LONDON.- The Foundling Museum
has acquired a large-scale painting by Sir Michael Craig-Martin, RA and a sculpture by Yinka Shonibare MBE, RA, thanks to grants from Art Fund and the Arts Council England/V&A Purchase Fund Grant, and other supporters.
Craig-Martins 2x2 metre Tricycle, 2016 is the first major painting to enter the Museum Collection in 94 years, while Shonibares Trumpet Boy, 2010, is the first major sculpture to enter the Collection in 163 years. These acquisitions represent an important landmark in the Museums ongoing programme of commissioning and exhibiting contemporary art, and continue the story of contemporary artists involvement with the historic Founding Hospital.
In 2016 the Museum commissioned Michael Craig-Martin to make a new work in response to its story and Collection. Painted in his signature bold, graphic style, Tricycle reminds visitors of the thousands of children who passed through the Foundling Hospital, most of whom are only known through the anonymous traces they left behind uniforms, identification tags, plates, cutlery and the small everyday objects their mothers left with them as tokens. Tricycle was originally displayed in the Picture Gallery between September 2016 and February 2017, offering a point of imaginative departure in a room dominated by portraits of the Hospitals eighteenth-century governors, and notable for the lack of reference to the foundling children. Tricycle is now installed at the top of the Hospitals eighteenth-century oak staircase.
Yinka Shonibare MBE has a long-standing relationship with the Museum, having been appointed a Foundling Fellow in 2012. Trumpet Boy was exhibited at the Museum in 2016 as part of FOUND, the critically-acclaimed exhibition curated by Cornelia Parker, and speaks to the education and training Foundling Hospital children received. Dressed in Victorian clothes made from bright African textiles, and with a head made from a celestial globe whose stars have been renamed after famous black musicians, the sculpture is a metaphor for the universal and unifying nature of music, and the ability of education to transform lives. Trumpet Boy also reflects the role that music played at the Foundling Hospital. The celebrated composer George Frideric Handel was a major supporter, writing the Hospitals Anthem and conducting annual benefit concerts of Messiah in its Chapel. Foundlings were also taught music and many boys belonged to the Hospitals Boys Band, which enabled them to pursue careers in the military and travel the world via the regimental bands.
These acquisitions continue the Museums tradition of inviting contemporary artists to reflect on the Hospitals story, providing a space for twenty-first century artists to enter into a dialogue with their eighteenth and nineteenth-century forebears. From its establishment in 1739, the Foundling Hospital was supported by leading figures in British art, in particular William Hogarth, who galvanized painters and sculptors of the day to donate art to the Hospital, thereby creating the UKs first public art gallery. In addition to providing a platform for established and emerging contemporary artists to show their work, the Hospital became the seedbed for the establishment of the Royal Academy of Arts. Contemporary artists are therefore central to the Foundling Hospital story and the Foundling Museums work reflects this though its work with contemporary practitioners of every discipline, including visual artists, film makers, musicians and designers.
Caro Howell, Director of the Foundling Museum said: These two acquisitions transform the Museums ability to tell the story of how contemporary art and artists transformed the fortunes of the eighteenth-century Foundling Hospital and how in turn, the Hospital [became the seedbed for the founding of the Royal Academy] and helped shape the contemporary art world that we know today.
Michael Craig-Martin said I am pleased and honoured to have my painting Tricycle in The Foundling Museums historically distinguished collection.
Yinka Shonibare MBE said: I am particularly excited that Trumpet Boy is now in the Foundling Museum Collection. Handel, one of the Governors of the Foundling Hospital, will be pleased.'
Both artworks are now on display at the Museum amongst the historic Collection.