Saturday, August 22, 2009

kettle's yard

I have to admit that I’d never even heard of Kettle’s Yard in Cambridge until Moira indicated that she was determined to visit the place during our brief stay in the city. It’s an amazing place with a pretty amazing story. In 1921, Jim Ede (1895-1990) was appointed assistant curator of the Tate Gallery in London whilst continuing to study part-time at The Slade. In 1936, he left to live in Morocco. During the intervening time at the Tate, he had tried to promote work of contemporary artists of the day, such as Picasso and Mondrian – but frequently came up against the more conservative attitudes of the gallery directors. He formed friendships with several of the avant-garde artists of the day and, in the process, he acquired many works of art that were under-appreciated at the time. The following examples give an indication of Jim Ede’s determination and vision: Ede was one of Ben Nicholson’s few admirers in the mid-1920s and ended up having some forty-four works by the artist in his collection (many of which had either been given to him by the artist or had been bought for as little as £3! Ede began buying paintings by Alfred Wallis in 1926 (you will be very familiar with this artist’s work if you’re a regular visitor to St Ives) – these arrived by post, perhaps sixty at a time and cost perhaps two or three shillings each (Kettle’s Yard now has a hundred of his paintings!).
In 1956, he returned to England looking for a place to live and to display his art collection and to offer “open house” tours for students from the university. He was searching for a “great house” but, instead, was taken by the “unpretentious charm” of a row of tiny derelict cottages in Cambridge. Ede immediately set about refurnishing and converting the buildings into an exhibition gallery and house; he donated the house and art collection to Cambridge University in 1966 and continued to live at Kettle’s Yard until 1973. During Jim Ede’s time and since, Kettle’s Yard has grown to become (with its house and exhibition gallery) one of the most important centres for 20th century and contemporary art in the country – which just shows how knowledgeable I am about such things!
Without doubt, Kettle’s Yard was the highlight of our holiday and is a “must-see” if you’re a lover of contemporary art (in a beautiful setting).
PS: checkout the website for more information (I could go on.... and on about the place/art!).
Photo: this group of images will hopefully give you a flavour of the house (the house remains arranged almost exactly as Jim Ede had it).

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