The renowned British artist Glenn Brown has established his own free museum, the Brown Collection, in London’s Marylebone. Opening to the public tomorrow, it houses a mix of the artist’s own archive and his personal collection of historical and contemporary art.
Brown has become a reliably in-demand collector’s favorite thanks to his dreamily surreal deconstructions and revisions of art history’s most renowned subjects and styles. But lesser known is his own proclivity for collecting, and the space lends insight into some of the fascinating acquisitions of Mannerist and Baroque art made by himself and his partner, Edgar.
“I’m an appropriation artist. I steal things, I borrow things, I get away with what I can but I try to make something that hasn’t been made before,” Brown told press by way of introduction to the collection at a preview of the space.
Brown has had solo shows at the Serpentine Gallery in 2004, Tate Liverpool in 2009 and the British Museum in 2018. He was nominated for the Turner Prize in 2000, and is represented by Gagosian. But there’s nothing quite like the you can only get when working in a museum of your own. “In this building I have the opportunity to put anything I want to together,” he said. “I don’t care if something was made in the 1960s or the 1650s. It’s how my mind works.”
Brown has extensively renovated a four-story 1905 mews warehouse over the course of six years. He has dubbed the inaugural exhibition “The Leisure Centre,” to set the scene, explaining that while the concept was kind of like a 19th-century , he wanted to be clear that this space is for everyone. “What we have here is a meeting place for artists, like a salon, but that sounds very bourgeois, very off-putting, and exclusive,” he said.
Brown has placed around 25 of his drawings, paintings, and sculptures—both old and new—in conversation with the artists that inspired them. This includes French painters like Jean Greuze and Henri Fantin-Latour, represented by a wonderfully mystical image of Manfred transfixed by a vision of Astarted, and masters of the Dutch Golden Age like Abraham Bloemaert and Cornelius van Haarlem.
The buffet of cultural references is rounded out with some of biggest names in British contemporary art like Gillian Wearing, as well as relatively undervalued talents such as Fiona Rae.
Downstairs, in a basement gallery, a windowless sculpture room, meant to evoke “the idea of the artist in the studio,” houses some of Brown’s spectacularly textured sculptural pieces.
Brown is also making best use of the museum’s central location, just a stone’s throw from one of his favorite museum’s, the Wallace Collection, where visitors can see many of the works works he has returned to throughout his career. One notable example is Fragonard’s (1785), which is directly quoted and, quite literally, turned on its head by Brown’s (1995), one of the highlights of the opening exhibition.
The Brown Collection is open to the public for free on Thursdays, Fridays, and Saturdays from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. “The Leisure Centre” exhibition runs until August 3, 2024.
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