Modern Art on an Ancestral Estate

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The New York Sun

British aristocrats opening their estates to the public is nothing new. But credit the Duke of Devonshire with using the grounds of his stately home to host what’s become a staple of the autumn art scene in Europe.

The Duke, an art patron and aficionado who sits on Sotheby’s board of directors, is using the landscaped grounds around Chatsworth, his 105-acre ancestral estate, for an extraordinary exhibition of Modern and Contemporary sculpture.

It’s not difficult to see why “Beyond Limits” has become the talk of the art and auction community: The collection consists of 25 sculptures that are intended to be displayed outdoors because of their sheer size. Indeed, this exhibition of monumental sculpture has uncovered one of the newest collecting niches: nonpublic art that’s nevertheless so large that it’s best situated against a sweeping natural backdrop.

“There’s no other place quite like Chatsworth — the scenery is second to none,” a director in Sotheby’s Impressionist & Modern Art Department, Alexander Platon, said. “Where else can a sculptor show such large pieces? Certainly interest is growing in large outdoor works.”

This year’s exhibition includes many pieces made especially for the venerable estate. The Chilean sculptor Fernando Casasempere created “Fusion” for this year’s show, combining delicate porcelain and industrial waste in an effort to question the relationship between art and the environment. The work’s undulating shape reflects the rolling hills of Derbyshire, England, home to the Chatsworth estate, according to Mr. Platon.

The Yorkshire native Richard Hudson’s polished bronze sculpture “Love Me” is another work created especially for the grounds of the estate. These monumental sculptures come with prices to match: Mr. Platon said that the 25 pieces range in value from $150,000 to upward of $3 million. Because it’s a private sale, Sotheby’s won’t disclose specific prices.

Perhaps the most remarkable of all the sculptures in “Beyond Limits” is Marc Quinn’s painted bronze and steel “Planet.” It’s a full 9 meters long and modeled on a white-light prenatal scan of Mr. Quinn’s son. “This year we’re much more confident, more adventurous with what we show. Quinn’s baby was a mission simply to get it there,” Mr. Platon said.

Some 30,000 people walked the grounds of Chatsworth last year and the Duke expects even more by November 2, the last day of this year’s show. Part of its success comes from the scheduling. September is a relatively quiet month for art and auction fans in England. “People come back from their holidays and start thinking about their collections. Then October gets busy, and Chatsworth has become a good lead-in to all that activity,” Mr. Platon said.

For the Duke, watching crowds of people admire the sculptures on his estate is a way to honor his ancestors. Many of the Dukes of Devonshire were as interested in the art of the day as he is. “The ‘Beyond Limits’ exhibition is an extension of a 500-year association between Chatsworth and the contemporary arts,” the Duke said.

The New York Sun

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