and tickets click here.

By Phoebe Fraser

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