Published in The Courtauldian, Issue 5, October -November 2013, London
Michel Landy’s Saints Alive exhibition establishes a relationship between the contemporary works on display, and the traditional religious works in the National Gallery’s permanent collection. Landy’s über-dimensional statues are located next door to works such as St. Catherine of Alexandria with a Donor by Pintoricchio (1480 – 1500), and various religious icons depicted on altarpieces and wood panels.
Owing to shiny metalwork, the bodies of Landy’s saints are kept together. For example, St. Catherine’s wheel is still, but only as long as the visitor do not make use of Landy’s foot baulks which are attached to the superficial looking bodies of the saints. If they do, the saints become prone to self-destruction for a couple of minutes. From the inside the figures might look hollow, as only metal arms and bolts keep them together. While form the outside, they still fit perfectly into our contemporary world, such as the Saint Apollonia in her red dress. So far we have still been looking at the images of saints independently from whether we believe in their legends or not. Landy’s latest exhibition provides a starting point to reconsider our understanding of religious images that surround us in everyday life.
Michael Landy, Saints Alive, National Gallery, London, until 24th November