Leading British artists including John Akomfrah, Michael Armitage, Tacita Dean, Lubaina Himid, Damien Hirst, Magdalene Odundo, and Gillian Wearing have created artworks in miniature, using new methods in response to the Covid-19 pandemic.
Created by 34 artists, they are now on show in an exhibition titled Masterpieces in Miniature: The 2021 Model Art Gallery until Spring 2022 at Pallant House Gallery.
The works are on display alongside two earlier model galleries, The Thirty Four Gallery and The Model Art Gallery 2000, which include original works by Bloomsbury Group artists such as Vanessa Bell and Duncan Grant; surrealists such as Paul Nash; pop artists including Sir Peter Blake and Richard Hamilton, and YBA Rachel Whiteread. Together, the three model galleries form a "time capsule showcasing over 80 years of British art through more than 80 original artworks in miniature form," as the gallery puts it.
Available to see is a range of media including sculpture, ceramics, photography and painting. Among the smallest pieces are the size of a pound coin, and none are larger than 20cm.
"At the height of the first lockdown artists could not get to their studios, exhibitions were cancelled, and many people spoke of being creatively blocked," says Pallant House Gallery director Simon Martin. "Inspired by the earlier model galleries I wrote to some of Britain’s leading contemporary artists to ask whether they might participate in a project to create something positive out of the pandemic.
"Most of the artists usually work on a large scale and were excited by the challenge of condensing their ideas into a miniature artwork and by being part of a such a unique history of modern and contemporary British art. We want The 2021 Model Art Gallery to be a way to inspire children and young people and to interest them in contemporary art."
Standing at a delicate 9cm is Maggi Hambling's expressive nude; while Damien Hirst has reduced one of his famous spin paintings to just 13cm large. Going hard on the miniature theme, Lubaina Himid managed to create a collage at just 1.5cm, and Tacita Dean created a 15cm ghostly blackboard drawing of a ship. John Akomfrah fills an entire room of the model with a photographic triptych evoking his multi-screen film projections.
Pallant House Gallery bills itself as a "collection of collections" of Modern British and contemporary art. "Together these models will provide a fascinating insight into the evolution of styles and influences across the decades and show how different generations of artists have approached the unique challenges of working in miniature," the gallery says.
The 2021 Model Art Gallery was designed by Wright & Wright architects. After it is shown at Pallant House Gallery, it will tour it to other museums and galleries around the UK.