Jill, our Curator of Fine Arts, has been very busy recently with a rather large project and she’s agreed to write us another blog about her work on our new David Hockney Gallery!
On the 6 July Cartwright Hall opened its doors to welcome the very first visitors to the David Hockney Gallery. Six hours’ worth of press visitors came during the day and then in the evening Bradfordians turned up in force to see what it was all about. And what is it all about? Well it is an intimate look at artist David Hockney and his work. It shows the art he produced as he trained at Bradford School of Art – work that no other public collection owns. It provides examples of the different medium he has used and introduces some of the recurring themes in his work, and it gives an insight into his family life through his personal photograph albums– albums that have never been seen in public before.
As with any event I was concerned that no one would turn up – that we would be left with the barrels of Hockney’s 80th Ale the Bradford Brewery had specially created for us and no one would get to taste the miniature fish n’ chips we had on order. But I needn’t have worried, in truth David Hockney is an internationally recognised and immensely successful artist who is well-loved everywhere but especially in Bradford because he was born and grew up here. At the age of 80 there are still plenty of people who remember Hockney and have recollections to share and I always enjoy hearing these. One lady, who had come on the bus even though she was approaching 80 herself, showed me these tiny little black and white photos of herself and David and recalled how he managed to get girls at Bradford College to knit long sections for him to add to the scarf he was wearing – the very same scarf he is seen wearing in the self-portrait in Bradford’s art collection (currently on loan to the Pompidou Centre, Paris). She laughed warmly at the memory, and so did I. It felt special to share in her encounters and I realised Hockney had obviously always been very charming.
On Sunday 9 July it was Hockney’s 80th birthday and as he was painting at his home in Los Angeles, later attending a drinks reception at the Getty Museum, here in Bradford we celebrated in our own special way with a big party in the park. Over 2,000 people visited the new gallery with more than 3,000 taking part in the celebrations throughout the day. You could have a go at drawing on an iPad, or dance at David’s disco (where you had to dress up like him before you danced) or speak to one of our Hockney character actors or add your contribution to the big communal drawing. You could look at the photo collage produced by artists working with people from a local care home or take a photo, as hundreds of people did, of our two birthday cakes that recreated two of Hockney’s artworks.
The climax of the day was a parade of people from the local community who had made their own Hockney-inspired costumes and followed behind a massive David Hockney puppet with his dachshund dog (Hockney’s amazing coat had been made by a local quilting guild). We all gathered in front of Cartwright Hall and sang Happy Birthday as loud as we could as we were filming it to send to David. He may have been many miles away but there was a lot of love for him at Cartwright Hall that day and I hope we introduced his work to a new audience of people who haven’t encountered him before. After months and months of planning it had all come together and the David Hockney Gallery was finally open for all to share. It was a really fantastic experience and one I shall never forget.