kettle’s yard, cambridge

Walking past, the building may seem a little unimposing in comparison to the stunning architecture which dominates the centre of Cambridge. However, contained within its grounds is a treasure trove of art. This is Kettle’s Yard, a small gallery devoted to contemporary and modern art just 5-10 minutes from the hub of Cambridge’s tourist area.

Having reopened from a near 3 year refurbishment job earlier this year, Kettle’s Yard mixes a modern extension, which includes its new exhibition space and educational areas, with the charm of Jim Ede, a former curator of Tate Britain’s home. The gallery space itself holds many contemporary art exhibitions, with the current being ‘SUBJECT’ a display of works by sculptor Antony Gormley looking at his studies of space and how it is occupied with regards to the human form. Kettle’s Yard is also the first gallery to display his new piece Infinite Cube II (2018), a dazzling abstract piece involving one-way mirrors and 1000 LED lights.

The house is the real gem to visit however. The charming cottage holds a collection of British avant-garde artists of the 20th century including Henry Moore and Ben Nicholson as well as the likes of Joan Miro and Henri Gaudier-Brzeska. Now owned by the University of Cambridge, Ede, who donated it to them upon moving out in 1973, described himself as a ‘friend of artists’ rather than a collector. His unyielding support and admiration of the modern artists of his day in the face of the anti-modernist directors of Tate was what developed these friendships and enabled him to build up such a wonderful collection within his own home. Their collection is not limited to art either. Contained within the cottage is also many artefacts collected by Jim and his Wife on their travels including aborigine flints and a Khmer Buddha statue dating from the 14th century providing the house with an eclectic mix of both artistic and anthropological interest.

Ede and his wife Helen donated their home to the University on the grounds that Cambridge University kept their home exactly as they left it upon moving out. Going inside you can see why. The thought that has been put into the placement of the artworks, beautiful artefacts and even the chairs you can sit in to view them, complement the vision Jim and Helen had for their home and the admiration they had for these objects.

It was poet/writer/artist, Ian Hamilton Finlay CBE who famously described Kettle’s Yard as “the Louvre of the pebble” (A description you can literally see inscribed on a pebble in the house by the man himself). Whilst it is no Louvre in terms of size or grandeur, its easy to see where Finlay’s love for Kettle’s Yard came from and why the space still remains so popular today.

Written by Charlotte Lockwood

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