For the first time since the German-British painter Frank Auerbach was awarded the Golden Lion while representing Great Britain during the Venice Biennale in 1986, a cache of paintings representing more than 50 years of his work will be on view in the City of Bridges. The show, presented by art dealer Max Levai at the historic Palazzo da Mosto, will coincide with this year’s Biennale and run from April 18 through June 28, 2024. 

The show will be composed of eleven oil paintings made between 1969 and 2016, all of which are in private hands and rarely exhibited. The show is focused on Auerbach’s most recognizable subjects: Camden Town, London, and the sitters with whom he has felt most comfortable, productive, and intimate, including Julia Yardly Briggs Mills, a friend Auerbach met in art school who sat for the painter twice a week, every week, for two decades.

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The exhibition will be complimented by an essay written by the Pulitzer Prize winning writer and critic Hilton Als, who imagined Auerbach in the context of the British poet W. H. Auden. Like Auerbach, Auden documented the intangibility of London and the people that live there, breathing life into a city that is so modern and yet so linked to the past.

A second essay about the history of the Palazzo da Mosto, which was built in the 15th century by architect Antonio Ponte, who would later design the Rialto Bridge, has been written by the historian Francesco da Mosto.

“The Palazzo is a protected, historic space,” Levai told ARTnews. “It has belonged to a Venetian family for four generations and is usually not open to the public. The Palazzo, with its layered history, really reflects the layers and textures involved with Auerbach’s work. Not only in the finished work but, also the rigorous process involved in each painting.”

The show is called Frank Auerbach: Starting Again. According to Levai, the title is a nod to Auerbach’s painting process.

“You know, what’s really special about his practice is that he only paints like the same five or six objects, and has for decades. And even though the paintings don’t seem particularly rendered in the classic sense, sitting for him is as rigorous as it gets. As time moves on during the session and the sitter is expecting progress there’s an understanding that Auerbach is likely to start again from scratch, using the palette knife to essentially erase whatever he’d done so far.”

The exhibition is a boon for Levai, who was once president of Auerbach’s former gallery, Marlborough. According to a source close to the gallery, Marlborough has suffered significant financial losses in recent years and lost at least two of their major artists, Auerbach and Paula Rego.

That gallery announced last week that it would be shutting down after 80 years in business. during which it helped launch the careers of several of the London school artists including Auerbach, Francis Bacon, Henry Moore, and Lucian Freud.