Compton Verney’s 20 year Anniversary: 2024 Programme Announcement

Compton Verney’s 20 year Anniversary: 2024 Programme Announcement

For 20 years Compton Verney has been welcoming visitors to our extraordinary exhibitions, events and grounds, and in 2024 we will mark this exciting anniversary with our most wide-ranging and ambitious programme to date.

Simon Brettell Photography

The connection between landscape and creativity will take centre stage from March with the unveiling of a unique new sculpture park, alongside a comprehensive exhibitions programme. These exhibitions champion the work of women artists of the 20th and 21st centuries, including Louise Bourgeois, Paula Rego, Dora Carrington and more. The exhibitions programme will also include a major solo show by Chila Kumari Singh Burman, alongside an exhibition exploring the fascinating history of portrait miniatures from the 16th to the 19th century.

Compton Verney’s collections will be explored in new ways, as artist-in-residence Gayle Chong Kwan unveils new work realised in the context of the 20/20 Project, inspired by the collection of ancient Chinese bronzes, and the panels of an exquisite 16th century altarpiece are reunited. In addition, an important new acquisition which made national headlines earlier this year will be displayed for the first time.

Find out more about what’s coming in 2024 below.

Nic Deshaye

Compton Verney Sculpture in the Park

19 March 2024-2027

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A major new sculpture park will open in the grounds, with works by eight contemporary artists drawn from around the world, including an important new commission.

The grounds provide a unique landscape for artists to showcase their work; over 120 acres laid out by Lancelot ‘Capability’ Brown in 1768, featuring oak, ash and lime trees, wildflower meadows, a lake, bridges and plenty of wildlife. The grouping of the sculptures is inspired by the history and setting yet will also challenge the idea of the 18th century landscape design as a form of ‘utopia’. The sculptures bring new voices and perspectives into the historical landscape to imagine a more communal version of ‘utopia’ for the 21st century.

The sculpture park will include works from leading UK-based artists such as Sarah Lucas (b.1962), who often uses ordinary objects to challenge sex, class and gender (b.1962), Permindar Kaur (b.1965), who commonly uses domestic items to question the meaning of ”home”, and British-Ghanian artist Larry Achiampong (b.1984), whose work focuses on Pan African, future histories, speculative fiction and identity, both personal and communal. Work from international artists will also feature, including London-based French artist Nicolas Deshayes (b.1983) who explores organic and synthetic texture through his work, and Lithuanian artist Augustas Serapinas (b.1990), who draws on his country’s history and culture to produce works made from found material and borrowed objects.

Two legendary figures in sculpture will also have their work featured. On display will be works by French-American artist Louise Bourgeois (1911-2010), best known for her monumental spider sculptures that feature in galleries worldwide, and Turner Prize-nominated British artist Helen Chadwick (1953-1996), who created works investigating ideas of gender and the body.

A significant part of the sculpture park will be an ongoing series of invitations to artists to directly respond to our landscape at Compton Verney and produce and showcase work as a result. The first artist to do so, with a new commission, is Brazilian artist Erika Verzutti (b.1971), whose work can be found in major collections across the world.

Balthasar Nebot, The Allees and Arcades behind Hartwell House, Bucks, 1738, oil on canvas, Courtesy of Discover Bucks Museum.

Landscape and Imagination: From Gardens to Land Art

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21 March-16 June 2024

The first exhibition of the year will explore how artists, designers and architects have re-imagined the natural landscape from the late 16th century to modern times. It looks at how the human urge to create has impacted our relationship with landscape from the domestic garden to large-scale landscape interventions.

Compton Verney has undergone several such transformations over the centuries and is an ideal setting to focus on how artists have imagined and transformed the natural world around them.

Charting the evolution of art and landscape, from the formal gardens of the 17th century to the heyday of the land-art movement, the exhibition will also focus on artists’ gardens and those artists working with landscape today. They plant, shape the land and manipulate stone and water, just as 18th century designers, such as Capability Brown, did, but with an added consciousness of the fragility of the environment and the need to protect the earth’s resources, looking to the future of our relationship between creativity and landscape.

