4 March 2016
Interview by Freya Jewitt, Communications & Events Assistant
Kettle’s Yard closed in June 2015 for our major building project. Eight months in, I catch up with Kettle’s Yard Director Andrew Nairne to chat about the redevelopment.
What part of the new building are you most excited to see?
That is a difficult question! Inevitably, as Director, I am excited to see all of the building when it is eventually complete. I can’t wait to see the new Education Wing – it’s a huge opportunity for us in terms of how we engage with the community, schools and with our colleagues in the University of Cambridge. Of course, there will also be this wonderful moment when we walk into the new galleries with their natural light, volume and scale. The galleries open up new possibilities for the kinds of exhibitions we can organise, enabling us to be more ambitious. I could go on, I’m quite excited about the café too…
What do you think will be the biggest change?
I’m going to allow myself 2 things:
The first is that we will be able to be even more welcoming and accessible to visitors through the way the building is reorganised. We hope everyone who visits Kettle’s Yard, those who know us already and those we hope will get to know us, will have a special experience.
Secondly, the project will enhance what Kettle’s Yard can do; how we work with artists, communities and university researchers. I think people will see Kettle’s Yard as an even more valuable organisation in Cambridge, in the region, nationally and internationally.
What 3 words would you use to describe the new Kettle’s Yard?
Unique, inspiring, involving – that was tricky..
Can you give us any hints about the reopening programme?
The only hint I can give, because we will reveal the programme a little later on, is that we are thinking very hard about how we can create a programme that feels relevant and of our time, even when we explore works by 20th Century artists. We hope that our visitors will get a sense of the diversity, ambition and concerns of contemporary artists and indeed of artists within our collection. Most important to us is to present exhibitions, and all aspects of our programme, in a way that is welcoming to all and seeks to actively involve.
What are you missing about Kettle’s Yard while we are working off site?
Pretty much everything! That said we are both sitting on two beautiful wooden armchairs from the Kettle’s Yard house. Since we closed in June 2015, we have been lending works from the collection to museums and galleries, both in Cambridge and beyond. It’s been fascinating to see our works in different contexts, but like so many other people I do miss just being able to walk through the house, particularly on a day like this with such beautiful light.
Have you learnt anything new since the project began?
I have worked on previous building projects and I am reminded that the team needs nerves of steel. Building projects at this scale and level of detail require considerable patience and determination from everybody. We have a brilliant team so I am confident we will get there.
Are there any other redevelopment projects you really like or that have inspired you?
Like others, I think the Whitworth at the University of Manchester is a triumph. And as I think about it, there’s something about the quality and detail of the renewed existing spaces as well as the new galleries, which really makes visitors have a spring in their step beyond seeing the art. It has always been a special institution but now it feels like a wonderful place with even more to discover as a result of their capital project.
What else is on your radar at the moment?
The opportunity of being closed at Castle Street has given us time to think about how Kettle’s Yard can engage more with both the extraordinary talent and research across the University and with the diverse and remarkable communities local to Kettle’s Yard. We want to do this by both using our collection in new ways and working with contemporary artists who speak through their practice to this moment in time.
To find out more about the building project click here