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February 21, 2013

Mollie Dent-Brocklehurst

By Spear's

The executive director of Pace London and co-chair of the Whitechapel Gallery Gala on happenings, paintings and snowy owls

The executive director of Pace London and co-chair of the Whitechapel Gallery Gala on happenings, paintings and snowy owls
I’VE BEEN INVOLVED in the Whitechapel Gallery’s annual gala since it started. The idea is that we take art and add another discipline: art plus drama, art plus music or, this year, art plus fashion. With my co-chairs Iwona Blazwick, director of the gallery, and Nadja Swarovski, from our partners Swarovski, we’ve put together a different kind of event: it feels more of a happening than a party or a fundraiser when you’re there.

A group of designers — who include Giles Deacon, Bella Freud and Marios Schwab — have picked the most promising graduates from the London fashion schools to show their clothes, while moving-image artists are creating the catwalk backdrops; it’s a real collaboration. Artists will also create work for Oliver Barker of Sotheby’s to auction. All the funds we raise go to support the Whitechapel Gallery’s education programme.
ON 6 FEBRUARY, we’re opening PANTA RHEI, recent paintings by Keith Tyson, at our flagship gallery at 6 Burlington Gardens. This is an extraordinary exhibition which features sixteen works by the Turner Prize recipient inspired by music, poetry and personal references. Keith wanted to gather the ideas and techniques he’d learnt in previous years and work only with paint. This exhibition will be a wonderful surprise.

We opened this second space in London during Frieze Week last year with Rothko/Sugimoto: Dark Paintings and Seascapes, an exhibition which juxtaposed Mark Rothko’s late black and grey paintings with Hiroshi Sugimoto’s contemporary photographs of bodies of water.

Meanwhile, we’ve all decamped to our Lexington Street space in Soho for a while where we’re opening an exhibition on 11 February by the emerging Chinese artist Zhao Yao.

I spent the holiday with my children at Sudeley. We’ve got this amazing coterie of animals there. Last summer we got these two beautiful snowy owls, when they were six weeks old; they’re practically teenagers now. We feed them with baby chicks — or sometimes with dead rats, which is revolting. There is also an eagle owl, which is the biggest type of owl in the world, a barn owl, chickens, pheasant and a dog.

To add to this menagerie, I recently acquired a horse, which I haven’t had since I was fifteen, so I could go riding with my daugher. I’m currently feeling stiff after my first few rides!
THE SNOWY OWLS are called Tom and Katie — but not for the reasons you might think; they were named after one of Sudeley’s most famous inhabitants.

Last summer we had a big celebration of the five hundredth anniversary of the birth of Catherine Parr, Henry VIII’s sixth and final wife, who lived at Sudeley after Henry died in 1547.

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Soon after she was widowed, Catherine married Thomas Seymour, 1st Baron of Sudeley, and moved in, so our Tom and Katie are a small tribute to them.

As part of our celebration, David Starkey came down and did a number of talks and lectures about Catherine, Henry and the Tudors. Having lived there all my life, it was incredible to find out so much and to have a visual sense of what it was like then.

Catherine died a year after marrying Thomas, and she is buried in the chapel, meaning we are the only non-royal house in England to have a queen buried there.
MY FATHER HAD this wonderful aviary when he was alive, and after he died it sadly dissipated. We have a man working on our estate who has a real interest in birds. He managed to find some pheasant from a line originally bred by my father and he wondered if we’d like to get them back again. That was the beginning.

In April we will be participating in the São Paulo art fair for the first time. I have a wonderful new director who is running the programme and will organise a dinner and a mini-exhibition at the fair for Pace London. Meanwhile in London we’ll be unpacking exceptional stabiles and mobiles by Alexander Calder from the post-war years for our upcoming exhibition at 6 Burlington Gardens on 19 April.
Pace London: The Swarovski Whitechapel Gallery Gala: Art Plus Fashion is on 14 March (

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