Pippa Hale at Pannett Art Gallery

Seat was part of the A&H Meeting Point programme and displayed at Pannett Art Gallery in North Yorkshire from July – August 2016.

The project

Pannett Art Gallery looked for an artist to create an exhibition that would transform the gallery space.  Pannett is a traditional local authority gallery and thus wanted to commission work that would make both Pannett and its visitors view the space differently; to challenge perceptions and assumptions. Pannett Art Gallery needed an artist who could create a contemporary exhibition / installation that would generate excitement and wonder. This was open to be an exhibition of works by other artists curated by an artist, or an installation of their own works to fill the wall space.

It was noted that it might have been possible to include art works from the Gallery collection which were not normally on display if appropriate.

The Artist / Curator was encouraged to develop some ideas for retail opportunities for the gallery that relate to the exhibition, as well as design interpretative material including labels, introductory leaflet etc.

The key objective for the project was:

  • To reveal Pannett Art Gallery’s unique role in the town’s history to Whitby townsfolk, tourists and the art world.

The proposal

“I am particularly interested in the dual purpose of the main gallery at Pannett Art Gallery as an exhibition space and as the seat of local government for Whitby Town Council – characteristics that reflect the interests and commitments of it’s founder Robert Elliot Pannett.

Rather than propose something that is restricted to the gallery walls, I would like to create a striking 3D artwork that fulfils this dual function and creates a physical presence that transforms the whole space.

My expression of interest centres around seating – something that is prevalent both in the gallery and the park. […] A participatory project where seats are donated by Whitby townsfolk and arranged as a town council meeting for the duration of the project. This references a historical precedent when in 1928 the people of Whitby gave seating after Robert Pannett’s death in order to see the park’s completion. I also like the idea of including donor’s stories about the chairs as part of the work.” – an extract from Pippa Hale’s original proposal in 2015

 

Outcome

Seat was an installation for the main gallery at Pannett Art Gallery that reflected the dual purpose of this beautiful space and its role in the history and governance of Whitby.

Unusually the main gallery at Pannett Art Gallery not only hosts temporary exhibitions, but also Whitby Town Council meetings when the space is regularly transformed into a meeting space with public seating. This dual function truly reflects the interests and commitments of its founder Robert Elliott Pannett who was a keen art collector, Councillor and later Alderman of Whitby. It was he who gifted the park and made provision for an art gallery on the occasion of his death in 1920.

For the duration of the exhibition, Seat saw the main gallery arranged as a full town council meeting with the tables and chairs set out in a U-shape and rows of seats for the public. However, for this artwork all the seats were loaned by Whitby townsfolk, whose portraits and stories were displayed in frames around the walls of the main gallery. As the artist explained:

“I wanted to reflect the dual use of the building; both as a gallery space and seat of local government hosting the Whitby Town Council meetings. Seats have a practical use within the gallery but I want them to act as the artwork itself.

[…] The gifting of seats is significant because it marks a special moment in Whitby’s history when, in 1928, local people, upon hearing of the death of Pannett Art Gallery founder Robert Elliot Pannett, donated chairs to ensure the Gallery – named in his honour – could be completed.” – Pippa Hale, 2016

‘Seat’ referenced this dual purpose of the main gallery space as not only a place to sit and contemplate works of art, but also the seat of local government. The seats themselves act as representatives of Whitby townsfolk in the democratic process, whilst providing a contemporary snapshot of the people who live and work in the town.

Community participation was central to the project with over 30 residents from Whitby taking part in the resulting installation.

Impact

“The exhibition was very well received by our visitors. The family focused interpretation materials were a great success and we will be building on these.” – Pannet Art Gallery, 2016

Seat was the first work I’d made in six years after returning to my practice full time in 2016 and it really rebooted my career as an artist, allowing me to return to themes in my work that I wanted to explore more and giving me the chance to show outside of Leeds. The support I received from Arts&Heritage was phenomenal and I will always be in their debt for giving me this opportunity at such a crucial time in my professional journey.” – Pippa Hale, 2021

After Seat in 2016, Pippa Hale was commissioned by Ripon Workhouse Museum in 2017/18 to present Consumption: a new site-specific work that addressed issues around wellbeing in older people; the project was a direct outcome of her Arts&Heritage commission as Ripon were introduced to Hale’s work through Seat. Hale was also one of three recipients for the Mirado Arts commissions in 2018 and worked on the new artwork, Skip, Play, Repeat, which was a project in response to the Elizabeth Roberts Working Class Oral History Archive.

About the Artist

Pippa Hale is an artist based in Leeds. She is particularly interested in social history and geography and her work includes large-scale installations both in heritage venues and the public realm.

Born in 1971, Coventry, Pippa studied at the University of Leeds. Previous projects include Beyond The Dustheaps at the Dickens Museum (London); Pool a temporary installation at Leeds International Pool commissioned by Leeds City Council; North and South for Southampton Art Gallery and Yarn commissioned by The Culture Company for Leeds City Council and Holbeck Urban Village.

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