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Sean Scully exhibition at Houghton Hall, home of Britain’s first Prime Minister Sir Robert Walpole, following Damien Hirst and Henry Moore

This spring one of the world’s most celebrated artists Sean Scully will take over the grounds and historic interiors of Houghton Hall for an exhibition that will showcase the full range of his works.

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 April 23 and run until October 29.

Houghton Hall was built in the 1720s for Britain’s first Prime Minister Sir Robert Walpole, and the 2023 exhibition will showcase Sean Scully sculptures in a wide range of materials sited in the Palladian house and around the extensive formal gardens.

Sean Scully at Houghton Hall - Smaller Than The Sky
Sean Scully at Houghton Hall - Smaller Than The Sky

Several new works will be included 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. The exhibition will be a showcase of 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 key reference to works from earlier in Scully’s career. These works will be displayed in the grand rooms of the house and in the North Colonnade and the Contemporary Gallery.

Houghton Hall’s celebrated series of contemporary exhibitions have featured James Turrell (2015), Richard Long (2017), Damien Hirst (2018), Henry Moore (2019), Anish Kapoor (2020), Tony Cragg (2021) and Chris Levine (2021).

Scully’s book, Endangered Sky, a collaboration with the poet Kelly Grovier, focusing on the plight of bird life, will also be launched at Houghton.

The exhibition is curated by the art historian and museum director, Sean Rainbird, formerly director of the National Gallery of Ireland and a senior curator at Tate.

Tickets: £20 when booked online; £22 at the gate. Under-18s go free. Students £10. Details at https://www.houghtonhall.com

Sean Scully said: “England, as we’ve seen from the fabulous paintings by Constable, is a country very informed by 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 are aware that the sky is illuminating them, 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 course of 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.

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