This summer Abbot Hall will play host to the first major exhibition of Ben Nicholson in the UK for over fourteen years. Curated by Chris Stephens, Head of Displays at Tate Britain and a leading expert on the art of St Ives from the 1940s-60s, it will focus on the artist’s years in Britain from 1922 to 1958. Past exhibitions have concentrated on Nicholson’s evolution of his international modernist style, and the cool reliefs he produced after he emigrated to Switzerland in 1958. However, this new presentation will highlight those periods that such earlier exhibitions have marginalised. While representing Nicholson’s internationalism, this exhibition will set that wider perspective alongside his approaches to the English landscape, and will reveal a view of Ben Nicholson quite different from the established one.
This exciting project has evolved through a unique collaboration between Tate St Ives, Abbot Hall Art Gallery and De La Warr Pavilion, Bexhill, and the exhibition will have its first showing in Kendal from 7 July to 20 September 2008, before travelling to Bexhill at the end of the year, and then to St Ives at the beginning of 2009. However, the exhibition is not simply a touring display in the conventional sense. Crucially, for such a high profile exhibition, it will not have a London showing, and indeed one of the central ideas behind the project is to link the evolution of the exhibition to the regions in which it is to be displayed.
Each of the three venues has a particular relevance to Ben Nicholson: Kendal, of course, is close to the Cumberland home he shared with his first wife; the architecture of the De La Warr Pavilion was the product of the international Modern movement to which he was central; St. Ives was seminal to Nicholson’s art, and his home for nineteen years. Each venue will draw out these regional connections through the exhibition interpretation as well as associated events and activities, and there will be changing archive materials at each venue to create an evolving display which will reach out to local audiences throughout its duration.