Tattershall Castle becomes contemporary art showpiece as National Trust and Arts Council combine

By Culture24 Staff | 30 July 2009
A picture of people drawing on grass outside a castle

(Above) Volunteers help Linda Florence mark out the grounds of Tattershall Castle for House of Bling. Pic: Julian Hughes, House of Bling

Exhibition: House of Bling, Tattershall Castle, Tattershall, August 8-22 2009

The UK's magnificent historic castles hark back to times of wealth and decadence, but a team of artists have teamed up to take the concept of bling a step further. A new project, led by East Midlands duo Sue Crabtree and Jane Greenfield, will turn the 15th century Tattershall Castle in Lincolnshire into a contemporary art venue for a fortnight.

Aimed at promoting artistic use of similar properties, the pair were invited to curate the show by the National Trust and Arts Council England, commissioning each artist to work within a section of the five-storey monument, including the cellars and surrounding grounds.

A picture of a pair of chairs inside a house with large tea cups all around the room

Geraldine Pilgrim is the founder of Corridor, a group who deal in performance installations. Pic: Installation shot, English Heritage's Belsay Hall (2007)

The original designer of the house would undoubtedly have approved – Ralph Cromwell built the Castle between 1434 and 1446 as a highly-visible symbol of his own wealth in between being Lord Treasurer to Henry VI, a move organisers reckon was "Medieval bling at its best."

"This is Tattershall Castle as visitors have never seen it before," says Rebecca Speight, East Midlands Director for the Trust, calling it "the perfect opportunity" to enjoy "innovative and exciting" art at the "iconic" site.

An overhead view of a castle with a large garden

Linda Florence has cut into the lawn of the Castle. Pic: Julian Hughes

Linda Florence has cut a huge-scale work into the lawn through hours of grass-clipping, revealing itself to visitors as they climb the castle's stone stairs.

Catherine Bertola, who was last seen recreating a bygone wallpaper pattern for the Victoria and Albert Museum out of dust, has made a site-specific piece starring a series of golden cobwebs inspired by the spinning and weaving of folk and fairytales.

A picture of a forest scene in a room with dimmed lights

Sarah Price has been inspired by folk and fairytales. Pic: House of Bling

Geraldine Pilgrim likes forming "performance installations" in unusual settings – having started out in a disused art deco hotel in Morecambe almost 10 years ago, by winter 2007 she had immersed spaces in Newcastle and Gateshead in sound and light for an Enchanted Parks plan run by her Corridor group.

Pilgrim has been roused by damsels in distress here, using packing cases and crates to explore the imagery associated with incarcerating towers and turrets.

A picture of a young woman in profile in the grounds of a castle

Price surveys the grounds. Pic: House of Bling

Under the moniker of KMA, Kit Monkman and Tom Wexler sent scores of tiny insects flying through the air in Dublin's Grand Canal Square last year, interacting with hundreds of audience members in a venture which has also taken in the Royal Opera House, the Institute of Contemporary Art and a "pedestrian Swan Lake" in Trafalgar Square.

Their "updated and anarchic" version of a tour guide weaves the public through a slalom around the Castle's old cellars, telling the story of Cromwell and Tattershall saviour Lord Curzon.

A picture of a room with a bed in it and a spindly tree looming above it

Site-specific beauty from Pilgrim. Pic: Installation shot, English Heritage's Belsay Hall (2007)

In the gardens, Chelsea Flower Show silver medallist Sarah Price, who will design the botanical garden for the 2012 Olympic Park, has made a secret wild garden, stirred by tales of the abandoned overgrowth the grounds witnessed during centuries of disrepair and ruin.

"This is a must-see in Lincolnshire with internationally-renowned artists," says Alison Lloyd, Head of Visual Arts and Literature for Arts Council England East Midlands.

"It is just the beginning of the Arts Council's partnership with the National Trust and we are thrilled that the East Midlands is among the first to be involved."

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