Julian Opie: Collected Works/Works Collected

06 November to 06 March 2022


A rare exhibition showcasing the contemporary British artist’s personal collection of both contemporary and ancient art, accompanied by a selection of original works from 1998 to the present.

Opening 6 November, Newlands House Gallery presents Julian Opie: Collected Works/Works Collected, showcasing over 100 objects from the contemporary British artist’s personal collection, ranging from the ancient world to the present day, alongside a selection of his own sculptures, paintings and films. Presented in the historic market town of Petworth in Newlands House  Gallery’s Georgian building, the exhibition offers a unique opportunity for visitors to see how Opie’s interests and journey as a collector, inform the art he makes himself.

Julian Opie is internationally recognised for his distinctive and refined drawing style, distilling the visual information of our everyday reality to a universal language of symbols and signs, reflecting his preoccupation with the idea of representation, and the means by which images are perceived and understood. A wide range of techniques are visible throughout Opie’s work – from cutting-edge LCD technology to mosaic, beadwork and engraved stone – and are presented here in dialogue with the artworks that have inspired them.

Opie writes: “Spookily often, when I am stuck for decisions, I get up and look at some other art and find a solution right there. The work of others pushes me beyond what I know and assume, it suggests new logics and approaches and makes me feel not so alone in this strange endeavour.” In a multifarious and dynamic display, the exhibition includes Ancient Greek and Roman statuary, Egyptian sarcophagi, Japanese Ukiyo-e woodblocks, beaded sun hats, armour and Indonesian ancestral figures, alongside original manga sketches from Studio Ghibli and contemporary works by, amongst others, Kara Walker, Chuck Close, Roy Lichtenstein and Sol LeWitt.

Carefully curated within the architecture and domestic space of Newlands House Gallery, the exhibition also provides an intimate visual map of Opie’s interior world. The works are not organised chronologically, instead they are curated to reflect the inquisitive mind of the artist; everyday scenes of Japanese women by Kitagawa Utamaro are positioned alongside Opie’s animated LCD portrait Ruth smoking 2 (2006); Augustin Edouart’s silhouette portraits of Victorian families are presented together with Opie’s own silhouettes from 2010, depicting both his own family and friends and The Gallery Staff; in the garden, recent metal sculptures Deer 2 and Dog 4 (2020) are installed alongside Yoko XIX (2006) by Don Brown. Opie’s portrait paintings and 3D sculpture are shown together with old Master paintings by Joshua Reynolds and a variety of helmets meant both for recreation and battle. These unconventional combinations offer in insight into his ongoing artistic endeavour, steeped in the visual and material languages of the past; a conversation spanning hundreds and thousands of years and continuing on into the future.

Newlands House is a new gallery inspired by the historic associations of Petworth and Sussex with great artists, writers and designers from times past. It seeks to reinvigorate this legacy with the vitality of modern and contemporary art and design shaping contemporary culture. In the intimacy of a converted home, Newlands House sits at the centre of Sussex’s burgeoning cultural scene, spanning museums, art centres, festivals, vineyards, nature trails and stately homes. In 2020, the gallery opened to great acclaim with two inaugural exhibitions, a tribute to Helmut Newton and a survey of top works by designer, architect and artist Ron Arad. Set in the heart of the South Downs, Newlands House invites visitors to engage with the work of the greatest artists in an unexpected, Georgian setting, contrasting to white cube environments the art historical canon is predominantly presented in.

Photography: Elizabeth Zeschin