The best of the Arts Council Collection arrives in Yorkshire

A new touring exhibition showcasing the best of the Arts Council Collection gets its premiere in Yorkshire. Grace Hammond takes a look at the highlights.

A major new touring exhibition opens at the Yorkshire Sculpture Park’s Longside Gallery next week. Night in the Museum brings together more than 30 works selected by leading British artist Ryan Gander from the Arts Council Collection as part of its 70th anniversary celebrations.

Works on display in Night in the Museum will include pieces by artists including Roger Hiorns, Henry Moore, Angela Bulloch, Jacob Epstein, Ben Nicholson, Kerry Stewart and Wolfgang Tillmans.

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The exhibition will also include a new commission by Gander As old as time itself, slept alone, the latest in a significant series of sculpture in which Gander reimagines Edgar Degas’ famous work The Little Fourteen-Year-Old Dancer (1889-81) in different scenarios and stages of life.

Employing the traditions of figurative sculpture to create a contemporary conceptual artwork, in Gander’s piece a diminutive dancer – similar in size to those made by Degas – sleeps on the floor in front of a large blue cube.

Gander made his selection for the show from the Arts Council collection’s 8,000 works of British art in a range of media, most of which were acquired from young and emerging UK-based artists over the past 70 years.

He has chosen objects that forge unlikely correspondences and connections. Looking through the figurative sculpture collection, he has selected those which appear to be involved in the act of looking and has presented them so that they seem to gaze at works featuring the colour blue, a colour important in his own work and which for him represents the abstract ideas often found in modern and contemporary art.

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Gander’s approach offers a fresh perspective on the Collection and on modern and contemporary British art, challenging traditional methods of curation as well as the role of the art object and the spectator.

“There is something about switching the roles of the spectator and the spectacle that is fascinating,” says Gander. “When I look at sculptures of the human figure I am frequently left thinking of all the things that they’ve seen: the visitors to the museum, school children and art students attempting to earnestly recreate them in pastels and charcoal, the other artworks that surround them, artists and technicians installing, their maker perhaps, discreetly calling in on them with proud eyes. This is the world of the silent onlooker.”

After launching at the YSP, the exhibition will go on tour to other venues around the UK throughout 2016 and 2017.

“Ryan Gander is one of the most innovative and exciting artists working in the UK today and we are delighted that he has accepted our invitation to curate an exhibition,” says Jill Constantine, head of the Arts Council Collection.  “This show, which is not only visually stunning, will be enjoyed by the many visitors who will see it in different venues across the country, but will also introduce us to new ways of looking at contemporary art.”

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Night in the Museum: Ryan Gander curates the Arts Council Collection is at the Longside Gallery, Yorkshire Sculpture Park, July 16-October 16.

Ryan Gander will be in conversation with Francesco Manacorda, artistic director of Tate Liverpool on July 14.

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