Figure Study II: Joe Hill curates the Towner Collection

Our new Director Joe Hill curates a personal response to Towner’s renowned collection. His diverse selection spans a period of one hundred years and rather than presenting a themed selection, Joe aims to examine how the selection process itself can further an individual’s understanding of place, perception and aspiration through its collections.

The title for the show is taken from a Francis Bacon painting that belongs to Joe’s home town, the former mining and textiles community of Batley in West Yorkshire. The town currently sits in the top 10% of the most deprived communities in England and Wales. Bacon’s Figure Study II is on long-term loan to the National Museum of Scotland and the painting (and the collection as a whole) has not been shown in the town in Joe’s lifetime. The loss of the town’s gallery in the early 1980s to a now derelict shopping centre means it is unlikely the town’s residents will have an opportunity to see the collection or know of its existence. Joe only became aware of the provenance of the painting whilst installing it an exhibition at Camden Arts Centre, London in 2010.

Joe is interested in understanding how this collection could have played a role in developing a new post-industrial identity for the area and contributed to the aspiration and sense of pride amongst its younger population. It has left him feeling strongly that public collections have an important role to play in developing this sense of place and identity. During his time at Towner, Joe and the team would like the people of Eastbourne and the surrounding area have an opportunity to get to know their collection through this series of new displays selected by a range of invited guests and groups.

The display includes work by artists such as Holly Downing, Elisabeth Frink, Richard Hamilton, Patrick Heron, Peter Lanyon, Victor Pasmore, John Piper, Walter Sickert and Thomas Joshua Cooper.

Image: Installation view, Figure Study II: Joe Hill curates the Towner Collection, Towner Art Gallery, 2019. Photo: Rob Harris

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