Skarstedt’s fascinating new exhibition Painter / Sculptor brings together a sculpture and a painting by nine artists who, says the gallery, ‘have mastered both painting and sculpture to formulate a unique artistic language’: Alberto Giacometti, Willem de Kooning, Martin Kippenberger (see his startling ambiguously-toned vision of himself as a persecuted heavy-drinking artist), Georg Baselitz, Eric Fischl, George Condo, Jeff Koons, Dana Schutz and KAWS. The highlight is a room in which Giacometti’s plaster of his brother, Diego, looks across to a painting of his mother; and de Kooning’s ‘Large Torso’ (one of only 22 bronzes he made) faces a late painting. Both were masters of both media, but there’s no doubt that the former was first and foremost a sculptor, the latter primarily a painter.
That raises the question: just how many great artists are genuinely equal in the reputations of their painting and sculpture? Perhaps Leonardo would be, had more of his sculptures been realised or survived, but the only pre-modern figures I can think of as plausible contenders are Michelangelo and Degas. In more recent times, you could make a case for Picasso, Modigliani and Rauschenberg, or if you expand ‘painting’ to mean ‘2D work in general’, Bourgeois and LeWitt. It would probably be more accurate to describe Matisse and Warhol, like Kippenberger and de Kooning, as painters who were also sculptors; and Duchamp, like Giacometti, as a sculptor who also painted. Koons and Hirst make – or, at least, ask to have made – plenty of paintings, but it’s not the defining area of their work. Skarstedt’s show could plausibly have included Yayoi Kusama and Takashi Murakami as the most ‘balanced’ current practitioners. And a recent possible addition is sculptor Thomas Houseago, who has just recently started to show paintings.
Art writer and curator Paul Carey-Kent sees a lot of shows: we asked him to jot down whatever came into his head