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Made in Britain

Works by Barbara Hepworth and Henry Moore feature in exhibition questioning what is modern, British and sculpture

The Royal Academy has announced details of the first exhibition for 30 years to examine 20th-century British sculpture.

It also revealed plans for a final room that may raise eyebrows –pinning up a Sun page three for every day the three-month long show is open.

The piece is by the veteran artist Gustav Metzger and the exhibition's co-curator Penelope Curtis explained the thinking behind it.

"We chose this piece because it reflects quite well on the literary, journalistic day by day quality of the way we perceive British culture now. How, for most people, the way they understand what British culture is, is through the press, through imagery, through magazines so it comes to you pre-digested."

It may of course prompt a few "Call that art?" splutters, but probably not as many as another work in a show did back in 1976. Carl Andre's Bricks – 120 bricks arranged in a rectangle – had some commentators barely able to speak with fury when it was revealed that the work had been bought by the Tate.

The new exhibition is called Modern British Sculpture. Curtis, now director of Tate Britain, said that she and her colleagues would have done their job if the public left the show questioning what is modern, British and sculpture.

Curtis and her co-curator, Keith Wilson, a practising sculptor, said the aim was not to have a traditional survey but to have a series of visual arguments or dialogues.

One of those will be between the two titans of British sculpture, Henry Moore and Barbara Hepworth, and the exhibition will place two of their most famous works in the same room: Moore's Reclining Figure, commissioned for the 1951 Festival of Britain, and Hepworth's Single Form, commissioned for the United Nations plaza in New York.

Other works will include Alfred Gilbert's Queen Victoria, Leon Underwood's Totem to the Artist, Anthony Caro's Early One Morning and Richard Long's Chalk Line.

More recent sculpture will include Damien Hirst's Let's Eat Outdoors Today, which has the remains of a barbecue and buzzing flies in a large vitrine, and a piece that influenced Hirst and his fellow YBAs, Jeff Koons's Basketball.

There will be no works from the two dominant forces in British sculpture today, Antony Gormley or Anish Kapoor, but Curtis said nothing should be read into that: "The show is not a roll call of who's important. It's absolutely not that."

Modern British Sculpture is on at the Royal Academy of Arts, London from 22 January to 10 April 2011 © Guardian News & Media Limited 2010 | Use of this content is subject to our Terms & Conditions | More Feeds

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