Tate Media has just launched an ultra-absorbing online exhibition entitled The Gallery of Lost Art. It showcases, in great detail, the numerous significant artworks of the past century that have been stolen, destroyed, rejected, or have simply disappeared. The project, which kicked off today, will run for an entire year – with new items being added each week. Curated by the Tate and designed by ISO Design, its interface provides the user with a view of a grey warehouse floor-space, with different ephemera laid out on widely set apart desks, and stenciled typography categorising works by the manner in which it was lost. It features any surviving images of the works under discussion, along with fascinating essays on the circumstances that led to their disappearance.
The broad variety of artists and works in the exhibition already point to the massive range of factors that can lead to the vanishing of artworks from public or private property. There is an extremely interesting account of Diego Rivera’s murals for the Rockerfeller Center, which gets you thinking about sponsorship and censorship. The mysterious vanishing of Kazimir Malevich’s Peasant Funeral , meanwhile, as well as the robbery of Lucian Freud’s portrait of Francis Bacon, makes you appreciate the extensively digitised era we now live in – and wonder about its implications for the artworks of today. The exhibition also aims to emphasise that art history should not just celebrate what has survived, but also dwell on the works that, for one reason or other, have not stood the test of time.