Considered one of the most influential artists of his generation, Brazilian artist Ernesto Neto has dramatically transformed the interior of the upper galleries and the three adjacent outdoor sculpture terraces of the Hayward Gallery with a series of spectacular site-specific installations. Curated by Dr Cliff Lauson, The Edges of the World is Neto’s most ambitious and diverse exhibition to date. It is a highlight of Festival Brazil, Southbank Centre’s major summer festival celebrating the dynamic culture of today’s Brazil.
Taking as its starting point the architecture and surroundings of the Hayward Gallery, as well as the twisting and winding streets of London, the exhibition brings together a series of interrelated installations and sculptures that draw on Neto’s diverse interest in the fields of cultural history, physics and anthropology. Visitors to the exhibition can walk through, touch, smell, lounge and even bathe in Neto’s installations, developing a shared spatial and social experience, engaging with their surroundings and each other and seeing the exhibition from different perspectives.
Inside the galleries Neto has created a sequence of immersive structures, formed from stretched polyamide tulle fabric to give an abstract, biomorphic quality, evocative of skin and interior body systems; in the artist’s words, ‘There is always an edge between one thing and another – a membrane. My work is very much about this limit between one side and the other’. Outside on the external terraces Neto has taken the elements of a public park and reworked them against the concrete environs of the Hayward Gallery, playfully animating the three sites with a water feature, a garden pathway and a public sculpture.
The plan for the exhibition has evolved organically outwards from a laser-cut relief of London’s streets which serves to orientate visitors as they arrive. From this starting point visitors can play on a drum within a heart sculpture, relax on a large cushion intimately enclosed in a dome structure, or climb up on a raised platform to peer over a green fabric scrim, to get a bird’s eye view above a metaphorical Amazonian forest canopy.
A multi-coloured labyrinthine tunnel slowintestubetime – the flavour happens in a state of being made from tactile nylon fabric, takes visitors on a meandering journey, which doubles back on itself, before eventually leading outside onto one of the Hayward Gallery’s sculpture terraces. Here Neto has created H20-SFLV, a group of works which comprise a sculptural pool and two huts for changing. Visitors can pre-book to enter in the pool or just relax and observe the bathers as they negotiate one another on their circular route.*
On another of the Hayward’s external terraces visitors negotiate a narrow raised pathway that forms a never-ending circuit arranged in the shape of the infinity symbol. The work, inspired in part by the high-wire artist Philippe Petit, undulates up and down as visitors balance on the walkway, with the sense of precariousness heightened by the open views from the terrace. Two trees, a palm and a hawthorn – one indigenous to Brazil, the other to the UK – add greenery to the concrete surroundings.
The third terrace features a new large-scale sculpture made of Corten steel, inspired by a 1960s children’s toy. Its twisting composition reflects the idea of drawing a line in three-dimensional space. The sculpture is comprised of 24 interlocking plates that belie its four-tonne weight as it balances in space, held together by gravity.
Dr Cliff Lauson, Curator, Hayward Gallery said: “This ambitious exhibition further enhances Ernesto Neto’s reputation as one of the most innovative and influential artists working today. Including both his signature nylon sculptures and new techniques and materials, the exhibition brings together a series of interconnecting spaces, unified by a theme of constantly shifting perspectives and points of view – all various aspects or ‘edges of the world’ to Neto’s mind.”
Ernesto Neto also features in the Hayward Gallery exhibition The New Décor, which runs concurrently in the lower galleries. The New Décor is an international survey of some 30 contemporary artists, who explore interior design as a means of engaging with changes in contemporary culture.
Neto (b. 1964) lives and works in Rio de Janeiro and has established over the past 20 years an international reputation for his work. His influences range from the international artists Constantin Brancusi, Giovanni Anselmo, and Richard Serra to his Brazilian predecessors, Lygia Clark, Hélio Oiticica, and Tunga. He has been the subject of major solo exhibitions in New York and Paris and has been included in major group shows including the Carnegie International (1999) and the Venice Biennale (2001). Last year, he created his largest work to date, anthropodino at the Park Avenue Armory, New York.
The Hayward Gallery reopens following temporary closure for essential repairs and renewal. Works which have a positive impact on visitor experience include a refurbished foyer and shop, new entrance doors to the gallery and sculpture terraces, allowing increased daylight into the internal spaces; improvement of existing public toilets; refurbishment of the wooden floor in the lower galleries and cleaning of the floors throughout. The Hayward Project Space has been improved with a new floor and ceiling. Essential behind the scenes work covers the upgrade of maintenance systems including climate control and fire safety, and the installation of new offices for technical staff based at the gallery.