The Pier Collection

 

"One of the most distinguished and perfect smaller collections of 20th century art on permanent display anywhere in the world"

— Patrick Heron

 
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The Pier Arts Centre was established in 1979 to provide a home for an important collection of British art donated to ‘be held in trust for Orkney’ by the author, peace activist and philanthropist Margaret Gardiner (1904 – 2005). 

Gardiner was a crucial figure in the development of British Modernist art in the middle years of the 20th century and was an early champion of the work of some of the greatest artists of the period, including Barbara Hepworth and Ben Nicholson.

The Collection, though small in scale, encompasses paintings and sculptures of exceptional quality by the key artists who were instrumental in importing and extending the ideas of the European avant-garde to Britain. 

The grouping of works exemplifies the definition and refinement of that particularly British manifestation of Modernism and also contains fine examples of work by Patrick Heron, Sir Terry Frost, Margaret Mellis, Sir Eduardo Paolozzi, Alan Davie, Alfred Wallis and Naum Gabo among others.  

Works from the Collection are regularly requested for loan to major exhibitions both within the United Kingdom and around the world, celebrating British Modernism and its international significance. 

The Collection has grown steadily since 1979 and now contains over 180 works, grouped around the central genre of Modernism, spanning the period from 1929 to the present day. 

Most recently work by internationally acclaimed contemporary artists, including Sean Scully, Eva Rothschild, Martin Boyce, Camilla Løw and Olafur Eliasson, has been acquired adding new depth to the historic core of the Collection, exploring elements of light, colour and nature. 

The work of Orcadian artists, including Stanley Cursiter, Margaret Tait, Sylvia Wishart, Ian Scott and Steven MacIver, provides an interlinking thread of Orkney art within the Collection and work by Ian Hamilton Finlay, Wilhelmina Barns-Graham and Bet Low (all of whom spent time working in Orkney), highlight the islands as an inspirational place for many artists.


Artists in the Collection

Click an artist's name to see biography and list of works in the Collection.

 

(b. 1947)

Ackling was born in Isleworth, London, and studied at St Martins School of Art in the late 1960s alongside a remarkable group of students that included Richard Long, Bruce Mclean and Gilbert and George. He has taught at Chelsea College of Art and has served as a Governor of Norwich School of Art and Design. He lives and works in Norfolk.

Works in the Collection

Weybourne
1996
sunlight on wood
57.5 x 21.5 x 0.8
Purchased with assistance from the National Collecting Scheme for Scotland, 2005

Voewood
1999
sunlight on wood
h: 2.4, diam: 2.7 (6 parts)
Purchased with assistance from the National Collecting Scheme for Scotland, 2005

Voewood
2004
sunlight on wood
33.5 x 32.7 x 2.6
Purchased with assistance from the National Collecting Scheme for Scotland and the National Fund for Acquisitions, 2005

Voewood
2004
sunlight on wood and mapping pin
5.7 x 1.5
Purchased with assistance from the National Collecting Scheme for Scotland, 2005

Voewood
2007
sunlight on wood with nail
15 x 15 x 4.5
Gift of the artist

(1917–84)

Born in Northampton, England, Adams attended evening classes at Northampton School of Art c.1937 – c. 1946. He had his first one-man exhibition in 1947 at Gimpel Fils Gallery in London, showing abstract and organic wood and plaster carvings reminiscent of Henry Moore. Adams spent time in Paris in the late 1940s where he saw works by Constantin Brancusi. In 1950 he spent three months in the USA, where he met artists of the New York School. In 1951 the Arts Council of Great Britain commissioned him to produce a large sculpture for the Festival of Britain, and he represented Britain at the 1952 and 1962 Venice Biennales. From 1949 to 1961 he taught at the Central School of Arts and Crafts in London; there he became friends with Victor Pasmore, who encouraged him towards abstraction. Throughout the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s he undertook major commissions, both at home and abroad, and continued to exhibit internationally. Robert Adams died in Great Maplestead, Essex.

Works in the Collection

Woman
1953
larch
30.2 x 9.7 x 14
Gift of Sanderson Buchanan, 1985

Relief
1955
bronze
18 x 24.4 x 2.8
Gift of Margaret Gardiner, 1979 

(1916–2002)

Born in Leeds, Armitage studied at Leeds College of Art 1933–7 and the Slade School of Art in London 1937–9. He served in the army 1939–46. In 1947 he was appointed Head of Sculpture at Bath Academy of Art, a post he held until 1956. He represented Britain at the Venice Biennale in 1958, where he received the David Bright Foundation Award for the Best Sculptor under forty-five. He was awarded a CBE in 1969 and was elected a Senior Member of the Royal Academy in 1994.

