Accepted paper:

Diaspora-scapes of a philanthropic collection


Patrick Laviolette (LIAS Leicester / UCL)

Paper short abstract:

This paper explores the ways in which landscape and diaspora are depicted in the works of those Cornish based artists which feature in the collection of the Yale Center for British Art, founded by Paul Mellon in 1966.

Paper long abstract:

In the opening lines of 'Touring Cultures' (1997), Rojek & Urry state that migration is not only a people phenomenon - it applies to cultures and objects as well. This paper, based on a short residency at the Yale Centre for British Art (January to March 2012) addresses the world of moving artworks. By exploring how landscape and diaspora co-exist in the works of Cornish based artists in the YCBA collection, it draws together many features regarding colonial, British and European modernism. An early inventory of this collection revealed it possessed sixty-six works from eight iconic St Ives School artists. After further archive excavation, we see that this estimate only skims the surface. One objective is to highlight some of the key landscape depictions that have migrated away from their vernacular, creative settings. I shall do so by examining a selection of pieces in terms of their biographical trajectories and abstract spatial representations. Conceptually, the idea is thus to consider how these artworks act as diasporic objects of identity for this peripheral rural region that has been a well-known land of labour emigration and exile. Increasingly the case within the rubric of global markets, artworks often factor as exchange commodities. And yet, less attention has been given to the ways in which various forms of cultural identity also move when such harbingers of taste are relocated. Such theoretical undercurrents guide the interpretation of this case study of Cornish artworks in a university owned, philanthropic research collection.

panel MMM03
Mobile objects and transnational crafts