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Only Make-Believe

Ways of Playing

Fri 25 March 2005, 11.00amSun 5 June 2005, 5.00pm

Make-Believe explores the innate relationship between play, make-believe and art, through the work of over thirty modern and contemporary artists. The link between play and creativity deepened during the twentieth-century and the exhibition focuses on the important historical, social, psychological and cultural aspects of this subject.

This exhibition includes the work of Francis Alÿs, Ida Applebroog, Clive Barker, Hans Bellmer, Christian Boltanski, Mat Collishaw, Dorothy Cross, Adam Dant, Henry Darger, Erno Goldfinger, Roger Hilton, Joan Jonas, Glenn Kaino, Wassily Kandinsky, Zbigniew Libera, Melissa McGill, Wendy McMurdo, Annette Messager, Piet Mondrian, The Brothers Quay, Paula Rego, Gerrit Rietveld, Laurie Simmons, Kiki Smith, Monika Sosnowska, Jo Stockham, Richard Wentworth, Sarah Woodfine and Kumi Yamashita.

The exhibition introduces the key modern theories of child psychologists and educationalists, such as Friedrich Wilhelm Froebel, Melanie Klein and Maria Montessori, and traces the effect that these theories had on the development of creativity. These methods, which emphasise abstract shapes, building blocks, geometric and biomorphic forms, had a direct influence on modern art and architecture, on the Bauhaus aesthetic and the development of abstraction and graphic codes of communication. At the same time, ideas about the imaginative world of the child contributed to the work of the Surrealists and outsider artists. Only Make-Believe explores these themes and also focuses on contemporary approaches to fairy tale, illusion, fantasy and magic.

Only Make-Believe includes an extensive collection of rarely seen objects and art works, both historical, contemporary and specially commissioned, to create a universal world of memory and imagination, where mimicry, performance, masquerade and ritual all feature. The power and relevance of make-believe has never been more potent than it is today, and the artists’ ability to communicate experience through make-believe offers a way of illuminating the world around us.

Loans for this exhibition have come from a diverse range of public and private collections including the American Folk Art Museum, New York; Institute of Psychoanalysis, London; RIBA; British Museum;Tate; Froebel College, Roehampton University; Bodleian, Oxford; National Gallery of Scotland; Museum of Scotland; National Trust; Brontë Parsonage Museum, Haworth; Horniman Museum, London and the Museum of Childhood, Bethnal Green. The exhibition will be accompanied by a fully illustrated catalogue with contributions by Mary Jacobus, Susan Stewart and Marina Warner.