Watching DANGER! Cornelia Parker, the imagine profile, again last night, I was reminded what a talented and imaginative artist Cornelia Parker is. And this wonderful program just reinforced my respect for the woman herself. The show touches on Found, her curated show at the Foundling Museum, London, but also looks at the process and creation of Transitional Object (PsychoBarn), her largest and possibly most prestigious site specific commission yet.
This is the first time I’ve ever visited the Foundling Museum, even though I have lived in the capital for nearly 25 years. On Brunswick Square, a short throw from the Curzon Renoir Cinema, the museum tells the story of the Foundling Hospital (which continues today as the children’s charity Coram) and the abandoned children who grew up there.
Artists and patrons donated paintings and sculptures to the hospital, which were given in order to support the institution, Britain’s first home for abandoned children. These works effectively made the Foundling Hospital the nation’s first art gallery available to the public. Today they are displayed along with artefacts that help reveal the lives of the children left at the hospital.
There are also everyday objects, or ‘tokens’, left by women with their babies in the eighteenth century. These could be used as a means of identifying the children, should the mothers’ circumstances improve, and they could one day reclaim them. It was these eighteenth-century tokens that inspired Cornelia Parker RA, curator of the ‘Found’ exhibition that I have come here to see.
‘A lot of artists respond to the found object in their work. It might be employed for its particular history, it’s metaphoric connotations or as a proxy or substitute for different emotions. Like the little eighteenth century tokens that were left with the babies at the foundling Hospital; those identifying objects were standing in for the child they were losing.
There is something curious about this transitional object, this token of exchange. Artists collect and hang onto things as catalysts for ideas. So I thought, ‘Perhaps I’ll curate a show.’ I’m always reconfiguring found objects myself, so this is just extending that process out of the bigger family of artists and writers and musicians.’ Cornelia Parker
Parker has invited over sixty outstanding artists from a range of creative disciplines to respond to the theme of ‘found’, reflecting on the Museum’s heritage. And as Jeremy Deller remarked in the Imagine program:
‘Her personality and enthusiasm is obviously very helpful and opens doors, and people like her. So that’s why this show is stuffed full of artists because everyone’s said yes’.
The great thing about this exhibition is that the artworks are not just in the main exhibition area, but mixed through the permanent collection (including works by William Hogarth, Thomas Gainsborough and Joshua Reynolds) on all the floors of the museum. There is a wonderful juxtaposition between the old and the new, with the often shared inspiration being the plight of the foundlings. These works are often moving, and an overflow of emotions can catch you by surprise, ambushing you with their honesty and force.
Not only is this a beautifully curated exhibition, the way the works are intertwined meant I took away far more from this than I had expected. You can see my full set of images here and Found runs until the 4th of September, try and see it if you can.