Petworth’s newest art gallery goes online with curtailed exhibition
Petworth’s newest art gallery Newlands House opened to great acclaim on March 6.
Just a couple of weeks later, it was forced to close by the coronavirus pandemic – a closure which came with no possibility of knowing when it might re-open.
But as the gallery – a Georgian townhouse in the centre of the town – switches its attentions online for the foreseeable future, at least artistic director Simon de Pury can take with him the satisfaction that it more than confirmed its viability in the short while it was able to open physically.
Closure was obviously a big disappointment: “But I was very happy that the gallery did get the chance to open for three weeks before the health deadlines were given out. We were able to see that the exhibition was extremely well received by the people that did get the chance to visit it. and we were really able to see that the building lent itself very well to being an art gallery.”
Simon, a leading art world auctioneer, was introduced to Petworth by friends last summer: “I had never been there before, but I did and I was immediately under the charm of the Petworth and also the whole beauty of the landscape. I visited Petworth House and was under the charm of the collection there. It is a really astonishing collection. Subsequently, just a few weeks later, I conducted an auction at Goodwood, inside the Rolls Royce factory and raised money into research against allergies in children. And again I had the chance in rapid succession to drive through the area. I was even more enchanted the second time.
“When I heard my friends (Newlands House owners Khalid Al Tajir and Nicola Jones) were toying with the idea of transforming Newlands House into a cultural centre, they asked me if I would be able to put together a programme of exhibitions that were focused on contemporary arts, photography, design and contemporary culture.
“Given the fact that 2020 is the centennial year of Helmut Newton’s birth, I thought it would be an idea to put together an exhibition showing facets of his genius so that this could be a tribute exhibition to him.”
The digital version of the exhibition is live on the Newlands House Instagram account https://www.instagram.com/newlands.house.gallery/?hl=en – a hundred works by “one of the world’s greatest photographers of the 20th century.”
“You never know what something will look like until you see it, but I must say that I was very happy with the outcome, and the whole thing was confirmation that Newlands House lends itself very well.
“When you visit an art gallery, usually you have got large square white rooms, but Newlands House dates from the 18th century and you have got larger rooms and smaller rooms and the whole place gives you much more of a feeling of being in a private home. You can experience art in a much more intimate way than you do in museums or large institutions. The more intimate surroundings give a much better experience.
“The other intention was to organise regular talks, like around the chimney fire where we could discuss things relating to the exhibition, but in a very informal setting. That really attracted me. The exhibition is still hanging, but sadly access to it has not been possible. But we have now decided to do an online presentation of the exhibition at Newlands House.”
Whether the gallery will reopen with the same exhibition when reopening finally comes is impossible to say for the moment.
“We will have to check with the lenders of the works whether they are prepared to lend them for a longer period. But we will also have subsequent exhibitions. In an ideal world, we would be looking to have up to four exhibitions a year.”
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