Taking Shape: Finding sculpture in the decorative arts

30 Sep 2008 – 4 Jan 2009

Exhibition in Galleries 1, 2 and 3

Taking Shape focuses on the inventive imagination of Baroque and Rococo that dominated sculpture and the decorative arts in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries and presents it in a new light.

Challenging the conventional hierarchies of the fine and decorative arts, this exhibition brings together a selection of extraordinary objects from opposite sides of the Atlantic.

The exhibition draws upon the rich collections of Temple Newsam House in West Yorkshire and the J. Paul Getty Museum in California. Co-organised by the Henry Moore Institute and the J. Paul Getty Museum, Taking Shape will tour to the Getty in 2009.

Including a diverse range of objects – richly-carved console tables and candle-stands, a spectacular mirror and clock, statuettes, bronzes and busts, etchings and engravings – the works feature all manner of fantastic motifs. Angels and deities, foliage and flowers metamorphose into animals and mythological figures, abstract scrolls and invented ornaments.

Made from a wide variety of materials, including bronze, wood, marble and porcelain, with sumptuous finishes such as gilding and enamel, these artefacts reveal the aesthetic exchange between sculpture and the decorative arts which characterised the Baroque and Rococo periods.

Normally seen in the context of the period room, their presentation within a contemporary gallery space offers the viewer the opportunity to focus on the objects themselves.

Temple Newsam is one of England’s greatest historic estates and has been owned and administered by Leeds City Council since 1922. The J. Paul Getty Museum in Los Angeles houses a rich collection of European fine and decorative arts. Both venues are renowned for their Baroque and Rococo collections, originating predominantly from France (the Getty) and England (Temple Newsam).

By taking the works in question out of their usual contexts, the exhibition highlights relationships and exchanges between two practices more often seen in opposition to one another. Ultimately, the exhibition suggests that sculpture can be understood not only in terms of autonomous figural form, but as operating more prolifically as a quality that informs spatial practices as a whole, thereby embracing furniture and decorative art as innately sculptural modes of expression.

The exhibition is curated by Martina Droth of the Henry Moore Institute in collaboration with period specialists at Temple Newsam and the Getty. It is accompanied by a substantial catalogue with essays by the curator with Charissa Bremer-David, Mimi Hellman, Katie Scott and Mary Sheriff and full object entries by Charissa Bremer-David, Martina Droth, Ian Fraser, Catherine Hess, James Lomax, Marjorie Trusted, Jeffrey Weaver and Anthony Wells-Cole. Public lectures and a conference also complement the show.

Venue details

30 September 2008 - 4 January 2009

Venue address

Henry Moore Institute
The Headrow
United Kingdom
T: 0113 246 7467

Opening times

Galleries: Tuesday to Sunday, 10am - 5pm

Research Library: Monday to Friday, 10am - 5pm
Archive of Sculptors' Papers: Tuesday to Friday, by prior appointment

31 March - 5 July 2009

Venue address

J. Paul Getty Museum
1200 Getty Center Drive
Los Angeles
United States
T: +1 (310) 440-7330
Visit website

Opening times

Monday: Closed
Tuesday to Sunday: 10am - 5:30pm
Saturday: 10am - 9pm

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