Guest curated by art historian Professor Christiana Payne, over 60 loans from collections across the UK, including artworks by JMW Turner, Nicolas Poussin, Henry Moore, Barbara Hepworth, Charles Jencks, Anya Gallaccio, and David Nash will be on display.

Paula Rego (1935-2022), ‘Ines de Castro’,2013, oil on canvas. © The Estate of Paula Rego.

A Spirit Inside

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21 March – 1 September 2024

An exhibition focusing on how women and non-binary artists have grappled with the notion and sense of ‘spirit’ will come to Compton Verney in the Spring.

It brings together two leading art collections, The Women’s Art Collection and The Ingram Collection, and will feature artists such as Dora Carrington, Paula Rego, Bridget Riley and Leonora Carrington. Spanning 100 years, the works on display will showcase a diversity of mediums including sculpture, paintings, film and collages.

The genesis of the exhibition stems from a 1920 letter that Dora Carrington wrote to a friend, neatly explaining her reluctance to marry: “To marry him would not make it any better, because one cannot change a spirit inside one”. Carrington’s Iris Tree on a Horse (c.1920s), a shining colourful picture of female resilience and rebellion, is the starting point of an exhibition that poses the question of what an inner spirit is and investigates how women artists have sought to investigate and celebrate it.

A version of this exhibition was first shown at the Lightbox in Woking during Autumn 2023.

Gayle Chong Kwan ‘Taotie’, 2024 (detail)..

The Taotie

21 March 2024 – March 2026

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After a 15-month residency at Compton Verney as part of the 20/20 project, led by the UAL Decolonising Arts Institute and supported by funding from Arts Council England, the Freelands Foundation and University of the Arts London, award-winning British artist Gayle Chong Kwan (b.1973), known for her large-scale installations on food and waste, reveals new work of nine photographic ‘shrines’ with miniature bronze and clay sculptures. 

Exploring resonance in collections, rituals, history, and contemporary locations, this ambitious show responds to the important Chinese Bronze and miniature portrait collections at Compton Verney. The work references diasporic rituals of sustenance and the x-rays of objects that determine the making and mending of histories, to highlight the politics and provenance of collections and museums.

The title of the exhibition refers to the motif of the taotie that would commonly be emblazoned on Shang Dynasty bronzes – mythical zoomorphic Chinese creatures that pivot between human and animal, earthly and heavenly, devouring monsters and spiritual protectors.

Gayle Chong Kwan features in each photograph wearing three-dimensional masks she has made entirely out of archival and historical images. Ranging in scale from intimate to overwhelming, they have been shot in contemporary locations that are implicated in the histories present in each mask. Gayle Chong Kwan will present The Taotie alongside Compton Verney’s internationally renowned collection of ancient Chinese Bronzes.

Franconian Master, The Lamentation of Christ with a Group of Donors, National Galleries of Scotland. Purchased with Art Fun.

Reunited: The Lamentation Altarpiece

19 March 2024 – January 2025

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Following a research project between the National Galleries of Scotland and Compton Verney, three works by a ‘Franconian Master’ will be reunited.

The Lamentation of Christ with a Group of Donors (1515), by an unknown painter active in Franconia (part of Bavaria), was originally the central panel of an altarpiece. It has long been thought that the wings would have been St Christopher carrying the Infant Christ and St George and the Dragon (both c.1515) from Compton Verney’s collection. The three had previously been part of a collection before their sale in 1993, and now will be reunited for the first time in over 30 years.

The central panel shows richly coloured imagery depicting Christ’s body being brought down from the cross, in front of Mary Magdalene and other holy figures. The donors of the altarpiece are shown wearing the golden regalia of a chivalric and religious order from Franconia, indicating the area which the painter was familiar with, while the imagery itself makes clear that the unknown artist was aware of famous contemporaries such as Albrecht Dürer and Lucas Cranach the Elder.

