Lord Byron's Spirit At Newstead Abbey, Nottingham

By 24 Hour Museum Staff | 15 August 2008
Photopraph of a portrait of Byron with a rose in his eye

Enterprise, Linder, 2008.
© the artist

Exhibition preview – That Beautiful Pale Face Is My Fate may cause visitors to swoon while viewing new Byron-inspired works at Nottingham’s Newstead Abbey

Those of a Romantic disposition cannot possibly resist the idea of stepping back in time for 'an amorous séance' with Byron.

Newstead Abbey, Nottingham, is helping to make such dreams come true and conjure his 'soaring spirit’ with their current exhibition, That Beautiful Pale Face Is My Fate.

Eight of Britain’s most talked about contemporary artists will bring Lord Byron back from the dead to live again at what was once his home. Those involved in the project include Gashka Macuga, a nominee for this year’s Turner Prize.

The artists’ task has been to interpret different aspects of Byron’s life and legend.

And his life was a legend.

A darling of society, until his brief marriage hit the rocks, his fame and infamy still reverberate down the centuries.

Photograph of a table in the shape of a head

Image - Goshka Macuga's table. © the artist

Although he sent himself into exile to avoid the scandals of which he was a part, he continued his decadent and shocking lifestyle abroad. Notorious for his excessive consumption and spending, on clothes, horses, carriages and homes, he can be seen as a role model perhaps for later celebrities!

One work in the exhibition in particular draws out this idea. Punk artist, Linder, has created a free pull-out poster for Lord B magazine for the exhibition.

Celebrity profile and notoriety informs the way Alex Farquharson, Director of Nottingham Contemporary, sees Byron: “Byron was loved by legions of men and women in life and in death. He was the prototype of the modern celebrity and he has a lasting appeal in an age of more open and diverse sexual expression.”

Other works in the exhibition reflect a variety of takes on this long dead but legendary Romantic poet, bon viveur and tragic lover. They include performance art, a sound installation in his dressing room and a ghostly film in the underground chamber that he had made into his personal plunge pool.

As well as Macuga's contribution of a table made from Byron's profile with pen nibs, scissors and broken bottles, Alexis Marguerite Teplin has made seductive objects that evoke the wardrobe of a Regency dandy.

Photograph of a red book cover

Byron's favourite book - Vathek - redesigned by Pablo Bronstein.
© the artist

The peacocks outside Newstead Abbey are reflected in David Noonan’s silkscreen prints. Blue Frith has customised the fountain in the cloisters with a large wooden pentagram.

The themes and ideas surounding this iconic man have been reflected in impressive and thoughtful ways in response to the commission given to the artists.

However, Farquharson also sees magic at work: “The artists visited Newstead and were immediately seduced by the man himself, and by the atmosphere of his home.”

Visitors to Newstead can be similarly wooed by both Byron’s ghost and the offerings of the present in this exhibition until September 7 2008.

This exhibition is part of the Nottingham Contemporary's Histories of the Present series of events which aims to bring art to some of the area’s best-loved cultural landmarks.

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