Newer posts are loading.
You are at the newest post.
Click here to check if anything new just came in.

December 15 2011

Lord Byron takes pride of place at art show curated by Simon Schama

Historian requisitions paintings from British embassies around the world for his Travelling Light show at Whitechapel Gallery

A smouldering Lord Byron, dressed in ostentatious Albanian gear, looms large in a new show curated by the historian Simon Schama, who can't hide his enthusiasm for it. "It is utterly wonderful," he said. "The ultimate undergraduate gap year vanity."

The 1814 Byron portrait by Thomas Phillips normally hangs in the residence of the UK ambassador to Greece in Athens but has been requisitioned for the latest display of works from the Government Art Collection.

Schama is the third guest curator let loose on a collection of almost 14,000 works of art, personally choosing work which goes on display to the public on Friday at the Whitechapel Gallery in London.

He said putting the exhibition together had been great fun. "When I was a small boy I used to be wheeled into Woolworths in my pram and I remember one of the first thoughts I had in my life was, do I nick the barley sugar canes first, or do I go for the humbugs? I really do feel like a kid in a sweetshop again."

Schama has called his exhibition Travelling Light, and explores the idea of Britain as a nation of explorers. Hence his choice of the Byron portrait as well as works such as Edward Lear's View of Beirut and Vanessa Bell's portrait of a woman as Byzantine Lady.

He also chose works by artists he knew and liked, such as Howard Hodgkin, Peter Liversidge, Roger Hilton and Tacita Dean, and came across work which won him over by artists he was unfamiliar with, such as Rachel Lowe and Hurvin Anderson, whose large work Peter's 1 – showing a barber's shop set up in someone's home – normally hangs over guests at functions in 11 Downing Street.

Other work has travelled from embassies in Tel Aviv, Cairo and Copenhagen. Schama admitted a certain intoxication to be had from "demanding them from embassies and cabinet ministers – how much fun is that! It is like liberating art for the people".

The Government Art Collection has been buying art works for the nation for 113 years, although spending cuts mean it is not doing so for two years – the first time it has stopped collecting since the second world war. The next and final GAC show at the Whitechapel will be chosen by staff at 10 Downing Street.

Travelling Light, Whitechapel Gallery until 26 February. © 2011 Guardian News and Media Limited or its affiliated companies. All rights reserved. | Use of this content is subject to our Terms & Conditions | More Feeds

No Soup for you

Don't be the product, buy the product!

YES, I want to SOUP ●UP for ...