Cuban-born American Felix Gonzalez-Torres is widely recognised as being one of the most important artists of the late twentieth century. Born in 1957, he went in 1979 to study in New York, where he lived and worked until his death in 1996. He has had major exhibitions at the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York, the Hirschhorn Museum and Sculpture Park Washington D.C. and the Musée d'Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris. This will be his first major exhibition in Britain.
Within his lifetime Gonzalez-Torres expressed a particular kinship with the Serpentine Gallery's position, both in terms of its programme, as well as its physical location in the middle of a public park. A core theme of his work is the relationship between the public and private: What defines the public and the private space? What is the role of the public institution versus the private owner? Where is the line between personal and public responsibility? This exhibition will address these ideas at the Serpentine, and also beyond the Gallery's walls in a partnership with Camden Arts Centre and at several satellite sites including Chelsea & Westminster Hospital, Victoria and Albert Museum and the Royal College of Art, as well as twelve billbooards across London.
Gonzalez-Torres's work also explores how the context in which art is seen can shape its meaning and how a work can change the meaning of a particular place. As he left only ideals regarding the production and installation of his works, each exhibition is unique and is a result of the creative partnerships between his ideas and those who engage with them - the curator, the viewer, the institution, and the community.
The involvement of the viewer in Gonzalez-Torres's art extends even further than the audience's relationship to the location. He is particularly known for the participatory nature of his work, inviting viewers to help themselves to his large stacks of paper or his installations made up from coloured sweets, works which are replenished through the exhibition. This constantly renewable art challenges the idea of sculpture as a permanent or static monument and its malleability not only addresses the works' generosity, it also confronts issues of responsibility, ownership and immortality.
Using familiar, but evocative materials such as sweets, paper, light bulbs, jigsaws, offset photo prints, billboards, and beads, Gonzalez-Torres creates an implosion of meaning and emotion, addressing and inspiring shared human concerns such as individual and cultural identities memory, travel, time, generosity, exchange, authority, love, loss and desire.
A fully illustrated catalogue published by the Serpentine Gallery will accompany the exhibition.