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Chatsworth’s – Art Out Loud Festival 2015

August 24, 2015

ArtsBooksGroup ExhibitionSculpture | by Harry Seymour


Also known as ‘The Palace of the Peaks’, Chatsworth House in Derbyshire, home of the Duke and Duchess of Devonshire, is undoubtedly one of the country’s best-known and best-loved country houses. For many Londoners, however, making the trek to the Peak District can seem a bit much. A new event in Chatsworth’s programming this year might just change their minds: The Chatsworth Festival – Art Out Loud is a brand new art-themed literary festival premiering September 18th-20th on the Chatsworth grounds. It promises an exciting line-up of speakers from across the art world. Candid met with the Festival Director, Sheron Reynolds, to find out more about the inspiration for this event and what art and literature lovers can expect from the weekend.

Reynolds, who lives in Edensor, a village that is part of the Chatsworth Estate, was inspired to organise this festival by the Duke and Duchess of Devonshire’s love of contemporary art, and the wonderful historical collection held at Chatsworth. “As far as we know,” says Reynolds, “and I have done as much research on this as I possibly can, this is the first ever literary festival devoted to art. I think that is what makes it unique and special, and that has been driven by the Duke and Duchess’s passion for art. It wouldn’t have come about other than because they wanted to do something that was part and parcel of what they are doing at Chatsworth as far as art is concerned.”

The Duke and Duchess of Devonshire are known for their collecting. The Duke in particular is an avid collector of contemporary sculpture, though they both also collect British painting and works on paper. “The Duke really believes that all collecting was contemporary in its time,” Reynolds says. This philosophy gives Chatsworth a unique place within the British art world, both as a well-preserved country house with a historic collection, and as an exhibition venue, real weight in the contemporary art scene. “The Duke sees all of Chatsworth as a work of art in its own right,” Reynolds continues, meaning that his ancestors’ collections, his purchases, the building itself, the gardens and parkland are all part of one curated vision.

Royal Academician Conrad Shawcross in front of “The Dappled Light of the Sun”, 2015. Photograph copyright Benedict Johnson
Royal Academician Conrad Shawcross in front of “The Dappled Light of the Sun”, 2015. Photograph copyright Benedict Johnson

The history of the Chatsworth collection and the Duke’s collecting practice are both aspects that will be explored during the festival. Helen Rosslyn, Director of the London Original Print Fair and Trustee of the medieval Rosslyn Chapel, will explore the prints and drawings collection at Chatsworth, while Rachel Campbell-Johnston, Chief Art Critic for The Times will interview the Duke of Devonshire about his parents’ efforts to save the house and make it self-sustaining, his collecting practice, and the ambitious exhibition and education programming at Chatsworth. Allison Yarrington and Matthew Hirst will discuss the sculpture collection at Chatsworth, including the major renovation of the house’s sculpture gallery in 2009.

As Reynolds sees it, these lectures about the Chatsworth collection fit into the three-part theme of Art Out Loud. “Art Out Loud is about talking about art, saying it out loud. The tag line is ‘Talks by art’s makers, curators and writers.” The Duke of Devonshire falls under the ‘curators’ heading. ‘Art’s makers’ refers to the artists (and scholars who study them) who will be speaking about their artistic practice and the contemporary art world. Highlights from this section of the programme include the ubiquitous and much-loved Grayson Perry, who will discuss the art historical influences that have affected his own work. Michael Craig-Martin, artist and guest curator of this year’s Summer Exhibition at the Royal Academy, will be in conversation with Lady Burlington about his 2014 exhibition at Chatsworth, his books and the ground-breaking digital portrait he made of her in 2011. Painter Jonathan Yeo will also be discussing contemporary trends in portraiture.

Chatsworth House, home to Art Out Loud Festival 2015
Chatsworth House, home to Art Out Loud Festival 2015

As for the ‘writers’ in the tag line, authors such as Hannah Rothschild, recently appointed Chair of the Trustees at the National Gallery, and the novelist Esther Freud will discuss their latest art-related novels. Will Gompertz, BBC Arts Editor, will present his new book How to Think Like an Artist, which explores the methods used by artists to achieve great creative output.

We asked Reynolds for her top three recommendations for Candid readers. “I think they might be interested in attending Philip Hook’s talk. It’s based on his new book Breakfast at Sotheby’s: An A-Z of the Art World and he’ll be presenting his top ten tips on collecting painting. That would be a great talk for any young collector and he is really witty and irreverent about the art world.” Her other recommendations included Jonathan Ruffer, whom Reynolds described as ‘charismatic’ and ‘passionate’, who will discuss his remarkable work to save Auckland Castle and its collection, which has led to the regeneration of an entire area in the north of England, and the talks by younger artists such as Pablo Bronstein, Joseph Walsh and Kevin Francis Gray, all of whom will be discussing their art practice and influences – an interesting topic for aspiring artists and collectors.

The biggest headliner of the festival though is Conrad Shawcross, the youngest living Academician and the artist behind the monumental sculpture displayed in the courtyard of the RA during this year’s summer exhibition. Shawcross will appear in conversation with Tim Marlow, Artistic Director of the Royal Academy, and will discuss his recent success there, as well as his inspiration and influences, which include mathematics and logic. His participation in the festival, kept secret until last Thursday, is a notable addition to this impressive line up and demonstrates that Chatsworth does indeed have its finger on the pulse of the contemporary British art world.

The Chatsworth Festival – Art Out Loud is designed to coincide with the exhibition Beyond Limits: The Landscape of British Sculpture 1950-2015, Sotheby’s 10th annual outdoor sculpture exhibition held at Chatsworth. A modified version of Shawcross’s ‘The Dappled Light of the Sun’ will feature in the exhibition, alongside thirty other works by leading British sculptors. A ticket to any of the festival talks includes admission to the gardens and the Beyond Limits exhibition. Reynolds pointed out the fantastic opportunity this provides to those travelling to Chatsworth for the festival, “visitors will be able to hear Shawcross speak about the process of making this sculpture, his inspiration, and then actually go see it before their next talk!” Similarly, Pablo Bronstein has an exhibition inside the house, which festival-goers can visit at a reduced price.

So, if you’re an urban art lover, why not plan a day in the country and be part of the first ever Chatsworth Festival – Art Out Loud? Chatsworth is an easy train journey from London and purchase of tickets to one or more talks grants you free entry into the gardens and Beyond Limits exhibition. You can also upgrade your ticket to visit the house and interior exhibitions. This is a unique opportunity to see such a mix of art world heavy-hitters under one roof. If you cannot make it this year, not to worry, Reynolds is already planning Art Out Loud 2016: “we are just sorting out dates now. We plan to grow with an even more adventurous and experimental programme, including more young and female artist, and even workshops.”

By Helena Anderson

The Chatsworth Festival – Art Out Loud runs from September 18-20, 2015. For more information or to purchase tickets, please visit http://www.chatsworth.org/attractions-and-events/events/chatsworth-festival/