Categories
News

Manod: The Nation’s Treasure Caves – The National Gallery

Share

5 March  – 8 April 2018, Annenberg Court, Admission free

Hide them in caves and cellars, but not one picture shall leave this island”. (Winston Churchill, 1940)

In 2018, the National Gallery will recall a remarkable chapter in its history when, during the Second World War, its paintings were removed for safekeeping to a disused slate mine in Snowdonia.

Twenty-four archival photographs documenting the dispersal of paintings to Manod near the town of Blaenau Ffestiniog in Wales, together with five photographs of the quarry as it appears today by Robin Friend, will be displayed in the Annenberg Court  

Central to the exhibition is a 30 minute film, Winged Bull in the Elephant Case, directed by photographer Robin Friend, choreographer Wayne McGregor CBE and Rhodri Huw, which is a Studio Wayne McGregor / Illuminations production commissioned by BBC Television and Arts Council England as part of the Performance Live strand. Filmed in a slate mine in Snowdonia and also in the National Gallery, Winged Bull in the Elephant Case follows the journey of a National Gallery painting that has taken human form, as it tries to save its friends and get back home to London. This immersive performance for the screen features choreography from Wayne McGregor, Charlotte Edmonds, Botis Seva and Bonetics, performed by Company Wayne McGregor, Alessandra Ferri, Bonetics, and Far from the Norm. The original music is by Joel Cadbury with performances by pianist Joanna MacGregor and cellist Tunde Jegede, and spoken word performed by Isaiah Hull. Winged Bull in the Elephant Case considers the lengths we will go to in order to preserve our cultural heritage; an issue that is particularly relevant today.

Winged Bull in the Elephant Case will premiere on BBC2 at 10pm on Saturday 3 March 2018.

 

In the summer of 1940 the outlook seemed bleak for the Allies in mainland Europe. The British army had been forced into retreat at Dunkirk, whilst France and the Low Countries fell to Germany. The invasion of Britain looked imminent, so a plan was needed to protect the national art collection.

One proposal was for the paintings to be evacuated by ship to Canada, but the possibility of U-boat attacks worried the Gallery’s director, Kenneth Clark. He went to see Prime Minister Winston Churchill who immediately vetoed the idea.

The Manod mine fitted the bill of hiding place perfectly. Explosives were used to enlarge the entrance in order to accommodate the largest paintings and several small brick ‘bungalows’ were built within the caverns to protect the paintings from variations in humidity and temperature. Special ‘elephant’ cases were constructed to safely transport the paintings on trucks to Wales. By the summer of 1941, the whole collection had been reunited in its new subterranean home, where it was to remain for four years.

Valuable discoveries made during this time were to influence the way the Collection was displayed and cared for when it returned to London after the war ended in 1945. It had long been known that paintings are happiest in conditions of stable humidity and temperature, but it had never been possible to monitor a whole collection in such controlled circumstances before. Air conditioning was included in the plans for the major renovations needed for west wing of the National Gallery, which had been badly damaged during bombing raids, and the Scientific Department (which had been established shortly before the war) was joined by a newly-formed Conservation Department.

National Gallery curator, Dr Minna Moore Ede, says “Hundreds of feet underground, the Manod slate mine is an extraordinary subterranean space in north Wales. Robin Friend’s photographs convey the wonder of this secret and labyrinthine world, where for four years during the Second World War, the National Gallery hid their collection for safe-keeping. Underground spaces have often been a repository for our most precious objects; as the BBC launches its new ‘Civilisations’ series, this is an opportunity to reflect on this idea of preserving the past for future generations.”

The Nation’s Treasure Caves is part of the Civilisations Festival: an exciting partnership between museums, galleries, libraries and archives and the BBC to coincide with the broadcast of BBC Arts’ Civilisations series in spring 2018.

Kenneth Clark – Director of the National Gallery during World War II – was the presenter of the iconic 1969 BBC television series Civilisation, which thrilled audiences with its authoritative interpretation of the glories of Western art.

‘Paintings in storage in the Manod Caves’ ©National Gallery, London

By Joanne Carter

Joanne Carter, creator of the world’s most popular mobile photography and art website— TheAppWhisperer.com— TheAppWhisperer platform has been a pivotal cyberspace for mobile artists of all abilities to learn about, to explore, to celebrate and to share mobile artworks. Joanne’s compassion, inclusivity, and humility are hallmarks in all that she does, and is particularly evident in the platform she has built. In her words, “We all have the potential to remove ourselves from the centre of any circle and to expand a sphere of compassion outward; to include everyone interested in mobile art, ensuring every artist is within reach”, she has said.
Promotion of mobile artists and the art form as a primary medium in today’s art world, has become her life’s focus. She has presented lectures bolstering mobile artists and their art from as far away as the Museum of Art in Seoul, South Korea to closer to her home in the UK at Focus on Imaging. Her experience as a jurist for mobile art competitions includes: Portugal, Canada, US, S Korea, UK and Italy. And her travels pioneering the breadth of mobile art includes key events in: Frankfurt, Naples, Amalfi Coast, Paris, Brazil, London.
Pioneering the world’s first mobile art online gallery - TheAppWhispererPrintSales.com has extended her reach even further, shipping from London, UK to clients in the US, Europe and The Far East to a global group of collectors looking for exclusive art to hang in their homes and offices. The online gallery specialises in prints for discerning collectors of unique, previously unseen signed limited edition art.
Her journey towards becoming The App Whisperer, includes (but is not limited to) working for a paparazzi photo agency for several years and as a deputy editor for a photo print magazine. Her own freelance photographic journalistic work is also widely acclaimed. She has been published extensively both within the UK and the US in national and international titles. These include The Times, The Sunday Times, The Guardian, Popular Photography & Imaging, dpreview, NikonPro, Which? and more recently with the BBC as a Contributor, Columnist at Vogue Italia and Contributing Editor at LensCulture. Her professional photography has also been widely exhibited throughout Europe, including Italy, Portugal and the UK.
She is currently writing several books, all related to mobile art and is always open to requests for new commissions for either writing or photography projects or a combination of both. Please contact her at: joanne@theappwhisperer.com

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.