The UK’s first opportunity to see the Turner Prize winning artist Jeremy Deller’s installation for the 2013 Venice Biennale will be unveiled tomorrow at Walthamstow’s William Morris Gallery. English Magic, Deller’s exhibition for the British Pavilion at the 55th International Art Exhibition – La Biennale di Venezia was commissioned by the British Council for the British Pavilion. The UK tour of the exhibition is supported by the Art Fund — the national fundraising charity for art. The tour is the first of its kind and will enable audiences across the country to see the exhibition.
Set in Morris’s former home, the Gallery was a natural choice as the first stop on the show’s national tour; one room in the politically-charged exhibition is dedicated to the radical Victorian craftsman, with whom Deller has long been fascinated.
The iconic image of the show is a mural (titled ‘We Sit Starving Amidst our Gold’) depicting a colossal Morris hurling Roman Abramovich’s yacht into the Venetian lagoon. The exhibition also features objects designed or used by Morris himself, selected by Deller from the Gallery’s collection.
Explaining his affinity with Morris, Jeremy Deller said: “For me William Morris is a fascinating character who wore his heart on his sleeve, mixing politics and art in a way no one has managed to since. William Morris Gallery seemed the perfect place to start the tour – it just makes sense.”
Deller intends English Magic to evoke the fantastic, deceptive and transformative powers of popular culture and politics, and their ability to weave spells and change perceptions to both good and bad ends. Music is a recurrent theme in Deller’s work and a film, which encapsulates the essence of the exhibition, will be on display with a soundtrack of versions of classical and contemporary songs, played by the Melodians Steel Orchestra from South London.
Chris Robbins, Leader of Waltham Forest Council said: “The William Morris Gallery is an important part of our cultural heritage and as Morris’ former home, holds a significant amount of history. Being the first UK destination for English Magic is a huge honour for us and knowing that Morris has inspired Deller’s work and this exhibition makes the partnership all the more special.”
The Gallery, which is owned and run by Waltham Forest Council and has recently undergone a £5 million transformation, will host a series of events to accompany the exhibition, including a banner-making workshop and a Q&A with Deller. After the William Morris Gallery, English Magic will travel to Bristol Museum & Art Gallery and Turner Contemporary, Margate.
The William Morris Gallery is housed in a Georgian house, built in the 1740s and set in Lloyd Park in Walthamstow, north-east London. It is owned and operated by Waltham Forest Council. The grade II* listed building was Morris’s family home from 1848 to 1856. The only public Gallery devoted to Morris, it reopened in August 2012 following a major redevelopment which has attracted widespread public and press acclaim. It is the Art Fund’s Museum of the Year 2013 and has been nominated for the European Museum of the Year Award 2014.
The Gallery is open Wednesday to Sunday, 10am – 5pm; admission is free