• The Lie of the Land
    Tom Emerson, Niall Hobhouse, Sam Jacob, Gareth Jones, Claire Louise Staunton, Fay Blanchard, and Anthony Spira
    MK Gallery, Milton Keynes
    Mar 16, 2019 to May 26, 2019
    MK Gallery

James Walker Tucker, Hiking, c.1936, tempera on panel. Courtesy of Tyne & Wear archives and Museums/Bridgeman Images

The Lie of the Land explores how land ownership, landscape, and architectural design―from the mid-18th century to the present day―have defined our leisure activities. In part, the exhibition traces a line between Capability Brown’s aristocratic gardens at Stowe to the social, urban experiment of Milton Keynes. The democratization of leisure brought about by industrialization are examined through the parks movement and the Garden Cities. Post-war architectural fantasies of play are investigated including Price and Littlewood’s Fun Palace. Derek Walker’s 1970s Milton Keynes is contextualized by the visionary architecture of Buckminster Fuller and Superstudio. UK public life is under severe pressure: a crisis in housing; building regulations undermined by squeezed budgets; and privatization of public space is at a rate unseen since the 18th century. As future models for living are urgent, this exhibition seeks inspiration and lessons from the past.

Anthony Spira, director of MK Gallery since 2009, was previously curator at Whitechapel Gallery, London (1999–09) and Jeu de Paume, Paris (1994–96). His 20 years of curatorial experience includes: group shows from A Century of British Sculpture, Jacob Epstein to Rachel Whiteread (Jeu de Paume, 1996) to Cadences, Hendrick Goltzius to Wassily Kandinsky (MK Gallery, 2014); and over 30 solo exhibitions and publications with a broad range of artists from Hans Bellmer, Andrea Buttner, and Rodney Graham to Nasreen Mohamedi and Mark Wallinger. Spira sits on the board of commissioning organization Pavilion in Leeds and Pagrav South Asian Dance Company. 

Fay Blanchard, exhibitions organizer at MK Gallery. Prior to joining MK Gallery, Blanchard worked as curator, visual arts with the British Council (2013–17) curating and managing exhibitions including: Michael Landy Saints Alive (2014–15, Mexico), Private Utopia: Contemporary Art from Britain (2014–15, Japan tour) and Grayson Perry (201617, Western Balkans tour) as well as cocurated group exhibitions in Uzbekistan and Saudi Arabia. Blanchard has worked with exhibitions and collections for over 10 years including roles at: Kettle's Yard, Tate, and the National Portrait Gallery.

Nils Norman is an artist who works across public art, architecture, and urban planning. His projects challenge notions of the function of public art and the efficacy of mainstream urban planning and large-scale regeneration. Norman has worked on major public art projects, including pedestrian bridges, playgrounds, and a new art library for the Gerrit Rietveld Academie of Art. He has developed commissions for SculptureCenter, Long Island City; London Underground; Tate Modern, London; Creative Time, NYC; and the Centre d’ Art Contemporain, Geneva. Norman is a professor at the Royal Danish Academy of Art and Design, Copenhagen, Denmark.

Tom Emerson is a founding director of 6a architects and professor of architecture at the ETH Department of Architecture in Zurich. With 6a architects, Emerson has developed a particular reputation for designing award winning contemporary art galleries and will be responsible for the redevelopment of MK Gallery. Emerson and his students constructed the Pavilion of Reflections at Manifesta 11, Zurich and coauthored Never Modern (Park Books, 2013), a book that explores the role of narrative, history, and appropriation in architecture.

Niall Hobhouse is a writer and collector of architectural drawings, sketches, and models. He founded The Drawing Matter collections archive in Somerset, which contains a growing body of work that includes a range of architectural material focused on drawing as the exploration and discovery of ideas and the means of suggesting them. He is currently a trustee of the London School for Architecture and has served on the boards of institutions including the London School of Economics, the Sir John Soane’s Museum, and the Canadian Centre for Architecture. He is an Honorary Fellow of the RIBA.

Sam Jacob is principal of Sam Jacob Studio for architecture and design. His work spans scales and disciplines ranging from master planning and urban design through architecture, design and art projects. The studio is currently working on projects that include a masterplan for 250 homes, the reinvention of 1980’s business park, and a mixed-use development in London's Shoreditch. Previously, Jacob was a founding director of FAT Architecture where he was involved in many internationally acclaimed projects and the curation of the British Pavilion at the 2014 Venice Architecture Biennale. Jacob is also contributing editor for Icon magazine and columnist for Art Review and Dezeen. Jacob is professor of architecture at the University of Illinois at Chicago, visiting professor at Yale School of Architecture, and director of Night School at the Architectural Association.

Claire Louise Staunton is research curator at MK Gallery, curator of inheritance projects, and was formerly the director/curator at Flat Time House. She has had a long-standing interest in urban master planning and its convergence with art and curatorial practices. Staunton has organized exhibitions for national and international institutions including the Institute of Contemporary Arts, BALTIC, Hepworth Wakefield, ZKM Karlsruhe, HK/Shenzhen Biennial of Urbanism and Architecture, and Devi Art Foundation New Delhi with a range of artists and architects including Jane Drew, Artist Placement Group, Jakob Jakobsen, Patrick Staff, Celine Condorelli, and Edward Krasinksi.

Gareth Jones is an artist interested in questions of style and taste, as well as the politics of identity. Rooted in minimalist aesthetics, his structures are often sparse, incorporating everyday materials including magazine pages, Fablon, polystyrene, card, stainless steel, and wood. His work spans drawing, sculpture, installation, exhibition making, writing, and publishing. He received a Paul Hamlyn Award for Visual Arts in 2006. In 2012, he presented a 25-year survey of his work, Untitled Structure, at Raven Row, London. He is currently working towards a practice-based PhD at Kingston University, looking at how to fabricate the ideal city.

MK Gallery is an educational charity founded in 1999 to improve cultural access and promote social development through a diverse artistic program. The Gallery works collaboratively with artists, international, national and local partners and community organizations. MK Gallery’s objects are: to promote, maintain, improve and advance the education and understanding of the public, particularly through the production and presentation of, and engagement with, the arts, visual culture and related areas of creative practice, and to formulate, prepare and establish projects and schemes therefore provided that all objects of the Company shall be of a charitable nature; to present, promote, organize, provide, manage and produce a balanced program of artistic activity and endeavor, whether on any premises of the Company or elsewhere, as are conducive to the promotion, maintenance, improvement and advancement of education, understanding of the public, and encouragement of the arts, visual culture and related areas of creative practice.