A.R. Penck, Skizze (1983) (detail). Acrylic on canvas. 78 3/4 inches x 118 1/4 inches. © 2018 Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York/VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn. Courtesy Almine Rech Gallery. Photo: Matt Kroening.
'A faint, beautiful memory' is how curator Norman Rosenthal described A New Spirit Then, A New Spirit Now, 1981-2018, the current show at Almine Rech Gallery on the Upper East Side. What he’s remembering, as spelled out in the exhibition’s title, is the seminal survey, A New Spirit in Painting, which opened, barely, at the Royal Academy of Arts in London on January 15, 1981.
As he explained in our brief conversation on the afternoon of the Almine Rech opening, there was such internal opposition to the show at the Academy (from 'progressive' rather than traditional painters) that a couple of artists nearly pulled their work at the last minute, pushing the entire enterprise to the brink of collapse. In the end, reason prevailed, the show went on, and the rest, more or less, is history.