The second display in a series of four Contemporary Art Society displays at the Whitechapel Gallery looking at the role of philanthropy in shaping public collections across the UK.
With works ranging from John Constable to Grayson Perry, this exhibition represents scenes of the English east coast from the past 200 years. Artworks consider the influence of technology and local art schools and are drawn from the collections of Contemporary Art Society member museums and galleries in the region.
The display’s title is taken from William Blake’s The Proverbs of Hell, from his illustrated poem The Marriage of Heaven and Hell (c 1789). A copy owned by poet Lord Alfred Tennyson is on show here, complemented by a recording of Tennyson’s written descriptions of the Lincolnshire countryside.
From the early Norwich Society of Artists (1803–1833) to the progressive Time-Based Art course in Hull during the 1990s, artists and students have looked to the local landscape to express their ideas. John Sell Cotman and Peter De Wint see it divided by landowners and industry in the 19th century, while Fran Cottell and Simon Poulter look at the privatisation of land during the Thatcher era. Their responses make a case for freedom of movement through use of medieval common land law and more recently an open source ‘creative commons’ culture online.
This display is part of the Whitechapel Gallery’s programme to open up public and private collections and is made in collaboration with the Contemporary Art Society and Curatorial Fellow Helen Kaplinsky, who is hosted by the Ferens Art Gallery, Hull. This year-long series of displays is supported by a major grant from Arts Council England.