Press release issued 27 February 2024

This summer Houghton Hall will present an exhibition by Dame Magdalene Odundo, one of the world’s most revered ceramic artists

12 May – 29 September 2024, Houghton Hall, Norfolk

This summer Houghton Hall will present an exhibition by Dame Magdalene Odundo, one of the world’s most revered ceramic artists. The exhibition will showcase existing and new works spanning Odundo’s 30-year career, including a major new commission made while on residency at Wedgwood, Stoke-on-Trent. Playfully responding to the traditional functionality of Houghton’s State Rooms, the exhibition will inhabit the interiors through a series of thoughtful interventions that will both highlight and disrupt the functional and decorative design schemes of Houghton’s historic rooms.

Known for her unique sculptural vessels that draw influence from historical and contemporary making practices from different cultures, Odundo uses traditional techniques to explore diasporic identity and the charged role that objects play in intercultural relationships. Odundo has created eight new ceramic works especially for the exhibition. Her handbuilt sculptures, each made over several months, are often anthropomorphic in their references to the female body. However, Odundo finds equal inspiration in manmade objects and the natural world which she synthesises in the forms of her expressive and deeply resonant vessels. The specific placement of her works in each of the rooms will shed light on these varied references and sources of inspiration.

A highlight of the exhibition will be a large-scale ceramic sculpture produced by Odundo at the Wedgwood factory in Stoke On Trent. During her residency Odundo researched the company’s archive of historic forms as well as looking deeper at Josiah Wedgwood himself and particularly his social and political beliefs. One of Britain’s greatest innovators and entrepreneurs, Wedgwood was also one of the most prominent voices in the abolitionist movement in the late 18th century. Odundo’s new work is a towering centrepiece created using historic moulds from the Wedgwood archive; it is made in Jasperware, which was first developed by Wedgwood in the 1770s. Its surfaces are adorned with a decorative scheme that explores the legacies of slavery while demonstrating the urgency of contemporary political advocacy and protest. Illustrations of the horrors of the slave trade are shown alongside images of contemporary protest, including the recent riots in Kenya, Odundo’s place of birth. Odundo has created an object that speaks to both the past and the present, utilising clay’s universal capacity for material storytelling.

On display in Houghton Hall’s contemporary gallery space will be Odundo’s spectacular glass work Metamorphosis and Transformation (2011), a 28-part installation made up of a series of blown-glass vessels based on the form of 3500-year-old ear studs from ancient Egypt. The installation’s fluid composition, which flows across the ground and rises up into space, draws on Odundo’s interest in geological formations and narratives of migration.

Lord Cholmondeley, owner of Houghton Hall, said: “We are honoured to be showing Dame Magdalene Odundo’s ceramic and glass work at Houghton. Some of the pieces have been especially created for the exhibition and it will be fascinating to see how Dame Magdalene’s installations and interventions in the State Rooms will interact with William Kent’s exuberant 18th century decorative scheme.”

Houghton Hall was built by Sir Robert Walpole, Great Britain’s first Prime Minister, in around 1722. Designed by prominent Georgian architects Colen Campbell and James Gibbs, it is one of the country’s finest examples of Palladian architecture. Houghton and its estate passed to the Cholmondeley family at the end of the 18th Century and remains a family home. The house and award-winning gardens have been open to the public since 1976.

The Houghton Arts Foundation continues to build a collection of contemporary art at Houghton including a number of site-specific commissions.  With links to colleges and public institutions across the region, the Foundation’s aim is for Houghton to become a focus for those who wish to see great art of our time in a historic setting.  The 2024 exhibitions by Magdalene Odundo and Antony Gormley follow those by James Turrell (2015), Richard Long (2017), Damien Hirst (2018), Henry Moore (2019), Anish Kapoor (2020), Tony Cragg (2021), Chris Levine (2021) and Sean Scully (2023).

The exhibition is sponsored by:

with additional support from Thomas Dane and Howes Percival

Exhibition Information:
Location: Houghton Hall, King’s Lynn, Norfolk PE31 6UE

Tickets: £22 when booked online; £24 at the gate
18s and under go free. Students £10.

Houghton Hall welcomes pre-booked groups, schools and colleges and runs an education programme. To enquire, please contact tracy@houghtonhall.com.

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