On Wednesday 18 September the former director of the National Portrait Gallery and well-known art curator and writer, Sandy Nairne, is giving a lecture here exploring the theme of 'Commemoration and Celebration in Art'.
Reflecting on an astonishing four years of creative commissioning to commemorate the losses of World War 1 and the one hundredth anniversary of the ‘war to end all wars’, Nairne's talk explores the power of art to add new dimensions to collective remembrance and national expression. Using ten examples of contemporary art in churches, cathedrals and other public spaces, he asks why such works might matter to us over the longer term.
Sandy Nairne said: “Like 5 million others, I went to the Tower of London to see Blood Swept Lands and Seas of Red by Paul Cummins and Tom Piper. The very visible, powerful and almost visceral effect of that sea of poppies flooding into the moat, powerfully connected the viewer to the sacrifices of individuals: each poppy a husband or a wife, a sister or a brother, once a son or a daughter, now a grandfather or grandmother but also possibly created another emotion, less direct but equally powerful, related to the uncertain contemporary world in which we live.”
Cathedrals and churches have always played a special role in providing space for public acts of remembrance in the form of services, music and visual arts but more recently contemporary art has been used in sacred spaces to provide a commentary on the secular as well as the religious world. In his lecture, Nairne explores the role of public art, in particular in Cathedrals, and asks why it often produces such strong critical and public reaction.
Commemoration and Celebration in Art takes place at 19.00 in the South Transept and is followed by a drinks reception.
Sandy Nairne CBE is a writer and curator of international repute. He was Director of the National Portrait Gallery from 2002 to 2015. During this time the Gallery increased its attendance to over two million visitors each year, staged several important exhibitions, increased its learning and outreach work, and made significant acquisitions, including the last self-portrait by Sir Anthony Van Dyck. His previous work includes being Director of Programmes at Tate, working closely with Sir Nicholas Serota in the creation of Tate Modern and the renewal of Tate Britain, and overseeing Tate’s regional, digital and educational developments. He is the author of a number of books and essays, and was recently Chair of the Clore Leadership Programme. He has also worked at the Arts Council of Great Britain, the Institute of Contemporary Arts, and the Museum of Modern Art, Oxford. He currently chairs the Fabric Advisory Committee of St Paul's Cathedral, and the Maggie's Art Group, and is a trustee of the National Trust, and the Courtauld Collection.