Commissioned Artworks by David Batchelor and Richard Wentworth Unveiled for the Lyric Theatre, Hammersmith

5 May 2015 By
 Richard Wentworth, Twenty Two Small Signs for the Lyric, 2015. Photo – Joe Plommer
Richard Wentworth, Twenty Two Small Signs for the Lyric, 2015. Photo – Joe Plommer

As part of its multi-million capital development project, the Lyric Hammersmith has commissioned new artwork for the building by David Batchelor and Richard Wentworth.

Since the initial conception for the capital project there has been a strong desire to incorporate the work of contemporary artists. The theatre worked in collaboration with the Contemporary Art Society to select David Batchelor and Richard Wentworth CBE, working their artistic interventions into the new building. Both commissions have been managed and curated by the Contemporary Art Society on behalf of the Lyric.

David Batchelor and Richard Wentworth are two of the most eminent artists working in the UK today. Wentworth has been a leader in the New British Sculpture movement since the 1970s and Batchelor is internationally renowned for his focus on colour through sculpture, painting, photography and writing.

Inspired by the detail of the Lyric’s Victorian theatre, David Batchelor has created a neon work for the exterior of the building which plays with the forms and motifs of the theatre. At almost eight metres high, 19-20-21 sits on the façade facing Lyric Square creating a landmark new piece of public art for Hammersmith.

After getting to know the culture of the theatre and the area, Richard Wentworth has produced a series of signs drawing attention to the diverse field of theatrical terminology and its history. The signs will be placed in spaces that might otherwise go unnoticed and in this way, invite the viewer to engage with both the architectural container of the theatre and the discourse that goes on within and around it.

Jessica Hepburn, Executive Director of the Lyric Hammersmith said: It has been an absolute joy working with David and Richard and watching the worlds of art, architecture and theatre collide. I’m really excited about the commissions and am confident that they are going to delight and entertain our audiences as well as the wider local community. Maybe they will also generate a bit of heated discussion which is, after all, what great theatre – and visual art – should be about!

David Batchelor said: I have always been fascinated by the unique architectural form of the Lyric Theatre, in which a largely functional 20th century shell contains a sumptuously ornate 19th century interior. I was delighted to be asked to make a work that responds to this relationship by taking and adapting an element from the interior and locating it on the refurbished exterior of the theatre.

Richard Wentworth said: Visitors to Britain often describe us as ‘the island of little signs’. It’s the kind of thing you notice when you’ve been away for a while, a swift window into the contingency of our group behaviour. Often contradictory, sometimes interpersonal, occasionally officious, but always intended rather than extended. Becoming familiar with the Lyric theatre both as a lovely fable of survival, but also touched by the ambition of its present managers and players, I thought we could really tickle those corridors and leave mischievous signals in unlikely spots around the fabric of the new building. Twenty Two Small Signs for the Lyric suggests something very much bigger than their own modest material presence. What they come to mean is in the hands of the Lyric’s public, a genuine folkloric space.

Helen Nisbet, Art Consultant at the Contemporary Art Society said: The Lyric’s energy, ambition and openness provided the perfect environment for these major new commissions. The result is two works born absolutely out of the place, its history and unique culture, by two titans of the British contemporary art world.

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