The second episode of Bob’s residency at the gallery. The 3rd will follow soon…enjoy.
We’re trying out a new way for you to make enquiries about the Collections -we’ve set up a twitter account so you can tweet us with quick questions on anything such as Epstein and the Garman family, past exhibiting artists, the architecture,
I will attempt to answer in 140 characters or post up the answers here on our blog and send a link. You can also ask questions on here, or if there’s something you want to ask without the whole internet world knowing then email me firstname.lastname@example.org.
Last Thursday Serena Korda came back to The New Art Gallery to lead a Book Club Debate on Lady Chatterley’s Lover by D.H.Lawrence. She was joined by journalist and broadcaster Helen Brown, along with several members of the public and gallery staff.
It was a great discussion, which got pretty heated, particulaly when topics such as feminism were examined.
Gallery Assistant Julie Jones gave us some valuable insights into Lawrence’s personal life. Discussion quicky turned to censorship and controversy, particularly regarding views on sex in the early 20th Century, which effected several artists of that time. Lawrence came up against a similar attitude from the public/authorities about Lady C as Epstein did about various works, for example The Tomb of Oscar Wilde and the British Medical Building sculptures. These works were lambasted at the time due to their frank nudity which depicts fertility, but at the time was seen as hugely distasteful.
Our debate went on to consider the impact of class and snobbery on these opinions and whether people were actually outraged because of the relationships between classes. This was a time of huge social change and Lawrence describes quite clearly his take on the change in societal structures.
We spoke for 2 hours solid, so I can’t go into too much detail here, but thanks to all who came and contributed. If you want to continue on here then please do!
As a quick aside, I also found that Lawrence had self-published Lady Chaterley’s Lover because he realised it would not be possible to do so through the normal routes. I didn’t know this before reading it, but it now seems fitting that we keep a copy here considering the collection of indendent/artists’ publishing that we hold (even if we don’t have the original) .
If anyone is interested in setting up a regular book club with a visual art slant, please do get in touch, or drop into the Art Library.
Serena will be hosting her final event on 21st November – a nose casting workshop for families. The Library of Secrets is here until 29th November.
Hi, i’m Cheryl, Library and Collections Supervisor at the Gallery.
Just thought i’d let you know about a conference I attended in Cardiff last week all about Artists as ‘Go Between’, in other words artists acting as a mediator between collections and audiences. This is obviously particularly relevant to us with the Epstein Archive project Neil and Bob collaborating on.
Many presentations were given about projects where artists had worked with museum collections to create new artworks, exhibitions and events. There were many different types of project, for example artists placing their own work alongside objects from museum collections, inviting the public to partcipate in making direct responses and new archives, or completly changing the methods of display within the museum.
Highlights included Manchester museum’s Alchemy project, in particular the Manchester Hermit Ansuman Biswas; and The Uncanny Room at Pitzhanger Manor-House.
There were also papers given which brought up potential issues with this type of project, and several question raised, such as:
why has it become the burden of artists to enliven collections?
Is the artist really better at communicating to the public than existing museum staff?
Is the artist’s work comprimised or hindered by the limitations inevitable in working with an institution?
Are our collections in danger of being mistreated by untrained handlers?
Is this all just about the number of people coming through the door of the museum?
These questions are all food for thought, but each person who presented a working example, whether they were artists or institution professionals, reported a positive experience for all parties concerned. However, the conference could have done with some representation of the audiences and public participants to ensure a balanced view.
I still came away from the conference believing that these projects are a fantastic way of introducing people to collections that they may not otherwise ever come across. Artists can bring a fresh set of eyes to the often overlooked parts of a collection, and through a good dialogue with the collection experts within the museum, they can bring their own practice to the table to create innovative methods of interpretation.
I have a copy of The Go Between (Vol 1) available the library which contains some of the papers presented at the conference.
It would be interesting to know what your thoughts are…
I’m Jo Digger. I’m the Collections Curator for The New Art Gallery Walsall. I thought I should fill you in on some of the background to the Epstein Archive and the project.
To try and sum it up (not an easy task):-
Back in 1972 Lady Kathleen Epstein gave the fantastic Garman Ryan Collection to Walsall. She was the wife of the sculptor Jacob Epstein and there are a lot of works by him in the collection plus more art works of and by their family, many of whom were artists in their own right, including their son in law, the painter Lucian Freud.
