a story lives forever
Sign in
Form submission failed!

Stay signed in

Recover your password?
Form submission failed!

Web of Stories Ltd would like to keep you informed about our products and services.

Please tick here if you would like us to keep you informed about our products and services.

I have read and accepted the Terms & Conditions.

Please note: Your email and any private information provided at registration will not be passed on to other individuals or organisations without your specific approval.

Video URL

You must be registered to use this feature. Sign in or register.


Giving the Rhind lectures


My interest in contemporary art (Part 2)
Colin Renfrew Archaeologist
Comments (0) Please sign in or register to add comments
One of the Fellows, an engineering Fellow, Bill Stronge, was already curator of works of art and was very keen on this idea, so the committee got together with Veronica Ryan and we wrote to a number of artists including Richard Long and Barry Flanagan through his gallery and a number of other quite well known artists but interesting sculptors who were doing sculpture of a new kind, a lot of good sculpture in England at that time. We had a very good response, so Richard Long came and did a wonderful work although it did cause some controversy. We were expecting him to come with a cartload of stones and do a, a circle of stones or something or wood or whatever natural material, and that was the expectation. But he arrived without a cartload of stones and said, he'd been to the college before, of course, to visit it. We'd agreed that his work would go in the Fellows garden, which is a very beautiful lawn. It's an enclosed garden with a wonderful tree, an oriental plane tree and he decided that, had decided that what he would like to do, was to carve a series of concentric circles in the turf of the lawn. The actual turf would be very carefully removed and would be kept moist so that it could be replaced at the end of the season and turf circles would be the work. And I thought that sounded a lovely idea, except that the college council hadn't given permission for turf circles and there were people on the college council who might not feel that the lawn of the Fellows' garden should be treated in such a way. However, there wasn't much option. One, one couldn't say terribly sorry, Richard Long, would you allow us to have another meeting of the college council and come back in a month's time? The exhibition was going to begin in a couple of weeks anyway so I just had to say what a wonderful idea this is, Richard. How can we help you? And so he carved the turf, which was a stunning work, which met with great acclaim, except in some segments of the Fellowship where the acclaim was less favourable, but in general the exhibition was a great success and the, the Waddington Gallery, Barry Flanagan's gallery, had sent some wonderful sculptures by Barry Flanagan, including his bronze horse, bronze horse 1983, which was inspired by one of the St. Mark’s horses from Venice, which had been on show in the Royal Academy the previous year. So it was really a great success and that started the series of sculpture exhibitions, which we've since then had every two years in the college and in general, I mean some have been rather startling. We had Nina Saunders one year, who had the bright idea of putting quilting, white quilting in all the windows on one range of first court, and we were able to get the permission of the occupants. Part of it was a library, which was, it was possible to block off that side. It had light on the other side and though that again raised eyebrows among some of the Fellows, it was very striking and so over the years we've had exhibitions. They were all, nearly always been mixed exhibitions. The second one we did was actually William Turnbull, just his sculpture, which was a, a wonderful experience, and those have been very good fun and have given the college some reputation in the field of contemporary sculpture, but also it made for me and other members of the college a very interesting involvement, and Barry Flanagan's horse is now there. It didn't remain there. In fact he didn't come to the original exhibition, but he was very popular and people said couldn't we borrow this horse, and I wrote to him and said could we keep it here for a while, but never at that point received a reply, but I sent him a photograph of a group of students, the student dining club all grouped around the horse and he was very tickled by that and rang up and said he'd like to give the college the horse as a gift, but that proved difficult because of Value Added Tax, which the college would have had to pay, so that didn't quite happen, but anyway, the horse arrived on loan and is actually still in the college and when the college had its quincentenary in 1996, having been founded in 1496, we invited the Queen to come and open the new library. Part of my job as Master had been to help raise some money for the library and then we appointed architects Evans & Shalev and the college's very beautiful new library was constructed and for the library we were able to use the 1% rule which we'd applied, that you set aside 1% for works of art. We were able to commission a figure by Antony Gormley, which goes at the top of the stairs in the library, so that was a nice thing to be able to do. And Antony Gormley we got to know in an earlier exhibition and then asked him to do this, so he's been a good friend of the college since then. Anyway, when the Queen came, I'd asked Antony Gormley and William Turnbull and Barry Flanagan if they'd care to be present by their sculptures, and his sculpture was in first court and so the Queen arrived first in her great Rolls Royce with the Chancellor, the Duke of Edinburgh, and so we met them and then I introduced the president of the college and he was escorting the Chancellor and I was escorting the Queen so we went first and very soon came on Barry Flanagan, so this is Mr Flanagan, Your Majesty. He's created this horse, so the Queen made some very polite, favourable comment and we went on, but I heard later that the Duke of Edinburgh said, “Something wrong with the ears of your horse I think, Mr Flanagan”, and Barry said, “Oh, do you think so, Your Royal Highness?”, so they had a minor disagreement about that, which obviously greatly tickled Barry Flanagan. He was very amused by that, and that's relevant because after the royal party had left and so on, Barry Flanagan stayed on for dinner and I'd seen in front of the Royal Academy that year, the very large statue he'd done, or sculpture he'd done of a cricketing hare, a hare standing on cricketing stumps, bowling, and so I'd said to him just conversationally, that's a marvellous hare. It would look really well on a cricket pitch, on a cricket boundary. Is there any chance you could lend that to the college for a year or two? We'd just love to have it here. And he'd smiled. He's not always a very directly communicative person so he smiled and said nothing and the, the week later I had a telephone call from Leslie Waddington to say Barry Flanagan has decided he'd like to give the college this sculpture, so that was very good news and that now stands on the cricket boundary. And so gradually over the years the college has bought, commissioned the Gormley. It was given the cricketing hare and it has quite a lot of other sculptures. It has one by William Turnbull. And then the Student Art Society asked Sir Eduardo Paolozzi to come and talk on one occasion, and Jane and I hadn't met him before but he sort of rang at the door of the Master's lodge. He arrived rather early, and so we got to know him somewhat, and he became a very good friend of the college and had, took part in our exhibitions and gave the college a bronze, "Daedalus on Wheels", and a very important collection of prints, so that one way and another, we've had very good and warm connections with a number of, a number of sculptors and indeed painters. We commissioned a painting. Although we don't have much wall space, we had enough to commission a painting by Albert Irving and then one by John Bellany and for the quincentenary, we had the idea of trying to raise some money by having a print portfolio so ten artists each agreed to contribute a print, which, and the portfolio was printed in an edition of 100 so we were able to sell the portfolios to the benefit of the college and that has also encouraged the, the continuation of our exhibitions and so on.

Baron Renfrew of Kaimsthorn is a British archaeologist known for his work on the dispersal of the Proto-Indo-Europeans and the prehistory of PIE languages. He has been Disney Professor of Archaeology at Cambridge as well as Master of Jesus College and Director of the McDonald Institute for Archaeological Research.

Listeners: Paul Bahn

Paul Bahn studied archaeology at Cambridge where he did his doctoral thesis on the prehistory of the French Pyrenees. He is now Britain's foremost specialist on Ice Age art and on Easter Island, and led the team which discovered Britain's first Ice Age cave art at Creswell Crags, Nottinghamshire, in 2003. He has authored and edited numerous books, including Journey Through the Ice Age, The Enigmas of Easter Island, Mammoths, The Cambridge Illustrated History of Prehistoric Art, and, with Colin Renfrew, Archaeology: Theories, Methods and Practice which was published in its 5th edition in 2008.

Duration: 9 minutes, 13 seconds

Date story recorded: January 2008

Date story went live: 14 May 2009