Trinkets and Talismans of the Avant-Garde Small Sculptures of the 20th Century

by Sophie Mei Birkin

31st March 2021 6pm

Sculpture is often wedded to ideas of solidity, permanence, site specificity and immobility. However, the history of sculpture is rich with examples of small portable works of art: from the pocket-sized works of Henri Gaudier-Brzeska to Eileen Agar and Paul Nash’s collection of fragments of wood, rocks and bones. These works were often highly personal, designed to be held, demanding a tactile response from the beholder. Some sculptures adopted talismanic properties, inspiring further artistic production from their owners who considered them (un)lucky charms. In this lecture, we will explore the challenge posed by small artworks to the traditional conception of what sculpture is, and look at how twentieth-century artists pushed the medium to its limits.

Sophie Mei Birkin

Sophie Mei is a London based artist and researcher currently completing her master’s in sculpture and contemporary art theory at the Slade School of Fine Art, where she has been awarded the Euan Uglow Scholarship. Sophie studied History of Art at Cambridge University, where she was awarded a Bateman Academic Scholarship, the Hamish Maxwell Prize for Art History, the History of Art Faculty Dissertation Prize and the university wide Winifred Georgina Holgate Pollard Prize. As a curator of the Multimedia Anthropology Lab, a visual research group experimenting in emerging technologies, Sophie has helped organise and participated in exhibitions, workshops and lecture series including Technologies of Capture and Perspective Exchange at the Tate Exchange, Tate Modern [2019]. This year Sophie has been awarded an Emerging Artist Award by Sarabande: The Lee Alexander McQueen Foundation and her recent art exhibitions include: London Grads Now at the Saatchi Gallery, London [2020] and 5 Hours at 42 Molton St, London [2020].

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