Works in the Collection

Maquette for the Krefeld War Memorial
1956
bronze
33.5 x 19.5 x 12.1
Gift of Margaret Gardiner, 1979

(b. 1940)

Mill was born in Somerset and studied languages at Oxford before establishing a prestigious career as a lighting-cameraman in the film industry and as a photography director, working on such films as The Great Rock and Roll Swindle (1978). Since the 1980s he has exhibited his light installations internationally, including the Pier Arts Centre in 2010. He lives and works in London.

Works in the Collection

4 in 1
2003
Mild steel, powder coated white
30 x 30 x 8.5
Purchased with assistance from the National Collecting Scheme for Scotland and the National Fund for Acquisitions, 2010

(1912–2004)

Wilhelmina Barns-Graham was born in St Andrews and studied painting at Edinburgh College of Art from 1932-37. She became one of the central figures in the St Ives Group, arriving in St Ives in 1940. Since 1960, she divided her time between St Ives and her home. She made several working visits to Orkney. She died in St Andrews.

Works in the Collection

Red and Yellow
1958
gouache on paper
Purchased with assistance from the National Fund for Acquisitions, 2010

From The Pier Arts Centre, Stromness (Blue)
1984-5
pencil and ink (or watercolour) on paper
Gift of the Barns-Graham Charitable Trust

Wreck, Warbeth
1986
acrylic on board
124.8 x 52.8 x 44
Gift of the Barns-Graham Charitable Trust

(1893–1965)

Bissier was born in Freiburg-im-Breisgau, Germany, and moved to Hagnau on Lake Constance in 1939. He made ink and wash paintings and designed fabrics but did not exhibit until after the Second World War. His work was represented at Documenta in Kassel in 1959 and 1964, and at the Venice Biennale in 1960. He exhibited at the São Paulo Biennial in 1961, where he was awarded the 10th Anniversary Jubilee Prize. He moved to Ascona, Switzerland, in 1959 and became friends with Jean Arp and Ben Nicholson.

Works in the Collection

19. Febr. 59 B
oil tempera on textile
19.8 x 23
Gift of Margaret Gardiner, 1979

(1925–2006)

Sandra Blow was born in London and studied at St Martin’s School of Art from 1941 to 1946, at the Royal Academy from 1946 to 1947, and subsequently at the Academy of Fine Arts, Rome from 1947 to 1948. She travelled to Spain and France in the late 1940s, worked in Cornwall for a year from 1957 to 1958 and then went on to teach at the Royal College of Art from 1960.She was appointed Honorary Fellow of the Royal College of Art in 1973. From 1994 onwards she lived and worked in Cornwall.

Works in the Collection

Tesserae 1
2000
Acrylic and collage on paper
Gift of the Sandra Blow Estate, 2009

(b. 1967)

Boyce was born in Hamilton and studied at Glasgow School of Art. He is part of a generation of Scottish artists who have gained a national and international reputation for their work. In 2009 he represented Scotland at the Venice Biennale and won the Turner prize in 2011. He lives and works in Glasgow.

Works in the Collection

Untitled
2009
brass and perforated steel
Purchased with assistance from the National Collecting Scheme for Scotland and the National Fund for Acquisitions, 2010

(1927–2013)

Broido was born in South Africa and lived there until 1949. After moving to St Ives in 1956 he worked for Patrick Heron as a gardener, and had a studio at his house 1956–8. He exhibited regularly with the Penwith Society of Arts, worked as a studio assistant to Barbara Hepworth 1959–62, and taught at Truro Art School 1960 – 80. In 1980 he moved from Cornwall to London. His work is represented in the collection of Cornwall County Council.

