LONDON – The Guildhall Art Gallery presents a major exhibition featuring work by over 50 artists that draw upon the historic depiction of women in enclosed and ornate spaces, including contemporary works which ‘speak back’ to the tradition.
The Enchanted Interior at the City of London Corporation’s art gallery will question the metaphor of the ‘gilded cage’ and bring together work by Edward Burne-Jones, Evelyn De Morgan, James Abbot McNeill Whistler, and Fiona Tan, as well as pieces selected from the City Corporation’s art collection and important loans from across the UK. Highlights include Edward Burne-Jones’ Laus Veneris (1873-75) and The Lady of Shalott by John William Waterhouse (c. 1894), in which the famed subject is trapped in a tower, unable to engage. Blurring the lines between the historic and modern are works such as George Frampton’s Lamia (1899-1900), a mythical femme fatale from John Keats’ poem, in which the polychrome mixed media materials and realist depiction of the sculpture are shockingly contemporary.
Nele/Nellie (2013) by Fiona Tan portrays the illegitimate daughter of Rembrandt Van Rijn pacing unhappily around a highly decorative house, similar to the one in which she was confined until her father’s death. Highlighting the shame of illegitimacy and how men controlled women, Tan questions to what extent the shackles of the interior have changed. Installation, photography and moving image work by other contemporary artists, such as Martha Rosler and Maisie Broadhead, reveal more complex ideas of enclosure and enchantment. Paintings, furniture, photography, film, decorative objects and installation are interwoven throughout the exhibition to cast light upon the duality of the interior as both sanctuary and threat. The works of the past showing the female motif, in conversation with contemporaneous responses, add to the argument about what has really changed for women in the last two hundred years.
Graham Packham, Chairman of the City of London Corporation’s Culture, Heritage and Libraries Committee, says: “Visitors who step inside ‘The Enchanted Interior’ at Guildhall Art Gallery will discover a thought-provoking exhibition that engages the senses and invites the viewer to question hidden, and perhaps unsettling, themes related to enforced isolation. Beautifully painted and alive with vibrant colours, but ultimately dark in tone, we hope that the art works on show in ‘The Enchanted Interior’ will contribute towards making it one of the must-see exhibitions in London in 2020.”
Katherine Pearce, City of London Corporation’s Curator at Guildhall Art Gallery, adds: “’The Enchanted Interior’ will challenge and subvert idealised images of women as helpless damsels or passive beauties to explore female identity from the Victorian period up to the present day. More complex realities lurk within the spaces traditionally constructed for women in art. Our important and timely exhibition will inspire and enlighten visitors and we hope, encourage further thought and discussion about what has changed for women over the last two centuries.”
The City of London Corporation is the fourth largest funder of heritage and cultural activities in the UK and invests over £100m every year. In partnership with the Barbican, Guildhall School of Music & Drama, London Symphony Orchestra, and Museum of London, the City Corporation is leading the development of Culture Mile between Farringdon and Moorgate, a multi-million-pound initiative to create a new cultural and creative destination for London. As part of this, the City Corporation is providing a £197m investment in the new Museum of London, which will open in West Smithfield in 2024, and £4.9m to support the development of the proposed Centre for Music. The exhibition is presented at Guildhall Art Gallery in partnership with Laing Art Gallery Newcastle, and will feature key works from these, and other, national collections.
On 3rd June, Madeleine Kennedy (Modern Visionaries: Van Dyck and the Artist’s Eye, National Portrait Gallery) curator of The Enchanted Interior, will be presenting an exclusive talk online about the exhibition. The talk will share behind-the-scenes insights into how the exhibition evolved, the works themselves, the notions of the fine line between charm and coercion within the idea of enchantment, how artists use visual richness to explore sinister themes and whether the interior is a site to be rejoiced or resisted. Madeleine’s talk will be free and available via Guildhall Art Gallery’s Facebook page.
The Enchanted Interior is available to enjoy online with exclusive virtual tours of the exhibition led by the curator, Katherine Pearce. Through these videos, visitors can now engage with these mesmerising and exciting artworks remotely, enabling online visitors to challenge the idealisation of women as passive beauties, exploring female empowerment and reclaiming female identity. You can access the virtual tour here