On March 25 2020 Salisbury Cathedral opened Celebrating 800 years of Spirit and Endeavour, its largest contemporary art exhibition for nearly two decades. Within a week, the Covid-19 lockdown was imposed and although the public had access to the external installations no one has seen the artwork inside 'in the flesh'... until now!
Celebrating 800 years of Spirit and Endeavour is curated by Jacquiline Creswell, the Cathedral’s Visual Arts Adviser, who has brought together work from some of the most important and influential contemporary artists of the 20th and 21st century, including Antony Gormley, Shirazeh Houshiary, Henry Moore, Grayson Perry, Conrad Shawcross, Stanza and Mark Wallinger.
This collection will be shown alongside sculptures by Dame Elisabeth Frink, Dame Barbara Hepworth and Helaine Blumenfeld from the Cathedral’s own permanent collection. The Cathedral has also commissioned new works from Bruce Munro and Daniel Chadwick.
The move from Old Sarum was politically, logistically, commercially and spiritually audacious, made in defiance of the King’s soldiers, with a building plan that would challenge even modern, technologically advanced builders. The challenge for the curator, Jacquiline Creswell, has been to mount an exhibition that embodies the spirit, ambition, faith and endeavour that brought about that move and the construction of this magnificent building.
Speaking about the exhibition Jacquiline Creswell, Visual Arts Adviser and curator said: “The exhibition is inspired by the ordinary people who came together in faith and resolve to achieve something extraordinary, and the exhibition seeks to articulate the potential that humankind has consistently shown over eight centuries. Collectively the works explore the human condition in different ways, seeking to understand what it is about people and faith that can inspire such vision and creativity.”
Dr Robert Titley, Canon Treasurer of Salisbury Cathedral and Chair of the Cathedral’s Arts Advisory Committee said: “Art speaks where words often fail. What better way to mark the foundation of this extraordinary building? The works have brought their own meanings – and now, in conversation with this place created for the meeting of heaven and earth, new meanings are emerging for us to ponder, about what it means to be human – and, for some, about God.”
From the 4.8-metre high When Soak Becomes Spill by Subodh Gupta (installed on Chorister’s Green) to Youki Hirakawa’s A Candle, a poetic video installation that reflects (in the artist’s words) ‘the way that time seems to be leaking in the chaos of the modern world’, the exhibition contemplates the fragility of our lives. Aspects of the Cathedral’s life over the centuries are explored by works like Lynn Chadwick’s Sitting Couple on a Bench and Grayson Perry’s Death of a Working Hero, which recall the working men and women who built the Cathedral and the families that made up its community.
Shirazeh Houshiary’s String Quintet, an evocation of sound waves with their varying flow patterns, references the music that is central to Cathedral life, while other work like Craigie Aitchison's Crucifixion explores overtly Christian subject matter, addressing the faith that inspired the Cathedral to be built and that has sustained it ever since.
On the North Lawn, Henry Moore’s monumental Large Reclining Figure, one of the best known and most iconic examples of Moore’s fascination with the reclining female ﬁgure, becomes more poignant when juxtaposed with the Cathedral, which is dedicated to Mary, the Blessed Virgin. Daedalus by Eduardo Paolozzi, the legendary craftsman cast in bronze from prefabricated aluminum and brass casting moulds, speaks to the real craftsmen and women, who restore and repair the work of their forerunners.
Similarly, Stairway by Danny Lane steps heavenwards, climbing ambitiously skyward in line with the Spire, reminding us of Jacob’s Ladder, set up between heaven and earth.
This exhibition is about how humankind can be, and is inspired to greatness, whether it is Stanza’s life-sized data visualisation sculpture, The Reader, or Gormley’s GRIP (Net), a delicate figure, a three-dimensional drawing that trembles in space, raised above us to stand 14 metres above the Quire, at the heart of the building.
As exhibition curator Jacquiline Creswell concludes: “My most fervent hope is that the exhibition allows us to contemplate what it is that empowers people to harness their strengths, to find their voices and feel addressed, to echo the effort and achievement made by the ordinary people who built a city and a Cathedral of such distinction.”
Celebrating 800 years of Spirit and Endeavour has been made possible thanks to Salisbury Cathedral’s Dean and Chapter, our Cathedral Art supporters, Patrons and Champions, galleries, foundations and individual artists, in particular, Peter Osborne of Osborne Samuel, Conrad Shawcross and the Victoria Miro Gallery, Scootzuma, the Foyle Foundation and Payden and Rygel.
A virtual tour of this exhibition (and a family friendly version) was launched in response to the lockdown imposed in April 2020 - you can access it here.
The exhibition runs until 2021. A catalogue will be on sale with listings supplied by galleries, museums and foundations you can view it here.
To book your visit please click here
Commercial photography of the exhibition is not permitted without formal approval and images must be cleared with individual galleries
For any other enquiries or further information contact: Marie Thomas at Salisbury Cathedral email@example.com 01722 555148