Beauty and The Beast
National Trust - Stourhead  

A debate between the classical and contemporary. The National Trust at Stourhead presented its first major exhibition of contemporary sculpture in the 18th-century landscape garden in 2006. The show included five unique commissions, major works on loan from artists such as Elizabeth Frink and new work by Gavin Turk, created as a direct response to the theme. The exhibition, Beauty and the Beast, explored the aesthetic debate between classical and contemporary art. The landscape at Stourhead, with its temples and grotto set around a central lake was designed to make deliberate classical references. Often described as three-dimensional classical landscape painting, the garden provided a perfect backdrop for the show. The contemporary art was commissioned and selected with consideration for the art, history, nature and structure of Stourhead. The five unique commissions were direct responses to the classical landscape and included works and installations from engaging British artists such as Abigail Fallis and Kieran Brown. The development of the show in a world-famous landscape garden created debate between the exhibition curator and the National Trust where complex decisions had to be made about the relevance and positioning of each work. Peter Dickinson, the exhibition's curator, devised the concept and says the project is intended to be bold and challenging. "For some exponents of the classical, contemporary work is the beast, and for some contemporary fans, the classical is the beast. I am always bemused by artists that reject classicism as dead, no longer relevant and elitist. I am similarly stunned by those who reject contemporary art as decadent, skill-less and facile. These polarised points of view were intended to be challenged by this exhibition. Contemporary art in the classical environment, and the relationship of the differing aesthetics was the focus of the exhibition, with the work and its positioning, related to and inspired by Stourhead gardens, buildings and existing sculptures. Stourhead is hailed globally for its classical construction. This exhibition was an opportunity to look again with reawakened eyes and wonder at the unique, incredible landscape art. What is beauty? Why reject the ugly? Is beauty good? Is ugly corrupt? The public was invited to make up their own minds and contribute to the debate." The project also involved an artist in residence, Fiona Crisp in association with the British School at Rome. Additional links with the Holburne Museum of Art in Bath and a series of educational and public events were also part of the programme.

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Beauty and the Beast Stourhead National Trust




Barbara Ash

Fiona Crisp - artist in residence

Elisabeth Frink

Jeremy Turner

Abigail Fallis

Garry Martin

Boo Ritson

Deborah Jones

David Toop

Beth Carter

Kieran Brown

Gavin Turk

Keir Smith