Contemporary Art from the UK Richard Brown Baker Collection in Rhode Island
A new exhibition of British art has opened at the RISD Museum, highlighting its extraordinary collection of contemporary British art in a major show this fall. Made in the UK: Contemporary Art from the Richard Brown Baker Collection richly captures Britain’s contemporary art scene as it emerged from World War II to become a dominant force on the world stage today.
The exhibition celebrates works donated and funded by Providence native Richard Brown Baker (1912–2002), a noted collector of contemporary American and European art and member of the Museum’s Fine Arts Committee. It includes such key figures as Tacita Dean, David Hockney, Howard Hodgkin, Anish Kapoor, Jim Lambie, Julian Opie, Bridget Riley, and Yinka Shonibare—artists represented at the Tate and in other important British collections, but rarely seen in depth in American museums.
“Richard Brown Baker possessed a daring and finely-tuned eye for collecting works by gifted young artists on the verge of success,” says Museum Director John W. Smith. “He not only donated outstanding works of art to the Museum, but also provided acquisition funds to allow us to build on his remarkable legacy. Thanks to his generosity, the RISD Museum’s collection of contemporary British art is one of the finest in the United States.”
Made in the UK focuses on Baker’s collecting decade by decade. The selection of approximately 100 paintings, prints, drawings, sculptures, and more, reveal important British contributions to—and the international nature of—Abstract Expressionism, Pop Art, Geometric Abstraction, Optical Art, and Photorealism. The exhibition culminates in exciting conceptual works by the Young British Artists (YBAs)—including Jake and Dinos Chapman, Tracey Emin, Damien Hirst, and Rachel Whiteread—who took the art world by storm in the 1990s and are still highly influential today. Made in the UK is co-curated by Jan Howard, Curator of Prints, Drawings, and Photographs, and Judith Tannenbaum, Richard Brown Baker Curator of Contemporary Art.
A Rhodes Scholar at Oxford who later lived and worked in London during World War II, Baker donated about 135 works of British art to RISD. “As I obtained my Rhodes Scholarship from Rhode Island, I feel that I am making a kind of gesture to England and to my native city by this gift,” he wrote in his journals.
“He never lost the thrill of discovering new talent, and, as he could afford it, continuing to support those whose work he had previously collected,” says Howard.
RISD Museum curators add to the collection in his spirit through the Richard Brown Baker Fund for Contemporary British Art. Recent purchases underscore the tremendous diversity of contemporary British culture, and a gift from Baker in 2000 established the Museum’s Contemporary Art department and endowed the curator’s position.
A 64-page catalogue accompanies the exhibition, concentrating on Baker’s British art and including the works acquired since 2005 with the Richard Brown Baker Fund. Tannenbaum and Howard also each contributed to the book Get There First, Decide Promptly: The Richard Brown Baker Collection of Postwar Art, by Jennifer Farrell, et al. (Yale University Art Gallery/Yale University Press), forthcoming in fall 2011.
“Richard Brown Baker’s passion for contemporary art and his generosity to the RISD Museum continue to have an invaluable impact on our community,” says Tannenbaum. “His prescient focus on the work of British artists creates a distinctive strength for us to build on for generations to come.”
Made in the UK: Contemporary Art from the Richard Brown Baker Collection and the publication of its accompanying catalogue are made possible by an award from the National Endowment for the Arts. Additional support for the exhibition is provided by the RISD Museum’s Contemporary Collectors.
The Exhibition runs 23 September 2011 through Sunday, 8 January 2012
Photo: Bridget Riley, Gather, 1981. Bequest of Richard Brown Baker. © Bridget Riley 2011. All rights reserved, courtesy Karsten Schubert, London.