Tag Archives: Belsay Castle

Trust New Art visits ‘Extraordinary Measures’ at Belsay Hall

21 Sep

Belsay Hall Castle and Gardens, owned and managed by English Heritage, is used to visitations from contemporary art. Judith King has been the independent curator working with English Heritage since 1996 developing their extensive exhibition programme at Belsay. The National Trust is also benefitting directly from Judith’s experience through her role on the Advisory Group to the Trust New Art programme.

Judith King speaking about the work of Slinkachu

Judith King speaking about the work of Slinkachu

The current exhibition ‘Extraordinary Measures‘ responds to the site through ideas of scale. That 58,000 people have already visited, and that the site has achieve its entire annual budgeted income in 6 months alone is testament to its success. To share the learning of the experience, a day conference was created.

The programme of the day included very useful in-depth and open accounts from Judith, as curator, then the project manager, the fundraiser, the outreach specialist, the educational specialist, and finally the operations manager. Essentially this was a ‘how to’ session about ‘Extraordinary Measures’ from start to finish. This reveals what an achievement it is to create such seamless interventions into historic landscapes and buildings with such strong impact – which ultimately will leave no trace after next week. It is clear that current and future trends in public and corporate support for the arts may well have an impact on what Belsay can do in the future. We wish them well!

Castle at Belsay Hall

Castle at Belsay Hall

I was pleased to see National Trust colleagues from the East Midlands regional team, Kedleston Hall (Derbyshire), Mottisfont Abbey (Hampshire), Wallington Hall (Northumberland) and Cragside (Northumberland) attending the day. In fact, there are other training opportunities for staff through upcoming events with Museumaker and the Crafts Council as well, and the East Midlands took several of our curators to see the Tatton Biennial last week.

Walking through the work of Mariele Neudecker

Walking through the work of Mariele Neudecker

The impact of the work at Belsay is a testament to its careful curation: there is a blend of lesser and better known names, but the quality is always high. The placement within the site is well considered to respond to or resonate with (or against) the historic context.

Slinkachu at Belsay

Slinkachu at Belsay

The work of Slinkachu has been seen most in the world of advertising. Tiny, centimetre-high models, are given life through staged scenes. The artist records this in a photograph – and then abandons them to their fate. Ephemeral, captivating, beautiful. This was his first rural project.

Mariele Neudecker, 'From Here to There is Not That Far'

Mariele Neudecker, 'From Here to There is Not That Far'

At the other end of the scale, Mariele Neudecker’s work dwarfs the people that walk through it, enclosing the open quarry garden entrance. The added reflective film creates a mirror to the light and sound within this space.

Scalesdale by MGA

Scalesdale by MGA

Scalesdale is an interactive project commissioned for the exhibition from architects MGA. Starting out as a bare board with the glowing castle and outbuildings (see image below), visitors were asked to vote on improvements to the settlement. Over the months of the exhibition, a democratically-determined conurbation has grown up. It works as a playful modely village, but also explores the real large-scale concerns of urban development that affect us all.

Scalesdale by MGA

Scalesdale by MGA

It is not possible to show you images of the works by Ron Mueck and ‘The Garden of Unearthly Delights’ by Mat Collishaw owing to copyright issues – but see here for images. Both are good artists, and the work fits well into the exhibitions.

The fabulous work of Tessa Farmer is well worth seeing, and her dark video piece ‘Den of Iniquity’ (a collaboration with Sean Daniels) marks a new area of work for her that has much potential.

Thanks to Judith and her colleagues for a very stimulating day, and the warm welcome we had. The work at Belsay has set the standardfor work of this kind.

Tom Freshwater

Contemporary Arts Programme Manager, National Trust

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