Seventeenth Thing: Left on the shelf

When I tell people I collect blue art, they often laugh, nervously. Some ask whether by blue, I mean ‘blue‘ (I don’t!) and others think I am being flippant – how could a serious arts professional have such simplistic taste? Isn’t it only one step up from collecting identikit “portraits” of cows?

But, blue is an important colour in art history, and in any case, I’ve a wide variety of artists in my collection, many making intelligent, conceptually rigorous work. Sadly I don’t have the budget to stretch to original works in every case, and have to make do with reproductions. For now.

I took the postcard of artist Alec Finlay‘s beautiful Sky Colour Wheel: North East England (detail pictured above) to a networking event, to demonstrate something that I was “passionate” about. I had picked blue art as my topic. Initially sceptical about “contemporary art” (as if it’s a singular thing) my audience of 3 challenged me to explain the work. Easy. I described how it came out of an artist residency and that the different segments represented the sky on different days over a year, in the same  spot in Northumberland: the outer wheel showing each of the 365 days, then the next one averaging the shades by week, then by month, then by season until the centre circle – provided the annual average – which showed a satisfyingly blue hue. (Grim up north? I don’t think so.) They suddenly “got it” and before long I heard some of them explaining it to others, and thus my enthusiasm for blue art spread a little further.

I could never imagine owning art that I kept in hidden away in storage rather than on the walls, but I do sympathise with those who tell me they have no more wall space. I’d been pondering dilemma this myself, and feeling guilty about the number of pictures in a stack in the corner rather than up on display. I’d thought about rotating my collection, like the Tate does with their collection. but re-hanging art is a lot of work, especially when you don’t have a big multinational oil company to sponsor the labour requirements.

Then recently, in a friend’s office, I saw these shelves and realised that this was the solution – enabling me to easily move works around as I add to the collection, and also enabling me to add some of my sculptural pieces as well (including some refugee teddies from Charlemagne Palestine‘s installation at the Hatton Gallery).

I’ve also been feeling very positive about the idea of an “art shelf” since visiting Site Gallery, Sheffield just before Christmas. They had a shelf you could send a text message to!

Anyway, I curated my blue art into loose themes: starting on the left with art about art; then art about architecture, geometry and circles; then sky and river and Gateshead; and finally nature: flowers and creatures.

Tools / special requirements: Spirit level, hammer, rawl plugs, screws (they don’t come with the shelves).

Time taken: 2 hours to hang the shelves + arrange the work (and hang some on the wall above).

Things learned: A blue film or blue picture or bp is a slang term for underground pornographic films in India and Pakistan, yet the most expensive Bollywood (non-pornographic) film ever produced was also called Blue. That must have caused confusion in Blockbusters.

Satisfaction (1-10): 9. It’s going to be a lot of dusting, but it’s nice to see  everything in one place.


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