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Going Public: Study Visit Review


Going Public is an ambitious city-wide exhibition in Sheffield that places work from private collections into public places. Five venues, Sheffield Cathedral, SIA, Site Gallery, Graves Gallery and The Millennium Gallery, selected work from collections owned by four of Europe’s most prestigious collectors – dslcollection, the Cattelain Collection, the Marzona Collection and the Sandretto Re Rebaudengo Collection. Prompting us to think about how great collections of the past have come about, and where will public art come from in the future, Going Public has stimulated debate around philanthropy, support for the arts and what it means for an artist when their work is purchased by a collector.

A group of OCA students from photography, textiles, drawing and painting courses attended a study day to view Going Public, thoroughly engaging in the far-reaching issues this exhibition raises. The lunchtime group discussion covered wide-ranging topics stimulated by the exhibitions, for example, the value of artworks, their place as commodity and the vagaries of collectors and collections. These debates did not always come down on the side of the positive where the artist is concerned. The works on display in Sheffield were given a public outing, and surely this will be reflected in their future value? What about works that are collected and never seen again? And if the collector should choose to sell a work and accept a lower price, then does that impact on the value and judgement of an artist’s entire oeuvre?

A wider argument was discussed in an article in Guardian online written by Hannah Ellis-Petersen¹, highlighting “The project also aims to have wider implications, both nationally and internationally, opening up discussion about the involvement of private collectors and investors in the future of public art”. Major public galleries and museums already work closely with private collectors. The now familiar, single artist, blockbuster show is often a feat of effective liaison and coordination to bring together works from different collections around the globe so they can be seen together. But for today’s artists works, less high profile at this moment in time yet none the less important in terms of creating examples of contemporary art, the blockbuster is some years off, making Petersen’s argument a powerful one.

Beyond the wider debates, the work in Going Public gave a real sense of each collector’s vision.  Site Gallery showed pieces from dslcollection, which focuses on contemporary art from Guangdong Province, China. The collection is built around the concepts of openness, the nomadic and a belief in sharing, all ideas central to the work of Cantonese artists. In the Millenium Gallery, space and architecture were effectively questioned in works by Sol LeWitt, Do Ho Suh, Dan Flavin and Anthony McCall, all owned by The Cattelain Collection.

For Sheffield Cathedral, involvement had greater risk attached, as the only non ‘white cube’ space in the project. OCA students were able to hear Cathedral Dean, Peter Bradley, speak about his choice of works for this location and the reasons behind pieces that might, to some, seem very provocative in an ecclesiastical setting.

His bold selection of work drawn from the collection of Patrizia Sandretto Re Rebaudengo, included Jake and Dinos Chapman’s Cyber Iconic Man, a blood dripping naked figure hanging upside down and the political tapestry of Goshka Macuga depicting the faces of the G20 leaders and boats full of refugees. The cathedral, a site of contemplation, scale and religious significance, effectively enhances both works.

Overall, Going Public was ideal for a study visit, there was literally something for everyone, with works of different media, scale and context. It is a thought provoking project and offers up a multi-layered presentation of the art world. The works are on display until 12 December 2015.


Posted by author: Caroline Wright
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