Firstly. Sorry for the past week’s radio silence. Secondly. Yes, thank you for asking, I had a lovely vacation. My travels took me back to the north of England, and to Chatsworth House, the imposing stately home that was both the inspiration for Jane Austen’s Pemberley and the location for a recent film version of Pride and Prejudice. The whole area is all pots of tea and scones all round, terribly British, terribly proper. And yet. What’s that in the middle of one of Chatsworth’s extensive, manicured lawns? A Marc Quinn sculpture, you say? Of model Kate Moss doing some rather extreme yoga? My my. And over there… a Damien Hirst sculpture. Not his diamond encrusted skull, or, indeed, his decaying shark, but his 33 foot depiction of a naked, pregnant woman, entitled The Virgin Mother. Crumbs. Turns out, these provocative pieces are all a part of Beyond Limits, a selling exhibition organized by Sotheby’s (of which Chatsworth’s owner, the Duke of Devonshire, also happens to be Deputy Chairman). And it’s all entirely not what you’d expect from a fusty old stately home in the middle of England’s Peak District. More details after the jump.
This is actually the second year of the show, which places modern works by the likes of Quinn and Hirst among all the older, more traditional pieces visitors to Chatsworth might expect to see. It's a really interesting juxtaposition of old and new -- and it's also caused more than a few ruffled feathers among scandalized, more traditionally minded locals and visitors. But to me it seems like a smart move. British royalty is rarely lauded for forward thinking, but in this instance Chatsworth leverages its connections with Sotheby's and takes a step out of the past; visitors get to see rare contemporary pieces in an extraordinarily beautiful setting (last year, Robert Indiana's LOVE sculpture was placed half way up the Cascade water feature) while the artists themselves enjoy a patronage they must have feared long gone (the pieces by both Quinn and the Israeli installation artist, Michal Rovner, were commissioned specifically). And while Sotheby's won't release details about prices, you can be sure that they wouldn't have come back for more if first time round had been, pardon the pun, a bust, deputy chairman or no deputy chairman.
The exhibition also features work by design and architecture world favorites including Zaha Hadid, Ron Arad and the Campana brothers, whose steel, felt, carpet and rubber "Harumaki" bench nestles quietly in the undergrowth. The exhibit officially opens on September 8 and runs until Chatsworth closes for the winter, on November 4. Last year, visitors to the garden were apparently up 80%, many of whom I'm sure took advantage of the delightful cream teas available for a small fortune from the various onsite cafes.
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