BL’s New ‘Breaking The Rules’ Exhibition

Exploring Europe’s Early Avant Garde Era

Breaking the Rules Exhibit at British LibraryTo mark the opening of the new Eurostar terminal at St. Pancras, immediately behind the Library, the major winter exhibition in the Pearson Gallery will have a European theme, as well as a link with the golden age of rail travel. “Breaking the Rules: The Printed Face of the European Avant Garde 1900-1937” explores the creative transformation which took place in Europe during the first four decades of the twentieth century – a revolution encompassing art, design, photography, literature, theatre, music and architecture.

Although the Avant Garde is principally associated with Paris or Berlin, the exhibition shows how the ease of rail travel made possible the rapid exchange of ideas with centers such as London, Brussels, Zurich, Vienna, Rome, Barcelona, Warsaw, Prague, St. Petersburg, Moscow and Budapest. It draws upon the Library’s unrivalled collections of artists’ books, manifestos, little magazines, literary manuscripts, sound recording and posters from across Europe, complemented with loans from other European museums and collections.

Star items include Marinetti’s futurist experiment with words, type and visual text, Zang Tumb Tuum; the Burliuk Brothers Tango with Cows; the notebooks and corrected proofs of James Joyce’s Finnegan’s Wake and the earliest known recording of T.S. Eliot reading The Waste Land, recorded at Columbia University in 1933 and never commercially published. There will also be excepts from a British Library oral history interview with the poet David Gascoyne in which he recalls his experiences of the Surrealists in Paris in 1935.

The visual qualities of text are illustrated through the artists’ manifestos printed in newspapers, Russian futurist ferro-concrete poetry and inexpensive artists’ books made from wallpaper, collage, rubber stamps, and stencils. Cubist paintings and printmaking took fragments of newspapers and printed bottle labels into the surface of painting, while Schwitters’ Dadaist works recycled tram tickets and other ephemera from daily life.

The exhibition runs from November 9, 2007 to March 30, 2008 and admission is free.

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