Hello all, the Archive Gallery is opening on the 15th of September and Bob has been really busy painting the walls of the space. See below for the films of weeks 2 & 3 of his residency. What’s next is that the cases will be installed in the next few weeks and we can begin to put the archive material alongside Bob’s fantastic wall pieces. I hope that you can make it along on the 15th, 6-8pm, free and all welcome.
Week 2 – Bob’s History of Art
Week 3 – Epstein’s Travels
A big few weeks for the Epstein Archive as we have been installing framed items from the archive in amongst the Garman Ryan Collcetion. We’ve done this to give the collection a bit more context and to embed the archive further into the gallery as a whole. In total, we have 10 items from the archive displayed alongside relevant works of art from the collection. What sparked this off was a fantastic little note in the archive from Sally Ryan to Kathleen Garman. Sally had just bought a Bonnard oil painting, La Seine a Vernon (The Seine at Vernon), and gave it to Kathleen as a gift, along with the hand delivered note that we still hold today. It was with this in mind that Jo Digger and myself sought out 9 more items from the archive that could complement the Garman Ryan Collection and we are really happy with the results.
So, from today – you’ll notice some cupboards on the walls on floors 1 and 2 of the gallery. The archive items are behind cupboard doors to give visitors a bit of the same feeling of discovery that I’ve had over the past 12 months. From a conservation point of view, the cupboards are great for protecting the material from light damage when they aren’t being viewed.
We also have a new introductory leaflet to the Garman Ryan Collection that reflects the inclusion of the Epstein Archive and shows the locations of all of the cupboards.
So, come along and let us know what you think…
Wow the archive gallery looks great. I am eager to see it in person.
It was wonderful last week to visit the Museum of Everything with Neil Lebeter and Jo Digger. We met James Brett the inspirational collector who made the Museum of Everything a reality. For those not in the know the Museum of Everything is an exhibition of what for want of a better term has been called ‘outsider art’. It’s been the smash hit of the autumn and it’s free. Its early days but I hope to collaborate with James on a project next year.
Later in the afternoon we visited the Wild Thing show at the Royal Academy. It was great to visit the show with Jo Digger who is so insightful about Epstein’s work. Jo went into a very detailed explanation of the drawings which lead up to the Rock Drill many of which suggest a kind of hybrid object involving all sorts of other elements including women and doves. After that Jo and Neil joined me at Beaconsfield, 22 Newport Street, where I have a show called This Artist is Deeply Dangerous.
I went to Chris Ofili’s show at Tate Britain last night. Ofili is an artist who is deeply interested in Art and culture that resides outside the mainstream. Ofili’s show is incredible. It made me think that in painting terms he is as powerful as Francis Bacon. He is way beyond any other painter around just now.
Followers of Museums and their Directors will note that Walsall’s Stephen Snoddy was pretty involved in Ofili’s early career.
10 years of the New Art Gallery Walsall is celebrated early next month with the exhibition ‘Party’. Neil and I will perform our play about Epstein using the puppet theatre and my band The Ken Ardley Playboys are going to play. Bring cotton wool for your ears. It’s good to reflect upon the importance of the Garman Ryan Collection and note that the whole New Art Gallery Walsall would never have existed but for the foresight of Kathleen Garman and her friend Sally Ryan and the gift of their collection to Walsall.
The Epstein Archive continues to take shape and cataloguing is going well. It has been a bit strange not having Bob here after working together quite closely for the first few weeks of the project. However, we stay in touch via email and this blog and will hit the ground running again in November.
As well as cataloguing, I have set up a Youtube account for the gallery to house the growing collection of films that we have made. As well as videos relating to the Epstein Archive, more films about all the exciting things that happen in the gallery will be added shortly. You can subscribe and be our friend by going to: www.youtube.com/user/newartgallerywalsall
One of the ongoing projects that we been discussing is the continual addition of displays in the Archive Room on the first floor of the gallery. Bob suggested that we add everything that is being displayed elsewhere in the gallery at present and in the future to this gallery to make a large collection of works inspired by the archive. Today, I got this process going by adding a display of Kathleen Garman’s handbag – I plan to rotate the contents of this case regularly in order to get as much of the archive on display as possible. Please remember, there are still some missing items from Kathleen’s handbag around Walsall and the surrounding area, so keep your eyes peeled! Go here for more info.
Finally, we welcomed a volunteer to the gallery last week, Jonathan, who is helping us enormously by transcribing some of the letters in the archive, which will be great for researchers, either in the gallery or online.
Great news about the Tea cup being returned. I think that was left quite far away. Do we have contacts for the returnees? I love this project.
I am concerned we might be wasting peoples time but somehow the whole process seems to echo the feeling of going through the Archive finding things ourselves; it’s very serendipitous and depends a lot on our attitudes as much as what more objectively is there.
Your find this week of the torn notes from Kathleen Garman’s calendar of the dates that Theo and Esther died are amazingly sad. These actual fragments of paper torn by their mother from a rolodex style calendar are easily enough to make you weep. They are the first step to the formation of a show in the archive devoted to those around Epstein who were perhaps the unwitting victims of his incredible single mindedness but also of the casual cruelty inflicted by parents on their children. Or perhaps it’s just that some young people need help and support to get through their twenties. This job of going through the Archive has made me think long and hard about parenthood. I have two children; I know I am guilty of not always being around for them, often because of commitments to do with art.
I really enjoyed our trip to the MLA so that I could get to grips with some of the issues surrounding archives. It was not as dry as I expected. The element of it that really interested me was when our teacher started telling us what to watch out for when letting people use archives. There were things I expected; people leaning on documents while eating sandwiches but what surprised me was that some people insert their own documents into archives. They do this to falsify history. Putting images of art works into catalogues to create a false provenance. I found this amusing because this is exactly what we are about to do in the Garman Ryan collection with our forgetful Lady Garman treasure hunt.
There is no way of telling if Kathleen Garman, Lady Epstein, was forgetful but she was certainly concerned that she could lose her address book. Inspired by the phrase ‘please return to Lady Epstein’ in her address book, Neil and I have littered Walsall with the contents of a fictional Lady Epstein Handbag.
If you find one of these objects please return it to Lady Garman, care of The New Art Gallery Walsall, and in return we will give you a personal tour of the Garman Ryan Collection and you will receive a free gift from the museum. In addition your returned object will form part of the new Garman Ryan Bob and Roberta index in the collection to be shown with all the other returned items in 2010. Happy Hunting.
We also made a film skilfully shot and edited by Neil of me as Lady Epstein dropping items out of my handbag. This was obviously a playful and irreverent homage to Kathleen Garman. However when I wore the costume which we had hastily devised I felt an awesome responsibility inhabiting the role. How did she walk? What kind of presence did she have? As we rifle through the papers relating to Kathleen it becomes clear she was a complex and not immediately likeable person. The last chapter in Cressida Connolly’s carefully researched book concerning the deaths of her children Ester and Theo makes her seem austere and distant. What do you think Neil will we find anything in the Archive to rehabilitate her in the light of more modern approaches to parenting?