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The 2021 Model Art Gallery
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In spring 2020 the Gallery closed its doors due to the emerging public health crisis. As the world shrank to the interiors of our houses , we began a new artistic project that questioned the impact of scale on a work of art. Does size alter how we create and view art?
Our director, Simon Martin, reveals the origins of our new model art gallery and how it came together during a global pandemic.
Last April in the midst of the first lockdown, museums and galleries were closed, exhibitions were cancelled, everyone was stuck at home and artists were struggling with the question of how to be creative during a pandemic. I had the idea of writing to artists with a simple idea: asking them to create a miniature artwork of no more than 15cm square. A collective endeavour but something achievable in the circumstances hopefully with a significance beyond its size.
The inspiration was the two model galleries in the care of Pallant House Gallery: the first is called the ‘Thirty Four Gallery’ and, as the name suggests, it was created in 1934. The second was a model created in the year 2000 as a kind of antidote to all the overblown Millennium projects.
So when I approached artists last year, we already had an impressive history: each gallery is a kind of time-capsule, and the past year felt like an exceptional time for a project like this. Together with the new model they now encompass more than 80 years of art and 80 modern artists.
I had never anticipated how much work the 2021 Model Art Gallery would involve for everyone when I first started writing to the artists. Partly that was because the logistics were complicated by lockdowns. But also, just as with many of the artworks we reached the realisation that although it is a model building, it is the end point, the thing in itself, rather than an idea for a larger project. Yet the same considerations have to go into it as for a full-size building project or exhibition: with Wright and Wright and Pipers Modelmakers we’ve had to think about security, lighting, access.
The framer Patrick Foster has made tiny bespoke frames because they have to be in proportion to the architecture. We also put thought into improving the height and lighting of the previous models so that they would be accessible to all, particularly as we want them to appeal to children and schools.
The new 2021 Model Art Gallery includes original miniature artworks by over 30 contemporary artists. These include artists who came to prominence as the ‘YBAs’ such as Damien Hirst, Rachel Whiteread, Gary Hume, Grayson Perry, Glenn Brown and Gillian Wearing and their tutor Michael Craig-Martin. There are painters including Kaye Donachie, Lubaina Himid, Cecily Brown, Chantal Joffe, Sean Scully and Maggi Hambling. Sculptors such as Rana Begum and Cathie Pilkington, ceramicists Edmund de Waal, Grayson Perry and Magdalene Odundo, and a site-specific mini-mural by Lothar Götz.
It’s also a much more diverse selection than the previous models, with greater gender parity. One of the biggest challenges was trying to ensure we had neither too, few or too many works for the model, and keeping everything in scale.
The three model galleries will be on show until Spring 2022. In the autumn we are going to launch a children’s competition to create a miniature artwork and from 2022 onwards we hope that it will be possible to tour the 2021 Model Art Gallery around the UK. It’s a terrifically inspiring project and we are grateful to everyone who has been involved.