A luxury cruise makes the perfect sightseeing holiday for art lovers, especially those with a passion for modern art museums. There are countless galleries and museums dedicated to modern art, exhibiting works by scores of artists – from Milton Avery to Jan Zrzavý. But among so many other names from the period, Jackson Pollock stands out. Whether you love his work or hate it, Pollock undeniably sparked conversation and debate about the meaning and nature of art during the early twentieth century so we wanted to dedicate an article to him, and the modern art museums that his work (and the debate surrounding it) helped to inspire.
What constitutes ‘Modern Art’?
“Modern art” typically refers to work from the 1860s to the 1970s. This wide-open style came at a time that saw drastic changes in art and production, following the iron brunt and fire-belching fury of the industrial revolution during the 19th century. The 20th saw the rise of the production line, breeding artists like Andy Warhol, whose work reflected a change in production from the individual and the artisan to the fleeting, the popular, and the mass-produced. Whatever your opinions on any given modern artist, one thing can’t be argued – the fact that modern art, in all its forms, described a monumental shift in notions of class, idea, production, and visual expression. The world’s modern art galleries collect and concentrate this cultural shift for all to see – and a cruise holiday makes a great way to see them.
Tate Modern, London
Many cruises start out from Southampton, and some itineraries will take you on a cruise of the UK – so why not spend some time in the Tate Modern during your time in London, the world’s most-visited modern art museum and gallery? The Tate Modern is currently exhibiting works by Paul Klee, and will soon be displaying the iconic work of Richard Hamilton – the artist behind the Pop Art photo-montages which questioned the twentieth century’s optimism for self-improvement and consumer culture.
The varied shapes of Bilbao’s iconic Guggenheim modern art museum house works by Spanish and Basque artists from the modern and contemporary camps; notably the solid slabs and meshes of Cristina Iglesias, and the beautiful curves and suspended angles of Jorge Oteiza. Primarily, however, the Guggenheim Bilbao specialises in collections by post-war pieces by European and American artists. Among the gallery’s collection are works by Warhol and former billboard painter James Rosenquist, who turned his talents to producing huge prints and day-glo painted bursts of Americana.
Dali Museum, Barcelona
Modern art seems to stretch the length of Spain – on the southern coast you’ll find a modern art museum dedicated to the works of Dali, one of Surrealism’s masters. Many visitors to Barcelona make their way here, and it’s no great surprise – even now, Dali’s serious dedication to fun and strangeness presents visitors with art that never fails to turn heads and invite comments. The walls are filled with his fantastical works, inside and out – and sculptures, paintings and installations fill every space with a mischief, a weirdness and a plentiful amount of gigantic eggs that set Dali truly apart, even within the world of modern art.
Paul Gauguin Museum, Tahiti
Set to re-open mid-2014, the Paul Gauguin Museum on beautiful Tahiti exhibits the French artist’s bright, vivid paintings, engravings, carvings and sculptures which celebrate the presence of people, and a fascination with life itself. Gauguin’s self-imposed exile to French Polynesia, an escape from his old life, gave him a window into an entirely different existence – a wonder that you’ll see reflected in his colourful canvases from the period. Following in Gauguin’s footsteps are Paul Gauguin cruises, which give their passengers a chance to see the same surreal, secluded beauty of French Polynesia that their namesake fell in love with.
Modern Museum, Stockholm
The white, wide spaces of Stockholm’s modern art museum house works by the legendary Duchamp, with additional works by Ernst, Dali, Miro and Oppenheim. The works intend to chart the rise and reason of surrealism in the early part of the twentieth century. This was a time following the growth of psychology and psychoanalysis, which inspired the movement – a time when the workings of the mind, and our understanding of human thought and perception, began to appear drastically less grounded in reality. Through works that channeled the symbolism of their subconscious, the Surrealist artists worked to put dreams and ideas on display – to liberate people from their traditional way of thinking.
Museum of Modern Art, New York
A transatlantic cruise could give you the opportunity to spend some time in New York, and art lovers wouldn’t want to miss the chance to visit the MOMA in Manhattan. This is a gallery at the heart of American modern art from the twentieth century, as well as contemporary art in the twenty-first. The museum exhibits works by a broad range of modern artists, from Frida Kahlo’s Self-Portrait with Cropped Hair to Monet’s Water Lillies, and a variety of pieces by Picasso, Van Gogh, Duchamp, Dali and Oppenheim. The star of the show, for this writer at least, is the museum’s Brancusi collection – particularly his pieces Newborn, Fish and Bird in Space.
New York is also home to another Guggenheim – one which houses many of the works of Pollock himself. There’s more to Pollock than his drip paintings, too – he also channelled influences that he took from Picasso. Amongst the collections in the New York Guggenheim you’ll find Pollock’s Circumcision, a chaotic spree of colour which mixes aggression with stoicism (Pollock was thought to suffer with bipolar disorder). The art museum also houses Untitled (Green Silver), one of the more recognisable of his iconic splattered canvases – an expression of human irrationality, which became all too clear during the recent horrors of the Second World War.
Main image courtesy of T. Fano. Guggenheim image courtesy of Ardfern.