Author(s): Jennifer Mundy
In a world where we can find information, images, documentation, opinions on almost anything, we assume that modern works of art are easily preserved; that their whereabouts can be readily established thanks to sophisticated documentation systems; and that in general they are not subject to loss or destruction. But many important works have disappeared over the last century in a variety of ways including war, theft, natural catastrophe and carelessness. Most significantly, loss itself has been a major theme within modern and contemporary art, with elements of transience central to the practice of many well known figures. Grouped into ten sections - Discarded, Missing, Rejected, Attacked, Destroyed, Erased, Ephemeral, Transient, Unrealised and Stolen - this unique survey includes forty case studies looking at the stories behind lost works of art, ranging from the shunning of Epstein's British Medical Association sculptures in 1908, to Michael Landy's 2001 project Break Down, where he systematically destroyed every one of his possessions. With work by Marcel Duchamp, Wassily Kandinsky, Frida Kahlo, Joseph Beuys, John Baldessari, Rachel Whiteread and Lucian Freud, this is a lively look at a often little considered aspect of contemporary art.
Jennifer Mundy is Head of Collection Research at Tate.