Houghton Hall has developed a reputation for mounting several groundbreaking solo shows of leading contemporary artists, so it is no surprize that the Irish/American artist Sean Scully has been invited to take over the grounds and historic interiors of this stunning stately home in Norfolk. The exhibition will showcase a full range of the artist’s sculpture. In the Hall and Contemporary Gallery, the artist will also show a significant group of paintings and works on paper. Sean Scully at Houghton Hall – Smaller Than The Sky will open on 23 April 2023 and run until 29 October.
Houghton Hall was built in the 1720s for Britain’s first Prime Minister, Sir Robert Walpole. The 2023 exhibition will showcase Sean Scully’s sculptures in various materials cited in the Palladian house and around the extensive formal gardens.
Whatever you put out there is always humbled by the bigness of the sky – Sean Scully
The exhibition will include several new works, including stacks made of sandstone, wood, glass and marble. The sculptures range in scale from small maquettes to monumental open structures in steel, such as Crate of Air, and a new Wall of Light sculpture, constructed from locally sourced limestone. In addition, the exhibition will showcase Scully’s outdoor sculptures in dialogue with works in other media.
The exhibition will also include a selection of paintings and works on paper made over the past few years but with critical references to works from earlier in Scully’s career. These works will be displayed in the house’s grand rooms, the North Colonnade, and the Contemporary Gallery. Smaller Than The Sky is the latest edition of Houghton Hall’s celebrated series of contemporary exhibitions that have featured James Turrell (2015), Richard Long (2017), Damien Hirst (2018), Henry Moore (2019), Anish Kapoor (2020), Tony Cragg (2021), and Chris Levine (2021).
The exhibition’s title reflects Sean Scully’s concern for the environment and his focus on nature. A critical component is his book, Endangered Sky, a collaboration with the poet Kelly Grovier, focusing on the plight of bird life, memorialising those already extinct and those which are close to it, which will be launched at Houghton and will be shown in vitrines as part of the exhibition.
The exhibition is curated by the art historian and museum director Sean Rainbird, formerly Director of the National Gallery of Ireland (2012-2022) and a Senior Curator at Tate.
Sean Scully said: “England, as we’ve seen from the fabulous paintings by Constable, is a country very informed by the sky. People talk about the sky all the time. They talk about the weather, or the clouds, the wet. So, it’s a source of inspiration. When you put sculptures outside, you know that the sky is illuminating and conditioning how they look. Whatever you put out there is always humbled by the bigness of the sky.”
Lord Cholmondeley, owner of Houghton Hall, said:” As a long-time admirer of Sean Scully’s work, I feel extremely proud to be able to bring this major exhibition to Houghton. Scully’s paintings and sculptures often evoke landscape and architecture and will look sensational against the backdrop of the house.”
Born in Dublin, Sean Scully came to prominence primarily as a painter in the early 1970s, evolving a distinctive form of abstraction in the decade. This led him away from the geometric purity of minimalism to an expressive, multi-layered abstract painting. The works with which he gained international recognition comprise coloured bars and horizontal beams, some with inset or relief elements.
Scully established himself in New York, where he moved in the mid-1970s. The artist lives and works in New York and between several European cities, including London. Scully is widely celebrated for his watercolours, drawings, pastels and prints, and photography. Over the past two decades, he has increasingly made critically praised sculptures, including significant commissions for Château La Coste in France, Opulent Ascension in Venice and Oak Stacks in Copenhagen, and an exhibition at the Pilane Sculpture Park in Tjörn, Sweden. Scully exhibits internationally, and many major museums and galleries worldwide hold his work.
The Houghton Arts Foundation organises the exhibition with the support of Lisson Gallery and Thaddaeus Ropac gallery and critical assistance from the artist and his studio. A fully illustrated catalogue will include a text by Sean Rainbird.
Designed by prominent Georgian architects Colen Campbell and James Gibbs, Houghton Hall is one of the UK’s finest examples of Palladian architecture. Houghton Hall and its estate passed to the Cholmondeley family at the end of the 18th Century and remained a family home. The house and award-winning gardens are open to the public from spring until autumn, along with the Soldier Museum, which houses the world’s most extensive private collection of model soldiers, the superbly constructed 18th Century stables and an expansive deer park.
The Houghton Arts Foundation continues to build a collection of contemporary art at Houghton Hall, including several site-specific commissions. With links to colleges and public institutions across the region, the Foundation aims for Houghton Hall to become a focus for those who wish to see the great art of our time in a historical setting.
To coincide with Scully’s ambitious exhibition at Houghton Hall in Norfolk, New West End Company is celebrating the completion of the recently transformed Hanover Square and the unveiling the highly anticipated ‘Landline London’ sculpture by the artist which has been specially designed as a permanent installation for the Square.
Sean Scully at Houghton Hall – Smaller Than The Sky – Location: Houghton Hall, King’s Lynn, Norfolk PE31 6UE Dates: 23 April – 29 October 2023.
Tickets: £20 when booked online; £22 at the gate – Under 18’s go free. Students £10. Houghton Hall welcomes schools and colleges and runs an education