Hatton Gallery in Newcastle upon Tyne opened its doors at the beginning of the month following a 20-month, £3.8million redevelopment. We speak to Julie Milne, Chief Curator of Galleries, Tyne & Wear Archives & Museums about the new building and celebrating Newcastle's place in Pop Art history.
Tell us about yourself.
I work as Chief Curator of Art Galleries at Tyne & Wear Archives & Museums, and I’m responsible for running the Laing Art Gallery in Newcastle, the Hatton Gallery at Newcastle University and the Shipley Art Gallery in Gateshead.
Tyne & Wear Archives & Museums (TWAM) is a joint museum service that runs nine museums and an archive service on behalf of the four local authorities on Tyneside and Newcastle University. The organisation is pretty unique, sharing expertise across a wide area. I have core responsibility for the leadership of the galleries including the designated collections, curatorial and learning programmes combined with managerial responsibility for the budget and staff including curatorial, learning, and front of house.
Working across the three galleries presents a special creative challenge sharing collections and specialist staff but also honing and enhancing the creative vision for each gallery, showcasing what is unique about each gallery in their specific settings, context and locale. It’s a wonderful job and I have a great team.
Hatton Gallery reopens with Pioneers of Pop. Pop Art is strongly associated with the US and London. What's the link with Newcastle?
Many people think Pop Art started in the USA with Andy Warhol – but in reality, a lot of the thinking and work behind it was happening in the UK, and not just in London but also Newcastle.
Pioneers of Pop revolves around the wide network of artists and writers, activities, projects and ideas which had at their centre artist Richard Hamilton, during his time teaching at Newcastle University from 1953 – 1966.
Five years before Warhol’s Campbell soup can and Marilyn Monroe diptych, Richard Hamilton said:
"Pop Art is: popular, transient, expendable, low-cost, mass-produced, young, witty, sexy, gimmicky, glamorous, and Big Business”.
Pioneers of Pop aims to capture the excitement, experimentation and opportunity of that time through the prism of Newcastle and its progressive, stimulating art school - where Hamilton and his colleagues sought to widen the basis of art’s visual language.
Which piece in the exhibition are you most excited to be exhibiting?
Our guest curators, Gill Hedley and Anne Massey, both of whom have close family ties to Newcastle, have selected a wonderful group of works, some of which have been rarely seen. We are delighted to present a print of the iconic Hamilton work Just what was it that made yesterday’s homes so different, so appealing (Upgrade, 2004) arguably the most famous image of British pop art. The work is presented alongside Hamilton’s 1990 remake of the collage, in which he emphasises the arrival of the digital age and explores the shifts in sexual identity, consumer culture and politics from 1950 – 1990.
Other highlights include works by Eduardo Paolozzi, David Hockney, Richard Smith, Ian Stephenson, R.B Kitaj and Joe Tilson.
What's changed at Hatton as part of the redevelopment?
The Hatton looks significantly different following our £3.8million redevelopment. The Hatton underwent major refurbishment works throughout out the redevelopment project, transforming it from a tired space to a bright, modern gallery with the addition of new learning spaces.
The galleries have been brought up to date with new walls, lighting and environmental controls (which allows us to secure major loans from national institutions – as we have in our opening exhibitions).
The building itself, which is a combination of Grade II listed Edwardian architecture and brutalist architecture has been conserved to a very high standard, with original architectural features restored.
The introduction of a new learning space allows us to engage more with school and community groups, and a new archive and study space allows visitors to access the Hatton’s archive and collection like never before.
For the last few months before the opening you toured Toby Paterson’s Hatton Pavilion across Newcastle and Gateshead. Have you learnt anything from doing this that you will bring into the gallery itself? Would you repeat the idea of a pavilion in the future for outreach work?
Our offsite commission for a touring pavilion was an opportunity to engage with the public during the closure of the Gallery. Toby Paterson’s response to the Hatton Gallery’s history and collection proved to be a real talking point for the pavilion staff and we were able to reach new audiences and share our enthusiasm for the Hatton.
Now that the Hatton Gallery is open, we plan to continue this contemporary commissioning programme each year within the gallery itself. In February 2018, we will present the Hatton’s next contemporary commission by Newcastle-based artist Kate Liston, who plans to present a work which responds to the unique architecture and history of the gallery.
Is there another exhibition on currently in the region that you would recommend?
Paul Nash at the Laing Art Gallery is an exceptional exhibition. Nash was a key figure in British Surrealism. His art forged an important new connection between surreal and mystical ideas and the English landscape.
Touring from Tate Britain, the exhibition received 4 and 5 star reviews from the Guardian, Londonist and Time Out London. Importantly, all funds raised from the sale of tickets for this exhibition go to directly support the work of the Laing Art Gallery, which allows us to inspire future generations of artists, curators and audiences.
Pioneers of Pop is on at Hatton Gallery until 20 January 2018. The Paul Nash exhibition can be see at Laing Gallery until 14 January 2018.