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Recent Gifts, Acquisitions and Bequests

29 May 2012 By
Recent Gifts, Acquisitions and Bequests: Elizabeth Price

March 2012

The Contemporary Art Society exists to develop public collections of contemporary art across the UK. We do so by raising funds and brokering partnerships in order to purchase, commission and gift works of art to public collections. We work closely with over 64 museums and galleries across the UK that subscribe as members. Over the last 100 years we have played a unique and largely solitary role in the formation of public collections of contemporary art in this country, donating more than 8000 works where they are enjoyed by audiences everywhere.

Elizabeth Price, User Group Disco, 2009

Gifted to the Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art, Edinburgh

User Group Disco is a 15 minute high definition video by acclaimed British artist, Elizabeth Price. This important work is the second piece in a trilogy forming part of an ongoing series which navigates the notional architecture and collection of a fictional museum, with this work being the ‘Hall of Sculptures’. There are however no conventional sculptures in this museum, just as there are no people and no visible spatial environments or architectures; simply the debris of rotating and pirouetting objects, utensils and ornaments in a black void. The choreography of these sculptures is accompanied by a pulsating sound track and text statements, collaged from celebrated male authors, which collapse the distinctions between art objects and social history artefacts, and the strange and compulsive desires of consumerism. In doing so, they draw attention to the way in which objects are classified, displayed and given status and meaning in museological systems, offering a prism through which to understand human civilisation.

We are fortunate in possessing a collection that has extraordinary strengths in many areas, thanks to the passion and perspicacity of my predecessors. The collection remains at the heart of our programme, and informs our identity as an international institution. The challenge we face is common to all — how to ensure the continued excellence of the collection when funds are scarce. A new work has the potential not only to allow us to show the best of what is contemporary, but to renew our view of what we hold already, to ensure that collections remain perpetually new. This is also what I take to be the subject of Elizabeth Price’s wholly compelling, ‘User Group Disco’, a work about the status of objects through time rendered utterly seductive through the film’s sensuous superficiality. We look forward to showing this work shortly in the context of the history of sculpture from 1900 to now as part of The Sculpture Show, the latest in a series of major exhibitions drawn almost entirely from the gallery’s own collection.

Simon Groom, Director, Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art, Edinburgh.

Image: Elizabeth Price, User Group Disco (still), 2009, HD Video, 15 min, courtesy the artist and MOT International

Three Works by Phyllida Barlow

Untitled: Disaster III 2010, Untitled: Crushed Shape 2011 and Untitled: Basel structure 2010 acquired for Nottingham Castle Museum & Art Gallery with support from The Art Fund.

Nottingham Castle Museum and Art Gallery opened in 1878 in a ducal mansion built on the site of a medieval castle. The 20th century British collection includes works by Edward Burra, Ivon Hitchens, Dame Laura Knight, LS Lowry, William Nicholson, Sir Stanley Spencer and Edward Wadsworth.

Phyllida Barlow is a central figure in the development of Contemporary British Sculpture; she has not only had major exhibitions throughout the UK but through her extensive teaching career, at Slade School of Fine Art, has guided and influenced many younger artists yet, until now, none of her work has been acquired for public collections in this country. Untitled: Disaster III, a work on wheels or casters, comes from a series of small, characterful pieces formed from the ‘stuff’ of Barlow’s larger works. The curators at Nottingham are attracted to the playful and deliberately ‘non-monumental’ nature of this work which, when shown within the broader collection, makes a powerful statement. Combining the acquisition of the small sculpture with two drawings establishes a wider context of Barlow’s work within the collection, these drawings succeed in telling, in two dimensions, all you need to know about the artist’s way of seeing and recording the world in three dimensions.

Images (from top to bottom): Phyllida Barlow, Untitled: Diaster Sculpture III 2010, Untitled: Crushed Shape 2011 and Untitled: Basel structure 2010 © the artist, courtesy the artist and Hauser & Wirth Gallery.