Works in the Collection

Granite 1
1962
collage and pencil on board
38 x 50.9
Gift of Margaret Gardiner, 1979*

(1887–1976)

Cursiter was born in Kirkwall, Orkney and studied design before attending Edinburgh College of Art in 1906. He joined the army in 1914 and later took charge of a Field Survey Battalion with responsibility to print maps; he was demobilized in 1919 with military honours. Cursiter was appointed Keeper of the National Galleries of Scotland in 1925 and Director in 1930, a post he held until 1948. As Director he created a conservation/restoration department for the galleries and was responsible for the dispersal of the National Galleries collection at the beginning of the Second World War. Following the war he was frustrated in his attempts to set up a gallery of modern and contemporary art in Scotland, however this laid the groundwork for the development of the current Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art in Edinburgh. On his retirement in 1948 he was appointed the Queen’s Painter and Limner and returned to Orkney to paint full-time. He became an Associate of the Royal Scottish Academy in 1927, a full Academician in 1937 and was awarded a C.B.E in 1948. His book Scottish Art at the Close of the Nineteenth Century was published in 1949. He died in Stromness.

Works in the Collection

Morning, Prestwick, Ayrshire
1920
watercolour on paper
37.5 x 53.9
Gift of Mr and Miss Stanger, 1980

Geo in Yesnaby and Brough of Bigging
1924
oil on canvas board
39.5 x 44.5
Gift of the sons of Captain A. L. Work, 1998

Study for the Queen’s visit, St Magnus Cathedral
1960
oil on canvas
60.4 x 91
Gift of Murray Hunter, 2000

(1920–2014)

Davie was born in Grangemouth, Scotland, and studied at Edinburgh College of Art 1937–40. Following service in the army 1941–6 he undertook a travelling scholarship to Italy, where he was impressed by the work of Jackson Pollock and other American Abstract Expressionists in the Peggy Guggenheim collection, Venice. Davie taught at the Central School of Arts and Crafts in London 1953–6; there he became interested in art from Africa and the Pacific. He received the Guggenheim Painting Award in 1956 and the International Painting Prize at the São Paulo Biennial in 1963. He was awarded a CBE in 1972 and was an Honorary Member of the Royal Scottish Academy.

Works in the Collection

Untitled
1956
lithograph on paper
34.2 x 27.3
Gift of Margaret Gardiner, 1979

Magic Circles
1989
screenprint on paper
151.5 x 104
Scottish Arts Council bequest, 1997

Symbols in a Landscape
1994
oil on canvas
36.9 x 44.6
Gift of the Artist, 1998

Celtic Landscape (Dreamscape)
1996
oil on canvas
76.7 x 96.7
Gift of the Artist, 1998

Island Phantasy
1999
screenprint on paper
57.2 x 67.8
Commissioned by the Pier Arts Centre and Soulisquoy Printmakers, 1999

Energy is Delight
2001
screenprint on paper
69 x 57.5
Acquired from Edinburgh Hospitals Trust, 2001

 

(b. 1930)

Born in Abinger, Surrey, Denny studied in London at St Martins School of Art 1951–4 and at the Royal College of Art 1954–7. He taught at Hammersmith School of Art 1957–9 and was a Visiting Lecturer at Bath Academy of Art 1959–65 and the Slade School of Art in London 1965–71. He has been an advisor to the Arts Council of Great Britain and the Institute of Contemporary Arts. He lives and works in London.

Works in the Collection

Collage 4
1957

collage and watercolour on paper
53.3 x 68.6
Gift of Margaret Gardiner, 1979

(b. 1970)

Katy Dove was born in Oxford and studied at Duncan of Jordanstone College of Art, Dundee. She has exhibited internationally including the Venice Biennale in 2003, when she was selected to participate in Zenomap, the first Scottish representation at the international arts festival. Her film, along with a selection of work by other participating Scottish artists was displayed at the Pier Arts Centre in 2004. She lives and works in Glasgow.

Works in the Collection

Double Life
2005
screenprint on paper
53.5 x 46
Gift of Creative Scotland (from Scottish Arts Council Collection)

Double You
2004
screenprint on paper
53.5 x 46
Gift of Creative Scotland (from Scottish Arts Council Collection)

(b. 1967)

Eliasson was born in Copenhagen, Denmark and studied at the Royal Danish Academy of Fine Arts in Copenhagen 1989-95. In 2003 he represented Denmark at the Venice Biennale and exhibited The Weather Project at Tate Modern, London. ‘Take your time’, a survey exhibition organised by San Francisco Museum of Modern Art in 2007 travelled to The Museum of Modern Art and P.S.1 Contemporary Art Center, New York, in 2008. Eliasson lives and works in Berlin and Copenhagen.

Works in the Collection

The colour spectrum series
2005
48 colour photogravures
37.3 x 48.3
Purchased with assistance from the National Collecting Scheme for Scotland, the National Fund for Acquisitions and the Art Fund, 2006