A new body of research and technical analysis will accompany the display, looking at the superb skill of the painting in detail, as well as offering further indications as to who the unknown painter could be.

Louise Bourgeois SPIDER, 1996 installed at Storm King Art Center, Mountainville, NY in 2007 Christopher Burke, © The Easton Foundation Licensed by DACS, UK

Louise Bourgeois ARTIST ROOMS

6 July – 6 October 2024

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This wide-ranging exhibition will celebrate the extraordinary versatility of one of the most influential artists of modern times, Louise Bourgeois (1911-2010). Presented in collaboration with ARTIST ROOMS, the exhibition brings together important loans from The Easton Foundation with a remarkable body of work from the national collections of ARTIST ROOMS, Tate and National Galleries of Scotland.

Comprising prints, drawings, paintings, sculptures and installations, it will explore recurring motifs within Bourgeois’ work including motherhood, the family, art as a means of release, cycles of time and nature and landscape as a metaphor for the body. Spilling out beyond our galleries, the exhibition will also feature a number of site-specific interventions. Key loans will be positioned within each of our permanent collections drawing out different facets of Bourgeois’ work, as well as sculptural interventions in the grounds where one of her iconic bronze Spider sculptures will be situated between the house and the lake.

Portrait Miniatures, 1550-1850

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21 September 2024 – Mid-March 2025

Co-curated with portrait miniatures specialist Emma Rutherford, this sumptuous exhibition will delve into the fascinating history of portrait miniatures. Compton Verney’s 72-strong Grantchester Miniatures collection will be displayed in its entirety for the first time, along with examples from the Dumas Egerton Trust collection of over 800 miniatures – on long-term loan – and key works loaned by individual collectors, providing visitors with a rare opportunity to view works by many of the leading miniature painters to have worked in Britain, from Isaac Oliver and Samuel Cooper to Richard Cosway and George Engleheart.

Highly personal works of art, portrait miniatures were often commissioned to mark key moments in peoples’ lives, and the exhibition will draw out some of the stories of the sitters represented. Miniatures also provide unique records of changing fashions across several centuries, from the elaborate lace ruffs of the late Elizabethan period to the colourful powdered wigs of the Georgian era, and the exhibition will also use items of costume from the collection of the Royal Shakespeare Company to demonstrate how miniatures would have been worn and viewed.

Chila Kumari Singh Burman, Mermaid, 2022, silicone neon. Courtesy the artist

Chila Kumari Singh Burman

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26 October 2024 – 1 March 2025

We are also excited to present a new solo exhibition by one of the leading contemporary artists working in the UK today – Chila Kumari Singh Burman MBE (b.1957).

Opening in the autumn, the exhibition will include a newly commissioned work, as well as recently made neons, sculptures and glass pieces which have not been shown in the UK before. Prints, drawings, paintings and installations created by Burman across her 40-year career will also be displayed, highlighting her great versatility and ongoing exploration of her Hindu Punjabi cultural identity, feminism and working-class upbringing in Liverpool.

The exhibition will be accompanied by a large-scale neon installation across the façade of the historic mansion at Compton Verney.

© Compton Verney

Allegorical Portrait of Two Ladies

Autumn

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Autumn will also see the unveiling of an important new acquisition when Allegorical Portrait of Two Ladies (c.1650s) goes on display for the first time.

Painted by an unknown artist, this 17th century depiction of a black woman and a white woman sitting alongside each other is extremely rare. The women are adorned with purposefully contrasting beauty patches which are criticised by the painter with an inscription condemning the use of these cosmetics as vain.

The picture was saved for the nation by Compton Verney after the UK Government placed an export ban on its sale. It was noted that the depiction of a black female sitter in a 1650s painting was “highly unusual”, and if it stayed in the UK, it could invite an “important debate about race and gender during the period”.

Following conservation work, it will become the centrepiece of an exhibition in Women’s Library that will explore race and morality in the 1650s.