Retrospective foreword

by Professor Christopher Brown, Director of The Ashmolean

Foreword for catalogue accompanying 10 Year Retrospective, an exhibition at the Ashmolean Museum, Broadway, Worcestershire, 2014

The Ashmolean name was always synonymous with the museum’s permanent collection which continues to be of central importance. But a major exhibition of contemporary art, ‘Young British Painters’ in 1939, with its inclusion of such luminaries as Ben Nicholson and Graham Sutherland began to usher in a different context. Since 1961, the museum’s identity has continued to be shaped by exhibitions of modern and contemporary artists that have been judiciously interspersed with those on more historical subjects. More recently, the collaboration with the Andrew and Christine Hall Art Foundation has brought the avant-garde into the centre of Oxford, first with Malcolm Morley, and currently, with Joseph Beuys and Jorg Immendorff.

It was always the intention that the Ashmolean at Broadway, opened in September 2013, should have its own programme of exhibitions as well as presenting a permanent collection. In particular, the new museum, which is housed in a building of great architectural merit, provides a significant opportunity to showcase contemporary art within a specific historical context. By beginning its programme with John Singer Sargent earlier this year, the museum acknowledged an artist who chose to pursue his creativity in this area. When living in Broadway, Sargent continued to establish an international reputation, whilst also being instrumental in the aesthetic developments of his times.

Both the vitality of this context and the élan of contemporary life is celebrated in this next exhibition: a retrospective of the paintings, drawings and constructions of Jeremy Houghton. Although his home and studio are not far from the museum, the artist has garnered acclaim for work which has often been inspired from further afield, especially through the many prestigious residencies he has been awarded. As with Sargent, Houghton’s standing has increased whilst he has continued to return to the area and draw on its stimulus.

We are delighted to stage an exhibition of this distinguished artist; an event that advances the Ashmolean Broadway’s intention to remain an essential place in which visitors can not only enjoy a broad range of exhibitions, but frequently have the opportunity to engage with contemporary art in the context of the area’s cultural and historical legacy.