The Entire Collection
cared for by
The Pier Arts Centre is a Recognised Collection of
National Significance to Scotland
such a special collection of art should find a permanent home
in Orkney is entirely the result of the vision and determination
of the founder of the Pier Arts Centre, Margaret Gardiner (1904
Gardiner was a supporter of many of the artists represented
in the Collection and was a particular friend of Barbara Hepworth
and Ben Nicholson. During the 1950s Margaret Gardiner first
visited Orkney. Her visit marked the beginning of a long association
with Orkney that led her to consider how to support the arts
in the islands. Along with the able assistance of local friends
and colleagues she established the Pier Arts Centre as a venue
for the display of that portion of her collection that she had
generously decided to give to the people of Orkney.
Born into a well to do family Margaret Gardiner studied at Cambridge
University before a brief spell as a teacher. She was an early
activist against the fascist movement in the 1930s and in the
1960s organised an international press campaign of renowned
public figures who were against the Vietnam War. The author
of several books including a biography of Barbara Hepworth she
was also associated with some of the major figures in 20th century
literature including Louis MacNeice and W.H. Auden.
Although never happy to be called a collector - 'I hate being
called a collector, for I never set out to collect' - Margaret
Gardiner gathered together, through friendship and astute patronage,
a very personal and important collection of art that closely
charts the development of British Modernism.
Gardiner's interest in art was deeply influenced by her long
friendship with the artist Barbara Hepworth and through this
friendship she came into contact with many of the principal
figures in 20th century British art, including Hepworth's second
husband, Ben Nicholson.
Throughout the 1930s and 40s Gardiner was a key supporter of
the small group of artists who sought sanctuary in St Ives and
she was also an early champion of the Cornish painter and seaman
Alfred Wallis. Following the Second World War she encountered
and encouraged a new generation of artists, including Peter
Lanyon, Patrick Heron, Terry Frost, Margaret Mellis, John Wells
and Roger Hilton, that had been drawn to St Ives by its growing
reputation as a centre of innovation.
Since the gallery opened its doors in 1979 The Pier Arts Centre's
Collection has steadily grown through gifts and bequests and
now numbers over 100 works.
To browse the online catalogue select collection
images. The majority of works within the collection are illustrated, each being
accompanied by a short introductory text and a potted biography
of the artist. Alongside some of the illustrations are short
accounts written by Margaret Gardiner that vividly recall how
she came to acquire that particular work. The printed collection
catalogue is available in the shop.