Major artists create tiny new artworks for Model Art Gallery

Major artists create new micro artworks for miniature gallery

Masterpieces in miniature: artists including Sean Scully, Damien Hirst, Magdalene Odundo, and Gillian Wearing create tiny new artworks for the 2021 Model Art Gallery at Pallant House, Chichester

We all have a fantasy art collection, and it’s often one of two things that stand in the way of realising that fantasy: money, and wall space. There may be a solution to the latter: contemporary art on a doll’s house scale. 

Why hasn’t anyone thought of this before? Well, they have. In 1934, notable art dealer Sydney Burney saw Queen Mary’s Dolls’ House at Windsor Castle and a light bulb went off. All for a charitable cause, he asked some of his high-profile contemporaries, including Henry Moore, Ivon Hitchens and Vanessa Bell to create miniature artworks to fill a model art gallery, named The Thirty Four Gallery, designed by the architect Marshall Sissons. 

Lost for decades, most of the works were rediscovered in a suitcase by Burney’s grandson, and the model was recreated by Pallant House Gallery in 1997, based on photographs. To mark the millennium, the Model Art Gallery 2000 opened its tiny doors, housing work by the likes of Frank Auerbach, Peter Blake, Anthony Caro, Prunella Clough, Antony Gormley, Richard Hamilton and Howard Hodgkin. 

Now, another gallery appears to have taken a wrong turn down the rabbit hole. The 2021 Model Art Gallery at Pallant House in Chichester is presenting a microcosm of contemporary British art featuring new works created over the last year by 34 leading artists. There are sculptures by Julian Opie, ceramics by Grayson Perry, and the gallery’s façade features Lothar Götz’s electric geometric mural, alongside works by Michael Armitage, Cecily Brown, Michael Craig-Martin, Gary Hume, Magdalene Odundo, and Rachel Whiteread. 

Ever thought you’d have to squint for a closer look at a Sean Scully or see a porcelain pot by Edmund de Waal no bigger than a thimble? Elsewhere, there’s an expressive nude by Maggi Hambling that’s around the same dimensions as an iPhone, and a pocket-sized Damien Hirst spin painting. Most surprising of all is that, despite their shrunken state, the works in the Model Art Gallery have no less impact than their larger counterparts. 

‘At the height of the first lockdown, artists could not get to their studios, exhibitions were cancelled, and many people spoke of being creatively blocked,’ says Pallant House Gallery director Simon Martin. ‘Inspired by the earlier model galleries, I wrote to some of Britain’s leading contemporary artists to ask whether they might participate in a project to create something positive out of the pandemic. Most of the artists usually work on a large scale and were excited by the challenge of condensing their ideas into a miniature artwork and by being part of such a unique history of modern and contemporary British art.’ §

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