On view from 16 February–21 May 2023, the largest Alice Neel exhibition to date in the UK brings together some 70 paintings alongside archival material, bringing to life what Neel called 'the swirl of the era'.
‘This is a terrific selection, superbly curated by Eleanor Nairne and her team with utmost empathy (and the most eloquent captions you will find). It never betrays Neel by sidestepping the graceless, sorry or awkward in her art, just as she never ignored it in life.’ – Laura Cumming
★★★★★ ‘In the mid-20th century, figurative painting was in the wilderness, as common wisdom held that abstraction was the true path of modernism… Neel persisted with the human subject, her portraits of the disenfranchised amounting to a radical act of solidarity in an America riven by racism, poverty, and gender inequality.’ – Florence Hallett
★★★★★ ‘What makes Neel great is her attention to detail – the curl of a thumb through a belt loop, the thinning knees on a pair of tights. The responsibility weighing on a mother’s shoulders. A child’s hungry eyes. An attention to detail, but at the same time, a faith in fallibilities.‘ – Chloë Ashby
★★★★★ ‘…she was years ahead of her time. There’s nothing remote about these paintings, decades after they were made: her struggles and her subjects remain current.‘ – Ben Luke
★★★★ 'An 80-year-old woman looks back at us wearing nothing but a pair of glasses and a “screw you if you don’t like it” expression. This stark-naked, bulges and all painting was the first self-portrait by an artist who feels very much a figure for our times…’ – Mark Hudson
★★★★ 'Neel’s portraits are alert to body language, to physical mannerisms and vulnerabilities… What a pleasure this all is.' – Adrian Searle
‘As this new exhibition at the Barbican demonstrates, Neel paid attention to those whose lives, as poet Adrienne Rich put it, were “cheap poor quick unmonumented”.’ – Rachel Spence
‘Alice sought sitters who were outsiders, mavericks, living so-called bohemian lives – because they were colourful, they were interesting compared to the boring establishment.’ – three of Neel’s sitters remember seeing themselves anew through her eyes.
Exhibition curator Eleanor Nairne talks to Eloise Hendy.
‘The economy of her painting is extraordinary’ – Chantal Joffe discusses paintings in the exhibition.
'From depictions of pregnant women to civil rights activists, labour leaders and queer performers, Neel’s paintings capture everyday life in 20th-century New York.'
Few 20th-century star artists seem as much their own creation as the painter Alice Neel. While New York thrummed to abstract expressionism, then pop and minimalism, she was painting her neighbours in Spanish Harlem. – Skye Sherwin previews the exhibition.
Image: Alice Neel, Self-Portrait, 1980
© The Estate of Alice Neel
Courtesy The Estate of Alice Neel