Category: Design

Inside Kettle’s Yard

Lucy Watson for AnOther Magazine

For AnOther Mag, Lucy Watson explores the recently re-opened Kettle’s Yard in Cambridge.

At the northern edge of Cambridge’s staid city centre, down an unremarkable alleyway, is Kettle’s Yard – a remarkable gallery that is something much more than a gallery. Once home of former Tate curator Jim Ede and his wife Helen, this is a mid-century enclave filled with Modernist art and furniture. And it remains almost exactly as it was when the Edes donated it to the University in 1966.

A trained artist, Jim Ede became an assistant curator at what was then the National Gallery of British Art in 1921, and befriended many underappreciated European Modernists, whose work he tried to promote within the gallery. Through friends he acquired works of art as gifts, or cheap purchases he would not have otherwise afforded on his meagre salary of £250 per annum, resulting in a collection of over 100 artists including Brâncuși, Henry Moore, Russian Constructivist Naum Gabo (a small print of his bears the inscription “To Jim Ede from Gabo with love”) and the largest collection of work by Vorticist artist Henri Gaudier-Brzeska in the world.

Searching for a place to both to live and to display his art, Ede found “four tiny condemned slum dwellings” in 1956, which were then gutted and converted into a single, modern building. The Edes donated the house and its contents to Cambridge University in 1966, but continued to live there until 1973. Not content with the size of the house, a contemporary sky-lit extension by Sir Leslie Martin, architect of the iconic Royal Festival Hall, was added in 1970.

The idea behind the house was to create “a living place where works of art could be enjoyed, inherent to the domestic setting, where young people could be at home unhampered by the greater austerity of the museum or public art gallery”.

In practice that meant that students were invited daily into Ede’s home and able to loan his now priceless works of art to decorate their rooms. Guests are, still today, encouraged to sit in his chairs and read his books, attend concerts, and a small library is open for visitors to sit and study. When they vacated the house a carefully staged set of photographs were left behind, carefully detailing the exact location of every object – still strictly adhered to.

“Kettle’s Yard is in no way meant to be an art gallery or museum, nor is it simply a collection of works of art reflecting my taste or the taste of a given period,” Ede insisted in 1970. “It is, rather, a continuing way of life.”

Just as in a home, nothing – not even the Barbara Hepworth – is labelled or out of reach. “I would bet my life that this is the only place in the world where you will see a Brâncuși head perched on a piano with no Perspex hood,” says head of collection Dr. Jennifer Powell.

Objects are mischievously placed in corners and behind furniture – in Ede’s eye, nothing was prosaic. Even the most mundane of domestic necessities could be, or could host, art. A lapdog in bronze by Gaudier-Brzeska sits crouched on the floor, perfectly placed to trip guests. A painting by abstract artist Ben Nicholson, a few inches across, is nestled against a dado rail behind an armchair. The ideal way to view William Congdon’s large, dark and imposing Gautemala no.7 (Dying Vulture) is to sit on the toilet. Every inch of the house is part of the composition.


Secrets of the Designers: On Creating the Look for a Literary Journal

John Freeman writing for LitHub

John Freeman in conversation with Michael Salu about the conception of a literary journal’s visual identity, for LitHub:

John Freeman: I’ve worked with you before on a brand (Granta) which was already well established. I’m curious how this differs, basically creating a visual identity from scratch.

Michael Salu: It was interesting trying to gather a starting point for the look of a new journal (Freeman’s). I supposed I’d begun with thinking about what might hook into the strong literary tradition of the journal and your own rather lucid, oak-distilled Americanness, if you don’t mind me saying? I wanted to create a feel to the journal that I suspect had quite a part in raising you and maybe get a touch of a bygone idea of America, but also create a fresh contemporary brand that could cloak the intended international perspectives that fill its pages.

So I began with looking at The Beat era, Ginsberg, Kerouac et al. Walker Evans and other artists from that era and the paraphernalia surrounding them during and soon after their respective heydays. I think of the scenes, the journals, the academic publications, the poetry and photography books. The typography of this time carries a certain robustness, directly inspiring the Freeman’s masthead. There’s such myth and movement through images more recently, so working with young photographers seemed an interesting way to go.

JF: Well you threw a bulls-eye dart there. I grew up driving distance from City Lights, which was my MFA and also how I found a more modern collision between aesthetics and ethics. Planet News could be a book for untruthy times. You’ve worked with me before though and must have known the journal would have a global list of contributors. How’d you figure you would signal that or do you feel like all the ways of signifying in that regard are too broken to employ?

MS: I’d say there’s a visual vernacular that’s universal. Particularly when it comes to magazines. It’s something we question little, the formula road-tested for optimal impact. The image as a signifier for something you want to or need to identify with. Using this formula in a literary context playing with that signification is I think a way to draw on the grouping of ideas you seem to aim at both now and before.

JF: One thing I know is you always wanted your covers to speak to readers’ intelligence and skepticism, can you give me an example of how that interaction grows out of questioning the vernacular you just described?

MS: I suppose I spend a fair amount of time examining the semantic data that exists within images, how they shape our narratives and there are certain strict codes we adhere to certainly for “commercial” purposes. What do they mean to the individual and our societal hierarchies? These codified archetypes of being, or saying that we imbibe and occasionally those life myths are disturbed and we struggle to react. Thinking about Charlie Hebdo and the recent Trump cover by Der Speigel, yet the likes of Vogue arguably carry more power as their tropes of propaganda are consistent and far-reaching. I’ve always been interested in subverting those codes. Remember Granta 110 and 115? In fact I’ve always wondered how you read images given your granular engagement with words.


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