Contemporary art draws in the crowds at National Trust gardens and houses

Press release
Breaking news
Published : 27 Jul 2016 Last update : 05 Dec 2017

From Grayson Perry tapestries to dandelion sculptures, the National Trust is celebrating its largest ever programme of contemporary arts, with 24 events and exhibitions across England and Wales inspired by the conservation charity’s historic places.

Trust New Art, the National Trust’s contemporary arts programme, aims to connect people to places through contemporary arts. Its partnership with Arts Council England began in 2009, and in 2015 the charity also began working with the Arts Council of Wales.

Last year, more than a million people visited National Trust places while Trust New Art exhibitions and installations were on show.

Grace Davies, the National Trust’s Contemporary Arts Programme Manager, said: “I’m delighted that we’ve continued to grow our programme of contemporary arts year on year. We have worked with exciting artists who have worked in a diverse range of creative disciplines to create works that move and inspire people to think differently about what art is and where you can see it. 

“This year, as we mark the 300th anniversary of landscape designer Lancelot ‘Capability’ Brown, we’ve welcomed a major installation at Wimpole inviting visitors to explore the North Park and look with an artist’s eye. At Berrington, Brown’s final design, a series of outdoor events and installations draw visitors into his landscape.”

Explore the National Trust’s programme of exhibitions, events and special projects including visual arts and crafts, temporary architecture, performance-based practice, and writing inspired by our places.


Dorothy Una Ratcliffe Fellowship Exhibition: Women’s Work - Women in the Rural Landscape

Freya Pocklington

Acorn Bank, 2 September - 27 November 2016; Hill Top,  17 September - 20 October 2016

Women’s Work is the outcome of Freya Pockington’s three month Dorothy Una Ratcliffe Fellowship residency at Acorn Bank, in Spring 2016. The 2016 Fellowship is part of the National Trust’s programme of activities celebrating 150 years since Beatrix Potter’s birth. Pocklington has spent her residency seeking out women who can be seen as the present day counterparts of Beatrix Potter, who spent the later part of her life as a Herdwick sheep farmer in the Lake District. The women are all working within the Lake District and surrounding areas to either actively conserve the landscape, or the animals and farming way of life that have helped to shape it. Experience Pocklington’s drawings and audio recordings at Acorn Bank and Beatrix Potter’s former home Hill Top.

Supported by Arts Council England.

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Mat Collishaw

Until 30 October 2016

For his first solo show in Yorkshire, Mat Collishaw has created two striking new installations for folly! at this World Heritage Site. Nestled in the dramatic eighteenth-century landscape surrounding Fountains Abbey, the Banqueting House and The Temple of Piety have been transformed by Collishaw’s immersive and enchanting installations. Drawing upon the history of buildings designed for revelry and reflection, the works are optical illusions that echo ghosts from the past.

Commissioned in partnership with Blain Southern.

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Autumn Lights 

Liz West

9 September – 27 November 2016

Liz West’s commission draws inspiration from over thirty thousand lead panes that make up the Tudor house’s windows, which are subtly tinted by trace impurities of copper, iron and magnesium. These glass colourways are the starting point for an artwork that uses prisms, filters, refraction and reflection to create a playful, spatial light trail through the house. The interplay of architecture, light and colour will change as the sun’s natural light shifts over the autumn season.

Supported by Arts Council England

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Amanda Loomes

16 September – 21 October 2016

For centuries there have been keepers working to take care of Lyme: gamekeepers, housekeepers, head keepers, timekeepers. The keepers are the custodians of stories, anecdotes and gossip, theirs and others, sometimes partial, sometimes complete - a living layer across the landscape. Amanda Loomes’ specially commissioned experimental documentary film will reflect on the historical and contemporary ‘keepers’ of Lyme, contemporary working lives in the landscape, layers of past labour and people long gone, using Lyme’s expansive archive.

Supported by Arts Council England

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Hidden Speke

Alice May Williams

Residency: June – July 2016

Exhibition: 23 September – 27 November 2016

This summer Speke Hall welcomes their first artist-in-residence in over a century. As part of the Bluecoat’s off-site programme, Alice May Williams will undertake research in June and July to develop a new site-specific artwork highlighting Speke Hall’s relationship with the Arts and Crafts movement. Williams will be speaking about her residency on 13 July at Bluecoat (ticket required), and you will be able to experience her new work at Speke Hall from 23 September.

