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Hatton Gallery reopens with landmark exhibition
Mark Lancaster, Cambridge Red and Green, 1968, Liquitex on canvas, Pallant House Gallery, Chichester (Wilson Gift through The Art Fund, 2006), Courtesy of the Artist.

NEWCASTLE UPON TYNE.- The Hatton Gallery at Newcastle University will re-open on 7 October 2017, following a 20-month, £3.8million redevelopment made possible by National Lottery players through the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF), with a ground-breaking exhibition that will firmly – position Newcastle as one of the birth places of Pop Art.

The gallery has played a unique role in the development of British Art, with its history intimately entwined with some of the most influential artists and movements of the 20th century. The exhibition Pioneers of Pop (until 20 January 2018) revolves around the numerous artists, writers, activities, projects and ideas which had artist Richard Hamilton at their centre during his time teaching at Newcastle University.

Hamilton arrived at Newcastle in 1953, with an initial brief to teach the fundamentals of design to first year students. When Victor Pasmore arrived as Head of Painting in 1954, they jointly devised an innovative art and design course inspired by the 'basic course' of the Bauhaus. During this time Hamilton continued to make his own work in a studio in the Department but commuted from London for the next thirteen years.

Hamilton’s achievements in the North East included the ground-breaking exhibitions Man, Machine & Motion and an Exhibit, arranging the rescue of Kurt Schwitters’ Merz Barn Wall and the re-creation of Marcel Duchamp’s iconic sculpture Large Glass. The high ceilings and spacious dimensions of the Hatton Gallery offered Hamilton the chance to trial the innovative exhibition practice which he was developing with his colleagues in the Independent Group at the newly formed Institute of Contemporary Arts (ICA) in London.

He also restored the Department’s printmaking workshop and created exhibitions in the Hatton Gallery (right, with Pasmore in an Exhibit), installing them with the help of students, designing and printing the catalogues and posters inhouse. This holistic approach not only taught his students how to be an artist but also how to display their work and how to self-promote themselves, and their work.

During his time in Newcastle Hamilton is often credited with creating the term ‘Pop Art’ and is believed to have first used it in a letter to Alison and Peter Smithson, dated 16 January 1957: "Pop Art is: popular, transient, expendable, low-cost, mass-produced, young, witty, sexy, gimmicky, glamorous, and Big Business.”

This pre-dated Andy Warhol’s first – and much-celebrated – forays into the genre with his iconic Campbell’s Soup Cans and Marilyn Monroe diptych by five years. Interestingly, Hamilton visited America for the first time in 1963 and travelled to California with Marcel Duchamp and his wife, where he met Andy Warhol.

Hatton Gallery’s Pioneers of Pop aims to capture the excitement, experimentation and opportunity of that time through the prism of Newcastle and its progressive, stimulating art school – where Hamilton and his colleagues sought to widen the basis of art’s visual language.

Pioneers of Pop includes around 100 works by some of the leading British artists associated with both Pop and abstract art – Eduardo Paolozzi (Four Towers, left), David Hockney, Richard Smith, Ian Stephenson, R.B Kitaj, Joe Tilson and, of course, Hamilton himself. The cexhibition will include works created in a wide range of media, including paintings, prints, collages, magazines and photographs – from lenders across the UK, such as Tate, V&A, Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art, Abbot Hall, Pallant House, and the Arts Council Collection. Many of the works are coming from private collections and have rarely been seen in public.

Arguably the most emblematic and iconic work in the show is Just What Is It That Makes Today's Homes So Different, So Appealing? in its original poster version and later print remakes (top left) Created by Hamilton in 1956, the piece features a body builder and a topless model inhabiting a futuristic apartment full of modern appliances and symbols of affluence, from a vacuum cleaner to a large canned ham. The most famous alumnus of the Hamilton era at Newcastle is the pop star Bryan Ferry, who said of the work, "It was kind of a talisman for me."

A rather playful inclusion in the exhibition, which has been curated by Professor Anne Massey and former colleague of Hamilton, Gill Hedley, is Mark Lancaster’s Post Warhol Souvenir: Marilyn (1987, Pallant House, left middle) which pays homage to Warhol’s eradefining diptych featuring the doomed actress.

Another treat for Hamilton fans is Desk (1964, Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art, left bottom). Inspired by a publicity photograph for the 1948 B-movie Shockproof and Piet Mondrian’s geometric ‘neo-plastic’ works, Hamilton brilliantly confuses the viewer’s sense of reality and illusion, while combining conflicting styles and meanings.

Other key loans include 1964 screen prints from Peter Blake (The Beach Boys), Patrick Caulfield (Ruins), Howard Hodgkin (Enter Laughing) and David Hockney (Cleanliness is Next to Godliness) – all from the British Council, plus David Hockney’s 1971 etching of Richard Hamilton (National Portrait Gallery) and three versions of Andy Warhol’s Marilyn (all from a Private Collection).

Eric Cross, Dean of Cultural Affairs, Newcastle University said: “For almost one hundred years, the Hatton has been a major cultural resource, important not only for the North East but also nationally and internationally. Unfortunately, the gallery had become tired and no longer fit for purpose; this welcome redevelopment now allows it to resume its rightful place as a significant gallery of modern and contemporary art. ‘’

Julie Milne, Chief Curator of Art Galleries said: “Many people think Pop Art started in the USA with Andy Warhol – but in reality, a lot of the thinking and work behind it was happening in the UK, and not just in London but also in Newcastle. With the important redevelopment of the Hatton and Richard Hamilton’s strong association with the gallery ‘Pioneers of Pop’ presents the opportunity to explore Newcastle’s role in the origin of this pivotal art movement.”

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