Towner Art Gallery’s new Director Joe Hill curates a personal response to the gallery’s renowned collection in the first of a series of new collection displays, opening this Saturday (January 26).
His diverse selection spans a period of 100 years and rather than presenting a themed selection, the director aims to examine how the selection process itself can further an individual’s understanding of place, perception and aspiration through its collections.
The title for the show is taken from a Francis Bacon painting that belongs to Joe’s home town, the former mining and textiles community of Batley in West Yorkshire. The town currently sits in the top ten per cent of the most deprived communities in England and Wales. Bacon’s Figure Study II is on long-term loan to the National Museum of Scotland and the painting has not been shown in the town in Joe’s lifetime.
Joe said: “The loss of Batley’s gallery in the early 1980s to a now derelict shopping centre means that it is unlikely the town’s residents will have an opportunity to see the collection or know of its existence.
“I only became aware of the provenance of the painting whilst installing it an exhibition at Camden Arts Centre, London in 2010.
“I’m interested in understanding how this collection could have played a role in developing a new post-industrial identity for the area and contributed to the aspiration and sense of pride amongst its younger population.
“It has left me feeling strongly that public collections have an important role to play in developing this sense of place and identity. During my time at Towner, the team and I would like the people of Eastbourne and the surrounding area to have an opportunity to get to know their collection through a series of new displays selected by a range of invited guests and groups.”
The exhibition includes work by artists such as Eileen Cooper, Holly Downing, Elisabeth Frink and Richard Hamilton.