Sean Scully’s exhibition at the Museum of Contemporary Art Zagreb is an exceptional opportunity to see his monumental compositions, as well as works of smaller formats, in one of the newest and largest exhibition venues in this part of Europe. As the final stop on the series of exhibitions – that began with the exquisite Scully retrospective at the Museum of Fine Arts – Hungarian National Gallery in Budapest, and continued at the Benaki Museum in Athens and MAMbo in Bologna – the Zagreb version of the retrospective is primarily a recapitulation adapted to the spatial specificities of MSU, but also, to a large extent, to the dialogue with its own heritage. It should be kept in mind that MSU was one of the first public institutions in the world to call itself contemporary and that, since its foundation in 1954, it has been passionately representing and promoting abstract art. It is also globally recognized as one of the key centers of early computer art.
Looking at Sean Scully’s oeuvre from the mid-sixties to the present day, the upcoming retrospective opens up a whole series of potential narratives, concurrences and contacts that may have happened in the past, as well as the foreboding of some future, perhaps unexpected recognitions of affinities and aspirations. The exhibition opens with the Passenger as its title section which, in its nomadic features, combines the utopia of the universal language of art – constantly aspired to, at least declaratively – with the life experience of the artist, himself an emigrant. His intimate statement and personal history, abstracted into the visual language and its signs, construct the exhibition as an authentic testimony to an artistic journey that retains traces of doubts, uncertainties and disappointed hopes in the world of art and its complex unwritten rules and never-published laws.
In MSU’s exhibition halls, Scully’s works, ranging from intimate drawings and pastels to early figural experiments and further to sculptural painting surfaces, are meant to become, as the artist would say, “hard won insistent surface”. The exhibition layout will introduce the audience to the oeuvre of an artist whom critics consider to be one of the most important active painters in the world. A walk through the exhibition reveals the starting points and inspirations for some of his anthological interventions in the medium of painting, to which he has restored dignity and innovation. Therefore, in front of his monumental compositions, time stops – at least for a moment.