Arts Council Collection

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Rosalind Nashashibi

Rosalind Nashashibi

Interviewed by Robert Dingle, 2009

In 2007 - 2009 you were a selector for the Arts Council Collection with Katrina Brown and Kodwo Eshun, what do you remember about Keith Coventry gifting a significant number of works to the and how did it come about?
 
RN - The Arts Council Collection bought a body of works from Keith Coventry in my tenure, several crack pipe paintings and sculptures. I think reflecting many artists's feeling about the significance, stability and visibility of the Arts Council Collection, the artist and his gallery Haunch of Venison offered a beautiful set of prints and etchings as a gift to complement the works we bought, and Keith agreed to 'long term loan' us an set of white Estate Paintings which would have been out of our reach financially, but are some of his most iconic works.
 
It was a significant investment for us for which we received additional funding. There were several discussions between Caroline and I and then a visit to Keith's two studios, and another visit to Haunch of Venison, where we saw all the works we were considering installed upstairs at the gallery. The works make an important addition to the earlier works we have, and they represent a recent major project for Keith.
 
How did the purchase come about?
 
RN - It originally came about after I was reminded of Coventry's work at a show that Steve Claydon curated for Camden Arts Centre, and I subsequently found out that Caroline was also interested in Coventry and that ACC had some earlier works. Personally I was particularly looking for painting, because it was the most difficult medium for me to get excited about on the British scene as I saw it at the time, and Coventry's work stood out.
 
This was a simple but long process. I think I initially mentioned Keith in an email, listing artists to I proposed we consider at the next committee meeting.
 
I brought his name to the table as I wanted, if possible, to have painting as well as the other media represented in our contribution to the , and I found his practice intriguing and I kept coming back to the white paintings I had seen at Camden Arts Centre.
 
His gallery, Haunch of Venison, sent a list of available works and prices and the whole committee looked at them at the usual meeting. They were more than we could afford, but the committee was interested. It was then a long process of applying for extra funds (by Caroline) and the studio and gallery visits that Caroline and I did together. We then went back and presented what we had seen to the rest of the committee at the next ACC meeting, where it was decided by all that we would go ahead with it. We were excited to be able to purchase such a substantial part of the project, one that cannot be seen elsewhere and marks a development in his practice.
 
What was discussed in the committee meeting before purchasing the work?
 
The discussions were about whether these were interesting works, whether they represented an important moment in his practice, how their simplicity worked on us, what the various pipes became by his treatment, how the different media worked together; I was thinking about the oppositions between crudeness and sophistication, the everyday plastic junk transformed into almost ritualistic shared instruments and simultaneously into an artist's language both minimal and baroque, and finally the questions that could be raised about exploitation and aesthetisation of addiction and its trappings, against what I think is a delicate, non-exploitative and transformative documentation of a scene. There was also discussion of the beauty and stillness of the prints, paintings and objects, that made us think of classical painting. Finally we discussed the narratives suggested by the work. All in all there was agreement, and enthusiasm about the grouping. The meetings took place at ACC store, Keith's studios and his gallery.