Nine contemporary artists respond to history at Ham House and Gardens

By Mark Sheerin | 24 April 2012 | Updated: 01 May 2012
Colour photo of a stately home with colourful inflatable balls in the columnade
Weight of Air by Ruth Proctor, Ham House, Garden of Reason opens April 28© Jamie Woodley
Exhibition: Garden of Reason, Ham House and Gardens, Richmond upon Thames, April 28 - September 23 2012

As with most exhibitions of contemporary art, a better name for this one might have been the Garden of Post-rationalisation. Many of the artists in the National Trust group show have a way with juxtaposition which follows dream logic rather than reason with a capital R.

But organisers point out that plenty of forethought has also gone into the work on display. Archives have been consulted and Ham House was found to have a rich, strange and inspiring history. Its evolution into a home for site specific art is only one more twist in the tale.

So while Kathleen Herbert’s piece called Tulip Mania hints at a festival of colour, visitors are advised the work really deals in the speculative 17th century market for Dutch bulbs. Tom Dale, meanwhile, uses poetically ruinous aspects of the stately home to talk about the parlous state of democracy.

Alexandre da Cunha, Harold Offeh, Graeme Miller, Simon Periton & Alan Kane, Ruth Proctor, and Daphne Wright also contribute work.

Curator Tessa Fitzjohn, who orchestrated the project, has found an ally in one of the first owners of the house. Elizabeth Murray has left us with historic papers more than 300 years old; these serve as a springboard, retroactive or otherwise, for much of the work on show.

  • Open 12pm-4pm daily but see website for seasonal adjustments. Admission £3.65/£2.45/family £9.75 (2 Adult, 2 Child)

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