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House of Bling

  • Date: 18 December 2009
  • Artform: None
  • Area: Midlands
Linda Florence, Castle Design, House of Bling 2009 curated by Jane Greenfield & Sue Crabtree Linda Florence, Castle Design, House of Bling 2009 curated by Jane Greenfield & Sue Crabtree, Photo: Julian Hughes

As the result of a new partnership between Arts Council England, East Midlands and the National Trust, a series of spectacular installations were created for Tattershall Castle in Lincolnshire.

The castle was built by Lord Ralph Cromwell in 1433 as a piece of pure medieval bling. It reflected his power, status and personal fortune – being one of the first buildings to use brick as a material with a keep which is 33 metres high.

The majestic building is usually empty of contents, but White Light, a Nottingham-based production/curatorial partnership, applied to the Arts Council for a grant to commission six artists in order to create large-scale installations for the castle and grounds, which would reflect the building’s rich history.

Sue Crabtree and Jane Greenfield of White Light said: “The House of Bling is at the forefront of a new relationship between the Arts Council and the National Trust.  It has been a challenging and exciting project, attracting large visitor numbers to experience contemporary art in a heritage setting.

“The House of Bling has been a trailblazer, helping to attract new audiences for similar future projects.”

The artists involved were Sarah Price, Geraldine Pilgrim, Catherine Bertola, Linda Florence and KMA (Kit Monkman and Tom Wexler).  They used video, installation and landscape design to create fascinating pieces of work which were inspired by a setting once full of opulence and grandeur.

Sarah Price, Chelsea Flower Show Silver medallist and designer of the botanical garden for the 2012 Olympic Park, created a ‘secret garden’ installation in the stable ruin.

KMA artists produced an animated portrait in the cellars and in the grounds, and print designer Linda Florence produced elaborate carpet-like patterns cut into the lawn creating a grass carpet.

Events were also arranged around the exhibition including meeting the creative team, cloud spotting, star gazing and bat watching, digging with an archaeologist and make your own bling (jewellery).

In the Access and Interpretation Space there was an opportunity to look at historical material behind the exhibitions, including archaeological finds, old photographs and plans and the artists’ drawings and designs.  This enabled visitors to take a peek behind the scenes of the creative process.

The result was sensational and attracted 9,000 visitors - thereby boosting visitor numbers by more than 125%, trebling numbers on some days.

Alison Lloyd, Head of Visual Arts and Literature, said:  “We hope that this project will be the start of a partnership between the Arts Council and the National Trust.  House of Bling was a great success bringing great art into an historic setting.”