With seven weeks to run until the close of the exhibition on 29th October, Sean Scully at Houghton Hall – Smaller Than The Sky is set to become one of the most successful exhibitions at Houghton Hall since Houghton Arts Foundation launched its programme in 2013.
Considered one of the world’s most celebrated artists, Sean Scully’s major solo exhibition showcases the full range of the artist’s sculpture, taking over the grounds and historic interiors of Houghton Hall in Norfolk. In the Hall and Contemporary Gallery, the artist also shows a significant group of paintings and works on paper.
Sean Scully’s sculptures, paintings and drawings are in perfect concord with the architecture and landscape of Houghton. Having long admired Sean’s work, it is extremely gratifying that so many visitors from abroad as well as within the UK have travelled to Norfolk for the exhibition. I am looking forward to seeing the sculptures set against the changing of the season before we have to close on 29 October.Lord Cholmondeley, owner of Houghton Hall,
Built in the 1720s for Britain’s first Prime Minister Sir Robert Walpole, Houghton Hall’s 2023 exhibition showcases Sean Scully sculptures in a wide range of materials sited in the Palladian house and around the extensive formal gardens.
New works in the exhibition include stacks made of sandstone, wood, glass and marble. The sculptures range in scale from small maquettes to monumental open structures in steel, such as Crate of Air, and a new Wall of Light sculpture, constructed from locally sourced limestone. The exhibition is a showcase of Scully’s outdoor sculptures in dialogue with works in other media.
The exhibition also includes a selection of paintings and works on paper made over the past few years but with key reference to works from earlier in Scully’s career. These works are displayed in the grand rooms of the house and in the North Colonnade and the Contemporary Gallery. Smaller Than The Sky is the latest edition of Houghton Hall’s celebrated series of contemporary exhibitions that have featured James Turrell (2015), Richard Long (2017), Damien Hirst (2018), Henry Moore (2019), Anish Kapoor (2020), Tony Cragg (2021), and Chris Levine (2021).
Sean Scully’s concern for the environment and his focus on nature is reflected in the title of the exhibition. An important component is his book, Endangered Sky, a collaboration with the poet Kelly Grovier, focusing on the plight of bird life, memorializing those already extinct and those which are close to it, which was launched at Houghton and shown in vitrines as part of the exhibition.
The exhibition is curated by the art historian and museum director, Sean Rainbird, formerly Director of the National Gallery of Ireland (2012-2022) and a Senior Curator at Tate.
England, as we’ve seen from the fabulous paintings by Constable, is a country very informed by sky. People talk about the sky all the time. They talk about the weather, or the clouds, the wet. So, it’s a source of inspiration. When you put sculptures outside, you are aware that the sky is illuminating them, and conditioning how they look. Whatever you put out there is always humbled by the bigness of the sky.Sean Scully
Born in Dublin, Sean Scully came to prominence primarily as a painter in the early 1970s, evolving a distinctive form of abstraction in the course of the decade. This led him away from the geometric purity of minimalism to an expressive, multi-layered abstract painting. The works with which he gained international recognition comprise coloured bars and horizontal beams, some with inset or relief elements.
Scully established himself in New York, where he moved in the mid-1970s. The artist currently lives and works in New York and between several European cities, including London. He is widely celebrated for his watercolour drawings, pastels and prints, as well as for his photography. Increasingly over the past two decades, he has made critically acclaimed sculptures including the monumental Opulent Ascension installed at San Giorgio Maggiore for the 2019 Venice Biennale, which drew over 360,000 visitors. More recently, Oak Stacks was created from historic local Danish timber to stand in Bertel Thorvaldsen’s Square, Copenhagen for the start of that city’s 2023 designation as the World Capital of Architecture. Scully exhibits internationally, and his work is held by many major museums and galleries across the world.
The exhibition is organised by the Houghton Arts Foundation with the support of Lisson Gallery and Thaddaeus Ropac gallery and key assistance from the artist and his studio. A fully illustrated catalogue includes a text by Sean Rainbird.
Designed by prominent Georgian architects Colen Campbell and James Gibbs, Houghton Hall is one of the UK’s finest examples of Palladian architecture. Houghton Hall and its estate passed to the Cholmondeley family at the end of the 18th Century and remains a family home. The house and award-winning gardens are open to the public from spring until autumn, along with the Soldier Museum, which houses the world’s largest private collection of model soldiers, the superbly constructed 18th Century stables and an expansive deer park.
The Houghton Arts Foundation continues to build a collection of contemporary art at Houghton Hall, including a number of site-specific commissions. With links to colleges and public institutions across the region, the Foundation’s aim is for Houghton Hall to become a focus for those who wish to see great art of our time in a historic setting.
Sean Scully at Houghton Hall – Smaller Than The Sky, 23rd April – 29th October 2023.
£20 when booked online; £22 at the gate Under 18’s go free. Students £10. Houghton Hall welcomes schools and colleges and runs an education programme.