Howard Hodgkin

Dulwich Picture Gallery

Collections of historical masterpieces have two main ways of engaging with contemporary art, if they don’t ignore it completely: One is to feed the mouth that bites them, so to speak, by bringing in some institutional critique; the holdings will look stronger for having survived the in-house sniping (as Karen Knorr’s recent exhibition of photographs at the Wallace Collection demonstrated). The other is to show a “contemporary classic” in harmony with the classic classics. This, surprisingly, is the riskier option. Between the old masters and even the most conservative contemporary artist there lies a vast breach. The juxtaposition can show everything in the worst light: Old art looking fussy and fusty; new art, slapdash and superficial.

That’s the chance Britain’s oldest public gallery took when it asked Howard Hodgkin to exhibit his paintings alongside its collection. Seeing thirteen mostly

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