During the course of research into the collection in 1998, I was in contact with Jackie Epstein (Jacob Epstein’s youngest child) and his wife Isobel Epstein who had moved into the last house that Kathleen lived in Putney, London to look after family friend Beth Lipkin who had inherited the house and contents from Kathleen. In the process of sorting the house they came across many letters and documents relating to Epstein and The Garman Ryan Collection. Coincidently, we were developing The New Art Gallery Walsall at that time, with the Garman Ryan Collection at the heart of it, and Jackie and Isobel felt that Walsall would be the best place for the documents to go.
Walsall finally took ownership of the documents in 2006 and we then started to search for funding to appoint an archivist to catalogue, sort and organise the archives. However we wanted the process to be creative and so decided to bring in an artist to work with the archivist on the whole project.
To cut a long story as short as possible – we then appointed the artist Bob and Roberta Smith to work on the 18 month project with funding through a joint Museums Libraries and Archives and Arts Council project called ‘New Ways of Curating’ and then were able to secure Heritage Lottery funding to appoint the archivist, Neil Lebeter through a project grant entitled ‘New Ways of Collaborating’.
They both started last week, on 9 September 2009, and within a day had started to bring the archive to the surface of The New Art Gallery Walsall with a display of artwork and archive material related to Theodore Garman, Epstein and Kathleen’s son and a painter in his own right.
We don’t know what the future will hold for the Epstein Archive but if last week is anything to go by the journey will be a fascinating one. We do know that it will result in a catalogued archive on line, public displays of the archives with artwork by Bob and Roberta Smith in some shape or form and educational tools for future use of the archives by formal and informal education and community groups.
Watch this space!
As this is my first post I thought it best to introduce myself a bit. My name is Neil Lebeter and I am the new archivist at The New Art Gallery Walsall. I’ve been given the rather exciting task of sorting out the Epstein Archive and working with the fantastic Bob and Roberta Smith to show this largely untapped resource to you all in a number of wonderful ways. This blog is for everything really; debate, comment and correspondence. Please feel free to get in touch and, as this is to be the record of the project and its evolution, you can have a nosy at the messages Bob and I send to each other – no matter how trivial!
The Epstein Archive burst into activity this week in what has been a rather interesting/exciting/disturbing/amusing first 3 days. Bob and I rifled through the archive with a view of putting on a small display in the foyer and the library of the gallery, which is now set up (see pictures below). This was a fantastic way for us to scratch the surface of the Epstein Archive and get to know one Garman family member in particular; Theodore. I think Bob and I both had an interest in Theo before arriving here as he is such an interesting and, ultimately, tragic character. The letters of his that his mother Kathleen kept only support our theory that he was a thoroughly decent bloke as, even from a young age, his personality really comes through in his writing.
In the display, we concentrated on the humorous aspects of his letters to Kathleen, in which he requests some frankly bizarre items to be sent to him, and also on the annotated books of Theo’s that the archive also holds. These were particularly poignant given his short and troubled life as the notes and scribbles in these volumes, in a way, chart his declining mental health, which ultimately lead to his death.
For both these displays, Bob painted up some fantastic signs that highlight the amusing, farcical and tragic elements of these objects and, in my humble opinion, make the archival material all the more engaging. We do hope that you agree!
Exiled children of parents separated either because of schooling or the 2nd WW often write home to their parents demanding the comforts of home. Theodore Garman was no exception in fact he was an innovator with demands ranging from various kinds of sock (thick) to expensive conte crayons to gloves lined with sheepskins and treacle and his most requested item a pot of jam and slippers!
Quote from one of the letters from the Epstein archive “PLEASE POST MY BEDROOM SLIPPERS… I feel lost without them”
Although these requests for Theodore’s treasured items may seem mildly comical they also represessnt evidence of pains of separation says Bob Smith.
During a recent visit to London, a big group of gallery staff went for a tour around London, organised by the Ben Uri Gallery, to commemorate the 50th anniversary since Epstein’s death.
We visited Vale Cemetary where he is buried, Rima at Hyde Park, 55 Broadway, St. James Tube, Zimbabwe House, Cavendish Square and the Fleming Collection.
Here are some images from the Epstein sculptures we saw: