Living with modern art

The paintings from Granada’s corridor walls go on display at the Whitworth

Eighty modern paintings from the combined Granada and Bernstein family collection, are on exhibition at Manchester University’s Whitworth Art Gallery. Normally, the Granada collection, comprising 25 paintings, hangs in the corridors of the TV Centre in Manchester — accepted by the staff as part of the surroundings. Here
Professor of the History of Art, and Director of the Whitworth Gallery, tells how this unusual form of art patronage is catching on

TVTimes masthead
From the TVTimes for week commencing 17 April 1965

Television is both an industry and an art. In both capacities it aims at bringing pictures — moving pictures — to the family at home.

Its profit lies in interesting and entertaining the leisure man. It is therefore revealing to find that Granada also finds it worthwhile to bring pictures — still pictures — to the office.

This is becoming a common practice in many of the great commercial enterprises on both sides of the Atlantic.

The exhibition of modern pictures from the Granada collection shows some of the paintings seen by everyone who works in, or who visits, the studios and offices of Granada in Manchester.

Next to them, on the exhibition walls, are the results of a much more familiar type of art patronage. These are pictures from the private collections of four members of the Bernstein family.

Two women study a painting
John Bratby’s “Three Girls: Four Lambrettas,” from the Granada Collection, is one of the paintings on display at the Whitworth Art Gallery

The two sections of the exhibition are a sign that art is about to become what it once was. It will again be part of life as a whole.

It will not just be something clinging precariously to the edges of existence, a sort of fringe benefit.

Banks and factories, shops and businesses, all over the world, are finding that it is not enough merely to put up fine buildings.

It is a waste to enliven a city skyline and then face men and women with blank walls and bare corridors throughout their indoor working day.

The Inland Steel building in Chicago; the Pilkington Glass Works in St. Helens; the Granada studios themselves, are all signs of the future.

The business and industrial world is already a major patron of modern architecture. Design in packaging and advertising, as well as in the goods themselves, is, of course, a major concern.

Progressive firms encourage the best of every kind of applied art in furniture and fittings, carpets and fabrics.

It will not be long before they begin to challenge private and municipal patrons in the so-called fine arts of painting and sculpture.

This, after all, is only sensible. Automation or not, we still spend the greater part of our waking lives at work.

If life is worth living, and art is part of it, it seems ridiculous to confine painting and sculpture to our homes and public buildings and museums.

If good surroundings matter, they matter most where we are most intensely occupied, and for ffie greatest length of time.

A TV company has special reasons for making modern art part of modern working surroundings. I am, for instance, often lost in admiration for the ingenuity with which period settings of every kind are reconstructed for TV dramas.

This is all the work of expert researchers. But what about the innumerable modern interiors, tycoons’ offices and rich homes that continually appear in plays and serials?

We far too seldom see in them the kind of fine contemporary sculpture and painting which is increasingly to be found in the real thing.

A couple of prints of vintage cars is not enough.

A man looks at a painting on a wall
Original painting in It’s Dark Outside. Reporter Fred Blane (John Stratton) has it in his flat

The set of It’s Dark Outside (Friday) is one of the exceptions. Have you noticed the very modern-looking painting on wood, hanging in reporter Fred Blane’s (John Stratton) flat?

This is not a studio prop. It’s an original painting by Harry Thuron, called “Japanese.” One of the Granada collection of paintings, it was “borrowed” by set designer Roy Stonehouse for the duration of the series. You can see it in the Whitworth Exhibition.

There is a townscape by Utrillo; there is a nightmare study for a Pope by Francis Bacon. There are pure abstract paintings by Ben Nicholson and Alan Reynolds. There is something for everyone who enjoys today’s modern art.

In the end, it will only be when people have grown used to seeing art as part of life, and working life at that, that we shall automatically glimpse such works on our screens in the background of the TV office or down the TV corridor.

In real life, at Granada, they are there already.

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