The Dreaming House is a temporary exhibition at Newstead Abbey that pays homage to the Abbey’s history as the ancestral home of Lord Byron, where many of the personal items that belonged to the great Romantic poet are displayed. The exhibition runs 18 July – 27 September 2015.
Rather than making direct reference to Byron and his work however, the artists in The Dreaming House are interested in themes that are also present in Byron’s writing: childhood, memory, the supernatural, romanticism, ruin and decay.
Their work infiltrates the evocative rooms and spaces of Newstead Abbey, tapping in to the theatrically and radical spirit for which Byron was known. Some of the work has been located to make subtle or playful connections to the function of a particular room, or to some of the guests who have stayed at Newstead Abbey over the centuries.
Turner Prize-winning artist Grayson Perry’s Coming Out Dress, a flamboyant party dress made for his alter-ego Claire, takes centre stage in the elaborately-decorated Great Drawing Room. Garments by Caroline Broadhead, Lucy Brown and Naoko Yoshimoto hover like ghosts in rooms around the house. Shelly Goldsmith’s No Escape: Reclaimed Dresses from the Children’s Home Cincinnati appear in the library, screen-printed by the artist with images of flooding and suspended above a shelf displaying memorabilia from Byron’s time in that most watery of cities, Venice.
Nottingham-based artists Kashif Nadim Chaudry and Judy Liebert are also included: Liebert, whose installation Dreaming a House inspired the title of the exhibition, takes over Byron’s bedroom with a bedspread embroidered with sketches and plans for the conversion of her own home with her partner, architect Julian Marsh. Byron inherited Newstead Abbey in 1798 when it was almost in ruins and the inclusion of Dreaming a House here hints at the ‘thorough repair’ he carried out when he moved in, in 1808.
Chaudry shows three existing sculptures which reflect his love of materials and textures, along with new piece – Hat (The Grand Tour Walks), created in collaboration with artist Alison Lloyd and commissioned by Nottingham City Museums and Galleries for The Grand Tour Fringe programme. The hat is inspired by Byron’s love of finery, fashion and ‘dressing up’, as well as late 18th century hats in the Museum’s Costume collection, and the Albanian headdress worn by Byron in a famous portrait by Thomas Phillips, now on display in the National Portrait Gallery.
The Dreaming House also presents stereoscopic photographs made as a result of the Lacy Days project, which was inspired by Nottingham City Museums & Galleries’ important lace collection. Members of Radford Care Group, a day care facility for older people, took part in workshops that explored millinery, glove-making, portraits and the Nottingham lace industry as part of Imagine – Arts and Older People, a city-wide programme co-ordinated by City Arts with a range of partners and funded by Arts Council England and The Baring Foundation.
By displaying contemporary art textiles in such an atmospheric environment, rich in associated history and narrative, The Dreaming House shines new light on to the work and, in turn, encourages visitors to see Newstead Abbey and Byron from new perspectives.
Many works in the exhibition are from the collection of Nottingham City Museums and Galleries – one of the best collections of contemporary art textiles in the UK.
For details of opening times and admission charges for Newstead Abbey, please visit www.newsteadabbey.org.uk The house is open from 12pm-5pm on Saturdays and Sundays.