Tuesday, 12 May 2015

Nicholas Rena: after Matisse

I like the contrast between the simplicity of the pots
and the fussiness of the chandelier
The Holburne Museum in Bath is in the kind of grand building you can well imagine wealthy and socially well-connected people visiting during Bath's heyday as a spa town. Opportunities for swirling around the ballroom are a bit limited at the moment because there is a very interesting exhibition of ceramics currently on display until 17 May.

The Holburne Museum houses the collection of Sir William Holburne of which there are over 4000 objects. This was bequeathed to the people of Bath by his sister Mary Anne Barbara Holburne (1802-1882) with the intention of it forming the basis of a museum of art for Bath.

I must admit that I don't particularly share Sir William's passion for silver, porcelain, furniture, miniatures, books, coins and so on, although I'm always happy to spend some time with old-master paintings, so I was very glad to see there was some contemporary art on display.

Nicholas Rena has created this installation of new work specifically for this room and has made an interesting response to Henri Matisse's (1869-1954) still life paintings. He has evoked the colours and tone of Matisse's work but expressed them in a completely different medium. The sight of them in their imposing glass cabinet (known as a vitrine) creates a wonderful contrast to the items on display around the room.

From the front The Holburne Museum appears to be an entirely classical design but at the rear of the building a new, ambitious ceramic and glass extension was added in 2011 which was designed by Eric Parry Architects. This allows the museum to both look backwards to its classical roots and look forward by embracing contemporary art and architecture. Interestingly Nicholas Rena studied architecture with Eric Parry but has obviously found another way of expressing space and what you can do with three dimensions. This is the second of five contemporary interventions at the Holburne supported by Arts Council England.

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