17 September – 1 December 2013, Gallery 7.
From the Pre-Raphaelites and L.S. Lowry, to exquisite Victorian glassware and Pilkington’s Lancastrian pots, Nothing Beautiful Unless Useful celebrates works in public collections across the North West of England in the first in a series of displays in collaboration with the Contemporary Art Society.
Founded in 1910, the Contemporary Art Society has supported publicly-funded museums and galleries across the UK, through gifts, advocacy and advice. A year-long series of displays at the Whitechapel Gallery shows works drawn from these collections, brought together from across England for the first time. Focusing on the theme of art and philanthropy, they present the unique histories of regional collections.
Taking its title from a quote by architect Charles Barry who built Manchester Art Gallery in 1824, the first display looks at nineteenth century industrialisation and the making and patronage of art. Centering on the relationship between art and social reform between 1850 and 1950, it focuses on Thomas Horsfall’s Manchester Art Museum (1886-1953), Leeds Art Club (1903-1923) and Mass Observation (1937-1950). All three organisations simultaneously looked to art as a means to instruct and empower the working classes, and promote social progress.
Highlights from the display include works on paper by Edward Burne-Jones and Ford Madox Brown, and watercolours by John Ruskin and William Holman Hunt which were used to encourage a knowledge and love of art and beauty amongst workers. In contrast, Frank Brangwyn, Jacob Kramer and Edward Wadsworth present gritty depictions of working life showing factories and dense industrial landscapes. Photographs by Humphrey Spender and a film by Humphrey Jennings set the social and cultural context at the time, depicting everyday life, from children playing in the street to pub scenes.
This project is supported by a grant from Arts Council England that will create four curatorial fellowships, of which this is the first. It will also enable the displays to be toured following their presentation at the Whitechapel Gallery. A series of talks and events will be organised to support each display, along with an accompanying publication.
The displays are shown in the dedicated Collections Gallery and are part of the Gallery’s on-going programme of opening up public and private collections.
Contemporary Art Society: Nothing Beautiful Unless Useful is conceived by Arts Council-funded Curatorial Fellow Anna Colin in collaboration with the Whitechapel Gallery and the Contemporary Art Society. Following the first presentation, three further displays will focus on different regions in England, from 10 December 2013 – 9 March 2014, 19 March – 1 June 2014 and 11 June – 31 August 2014. The Whitechapel Gallery’s programme of collection displays is supported by specialist art insurer Hiscox.
Notes to editors
– For over a century the Whitechapel Gallery has premiered world class artists from modern masters such as Pablo Picasso, Jackson Pollock, Mark Rothko and Frida Kahlo to contemporaries such as Sophie Calle, Lucian Freud, Gilbert & George and Mark Wallinger. With beautiful galleries, exhibitions, artist commissions, collection displays, historic archives, education resources, inspiring art courses, dining room and bookshop, the Gallery is open all year round, so there is always something free to see. It is a touchstone for contemporary art internationally, plays a central role in London’s cultural landscape and is pivotal to the continued growth of the world’s most vibrant contemporary art quarter. The Gallery does not own a Collection, but has a dedicated gallery for opening up public and private collections, including five displays from the British Council Collection from April 2009 – May 2010; four displays from The D. Daskalopoulos Collection, Greece, from June 2010 – May 2011; five displays from the Government Art Collection, from June 2011 – September 2012 and four displays from the Collection Sandretto Re Rebaudengo September 2012 – September 2013.
– Founded in 1910, the Contemporary Art Society is a national charity that exists to encourage an appreciation and understanding of contemporary art by a wide audience and to donate works by established and new artists to museums and public galleries across the UK. The Contemporary Art Society has donated more than 8,000 works to museums and galleries – from Bacon, Freud, Hepworth and Moore in their day through to the influential artists of our own times – championing new talent, supporting curators, and encouraging philanthropy and collecting in the UK. In 2012, the organisation acquired its first ever permanent space at 59 Central Street in Clerkenwell, and launched a programme of talks, events and displays for its members and the wider public. www.contemporaryartsociety.org
– Contemporary Art Society: Nothing Beautiful Unless Useful is conceived by Arts Council-funded Curatorial Fellow Anna Colin, supported by the Harris Museum and Gallery in Preston.
– Contemporary Art Society: Nothing Beautiful Unless Useful will tour to Victoria Gallery & Museum, Liverpool from 7 March – 31 May 2014.
– Specialist art insurer Hiscox, a keen contemporary art collector itself, supports the Whitechapel Gallery’s programme of collections displays because it gives everyone free access to important collections that would not otherwise be available to the public, and engages a diverse audience with art, particularly the local community. www.hiscox.co.uk.
– Arts Council England champions, develops and invests in artistic and cultural experiences that enrich people’s lives. It supports a range of activities across the arts, museums and libraries – from theatre to digital art, reading to dance, music to literature, and crafts to collections. Great art and culture inspires us, brings us together and teaches us about ourselves and the world around us. In short, it makes life better. Between 2010 and 2015, it will invest £1.9 billion of public money from government and an estimated £1.1 billion from the National Lottery to help create these experiences for as many people as possible across the country. www.artscouncil.org.uk
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