Which exhibition or event are you most looking forward to in 2015, and why?
Inevitably, I am hugely looking forward to our own exhibitions at Compton Verney during 2015: from Canaletto: Celebrating Britain, which opens in March (and which I am curating), to this summer’s major blockbuster, The Art and Crafts House, which brings the Arts and Crafts legacy up to the present day — and this autumn’s exploration of art and chemistry, Periodic Tales, which will showcase a wide variety of fascinating work derived by leading contemporary artists from the elements of the periodic table.
Canaletto, The Grand Walk Vauxhall Gardens, London, 1751.
Compton Verney, Photograph by Prudence Cuming Associates Ltd
Further afield, I am eagerly awaiting the opening of the railway stations exhibition at the National Railway Museum in York, since it’s a subject on which I’ve published very recently (The English Railway Station). I just hope that my enthusiasm doesn’t tag me as a train-spotter!
English Railway Station by Steven Parissien
What do you predict will be the most significant development or biggest talking point in art in the year ahead, and why?
The biggest talking point for the British art world this year will, rather unavoidably, be the fallout from May’s General Election. Art galleries and museums across the country will be nervously awaiting the winners’ pronouncements on the levels of support and encouragement we can expect from a new government.
The key issue for the art world in 2015 and beyond is, surely, sustainability. The arts make such a fundamental – and relatively low-cost — contribution to our daily lives, our well-being, and our sense of individual and social identity, and it is heart breaking to see them being relentlessly eroded on spurious grounds of value or utility.
Which artist most excites you right now, and why?
At Compton Verney we’ve worked very successfully with the British sculptor Laura Ellen Bacon, whom I’m delighted to hear has been asked to create a new external piece for the Holburne Museum in Bath to complement our Canaletto exhibition, which tours there this summer.
Laura Ellen Bacon, Web Site, 2011.
Photograph by Andy Stammers. Courtesy of the artist
I’m also very much looking forward to the inspiring public works sculptor Martin Jennings will be working on this year – notably his statue of George Orwell for the BBC and the memorial to Mary Seacole destined for London’s St Thomas’s Hospital.
Tell us about a project that you are working on/ showcasing in 2015.
My exhibition, Canaletto: Celebrating Britain, explores the new sense of British identity that was being synthesised in the mid-18th century from a wide variety of influences from across European and Asia. A highly topical subject in this election year, it examines how the new-found wealth and assurance of the British nation was based on a liberal and expansive view of the nation’s place in Europe and the world. Together with the accompanying exhibition of Martin Parr’s photographs of Britain in the 1970s, The Non-Conformists, it offers a telling commentary on the nature and definition of ‘Britishness’.
View of Kelmscott © The Wilson, Cheltenham