Many 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.
Jennifer Mundy is Head of Collection Research at Tate.
‘The brilliant idea of bringing the lost art of the 20th century back to life began in digital form as an online exhibition; it has translated happily into a book which tells the stories of a great variety of works, lost for many different reasons, which include some of the key works of modern art, such as Marcel Duchamp’s Fountain and Richard Serra’s Tilted Arc. Each case history is told fully and clearly, and they form one of the most original studies of art in the 20th century to have appeared for many years.’ Dawn Ades, Professor of Art History and Theory, University of Essex.
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