Our first session at the Sainsbury Centre began with everyone meeting each other in the Studio. There were 23 people in the room, about half people who are joining us for the first time and half who were involved in Living With Me. The link corridor was being painted black in readiness for the Francis Bacon exhibition due to arrive from The Hermitage any moment.
After a break we went upstairs into the Gallery, where Veronica facilitated a conservation about likes and dislikes. We gathered together just inside the entrance, or as Veronica put it, “We’re in Oceania at the moment, near Papua New Guinea.” Then people dispersed to make their choices, alone, then congregating in pairs, then groups of four and ultimately all together to talk about their object choices.
These are images and catalogue entries from the Sainsbury Centre collections database. They are paired Like/Dislike for each person’s choice.
Jizo Bosatsu Buddha. Japan. Kamakura period (1185-1333), late 12th to early 13th century. Wood, metal, glass. h. 36.5 x w. 21 x d. 17 cm. Acquired 2003. Robert and Lisa Sainsbury Collection. UEA 1255.
Little dancer aged fourteen. Edgar Degas (1834-1917). 1880-81. Bronze, edition unknown, cast c. 1922. h. 99.1 cm. Acquired 1938. Robert and Lisa Sainsbury Collection. UEA 2
An enraged elephant charging its tormentors in a palace courtyard. India, Rajasthan, Kota. c. 1725-50. Paper, chalk, charcoal, ink. h. 49.8cm. Acquired 1980. Robert and Lisa Sainsbury Collection. UEA 766
Giacometti, Alberto (1901 – 1966) Standing Woman 1958, France, Bronze, h 130.7 x w 20.0 x d 34.5 cm, UEA 48. © The Estate of Alberto Giacometti (Fondation Giacometti, Paris and ADAGP, Paris), licensed in the UK by ACS and DACS, London 2014.
Giacometti created many elongated standing figures which have been interpreted as reflecting the fragile, precarious state of life in Europe after the Second World War. His male figures are always depicted as moving; his depictions of women are always motionless. Robert and Lisa Sainsbury saw this sculpture in the artist’s studio in its plaster state and convinced Giacometti to have it cast in bronze for them.
The Tree. Alberto Giacometti (1901-1966). France. 1950. Oil. 78.7 x 36.1 cm. Acquired 1951. Robert and Lisa Sainsbury Collection. UEA 53. ADAGP, PARIS AND DACS, LONDON 2005
Figure of a walking hippopotamus, Dynasty XII (c. 1880 BC) , Egypt , Faience, h 9 x w 18.4 x d 7 cm, 1973, UEA 306.
The Hippopotamus figurine may have served as a talisman to protect the tomb or assist the rebirth of the deceased. It was intended to avert danger, which may be connected to the fact that the hippopotamus was a hazard to the early inhabitants of the Nile Valley, destroying crops and trampling fields.
The plastic qualities of this sculpture owe much to the fact that it was modelled from Egyptian faience, a paste composition of granular quartz, fused with alkali and coloured with a blue-green copper compound.
Maskette. Japan. Final Jomon period (c. 1000-400 B.C.). Earthenware. w 5.1 cm. Acquired 1963. Robert and Lisa Sainsbury Collection. UEA 279
Hiroshima, Mon Amour. Antonio Saura (1930-1998). France. 1963. Oil on canvas. 133.4 x 165.1 cm. Acquired 1966. Robert and Lisa Sainsbury Collection. UEA 23. ADAGP, PARIS AND DACS, LONDON 2005
Dislike (this is an object that another person wants to own!)
NO IMAGE AS IT IS COPYRIGHTED AND WE CANT SHOW IT WITHOUT PAYING A FEE
Mother and Child. Henry Moore (1898-1986). England. 1932. Green Hornton stone, beads. h. 91.4 cm. Acquired 1933. Robert and Lisa Sainsbury Collection. UEA 82. © The Henry Moore Foundation. The image must not be reproduced or altered without prior consent from the Henry Moore Foundation.
This sculpture is the culmination of Moore’s three year exploration of the mother-and child theme between 1930 and 1932, it was the most demanding sculpture the artist had attempted up until that time. Documentation shows Moore made several changes to the lower half of the sculpture, originally the legs were draped, but the artist abolished the folded drapery, carving a hole in the bench and large heavy legs, balancing the lower half of the sculpture with the mother’s exaggerated shoulder.
