Building a world class collection

Richard Tuttle - how red and blue became yellow being positioned at the Graves Gallery in Sheffield by Ashley Gallant, project curator
Richard Tuttle - how red and blue became yellow being positioned at the Graves Gallery in Sheffield by Ashley Gallant, project curator

Work by such world renowned artists as Donald Judd, Bridget Riley, Josef and Anni Albers, Carl Andre and Lewis Baltz are currently on show in the Graves Gallery.

From one of the UK’s finest private collections of modern and contemporary art they feature in the latest instalment of Going Public: International Art Collectors in Sheffield.

Anni Albers, Study for Triadic II, 1969 � The Josef and Anni Albers Foundation
 Going Public - The Kirkland Collection at Graves Gallery � Museums Sheffield

Anni Albers, Study for Triadic II, 1969 � The Josef and Anni Albers Foundation Going Public - The Kirkland Collection at Graves Gallery � Museums Sheffield

Going Public – The Kirkland Collection comprises 14 works, all but one of which have never been publicly exhibited in the UK before.

Construction company boss Jack Kirkland’s personal collection brings together work by some of the most important international artists of the past 75 years, particularly from the USA and Latin America.

It reveals a passion for photography, minimalism and geometric abstraction which seems to go with a career in building. Indeed Helio Oiticica’s painting, Metaesquema, calls to mind brickwork. There is certainly no human figure in sight.

For the Sheffield exhibition he selected highlights from the collection, including painting, sculpture, works on paper and photography, and personally supervised their hanging.

A passion for minimalism and geometric abstraction

Jack Kirkland

“Jack had very clear ideas and knew exactly how it should look as a distillation of his collection which was interesting,” said Museums Sheffield project curator Ashley Gallant.

Many of the artists are key figures in modern art such as Donald Judd and Carl Andre who redefined sculpture from something carved and shaped into how objects fitted the environment. Andre presented configuarations set directly on the ground as with his Nineteenth Copper Cardinal (1975), a strip running down the length of one gallery.

Lewis Baltz’s New Industrial Parks - Complete Works (1974) comprises 51 black and white images of a drab Californian industrial complex. It helped define the New Topographic movement, exemplifying a detached but critical view of the emerging man-altered landscape.

Graduate of the Bauhaus Anni Albers is represented by the geometrically complex Study for Triadic II (1969), alongside husband Josef’s Homage of the Square Post Autumn, one of several examples of hard-edged painting on view. Another is by the Cuban-American Carmen Herrera, still going strong aged 102.

Bridget Riley - Red Overture 2012 stands over the installation PI 2011 by Lara Favaretto in Graves Gallery in Sheffield

Bridget Riley - Red Overture 2012 stands over the installation PI 2011 by Lara Favaretto in Graves Gallery in Sheffield

There is one of Ad Reinhardt’s famous “black” paintings of the 1960s which appear at first glance to be simply canvases painted black but prolonged study reveals different shades and one of the original nine versions The Diagonal of May 25, 1963, the very first of Dan Flavin’s fluorescent light sculptures, described as a milestone of Minimalist art.

In addition to the established names, Kirkland has encouraged younger artists such as Lara Favaretto from Italy whose floor-based Pi consists of lines of iron scaffolding tubes and Mexican artist Abraham Cruzcillegas with Menu in Progess, 60 boxes painted black and mounted on the wall.

Based in Nottingham, Jack Kirkland is a main board director of the family construction firm Bowmer & Kirkland whose work in Sheffield includes The Moor Market and the New Era Square ‘Chinatown’ scheme. He has been collecting for some 20 years and is currently chairman of Nottingham Contemporary, a member of Tate’s International Council, and a trustee of the Bridget Riley Art Foundation (her Red Overture from 2012 has pride of place in the exhibition). In 2011, he established The Ampersand Foundation to fund visual arts activities throughout the UK.

He said: ‘I was delighted to get the invitation to show some of my collection here. Sheffield is a city very close to my heart – my late Mum was from Rotherham and I’m extremely proud of the building work that Bowmer & Kirkland have done and are doing here. “

Going Public – The Kirkland Collection continues at the Graves Gallery until December 2.

There are a number of related events. Ashley Gallant gives an introductory talk next Thursday, October 12, from 1pm-1.45pm.

Nottingham University Professor Mark Rawlinson will lead Squares, Lines and Grids: Modern Art for Beginners, a four week introduction to the History of Art, inspired by Going Public: The Kirkland Collection on Fridays October 13, 20, 27 and November 3, 1pm – 3pm. It costs £35 per session or £100 for all four and should be booked in advance online via Eventbrite

There will also be a Lunchtime Talk, Anni Albers and Me by artist Louisa Chambers, on Wednesday November 1, 1pm-1.45pm.