ON Monday morning Helen Kaplinsky was in a flat on Park Hill waiting for the arrival of a removal van.
The delivery was not of beds and tables but artwork for the exhibition she has curated, British Modern Remade, which is being staged in the unusual setting of two of the show apartments in the newly refurbished flats.
As winner of their Select.ac curatorial competition for postgraduate students, Kaplinsky has selected the exhibits from the Arts Council Collection exhibition, the largest loan collection of modern and contemporary British art in the world.
Her exhibition, which opens to the public on Friday, will feature contemporary pieces from the Forties and Fifties that are now seen as having a relevance and retro-style appeal, in the same way the redesigned flats, originally built in 1961, now represent contemporary, desirable living spaces.
In addition to the two apartments, part of the Urban Splash redevelopment, there will be a large scale installation by Brian Griffiths positioned in the new main entrance on the ground floor.
“The context of the redeveloped Park Hill gives the question of what constitutes British Modernism urgency,” says the artist. “The commercial and domestic setting for the modern, postmodern and contemporary artworks underline the historical tie in Britain between style, visual art and decorative design. The artworks act as indicators of style and glamour in an aspirational domestic environment.”
The Goldsmiths College graduate had not visited Park Hill before she won the competition but chose it for the location because she was aware of its reputation as architecturally important.
“The architecture is a major design feature behind the idea of the exhibition. I have been used to working with live art and I think the venue plays a part with its views over the city being an aspect of the experience of visitors.”
Early works by Kenneth Armitage, Lynn Chadwick and Kenneth Martin were featured in some of the first Arts Council Collection exhibitions of the 1940s and 1950s. One of the parts of the Arts Council Collection which seemed particularly appropriate for the project was the Sculpture in the Home exhibition in 1953, which encouraged the purchase of small-scale sculptures befitting the home, but she has chosen examples spanning the six decades since the founding of the collection in 1946.
“It adds up to a social history of Britain. There’s an optimism in the early work, like that of Anthony Hill, and then you detect the anxieties and allure of British Modernism as typified by Park Hill itself. Keith Coventry’s view is quite dark and then there’s a punk image by Andrew Logan and we have pieces by Martin Boyce and Toby Patterson which emulate the style of Modernism but in an ambiguous way.”
British Modern Remade is featured in the ground floor entrance (access off South Street) to Park Hill and in flats 32 and 33 Norwich Street. There is a private view tonight (May 3) and the exhibition continues from Friday to June 16, Monday to Saturdays, 1pm-5pm.