Visitors to the National Trust’s Nunnington Hall in Yorkshire will, from Tuesday 22 September, be able to see this historic house in a way they have never seen it before.

Works by eighteen leading figures in the contemporary art world, including Tracey Emin and Yoko Ono, will be displayed within the setting of this 17th-century mansion.

The exhibition Past Present was inspired by the idea of using the whole of Nunnington Hall and its historic rooms as a gallery space for the best of contemporary art.

The exhibition is a collaboration between Nunnington Hall – renowned for its regular programme of art and photographic exhibitions previously in its exhibition gallery – and the Arts Council Collection team based near Wakefield.

The leading artists whose work will be exhibited include Tracey Emin, Yoko Ono, Sarah Lucas, Grayson Perry, Mark Wallinger, Lisa Cheung, Victoria Hall and one of this year’s Turner prize nominees, Lucy Skaer.

In each room of Nunnington Hall, formerly the home of the Fife family until the 1950s, an original piece of furniture, ceramic, textile or accessory has been temporarily removed to make way for a contemporary artwork.

Each contemporary work is different but all are connected through similar themes such as family, identity, childhood and the passing of time.

The rooms and artworks chosen for Past Present include:

The Dining Room – ‘Willy’ (2000), by Sarah Lucas

Sarah Lucas has glued Marlboro Lights cigarettes onto the surface of a plastic garden gnome, producing a combination of innocent ornament, sexual title and harmful tobacco to convey a dark humour. This piece is shown within the setting of the rich, dark-green panelled room which served as Colonel Fife’s smoking room in the 1920s.

The Drawing Room – ‘All White Chess Set’ (1962-1970), by Yoko Ono

Conceived as a pacifist statement, particularly taken in context of the Vietnam War, Yoko Ono’s chess piece opponents sit on each side of an all-white board, making the warring factions indistinguishable from one another. The homely Drawing Room at Nunnington was where Margaret Fife and her family would relax and play games.

Mrs Fife’s Bedroom – ‘The Simple Truth’, (1995), by Tracey Emin

In wool, cotton and felt, Tracey Emin created a bedcover which was originally not intended as a work for display but to serve as a bedspread in her hotel room. At the time it was made it reflected her feelings about America, mining the archive of her life story. It is displayed on the antique four-poster bed in what was used as Nunnington’s principal bedroom.

The Panelled Bedroom – ‘Leonora’ (The Tyrant), (2006), by Lucy Skaer

An oak table inlaid with mother of pearl, in the image of a pair of grasping hands, is displayed in Nunnington’s ‘haunted’ bedroom, which contains an adjacent oratory that was used for payers. Lucy Skaer’s work explores time, mortality, photographic imagery, history and chaos and is part of a series of pieces focused on Surrealist artist Leonora Carrington and the name of a Tarot card.

The Large Exhibition Room – ‘Family Tree 1’ (1995), by Victoria Hall

Exploring the theme of memory through family photographs, a fishing line depicts photographs and text as a substitute for names and dates in a family tree. When lit, the images are projected onto the wall behind and are not about any one particular family but provide a formula that could be applied to any family.

Annabelle Coaten, Visitor Services Manager at Nunnington Hall, said:

‘Set against a historic backdrop, it is not immediately obvious what is a modern addition and what is an older part of the house’s existing collection. We hope this show is really going to challenge people’s preconceptions of what to expect.’

NUNNINGTON HALL is a picturesque Yorkshire manor house with organic garden and exciting programme of exhibitions

  • Honey-coloured country house, set on the banks of the River Rye
  • Once home to the doctor of Henry VIII, Edward VI and Elizabeth I
  • Unusual collection of miniature rooms with tiny furnishings and musical instruments
  • Totally organic walled-garden, retaining a lovely 17th-century character
  • Fantastic changing programme of art and photographic exhibitions

Past Present is among the first initiatives in a new relationship between Arts Council England and the National Trust, aimed at promoting contemporary arts and crafts in historic properties.

Nunnington Hall
nr York
North Yorkshire
YO62 5UY

Tel: (01439) 748283

Tuesday 22 September – Sunday 1 November 2009.
For opening times, admission charges and further details telephone Nunnington Hall (01439) 748283.

Play It By Trust / White Chess Set by you.

by Yoko Ono

Indica Gallery 1966

Play it for as long as you can remember
who is your opponent and
who is your own self.

Yoko Ono

Play It By Trust presents an all-white chessboard with all-white pieces, and alludes to the ideal of chess championed by Marcel Duchamp as “the landscape of the soul.” Ono’s game demands the ultimate abstraction by leaving all but the first few moves to be played entirely in the mind. With minimal and conceptual means so typical of her art, she reduces the game to its fundamental structure-an opposition defined by black versus white-to provoke a sage contemplation: How to proceed when the opponent is indistinguishable from oneself?

YO: When I created Play It By Trust I wasn’t thinking about Duchamp at all. Many artists have worked with chess, but they usually worked with the decorative aspect of the chess pieces. I wanted to create a new chess game, making a fundamental rather than decorative change. The white chess set is a sort of life situation. Life is not all black and white, you don’t know what is yours and what is theirs. You have to convince people what is yours. In the chess situation it is simple if you are black then black is yours. But this is like a life situation, where you have to play it by convincing each other.

People think that I’m doing something shocking and ask me if I’m trying to shock people. The most shocking thing to me is that people have war, fight with each other and moreover take it for granted. The kind of thing I’m doing is almost too simple. I’m not interested in being unique or different. Everyone is different. No two persons have the same mouth shape for example, and so without making any effort we’re all different. The problem is not how to become different or unique, but how to share an experience, how to be the same almost, how to communicate.

The concept is my work. In the art world, work is shown in a museum and a lot of people or a few people will see it, then if it’s bought by someone, that’s the end of it, or it comes back every once in a while. So I like the idea that Play It By Trust is repeated in different places, because the environment makes a big difference to the piece. Again, it’s the concept that is the work.