When Op Art and Classical Sculpture Collide

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The Tomasso Brothers reflect on the unexpected curatorial success of placing Bridget Riley's linear drawings next to old master portrait sculptures

Dino and Raffaello Tomasso seem to flow against the tidal consensus of old master galleries – in a sea of dealers diversifying their artistic portfolios, they steadfastly stick to their guns, or more precisely, their European Renaissance Bronzes. The brothers started their sculpture business in Bardon Hall in Yorkshire in 1993, before opening a second gallery in St. James, London in 2013 – they are well known in the industry for their discerning eye, as well as their boyish charms. 

Their show at Frieze Masters in 2015 was met with great applause for being the best piece of curation of the year so far: they exhibited the finest Classical and Renaissance bronze and marble busts, lined up along pine tables and on plinths, between hauntingly beautiful linear Bridget Riley drawings. The dialogue between the two, which sounds impossible on paper, was in practice vibrant, and the works struck up an intriguing dialogue across the centuries and schools. Both rely on dynamics and grab the eyes through form and movement. AnOther recently caught up with the brothers to discuss the concept of the collaboration. 

On the initial idea behind the show…
Frieze Masters by its nature encourages collaborative stands between galleries specialising in different periods and artistic traditions, its raison d’être being to attempt to bridge the supposed schism between ancient art and the new. However, the actual idea for this exhibition occurred over the summer during a discussion with our good friend Karsten Schubert, about our shared interests in each other’s fields. We were attracted by the idea of our three dimensional works forming silhouettes against Bridget Riley’s works on paper. In the end the works we chose together were both contrasting and complementary, and there was an energy generated from combining the abstract and the figurative, the pictorial and the sculptural – combining the confidence of tradition, with the excitement of modernity.”

On their curatorial process…
“We were very keen to show a selection of portrait sculpture from Antiquity to the Neoclassical periods, and felt there was something fascinating about displaying 18th century works in the presence of the ancient archetypes they paid homage to. Karsten wanted to bring a coherent group of Riley works and chose a selection of her gouaches on paper which reflected a major reconfiguration of the artist’s style during the period from 1968 to 1972.”

On the current trend for multi-disciplinary shows among old master galleries…
“In order for them to work, the exhibition needs to be curated incredibly tastefully. Both our 2014 collaboration with Damien Hirst at TEFAF Maastricht and our latest with Karsten Schubert at Frieze Masters, were well received, proving there is no reason why you can’t successfully combine works from very different periods.”