In the first of what will become a major cultural event for Harewood House every other year, the focus of the first Harewood Biennial will be arts and crafts, with curators aiming to challenge preconceptions, spark interest and inspire debate about the role craft can play in culture, identity and society.
Useful/Beautiful: Why Craft Matters will feature 26 exhibitors, five of whom are based in Yorkshire, at a time when everywhere from the pub and the supermarket to the catwalk has had a surge of interest in all things craft.
Each of the artists, including distinguished names such as Wakefield-based paper artist and illustrator Andy Singleton, Sheffield-born ceramicist Lena Peters and Whitby glass maker, Effie Burns, have been invited to interpret a different room of the historic house - which itself is renowned for the craftsmanship that built and furnished it in the 18th century.
Right from its very planning stages in the 1750s, Harewood used only the most skilled architects, designers and makers of the time, including that of Thomas Chippendale, Robert Adam and Capability Brown.
“This is one of our most ambitious projects to date,” said Jane Marriott, Harewood House Trust Director.
“Together with a wider programme of workshops, demonstrations, symposia and events, Useful/Beautiful will be a fully immersive and visually striking exhibition for the first six months of our season, across all rooms in the House and extending outside, offering a vibrant and playful new perspective and experience for visitors.”
Also among the designers taking part in Useful/Beautiful will be Welsh sustainable denim-makers Hiut Denim, whose jeans are worn by Meghan Markle, and the Emily Blunt-sporting Fox Umbrellas.
The name for the exhibition comes from a quote by the famous British textile designer William Morris: “Have nothing in your house that you do not know to be useful, or believe to be beautiful.”
Curated by design critic Hugo Macdonald, the exhibition crosses generations and disciplines, mixes classic and contemporary and uses Harewood House as a platform to showcase and question the very definition of skill and craft today.
There will also be three exciting new commissions for Harewood by renowned British designers, each showcasing craftsmanship in a different way and specific to the House.