2020 applicants
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Donated art collection includes top 20th century British artists

  • Date

    Wed 9 Oct 19

Robert Priseman, Alex Seabrook and Sarah Demelo

A prominent collection of 20th and 21st century British art, which includes works by Francis Bacon, Tracey Emin, Lucian Freud and David Hockney has been donated to the University.

Collectors Robert Priseman and Alex Seabrook have loaned 110 works to the University for ten years, enriching the artistic experience of the University community and offering valuable opportunities for curatorial studies students to learn how to manage, handle, curate and loan works of art.

The selection of artworks from the Priseman Seabrook Collections, which will be held in the Special Collections at the University’s Albert Sloman Library includes works by internationally-acclaimed British artists.

It incorporates a selection of 20th and 21st century works on paper including Windrush by Wendy Elia, The Golden Mile an etching by Tracey Emin, and Two Apples and One Lemon and Four Flowers, a lithograph by David Hockney. There are also works by Francis Bacon and Lucian Freud, Robert Priseman himself and two pieces by Colchester-based artist Simon Carter.

The collection also includes works from the Priseman Seabrook Collection of 21st Century British Painting, the only art collection dedicated to British painting after 2000. It contains works by leading artists such as Sovereign Painters Prize winner Susan Gunn, 54th Venice Biennale exhibitor Marguerite Horner, and Nathan Eastwood, winner of the East London Painting Prize.


Speaking about what inspired the collections, Robert said: “The germ dates back to when I co-curated an exhibition marking the 25th anniversary of Michael Peppiatt’s seminal show A School of London. I asked Michael whether he thought British painting was still relevant and his reply was ‘I think that’s a job for you’ to find out.'

“That conversation inspired me to research thousands of practicing painters and co-create the Contemporary British Painting (CBP) group which is now internationally known and respected.”

Alex added: “When CBP started there was a lot of media commentary saying ‘painting is dead’. We both love painting and were passionate about proving that wasn’t the case and instead create a positive, supportive community of amazing painters.

“We had no funding and our collections grew because wonderful friends from CBP, to whom the group meant so much, donated or swapped artworks. So almost every work has a story of friendship behind it.”

Sarah Demelo, Curator of the University Art Collections, explained: “The extraordinary generosity of Alex and Robert’s loan of artworks will allow us to enrich and expand upon the artistic experience here at Essex. This new Collection will play a pivotal role in re-invigorating our current holdings of British art, which was founded back in 1964 through a donation by HS (Jim) Ede, the founder of Kettle’s Yard. Much like Ede’s original gift, these artworks help build the breadth of our Collection for the enjoyment of our Essex community.’

Dr Gavin Grindon, from the School of Philosophy and Art History, explained the opportunities this new collection offers for students on our curatorial studies courses: “We have a very practical and object-based approach to teaching art history and curating. Our students learn the process of making exhibitions live on campus and through placements with external partners.

“We think of it as ‘art history for the real world’ - as well as the theoretical and academic side, they learn professional skills in handling, archiving and working with artworks, and our students have gone on to work in various museums and galleries. So it’s very exciting to be able to use these varied and interesting new works in the classroom with students and in exhibitions around campus.”

Robert Priseman’s own artworks have been acquired by galleries around the world, including the Art Gallery of New South Wales, the Yale Centre for British Art and the V&A London. He co-founded the Priseman Seabrook Collections in 2014 with Alex Seabrook. Both have a long and close association with the University. Robert studied for an MA Aesthetics and Art Theory under Professor Michael Podro and is a Visiting Fellow of the Human Rights Centre, and Alex is Faculty Manager for the Faculty of Science and Health.