Trust new Art: National Trust unveils its ambitious contemporary art programme

By Richard Moss | 06 June 2015

The National Trust is continuing its bold venture into the world of contemporary art with a series of new art projects

a photo of a pagoda in a garden with trees
Lost Property: Folly at Fountains Abbey and Studley Royal© Photo: Jonty Wilde
Visitors to National Trust properties and locations across England, Wales and Northern Ireland have become accustomed to strange and surprising encounters with contemporary art.

From sculptures and fire installations to sound and visual interventions, an estimated two million people have seen and experienced the various projects nurtured and sponsored by the Trust New Art scheme since 2009. 

And for 2015 the Arts Council-backed project is continuing its mission to bring the seemingly disparate worlds of the National Trust and contemporary art together with a series of new commissions and projects.

According to the Trust’s Contemporary Arts Programme Manager, Tom Freshwater, the scheme has taught them much about how visitors and supporters can benefit from "unexpected interventions in historic places”.

“It can provide a new way for people to connect with a place beyond a conventional heritage experience,” he says. “The National Trust can provide a unique platform for creative work to be experienced – which also impacts on how people experience that place.”

"It is fair to say that art interventions in historic properties are not always welcomed by visitors expecting libraries, tapestries, a walk round the garden and a pastry in the cafe." But, says Freshwater, "the majority of our visitors have given us enthusiastic feedback for what they have seen and enjoyed.”

For the Arts Council, which has supported this year’s programme with a grant of £300,000, Trust New Art is one of the ways they are seeking to develop audiences in England.

“It reaches people who may not visit art galleries and provides them with an important opportunity to explore and experience contemporary art in heritage settings,” says Darren Henley, their Chief Executive.

Pointing to the two million visitors who have so far seen artworks across 62 Arts Council funded projects, Henley says the renewed collaboration will build on the success, extending its reach to include more properties in England while providing new opportunities for artists to work in historical locations.

One of the highlights of the 2015 programme, however, moves beyond place or location to offer a "virtual interactive experience" of the British coastline.

One and All - a digital voyage through sight, sound and sea is a co-commission with sounduk that sees three leading artists working across sound, poetry and art to articulate the powerful emotional and personal links we have to our coastal landscapes.

Martyn Ware, the musician and producer behind Human League and Heaven Seventeen, joins the Welsh poet, playwright and actor Owen Sheers and the installation artist Tania Kovats for the project, which is inspired by Project Neptune, the Trust’s 50-year campaign to acquire and care for coastal land.

The resulting virtual interactive experience will be launched online in November 2015.

Other projects include a new interactive public artwork, by Sean Griffiths, inviting audiences to "play the landscape" at Lyme Park and Gardens and a new commission from Rebecca Lee and Belén Cerezo that will reflect on the experiences of thousands of men who passed through Belton House in Lincolnshire during the First World War as members of of the Machine Gun Corps.


Some of the Trust New Art projects for 2015:

Into the Labyrinth at Cragside

a photo of a carved wooden entranceway
Main entrance to the Labyrinth at Cragside© National Trust Images
A playful, interactive installation in the Labyrinth at Cragside (Northumberland) inspired by Cragside’s spirit of invention, experimentation, engineering and curiosity (Summer 2015).


Mottisfont art residencies

a photo of woman midway through a contemporary dance move
Mottisfont - A place for art© Gina Dearden and Lizzie Sykes
The second year of the Hampshire Trust property's residency programme, featuring film based work by Lizzie Sykes, and a work by Shanaz Gulzar and Steve Manthorp celebrating Mottisfont’s tradition of hospitality through digital media technology. (July – December 2015).


Dangerous Discoveries at Biddulph Grange Garden

a photo of people standing around in a woodland
Rebecca Lee's Great Chrous picyured at Fermynwoods© Photo: James Steventon
Five new installations by Rebecca Lee, Sarah Tulloch, Rebecca Beinart, Katy Beinart and Laura Youngson Coll at the garden in Staffordshire, inspired by its creator’s passion for collecting plants from around the world (August 1 – November 1 2015).


Writing Places in the South West


a photo of a simple wooden desk and whicker and wood chair in the corner of a plain plastered room
The Second Parlour at Coleridge's Cottage© National Trust
Promoting the literary history of National Trust houses in the South West with author events, writers and poets in residence and the recording iconic poems inspired by each location.


Withdrawn in Leigh Woods (Bristol)

a photo of a man and four small fishing boats in a woodland clearing
Withdrawn by Luke Jerram at Leigh Woods© Paul Blakemore
A new artwork by Luke Jerram hidden in the depths of Leigh Woods, exploring ideas connected to the sustainability of our natural world. One of six arts projects funded by the Arts Council England Exceptional Fund as part of Bristol’s year as European Green Capital, with the aim of making sustainable living accessible and easy to understand (Until September 6 2015).


Follies at Fountains Abbey

a photo of two children looking at a mass of sticks and branches made into a sculpture
Folly at Fountains Abbey© Jonty Wilde
A series of  installations by Gary McCann, Simon Costin and Irene Brown, transforming the follies in the water gardens at Fountains Abbey and Studley Royal (North Yorkshire, April 23 – November 29 2015).

What do you think? Leave a comment below.

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Latest comment: >Make a comment
What a fabulous idea to bring modern art to the national trust .many artists have and are inspired by landscape , so for me its like putting landscape bck into landscape .I have been a national trust member for a few years and would make a point of visiting a particular place if it had an art piece there too .
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