artist / participant
This summer, Nottingham Contemporary presents an exhibition of works of fine and decorative art from the Devonshire Collection selected by Pablo Bronstein, shown within and amongst new work he has made for the occasion. It is Chatsworth's largest UK loan in 30 years.
At the same time Chatsworth will present a survey of Bronstein's drawings, together with a large new drawing he will create for their Old Masters Drawings Cabinet, which on this occasion will feature 17th- and 18th-century architectural drawings from the Devonshire Collection he has selected.
Bronstein's work is steeped in a fascination with historical European design and architecture. The English Baroque, of which Chatsworth is an exemplar, is a particular interest. Chatsworth House, designed by William Talman, the seat of the Duke of Devonshire, is considered the earliest Baroque private house in England. The Devonshire Collection, housed at Chatsworth, includes many paintings, drawings, furniture and other decorative works of art from this period.
Bronstein's drawings and works in other media have a strong narrative sense, even when they are without human figures. Buildings and furniture become protagonists in ambivalent social dramas that foreground architecture's continuing role in conveying status, wealth and power. In the Baroque, that most theatrical of styles, this often downplayed or sublimated aspect of architecture is flagrantly on view.
Amongst the 60 or so objects Bronstein has selected for the exhibition at Nottingham Contemporary are drawings by Durer, Rembrandt and Carracci, a portrait painting by Frans Hals, a wood carving by Grinling Gibbons, and the coronation chairs of William IV and Queen Adelaide. Other objects will often be grouped by type within Bronstein scenographies that will imbue history with fiction. A mountain of ornate silverware will appear infinitely multiplied within the entirely mirrored interior of a neo-classical temple. A group of Delft earthenware towers for tulips will be presented in an artist-designed vitrine nearby. Furniture by William Kent and André-Charles Boulle will appear in a gallery entirely lined by a digitally rendered, polychromatic wallpaper. This will depict rotating facets of the original house, reminiscent of the geometries of a wall drawing by Sol LeWitt.
Roman marble fragments will be surrounded by Bronstein's largest drawing to date, framed in 18 sections: a fantasy of the Via Appia, lined with the tombs of grandees, situated at the last gasp of the Roman Empire c600 AD. Fantasies of the Via Appia were a common theme of capriccios of artists of the Baroque period, such as Piranesi, at a time when many wealthy young British men began making "grand tours" of the European continent, culminating in Italy. Objects in this room include a giant foot once belonging to a colossal Roman statue.
The two exhibitions are Nottingham Contemporary's and Chatsworth's contributions to the first season of The Grand Tour, part of the joint Cultural Destinations programme from Arts Council England and VisitEngland. The Grand Tour is a partnership between Chatsworth, Derby Museums, The Harley Gallery and Nottingham Contemporary with Experience Nottinghamshire, Visit Peak District & Derbyshire and a fringe programme at other leading venues across the two counties. The project brings together leading international visual artists—Peter Blake, Rose English, Rem Koolhaas / OMA and Simon Starling—with great collections and architecture in Derbyshire and Nottinghamshire.
Pablo Bronstein, born in Argentina in 1977, lives in London and Deal in Kent. He has had solo exhibitions at The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, 2009; Kunsthal Charlottenborg, Copenhagen, 2011; ICA, London, 2011; Centre d'Art Contemporain, Geneva, 2013; REDCAT, Los Angeles, 2014; and The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, 2015.