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Assistant Curator, Victoria Howarth, talks about the rationale behind our final exhibition of 2015, Horizons: Kettle's Yard at Jerwood Gallery.

We have just opened our exciting new exhibition, Horizons: Kettle’s Yard at Jerwood Gallery.  This exhibition showcases works by artists from the Kettle’s Yard collection, University of Cambridge, displayed alongside complementary works from the Jerwood Collection.

I was so excited to work on this exhibition - while at university, I lived just up the road from Kettle’s Yard, so it has a particular significance to me both as a space and as a collection. It’s such a unique place – historic house, gallery, concert hall, icon of interior design – but the most powerful thing for me is Kettle’s Yard’s role in providing a visionary new way to experience art in a comfortable, domestic context, established by some truly inspirational people. 

From 1957-1973, Kettle’s Yard was the home of Jim and Helen Ede.  Jim Ede worked as a curator at the Tate Gallery, London and was Secretary to the Contemporary Art Society. The Edes developed friendships with many emerging and leading artists of the day, including Ben and Winifred Nicholson, Barbara Hepworth, Alfred Wallis and Christopher Wood.  These friendships were key to the development of Kettle’s Yard and the remarkable collection of contemporary work by British and European artists that the Edes established from the 1930s until their retirement in the 1970s.

When Director, Liz Gilmore, and I heard that it might be possible to borrow a substantial body of works from Kettle’s Yard, we were really excited about the possibility of exhibiting some of these wonderful paintings and sculptures in Hastings.  Kettle’s Yard is currently closed for two years for a major building project, which has made it possible for the Kettle’s Yard Collection to leave the house in Cambridge. 

This has been a particularly interesting exhibition to work on, as there is such a rich archive of information about the works in the Kettle’s Yard Collection, a huge number of letters between Jim Ede and contemporary artists from the time that he was acquiring works, telling the story of the individual works, Jim and Helen’s connection to them, and the development of Kettle’s Yard.  There is also a wealth of books, articles, essays and photographs of the Kettle’s Yard Collection, the artists represented, and the history of the house.  There was a huge amount to get stuck into when researching and developing ideas for the exhibition, which I really enjoyed. 

There are a number of much more recent works in the Kettle’s Yard Collection by living artists that link with the Jerwood Collection.  After much deliberation, we decided that the story we wanted to explore was that of Jim and Helen Ede’s relationship with the avant-garde artists of their day, and the earlier artworks in the collection that tell the story of the development of Kettle’s Yard, and the development of the individual artists represented in the collection. 

Jim and Helen Ede dedicated their lives to collecting, displaying and interpreting contemporary art.  Jim wrote that ‘Art is the touchstone of our civilization, the manifestation of our culture…it is as much an individual living force as human beings themselves.’ The Edes worked tirelessly for nearly twenty years to make Kettle’s Yard a place of simple, understated beauty in which visitors could enjoy art, and that spirit has informed the curatorial process for the exhibition.