By Joanne Shurvill
Major works by the celebrated British sculptor Tony Cragg are on show in the grounds and historic interiors of Houghton Hall in Norfolk until 26 September 2021. The exhibition, curated by the artist himself, includes 11 large-scale bronze, stainless steel, fibreglass and polyester outdoor sculptures sited in the gardens and grounds plus 20 smaller pieces shown in the state rooms and gallery spaces of the house. Several new works have been made specifically for the exhibition and are on public display for the first time.
David and Rose Cholmondeley’s annual sculpture exhibitions, at their home Houghton Hall, have rightly become a UK art calendar highlight since the first show in 2015. Tony Cragg’s exhibition is the sixth at Houghton Hall. Last year’s exhibition featured 21 sculptures by Anish Kapoor and in previous years works by Henry Moore, Damien Hirst, Richard Long and James Turrell have been on show. Some works by these artists remain in place for public viewing.
Houghton Hall, built in 1722 for Sir Robert Walpole, the first British Prime Minister, is one of England’s foremost examples of Palladian architecture and alone is worth a trip to Norfolk. The house, a family home since the 18th century has, along with its expansive gardens, been open to the public each summer since 1976. Houghton’s longstanding connection to the art world is well known, housing one of the world’s greatest private art collections. Robert Walpole’s collection of artworks, which included Roman busts and paintings by Da Vinci, Van Dyck, Rubens and Rembrandt, were sold to Catherine the Great of Russia and the Hermitage Museum in St Petersburg now owns more than 120 works from the collection.
Turner-prize winning sculptor Tony Cragg represented Britain at the Biennale in Venice in 1988 and has won numerous other prizes and awards during his 50 year career. He says that “sculpture gives us new forms, new ideas and new emotions. It literally gives things meaning and opens new perspectives.” His intention to discover what ideas and emotions he can create with materials explains why his sculptures have a dynamic feel to them; they seem to be in motion. They are thrillingly disruptive against the beautiful but perfectly ordered Palladian backdrop.
Tony Cragg’s works evolve from drawings in his studio “that then may result in smaller works and if I feel they are worth pursuing I will follow up by making larger works.” The works are made from a wealth of materials, with the large sculptures weighing up to 1.5 tonnes, including a brand new piece straight from the foundary, a bronze that looks like a voluptuous golden bum. Two intriguing looking sculptures “Skull” in the courtyard are made from aluminum while “Integers” a beautiful curved white piece in the state room looks like two figures embracing and is from wood.
A visit to Houghton Hall offers a closeup view of the newest works from one of the titans of British sculpture, in a spectacular setting. For a taste of Tony Cragg’s work before heading to Norfolk, there’s a lovely room with several sculptures at Thaddaeus Ropac in London.