New exhibition shines a spotlight on stage and screen

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New exhibition shines a spotlight on stage and screen
Edward Burra, Miracle in the Gorbals, design for front cloth, 1944. © The estate of Edward Burra, courtesy Lefevre Fine Art, London.

GLASGOW.- A new exhibition on view at The Hunterian, University of Glasgow, this November, presents a stunning selection of set and costume designs from a major private collection.

Stage and Screen features works on paper from the James L Gordon Collection, on show in Scotland for the first time. Covering designs for theatre, film and television, this visually engaging exhibition offers a rare glimpse into this unique personal collection of rich and diverse material.

With a few earlier exceptions, the James L Gordon collection comprises set and costume designs for British theatre productions from about 1900 to the 1990s, and British and American designs for film and television from the 1930s onwards. The designs are almost all two-dimensional: drawings, watercolours, paintings and collages, rather than three-dimensional models. The range of material is immense, embracing everything from Shakespeare to pantomime, opera to ballet, Hammer horror to Hollywood musicals and Doctor Who to the Eurovision Song Contest.

Spanning the whole of the 20th century, Stage and Screen includes works by leading artists such as Cecil Beaton and David Hockney and designs for famous productions including Oh! Calcutta!, Hair, Cats, Little Shop of Horrors and The Slab Boys. The exhibition also features costume designs for stars such as Rudolf Nureyev, Richard Burton, Elizabeth Taylor, Judy Garland, Marilyn Monroe, Arnold Schwarzenegger and Grace Jones.

Presented chronologically, by decade, the hundreds of works on display cover a wide range of social and cultural issues, highlighting the history of how they have been represented in the theatre and on screen.

As well as set designs by artists such as Patrick Caulfield, Edward Burra and Rex Whistler, the exhibition also features costume designs for performers and musicians, often instantly recognisable, including Liza Minelli, Elton John, The Jackson Five, Mick Jagger and The Beatles.

James L Gordon is originally from Scotland and his outstanding collection includes a strong representation of Scottish artists and designers including Peter Howson and John Byrne. Another outstanding living artist featured is John Macfarlane, who trained at the Glasgow School of Art and has since established an international reputation as a designer of opera and ballet.

James L Gordon had a distinguished career in interior design, working on the interiors of the Cunard liner Queen Elizabeth 2, the Carlton Hotel in Cannes and the Café de la Paix in Paris. His impressive collection began by chance, thanks to an impulse purchase of a Cecil Beaton costume design for the 1969 Broadway musical Coco, based on the life of fashion designer Coco Chanel. This first purchase of a work of art started a passion for collecting that he has pursued for over forty years. The result is a collection that now comprises about 5000 works, which have strong personal appeal for him.

This huge variety is certain to delight anyone with an interest in the world of entertainment and performance.

Stage and Screen is at the Hunterian Art Gallery from 10 November 2023 until 25 February 2024. Open Tuesday to Sunday, 10.00am until 5.00pm. Entry is free.

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