Nicholas Thomas, one of the co-curators of Oceania, mentioned that objects from the Pacific Islands were included in an exhibition of ‘The Art of Primitive Peoples’ held by the Burlington Fine Arts Club in their premises at 17, Savile Row, in 1935. I was intrigued. The Burlington Fine Arts Club was a private club which devoted itself to holding small-scale specialist exhibitions, mainly of Old Master paintings, prints and Chinese ceramics, but in the 1920s and 1930s, they branched out, beginning with an exhibition of ‘Objects of Indigenous American Art’ in 1920 and a broader representation of artefacts by what were still described, anachronistically, as Primitive Peoples in 1935. The loans came not just from the holdings of the dealer, William Oldman, sold in 1948 to the New Zealand government, but also, as Thomas mentioned, from the Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology in Cambridge. One of its curators was Adrian Digby, who had joined the Department of Oriental Antiquities and Ethnography in 1932 and helped establish the Museum of Mankind before his retirement in 1969.
I realised in writing about the award of the RIBA Gold Medal to Nick Grimshaw how little I knew about his work before his great Printing Works opened on the East India Dock Road in 1988, with the huge presses of the Financial Times visible as one drove past in the night. The reason, I realise, is that much of it is outside London, out-of-town factories and corporate headquarters, done with a fine attention to materials, detail and engineering, much of it when he was working, so improbably, in partnership with Terry Farrell: a warehouse for Citroën in Runnymede done in 1972; the Headquarters for Editions Van de Velde in Tours in France, completed in 1975; the Herman Miller factory in Bath (1976), now being turned into a design school for Bath Spa University; factory units in Warrington (1978); headquarters for BMW in Bracknell (1980) (this was the year the partnership split); a factory in Nottingham (1980); a Sports Hall for IBM (1980); a factory for Vitra in Weil-am-Rhein (1981); Wiltshire Radio Station (1982); the Herman Miller Distribution Centre (1982); the Oxford Ice Rink (1984). It’s a big body of work, but without any of the very high profile projects which brought earlier fame and the Gold Medal to Norman Foster, who won it in 1983, and Michael and Patty Hopkins in 1994.
Sean Scully has an exhibition at Yorkshire Sculpture Park, with a small group of recent paintings in its Longside Gallery and sculptures in the grounds, including Moor Shadow Stack outside the gallery:-
Wall Dale Cubed, a monumental limestone construction:-
And, finally, Crate of Air, a big Corten steel work:-
For some reason, I have never been to the Yorkshire Sculpture Park, even in the days when, as Bretton Hall, it was home of the New Arcadians, a group of scholars, including Patrick Eyres, who were interested in the symbolism of the eighteenth-century landscape garden.
The original eighteenth-century house was designed by Sir William Wentworth, its owner, with the possible help of Colonel James Moyser, a fellow landowner, and poshed up by William Atkinson in 1805:-
In 1978, Peter Murray, a lecturer at the college, established the Yorkshire Sculpture Park in its grounds. It’s an impressive and lively operation, with sculpture sited in the grounds:-
Having complained recently that the RIBA had failed to honour Robert Venturi and Denise Scott Brown, I’m delighted to discover that this year’s Gold Medal has been awarded to Nick Grimshaw, my former President at the Royal Academy. My own view is that he deserves it not just for his early hi-tech work, which is now justly celebrated, including the fine Financial Times printworks (1988), no longer used as a visible print works, but recently listed, his astonishing houses on the Grand Union Canal (1988), and the snaking engineering of his Waterloo International Terminal (1993), but also for his less well known international work, including the wonderful Southern Cross Railway Station in Melbourne (2005) and his Performing Arts Center in Troy, New York (2007). He will be eighty next year and has been in practice for over fifty years. I salute him !
A week or so ago, I was asked to contribute to a symposium organised by MJP, the architectural practice which used to be known as MacCormac Jamieson Prichard (in the 1980s & Wright). I found it interesting to reflect on MacCormac’s attitude to both history and postmodernism and my contribution to the event has now been published online:-
Every year since I have arrived at the RA, we have planned to re-do the shop. But every year it has fallen victim to budget cuts. Now, we have finally done it in a deliberately lightweight and experimental way, looking as much like a gallery as a shop, which is, of course, what the space once was. It has been designed by Debby Kuypers of RFK Architects, who has designed exhibitions, including Americans in Paris, as well as working in retail, so has provided an environment which deliberately crosses the frontiers between a shop and a gallery. I hope it encourages more people to enjoy what the shop offers:-
Last night, I had my first tour round our Oceania exhibition with the two curators, Nicholas Thomas and Peter Brunt, beginning with the map of the Pacific Islands, so widely distributed west of Papua New Guinea and including New Caledonia, Fiji, Tonga, the Cook Islands and the Pitcairn Islands.
The first room on Voyaging includes a Tangonge discovered in 1920:-
In Room VII, Gods and Ancestors, there is a fine female figure from the Admiralty Islands:-
And a piece from Samoa:-
In Room 5, the theme is Performance and Ceremony, including more masks, as well as clubs and shields:-
Later on in the exhibition, one sees the interaction with European culture, including works which were acquired by anthropologists and deposited in European collections, like those acquired by J.C. Erde:-
The exhibition ends with a mask from New Caledonia, borrowed from the Museum of Archaeology and Anthropolgy in Cambridge:-
Attending a funeral mass in the Minster at King’s Lynn gave me a chance to wander the streets after the sweetmeats.
The wonderful late seventeenth-century Customs House, designed by Henry Bell a local gentleman architect:-
The way the town sits on the River Ouse, still with a half working quay:-
And details of some of the houses in the side streets:-