I confess I am always a little apprehensive about these programmes of refurbishment in general and this exercise has caused me not a little concern, because the Kettle’s Yard I remember was not an art gallery. It was a home with some great art.
For a time, back in the late sixties, I would walk past Kettle’s Yard a couple of times a day, on a journey between my rooms in college and the digs of a girlfriend in Castle Street. In those days, there was no signage to invite one inside. It was all word of mouth. And it was from a friend that I heard that Jim Ede and his wife Helen would hold open house most afternoons, offering tea and guided tours to those who were lucky enough to knock on the door at the appropriate time.
On a couple of occasions, I was one of those.
I wasn’t totally visually illiterate then, but the art I liked was almost exclusively figurative. Paintings that told a story. Narrative art if you like.
The work that I saw on my first visit was revelatory, despite - or more probably because of - the fact that I was stoned. Very stoned. I doubt that I would have ventured to knock had I not been.
Helen Ede – it was just Helen on that day - must have realized this, but I was treated with courtesy and respect, given tea and shown round the collection. I was told stories of Ben Nicholson, David Jones, Miro. I saw sculptures by Henri Gaudier-Brzeska, Henry Moore and Barbara Hepworth.
But I also saw odd stones and pebbles and bits of coloured glass and weathered wood.
In my normal, unintoxicated, hard-line rationalist state, I would have paid little heed to these found objects. But on that day, they were wonderful. Not for what they were, but for how they appeared. How they balanced and complemented the art, how the domesticity of the rooms seemed to be the ideal environment for their display.
There was no shop, no café. There were no little typewritten notes telling us what to think. Just a couple welcoming you to their house and sharing their love of art.
I felt completely at home.
Today from the everysmith vaults: Yesterday was Shostakovich String Quartets, all of them, from the first to the fifteenth. Today, it’s studio outtakes from Dylan’s Desire sessions. As ever, I am unable to understand Bob's decisions to take one cut and abandon others.