Kneeling Figure. F E McWilliam. 1947. Concrete. 162 x 81 x 45.5 cm. UEA 41269. © The Estate of F.E. McWilliam
Seated figure with splayed legs. Central America, Mexico, Puebla: Olmec style. Early Formative period (1200-900 BC). Terracotta, cream slip, red pigment. h. 35.5 cm. Acquired 1978. Robert and Lisa Sainsbury Collection. UEA 697
Among the more enigmatic works found in both the Gulf Coast and Central Mexico are large hollow figures, often referred to as ‘babies’ because of their facial features and chubby bodies. There is no clear identification of the sex, but at one time these figures may have worn costumes or ornaments of perishable materials which may have suggested gender. The original contexts of figures of this type are unknown.
Conversation about shame, cultural differences, disjunctions – nurturing a baby, a ‘beautiful’ baby, ugly newborns, this not-baby.
Baby carrier. Indonesia, Borneo: Kenyah or Kayan. 19th/20th century. Wood, shell. w. 44.5 cm; h. 35.6 cm. Acquired 1981. Robert and Lisa Sainsbury Collection. UEA 797
Substitute trophy head. Melanesia, New Guinea, Papuan Gulf. 19th/early 20th century. Wood, cowrie shell. h. 33.0 cm. Acquired 1949. Robert and Lisa Sainsbury Collection. UEA 153
A couple of other things were flagged up to me, including the following Likes
Female torso, 11th century, Cambodia, Limestone, h 45 x w 33 x d 16 cm, 1973, UEA 276
Originally from a large Buddhist temple site in Cambodia, this is a fragment of a figure, probably of the goddess Lakshmi. The proportions of the figure and very fine carved detail are consistent with that Baphuon style of the 11th century. This torso has always been much admired as an extraordinarily fine example and was one of Robert Sainsbury’s most prized objects.
Buddha ‘Yakushi Nyorai’. Japan. Later Heian to early Kamakura period (12 – 13th century). Bronze. h 16 x w 16 x d 3 cm (box: 7 x 26.5 x 24). Acquired 2001. Robert and Lisa Sainsbury Collection. UEA 1207 (this object’s back plate is showing a lot of verdigris, so it looks much more greeny turquoise than in this image).
Backstrap from a sword or dagger hilt. India, Rajasthan. Late 17th century. Gilt bronze. h. 12.7 x w. 4.5 cm. Acquired 1982. Robert and Lisa Sainsbury Collection. UEA 828
Various choices were discussed by the whole group, usually with a range of views about liking, disliking, or feelings that a thing could move from one category to another in a different light, or a different time. For example:
Imaginary Portrait of Phillip II. Antonio Saura (1930-1998). France. 1969. Oil. 69.9 x 49.5 cm. Acquired 1970. Robert and Lisa Sainsbury Collection. UEA 24. ADAGP, PARIS AND DACS, LONDON 2005
Conversation about echoing real feelings in periods of illness, uncomfortableness, pain. It could be seen as a landscape.
Little Prince. John Davies (b. 1946). England. 1972-73. Mixed media. h. 170.0 cm. Acquired from the artist 1975. Robert and Lisa Sainsbury Collection. UEA 642. © The Artist, courtesy of Marlborough Fine Art.
Thoughts about a mask, disfigurement, the Saint Exupery Little Prince.
This painting was a focal point, compelling attention and provoking strong Like and Dislike reactions.
Head of Gerda Boehm by Frank Auerbach. UEA 50635. Not on the database, acquired in 2014. The following information comes from the Arts Council’s Acceptant In Lieu entry.
Part of a collection of works by Auerbach given to the nation under the Acceptance in Lieu scheme (i.e. accepted in lieu of tax) from Lucian Freud’s estate, and allocated to the Sainsbury Centre. According to the Arts Council, who administer the scheme: The seven major portraits in the collection include Head of Gerda Boehm, 1964. This portrait is an outstanding example of the artist’s unique technique which is almost sculptural in its use of thick impasto. The sitter is Auerbach’s cousin, one of a select number of friends and relatives which the artist painted over and over again. For Auerbach, familiarity with the subject enabled a more intuitive way of painting which led to a more expressive and direct encounter. http://www.artscouncil.org.uk/news/arts-council-news/major-collection-works-frank-auerbach-acquired-nat/#sthash.0UptQKws.dpuf
Some found it intriguing, novel, fascinating, sculptural, knowing. Others saw it as threatening, creepy, sinister, distrustful, secretive, confused, dark, afraid.
I’ve posted these images on a Pinterest site, Voyage With Me, https://www.pinterest.com/directortherest/voyage-with-me/.
An additional Dislike object
Harpoon head. India. Late 3rd or 2nd millenium BC. Copper-arsenic alloy. h. 33.3 x w. 6.3 x d. 2.5 cm. Acquired 1983. Robert and Lisa Sainsbury Collection. UEA 870.
See Barbara’s comment below.