Linder Sterling Summons the Ghosts of Chatsworth House for Her Next Show

The British stately home’s first artist-in-residence is organizing a spiritualist-inspired show for Nottingham Contemporary.

Linder, Untitled, (1977). ©the artist, courtesy Stuart Shave/Modern Art, London.
Linder, Untitled, (1977). ©the artist, courtesy Stuart Shave/Modern Art, London.

The artist Linder Sterling, also known simply as Linder, is organizing a major exhibition at Nottingham Contemporary for 2018. The upcoming show is inspired by her time as artist-in-residence at Chatsworth, the first in the history of one of Britain’s grandest country houses.

The announcement comes hot on the heels of the British artist receiving a Paul Hamlyn Foundation award worth £60,000—the nearest the UK has to a no-strings, MacArthur “genius” prize.

Linder’s exhibition, which is called “The House of Fame” (March 24-June 17, 2018), will be a part-retrospective of the artist’s photomontages and performance work, and will draw on the treasures and curiosities of Chatsworth, as well as explore Nottingham’s long history of lacemaking.

The director of Nottingham Contemporary, Sam Thorne, told artnet News that he invited Linder to turn curator after he guest-curated a show about spiritualism and art, “As Above, So Below,” earlier this year at IMMA. Linder created a “fantastic” new work for the exhibition at the Irish Museum of Modern Art in Dublin, he says. It opened with a Vedic spiritual blessing on April 13 (the show closed on August 27).

Thorne got to know Linder when he was the artistic director of Tate St Ives. She was the artist-in-residence in the Cornish gallery. “I’d seen how she burrows down into place,” he says, hence the invitation to bring what she is finding at Chatsworth, the home of the Duke of Devonshire, to inner-city Nottingham next spring. The project is the third iteration of the Grand Tour, which is funded by Arts Council England. “It struck me that the first two had been by men,” Thorne adds, referring to Pablo Bronstein and Simon Starling’s grand-tour shows in 2015 and 2016.

Linder is determined that in her grand-tour show, overlooked female artists will come to the fore. Among the around 50 artists she plans to include in “The House of Fame” will be the British Surrealist Ithell Colquhoun (1906-1988), who was expelled from the Surrealist group for her interest in the occult. Linder is delving into the long-overlooked artist-writer’s archive. She is also “burrowing” into the collection of London’s Victoria and Albert Museum to show photographs by Isabel Cowper (1826?-1911) who was possibly the first official female museum photographer. The widowed mother of three started work in the South Kensington Museum—now the V&A—around 1868. Fittingly, among her images of the early collection were ones of lace.

The late Mike Kelley is among the male artists Linder plans to include, with works such as The Poltergeist (1970), from this “Ectoplasm” series. It is a self-portrait with “gunk” emerging from the artist’s mouth and ears which is, in fact, fine lace—just like media-savvy spiritualists conjured up back in the day.

Chatsworth, the home of the Cavendish family down the centuries, has an art collection that rivals its magnificent architecture and grounds. Among the curiosities to have caught Linder’s eye so far have been “voluptuous” illustrations from natural history books in its 30,000-volume library; writhing stone serpents in the attic; and in the grounds, the grave of Kathleen “Kick” Kennedy (1920-48). A sister of John F. Kennedy, she defied her parents to return to England during World War II and marry the heir apparent to Chatsworth. (Joseph and Rose Kennedy objected on religious grounds, not to social climbing.) Kick Kennedy’s husband of five weeks was killed in action after D-Day. She died in a plane crash in France accompanied by another British aristocrat four years later. Linder plans to devote a section of her exhibition to death, calling it “The House of Rest.”

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