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A CURATORIAL CONVERSATION

Lara Wardle (Curator of Jerwood Collection) talks to Jo Baring (Curator of The Ingram Collection) about Century: 100 Modern British Artists, a collaborative exhibition which spans seven gallery spaces until Sunday 8 January 2017.

LW: James [Russell, Century’s exhibition curator] has created a fascinating exhibition which highlights the distinct synergies between the two collections. I wondered, in your mind, other than the difference in number of works, what you feel sets the collections apart?

JB: I think the most obvious difference is our sculpture collection. The Ingram Collection has very strong holdings of British sculpture, in particular those artists, winning accolades at the Venice Biennales of the 1950s, who were leading the world. I was interested to see how James Russell placed the sculptures within Century - he celebrated the monumentality of Elisabeth Frink's Walking Madonna by positioning her in such a way that she could be viewed from outside Jerwood Gallery through a window. The sensuous delicacy of smaller bronze depictions of the female body have been enhanced by their placement in the exhibition. 

Aside from their differences, the parallels between the two collections are fascinating - both are witness to the quirky individual spirit of 20th century British Art. The Ingram Collection also has a body of works investigating attitudes towards the divine - lots of visitors have commented upon Tristan Hillier's Crucifixion. This is something we have deliberately built upon in our buying strategy. 

Do you have these curatorial themes in mind when you are buying for Jerwood Collection or do you have an entirely different collecting strategy?

LW: That’s a very topical point as Alan Grieve (Chairman, Jerwood Foundation) and I were discussing this question earlier today.

The works in the Jerwood Collection were originally bought to hang in Jerwood Foundation’s headquarters, but by 2007, they filled every wall and staircase, and we took the decision to build the Jerwood Gallery to house them. Much of the early purchasing, which was made in the early 1990s, reflects Alan’s personal taste and his passion for Modern British art. 

Today, when we consider a potential acquisition, it is inevitable that we think about its relationship to other works within the collection and also how it would fit in to the curated hangs in Hastings. 

Having recently seen David Bowie’s collection at Sotheby’s I have been reminded how important it is that the collection retains its personality. How much of Chris Ingram’s (Chairman, Ingram Collection) personality is reflected in the Ingram Collection? 
 
JB: I think Chris's personality definitely comes through in the Ingram Collection. He is very open about the fact that he is particularly drawn to the darker, more challenging side of 20th century British Art. Chris also loves art to have what we call the 'Pow' factor - whilst this is a private collection it is also now bought to be displayed publicly so we are able to buy larger scale pieces with more impact which perhaps wouldn't work in a domestic setting. 

Exhibiting the Ingram Collection publicly is something we are planning to do much more of - is the Jerwood Collection also available for loans and exhibitions outside Jerwood Gallery?

LW: Yes - absolutely. We actively encourage loan requests and always try and accommodate them. I find it interesting how some works are always requested for exhibition - for example our Euan Uglow, The Blue Towel, is a very popular request. 

Which work or works from the Ingram Collection are your 'key loans'?

JB: I agree - there are definitely some works in the Ingram Collection which seem to be permanently on tour! We have a beautiful Gaudier-Breszka bronze, Maternity, which is always requested. In addition to one off loans we also do more pro-active loaning of full exhibitions. 

Working with you and the team on Century has been both enjoyable and rewarding. Have you got any future plans for further collaborations with other collections or institutions?

LW: We are partnering the Bulldog Trust together with 8 other Sussex museums and galleries for the forthcoming exhibition, Sussex Modernism: Retreat and Rebellion, curated by Dr Hope Wolf (Two Temple Place, London, 28 January 2017 – 23 April 2017). 

Just a final question which I am sure you must have been asked many times – if you could take one work from the Ingram Collection for yourself to hang at home and enjoy – which one would it be?

JB: I am very much looking forward to seeing that show. We are loaning a couple of pieces to it, including an Edward Burra, Ropes and Lorries, executed in Rye (which was included in your excellent In Focus: Edward Burra exhibition at the gallery in 2015). 

In answer to your final question - it is so hard to pick. It changes. I do have a real passion for sculpture, so today it would Barbara Hepworth’s, Sculpture with Colour and Strings. If you asked me tomorrow it would be different! What is your favourite piece from your collection?

LW: Great choice! If I could choose one work to take home or to my desert island it would be our Hepworth work, Study for Lisa (Hands to Face). Although it is a 2-dimensional work it has a wonderful depth which she has created through scrapping back the painted surface. Our two current favourites are hanging together in Century – a great opportunity to see such beautiful works by a truly international artist. 

Images (top to bottom): 1st & 2nd images - installation of Century: 100 Modern British Artists © Pete Jones; Euan Uglow, The Blue Towel, 1982-3 © the estate of Euan Uglow; Installation of Century: 100 Modern British Artists © Pete Jones