The Grand Tour (Part 1): Nottingham Contemporary

The Grand Tour originally took place in the 17th – 19th centuries for rich travellers so they could become ‘cultured’. The tour took them across the globe, from England to Italy and Greece. For the modern day traveller however, this has been narrowed down to the much more accessible local region. The tour now utilises four popular arts venues in the East Midlands: The Nottingham Contemporary, The Harley Gallery (Nottinghamshire), Derby Museums, and Chatsworth House to showcase the best of culture and arts our region has to offer. It will be presented over two seasons, 4 July – 20 September 2015 and March – July 2016.

The first of the venues to explore, is the Nottingham Contemporary with its exhibition ‘Pablo Bronstein and the Treasures of Chatsworth.’ This exhibition seeks to explore the importance of historic architecture and the decorative arts by using a mix of contemporary works and representations by artist Pablo Bronstein, and some real treasures of the grand Chatsworth House (its largest UK loan for thirty years!)

The seemingly simple line drawings belie the skill of Bronstein.

Entering the first gallery – a vast space painted a dark midnight blue – the strangely distorted, and slightly disturbing, realisations of Chatsworth that fill the walls are hard to miss. A grand and intriguing collection of objects have been gathered together in the centre of the room enticing the visitor into the rest of the exhibition. The next room consists of a large, white temple-esque structure filled with a selection of Chatsworth’s finest silverware that is truly fantastic to see in all its glory. Gallery Two creates the impression of a panelled Ducal apartment, containing a variety of rich treasures including drawings by Inigo Jones and Rembrandt.

The final gallery consists of a large sequence of drawings by Bronstein, which are inspired by Rome’s Via Appia and surround the walls of the space. The seemingly simple line drawings belie the skill of Bronstein, and as one looks further the interesting perspectives and innovative use of colour become apparent, thus linking this gallery with the initial portrayals of Chatsworth House. More of Chatsworth’s immense collection are again displayed in this space, varying from stone sculptures to the grand coronation chairs of William IV and Queen Adelaide.

It was fantastic to have an insight into the artist’s mind as he was creating this exhibition.

A door leading into a small room off Gallery One, leads into what appears to be the Contemporary’s reading room – full of books about art, past programmes of exhibitions at the gallery, and those relating to the Grand Tour, which were particularly interesting to have a flick through. A recorded interview with Bronstein is on continual loop, and it was fantastic to have an insight into the artist’s mind as he was creating this exhibition.

It is also worth mentioning the exhibit in the Small Collections Room, by artist Jacqueline Bebb, ‘Then, if you are lucky, even you leave’, which is running until the 16th August. Documenting Bebb’s 2000 mile road-trip across America, she has created a three-dimensional portrayal of her time travelling, in the form of various chests with intriguing drawers and secret openings, which ties in perfectly with The Grand Tour theme.

Overall, the exhibit was of high quality and remarkably mesmerising, as were the facilities of the venue, which includes a café downstairs and a gift shop. An added bonus is that the Contemporary is free, although donations are welcome. For those of you in Nottingham over summer or back early before term begins – this is definitely a fun, free afternoon out.

Amy Wilcockson

This exhibit remains at Nottingham Contemporary until 20th September. For more information about The Grand Tour, see here.

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