The exhibition is a collaboration between Nunnington Hall – renowned for its regular programme of art and photographic exhibitions previously in its exhibition gallery – and the Arts Council Collection team based near Wakefield.
The leading artists whose work will be exhibited include Tracey Emin, Yoko Ono, Sarah Lucas, Grayson Perry, Mark Wallinger, Lisa Cheung, Victoria Hall and one of this year’s Turner prize nominees, Lucy Skaer.
In each room of Nunnington Hall, formerly the home of the Fife family until the 1950s, an original piece of furniture, ceramic, textile or accessory has been temporarily removed to make way for a contemporary artwork.
Each contemporary work is different but all are connected through similar themes such as family, identity, childhood and the passing of time.
The rooms and artworks chosen for Past Present include:
The Dining Room – ‘Willy’ (2000), by Sarah Lucas
Sarah Lucas has glued Marlboro Lights cigarettes onto the surface of a plastic garden gnome, producing a combination of innocent ornament, sexual title and harmful tobacco to convey a dark humour. This piece is shown within the setting of the rich, dark-green panelled room which served as Colonel Fife’s smoking room in the 1920s.
The Drawing Room – ‘All White Chess Set’ (1962-1970), by Yoko Ono
Conceived as a pacifist statement, particularly taken in context of the Vietnam War, Yoko Ono’s chess piece opponents sit on each side of an all-white board, making the warring factions indistinguishable from one another. The homely Drawing Room at Nunnington was where Margaret Fife and her family would relax and play games.
Mrs Fife’s Bedroom – ‘The Simple Truth’, (1995), by Tracey Emin
In wool, cotton and felt, Tracey Emin created a bedcover which was originally not intended as a work for display but to serve as a bedspread in her hotel room. At the time it was made it reflected her feelings about America, mining the archive of her life story. It is displayed on the antique four-poster bed in what was used as Nunnington’s principal bedroom.
The Panelled Bedroom – ‘Leonora’ (The Tyrant), (2006), by Lucy Skaer
An oak table inlaid with mother of pearl, in the image of a pair of grasping hands, is displayed in Nunnington’s ‘haunted’ bedroom, which contains an adjacent oratory that was used for payers. Lucy Skaer’s work explores time, mortality, photographic imagery, history and chaos and is part of a series of pieces focused on Surrealist artist Leonora Carrington and the name of a Tarot card.
The Large Exhibition Room – ‘Family Tree 1’ (1995), by Victoria Hall
Exploring the theme of memory through family photographs, a fishing line depicts photographs and text as a substitute for names and dates in a family tree. When lit, the images are projected onto the wall behind and are not about any one particular family but provide a formula that could be applied to any family.
Annabelle Coaten, Visitor Services Manager at Nunnington Hall, said:
‘Set against a historic backdrop, it is not immediately obvious what is a modern addition and what is an older part of the house’s existing collection. We hope this show is really going to challenge people’s preconceptions of what to expect.’
Past Present is among the first initiatives in a new relationship between Arts Council England and the National Trust, aimed at promoting contemporary arts and crafts in historic properties. It runs at Nunnington Hall, near York, from Tuesday 22 September until Sunday 1 November. For opening times, admission charges and further details telephone Nunnington Hall (01439) 748283.