London’s Hayward Gallery celebrates 50th birthday

London’s Hayward Gallery celebrates 50th birthday

The summer of 1968 had a very distinctive flavour. The Beatles had just submerged the nation in their seminal animation Yellow Submarine, Pink Floyd’s ethereal riffs intoxicated a thousand-strong Hyde Park crowd and the Hayward Gallery had just hit London’s Southbank, conceived from a crumbling shell between Waterloo and Hungerford Bridge, and transformed into a hub of ambitious cultural finesse.

During its lifespan, The Hayward has played host to some of the most thrilling, provocative and star-studded displays of the previous half-century. A major Matisse retrospective christened the gallery with an ambush of primitive forms on a base of rigorous discipline. Francis Bacon’s body and soul were laid bare in a 1998 retrospective, revealing the artist’s trials, torment and turbulent struggle for identity through his series of dismantled and dissected bodily forms. More recently, Martin Creed asked ‘What’s the Point of It?’ in his 2014 solo show, which dominated the Hayward’s spaces with a seminal spread of installation work teetering on the rickety boundary between provocation and profundity.

normally, proceeding and unrestricted with without title, 2008, by Gelitin, installation view at ‘Psycho Buildings: Artists Take On Architecture’

To kick off the semicentennial celebrations, the Thameside brutalist Kunsthalle underwent a major facelift in January, involving a deep external clean and the installation of 66 new skylights; the original vision of the architects and their creative righthand, Henri Matisse. And now, with the aid of Google Arts and Culture’s project, Hayward Gallery at 50, users will be able to dive into a virtual archive of 1,000 artifacts, architectural plans, films, installations, sketches, and photographs – plus snoop behind the curtain at previously uncharted exhibition material harvested over the last half century.

To toast the occasion, entry tickets for the current exhibition, ‘Lee Bul: Crashing’ – the eerily dystopian display of critically acclaimed work spanning 30 years – will be available for 50p per person on Wednesday 11 July (the Hayward’s official birthday) with extended opening hours. §

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