Los Angeles, Getty Museum

On the provocative power of blood

Blood fascinates and repels. It is considered a symbol of vitality, but people avoid coming into contact with it as much as possible. In the exhibition Blood: Medieval/Modern, the Getty Museum looks back at the role of blood in the last 1,000 years of European art history. The show opens in Los Angeles on February 27.

February 27, 2024
Bloodscape X, 1987, Andres Serrano (American, born 1950)
Getty Museum Gift of Robert and Dolores Cathcart Image: © Andres Serrano, courtesy of the artist and Galerie Nathalie Obadia, Paris/Brussels 2021.95
Bloodscape X, 1987, Andres Serrano (American, born 1950) Silver dye bleach print

The art and cultural history of blood is complex. It has fascinated people around the globe for thousands of years. In many cultures, it was part of sacrificial rituals and magical powers were attributed to blood. This happened both in legends, such as the invulnerable dragon's blood in which Siegfried bathes, and in reality: in ancient times, for example, human blood was considered a cure for epilepsy – a belief that persisted in Germany and Denmark until the 19th century. The Getty Museum in Los Angeles takes a closer look at the significance of blood in art: Blood: Medieval/Modern begins with Christian illuminations from the Middle Ages and ends in the present day. Gruesome paintings of the tortured Jesus of Nazareth were intended to evoke emotional responses from medieval churchgoers and remind them of his suffering as the Lamb of God for the good of humanity. Even today, the use of blood is still provocative, such as in works by artist Andres Serrano or the Satan Shoes by the artist collective MSCHF with rapper Lil Nas X, published in 2021, which allegedly contain drops of blood in the sole. The exhibition, which also includes works by Nan Goldin and Catherine Opie, will run from February 27 to May 16.

Blood: Medieval/Modern is divided into various sections, starting with Devotion with medieval book illumination. This is followed by sections on the use of human blood in medieval medicine and the significance of blood for aristocratic family trees and a person's origins. Finally, curator Larisa Grollemond builds a bridge to works of art from the late 20th century, in which blood played a role in the artistic exploration of feminism and HIV/AIDS. The show will be rounded off by a two-day symposium in which experts will give further lectures on the significance of blood in medieval art and culture. The symposium will take place on March 1 and 2.Art.Salon

Ecce Homo, from Poncher Hours, about 1500 Jean Pichore (French, died 1521, active about 1490-1521)
Getty Museum Ms. 109 (2011.40), fol. 194
Ecce Homo, from Poncher Hours, about 1500, Jean Pichore (French, died 1521, active about 1490-1521) Tempera colors, ink and gold on parchment
Satan Shoes and Box, 2021, MSCHF (founded 2016) Lil Nas X (American, born 1999)
Courtesy of the artist and Perrotin Image: © MSCHF 2021 L.2024.3
Satan Shoes and Box, 2021, MSCHF (founded 2016) Lil Nas X (American, born 1999) Modified Air Max ‘97s with Human Blood in the Sole, Bronze Pentagram

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