The exhibition will be split across two venues – the Candida Stevens Gallery in Chichester and the rarely accessed private museum of art collector, Simon Draper. The former Chairman of the Virgin Music group built Manor Place Museum close by his West Sussex country home, Monkton House, to display his collection of works by artists such as Howard Hodgkin, Richard Hamilton, Gerhard Richter and Anselm Kiefer.
Throughout his peripatetic life, Stephen Farthing has felt compelled to visit the collections of the museums and galleries wherever he has lived. He observes and reconfigures both the space and the works of art within, through his own eyes. His paintings record and respond to the function of being a collector and the purpose of having a collection. They look closely at the process of accumulation and pose questions about perceived value, the behaviour behind collecting and the legacy of a collection.
Stephen says: “You arrive as a stranger in a foreign city and you are looking at a way to relate to it. The museums and galleries are the places that I naturally gravitate towards, feel comfortable in, and want to spend time in. You can just sit there and look at the people and the art and try and work out how you’re going to fit in. In very practical terms, it’s a way of me trying to integrate myself into a new environment.”
Farthing’s work has often focused on interiors and this new series puts the viewer right into the setting of gallery spaces. Stephen is the guide by which we enter these institutions, we see their collections and exhibitions through his eyes – “You're not just looking at a painting, but at a painting in a situation” he says. “Nothing in these pictures comes from my fantasy. Everything in them can be traced back to historically real sources, though I've taken great delight in juxtaposing vastly different periods.”
The works on display at Manor Place Museum, will be playfully curated to show paintings of museums, in a museum, as part of a museum, alongside pieces of Simon Draper’s personal collection, which includes works by Patrick Caulfield and Bridget Riley. Simon Draper says: “I have long been addicted to collecting, so the chance to open up my museum and host a body of work, by an important British artist, that uniquely reflects back on that activity, and the environments that collectors create, was something I have a real curiosity and interest to see and share.”
Museums of the World features interiors of illustrious institutions that will be immediately recognisable to art lovers, including The Royal Academy (The Museum of Vernal Entertainment: London), The National Gallery (The Museum of Good Painting: Trafalgar Square), The Metropolitan Museum, New York (The Museum of the American World View of Global Visual Culture, Manhattan), Whitney Museum of American Art, New York (The Museum of the Slice of America, Madison Avenue), Yale Center for British Art (The Museum of Art from a Small Island, New Haven) and The Wallace Collection (The Museum of the Boudoir, Manchester Square).
Charles Saumarez Smith, Secretary and Chief Executive of the Royal Academy of Arts, introduces the catalogue for the exhibition, writing: “The works demonstrate Stephen’s worldliness, his ability to travel in the imagination, his knowledge of the conditions of art display, and the contrasts between the ways that art is displayed on different continents, in different milieu, in private and in public. Intelligent and knowing wit is not something which we normally look for in contemporary art, but it is evident in the work of Stephen Farthing.”
Stephen Farthing has also made a painting, based on the interior of Manor Place Museum, as part of Museums of the World series - The Museum of Post Cubist Painting: near Chichester.