Supported by Arts Council England

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On the Wing

Caroline Wright

Until 30 October 2016

Nestled in the flower meadows, Caroline Wright’s elegant bird cage reveals hidden views of the Estate. Commissioned to mark the 50th anniversary of Lord Fairhaven’s bequest of Anglesey Abbey to the National Trust, the work references his interest in ornithology, responds to his unrealised wish to create a garden folly and speaks of the freedom and entrapment of wealth and personal circumstance. On August 13 a performance will animate the birdcage, referencing time, routines and the life of Lord Fairhaven.

Supported by Arts Council England

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Walk With Me

Strijbos & Van Rijswijk, Megan Bradbury

Until 30 October 2016

Co-commissioned by Felbrigg Hall and Norfolk & Norwich Festival, Strijbos & Van Rijswijk’s audio walkscape takes you through woods and fields to create your own cinematic experience. With the landscape as your screen, headphones provide a soundtrack of music, words and sound effects. Moving through the grounds, moods change, and time flits from past to present. An intriguing narrative by novelist Megan Bradbury recollects the past of Felbrigg Hall and reframes the estate as a place of stories and wonder.

Supported by North Norfolk District Council.

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Scene: a new way of looking


Until 30 October 2016

A major site-specific installation by design practice NEON to celebrate the 300th anniversary of ‘Capability’ Brown. Inspired by Brown’s parkland as a series of picturesque views, or scenes, NEON’s installations invite you to explore the North Park and look with an artist’s eye.

Supported by Arts Council England.

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Until 1 September 2016

Sound artist Scanner’s (Robin Rimbaud) new sound installation invites you to reflect on Cliveden’s past and explore its unique Sounding Chamber. Following extensive restoration work, the historic chamber located below the South Terrace has opened for the first time in 30 years. Its purpose remains a mystery, but the discovery of hidden funnels in the ceiling and the impressive acoustics of the domed space suggest that it was used for musical performances.

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The Observatory – residencies

Florence Kennard, Alyson Stoneman, Savinder Bual,

Until 23rd of October 2016

SPUD’s The Observatory is an intriguing structural installation consisting of an artist’s studio (The Study) and a public shelter (The Workshop). Designed by a young team of architectural graduates working with an artist, The Observatory has come to Mottisfont at the start of the second year of the project. Three artists will each spend two months here – filmmaker Florence Kennard, poet Alyson Stoneman, and multi-media artist Savinder Bual. See how the artists use the space to observe, investigate and create new work in response to Mottisfont’s landscape, nature and architecture.

The Observatory is supported by Arts Council England.

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The Jurors

Hew Locke

Long term installation

Commissioned to mark the 800th anniversary of the sealing of Magna Carta in 2015, Hew Locke’s twelve intricately worked bronze chairs incorporate imagery representing key moments in the struggle for freedom, rule of law and equal rights.

Commissioned by Surrey County Council and National Trust and produced by Situations

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Will Shannon

23 September 2016 – 1 January 2017

Will Shannon’s folly-like Bothy reflects the pioneering principles and production techniques of Standen’s Arts & Crafts heritage. Using materials found in the Sussex landscape, the commission will challenge him to learn new skills to create the different elements; from stained glass windows to simple furniture. Tucked away on Standen’s sandstone cliffs, Bothy will be a space to shelter, reflect and create.

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Rainham Rules: Queen of London’s Streets

Amy Jane Adams
Until 18 September 2016

A dynamic, architecture inspired graffiti art installation that has been inspired by the wrought-iron railings and exquisite Queen Anne features of the 18th century merchant house, Rainham Hall.

The exhibition celebrates Rainham Hall’s design features though a series of arresting creations in the Hayloft community space.


Genius Loci

Red Earth

Until 1 January 2017

Environmental arts company Red Earth bring ‘Capability’ Brown’s final landscape design to life with a series of outdoor installations and events. Join them on specific dates to create the installations from materials on the estate – then see them in their entirety from 8 August. Red Earth’s residency ends on 17 September with Strange Magic, an evocative evening celebration of live song, sound, music and fire.

Supported by Arts Council England.

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The Vanity of Small Differences

Grayson Perry

9 July – 11 September 2016

Croome’s recently restored tapestry room hangs empty; the original tapestries are now in the Met in New York. This summer Croome hosts Grayson Perry’s series of six large-scale tapestries which resonate with the ideas of taste and class explored at Croome.

Loan from Arts Council Collection, Southbank Centre, London and British

Council. Gift of the artist and Victoria Miro Gallery with the support of Channel 4 Television, the Art Fund and Sfumato Foundation with additional

support from Alix Partners.

