Anthony d’Offay studied art at the University of Edinburgh in the early 1960s and fell in love with the collections of the National Gallery of Scotland. Years later he described walking around the galleries in Edinburgh as ‘the defining experience of my life’. The gallery he and his wife Anne (a former curator at the Tate) established in London became recognised world-wide for its international reach and ambitious exhibitions, many of which travelled to public museums and galleries. Artists they worked with include Joseph Beuys, Ed Ruscha, Bill Viola, Jeff Koons, Johan Grimonprez, Damien Hirst, Bruce Nauman, Laurence Weiner, Agnes Martin and Ellen Gallagher, all of whom are represented in ARTIST ROOMS, the extraordinary collection recently donated by the d’Offays jointly to the National Galleries of Scotland and Tate.
This collection of over 700 works by 32 artists not only transforms the ability of both institutions to display modern art now and into the future, but is especially exciting because ARTIST ROOMS has been acquired expressly to provide a new national resource for exhibitions in museums and galleries across the UK. Displays from the collection will open across the country from this spring and throughout 2009, from Stromness to St Ives, enabled with additional support from the Art Fund and (for projects in Scotland) from Scottish Government.
At the heart of ARTIST ROOMS is the concept of individual rooms devoted to particular artists, so that their work can be seen and appreciated in depth. In Scotland, Inverness Museum and Art Gallery is selecting from a total of 64 Robert Mapplethorpes in the collection (26 April–27 June). Tramway will show important works by Bruce Nauman (17 April–31 May), prior to that artist’s presentation in the USA pavilion at the 53rd Venice Biennale. Aberdeen Art Gallery will exhibit Ron Mueck (29 August–31 October), while the Pier in Stromness will show the celebrated video artist Bill Viola, who is lending an additional work especially to complement their display (19 June–5 September).
For the opening, ARTIST ROOMS displays at the Gallery of Modern Art, from 14 March, will be dedicated to Vija Celmins’ ethereal images of seas, deserts and the night sky, a complete series of landscape and portrait paintings by Alex Katz, and Francesca Woodman’s intimate, surrealist influenced photographs. Photographs by Warhol and paintings by Ellen Gallagher will also be included. Damien Hirst will feature in an expanded display, which brings together works from ARTIST ROOMS— such as the iconic ‘Away from the Flock’ (an early example of Hirst’s animals in formaldehyde), and a recent butterfly painting, with additional loans from further collections.
Later in the year, one of our principal galleries will be given over to the paintings of Agnes Martin (from 6 August), a rare opportunity to see the work of the Canadian-born artist, whose cool, geometric style developed in the years she lived in New York, when abstract expressionism and then pop and minimalism were at their height.
The programme for ARTIST ROOMS into the future is not yet set. Ways of working with the collection will evolve as different museums and galleries across the county respond to it. While we intend to continue the relationships we have started with galleries in 2009, we want the collection to reach across the entire country, in order that it becomes properly national.
Work will shortly be completed on making the entire collection available on Tate and the National Galleries of Scotland’s websites, where the scale of the gift can be truly appreciated.”
More information on ARTIST ROOMS can be found on www.tate.org.uk and www.nationalgalleries.org