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Brown at Work

Kathrin Böhm

23 July - 21 August 2016

Croome’s natural looking landscape has been shaped by the vision of one man and through the labour of thousands. In ‘Capability’ Brown’s 300th anniversary year you can experience what it means to shift soil and shape land on the very same site.  Brown at Work is a miniature landscape to be sculpted and re-sculpted by Croome visitors. It is a collaboratively developed and produced public art project with National Trust staff and volunteers, and artist Kathrin Böhm.

Supported by Arts Council England

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The Golden Box

Bouke de Vries

Until end of 2017

As part of the return of the collection to Croome, Bouke de Vries was invited to create an original work to present select pieces from the ceramics collection in a  way that responds to Croome’s spirit of ‘expect the unexpected.’ The Golden Box entices you to walk through a reflective cube encrusted with exquisite pieces of Meissen, Worcester and Sevres porcelain from Croome’s collection.

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Densen – Disperse

Christiane Löhr

Until 4 September 2016

Using natural materials found on the Estate, such as dandelions and seeds, Christiane Löhr’s tiny ethereal sculptures and delicate drawings invite you to explore Gunby from a different perspective. Developed in partnership with Locus+, this commission continues Gunby’s long association with artists. The exhibition can be found in Orchard Gallery, nestled in the Gunby gardens. Walk in Christiane’s footsteps across the Gunby grounds and go on a specially designed walk to explore the plants and landscapes that inspired her exhibition.  

Supported by Arts Council England

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Packwood Follies

Hilary Jack

Until 1 April 2017

Inspired by a line written about Packwood in the 1930s, describing it as ‘a house to dream of, a garden to dream in,’ artist Hilary Jack has created three installations to explore in the garden and park at Packwood; InsideOutHouse, Embedded and Hive.

Generously funded by a Cadbury Play Grant.

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Truth and Triomphe

Grayson Perry

Until 30 October 2016

A rare chance to see Grayson Perry’s Map of Truths and Beliefs created for his The Tomb of the Unknown Craftsman exhibition at The British Museum. Perry’s tapestry is hung alongside a French masterpiece, the 300 year old Char de Triomphe, providing an opportunity to compare and contrast the historic and contemporary methods, symbolism and making of both tapestries.

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Writing Places

Jane Feaver, Miriam Nash

Until summer 2016

Since June 2015 Writing Places has been celebrating the literary history of National Trust houses in the South West with author events, writers-in-residence, open days and trails, and recording iconic poems inspired by each location with The Poetry Archive. In 2016 we’re welcoming two new writers-in-residence: Jane Feaver at A La Ronde; and Miriam Nash at Greenway, Agatha Christie’s former holiday home.

Writing Places is a partnership between the National Trust, Literature Works and The Poetry Archive. Supported by Arts Council England.

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Emotional Archaeology

Daphne Wright

10 September- 20 November 2016

Daphne Wright’s art is the result of a relentless curiosity into how a deep engagement with materials can explore often unspoken human preoccupations. At Tyntesfield two series of works will be installed to respond to the history of the estate. The chapel will house film portraits of individuals in the intensely private moment of prayer and meditation. By contrast the cast and photographic works in the main house will trigger us to consider mankind’s complex relationship with breeding.

This survey exhibition has been curated by Josephine Lanyon and will be co-presented at the National Trust Tyntesfield and Arnolfini, Bristol.

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Artists in Residence Exhibition

Lisa Heledd Jones, Joanne Wardrop, Robyn Woolston

Until 2 October 2016

Lisa Heledd Jones, Joanne Wardrop and Robyn Woolston spent five months exploring Penrhyn; from its elaborate architecture to the difficult history of sugar and slate fortunes, slavery, and social and industrial unrest that surrounds the castle.

As this second stage of a three-year project, in collaboration with the Arts Council of Wales, draws to a close, Penrhyn’s artists-in-residence reveal their work within the castle, as well as venues in the local community.

Supported by the Arts Council of Wales

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One and All: a digital voyage through sight, sound and sea

Tania Kovats, Owen Sheers, Martyn Ware, Benjamin Wigley

Until November 2016

A virtual walk along the coast with digital artworks by visual artist Tania Kovats, poet Owen Sheers and sound artist Martyn Ware, and film by Benjamin Wigley. Following a launch exhibition at Somerset House in autumn 2015, you can experience the project for free online.

Co-commissioned with Sound UK and produced in collaboration with Benjamin Wigley (artdocs) and digital agency The Swarm.

Supported by Arts Council England and PRS for Music Foundation.

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