When confronted with how to stage a show with art and design objects from 16 generations of nobility, Sotheby’s decided to turn to creative director and set designer David Korins. The resultant Treasures from Chatsworth show puts art held by the Duke and Duchess of Devonshire on display alongside macro-scaled details from their sprawling 35,000-acre estate.
The exhibition, free and open to the public through September 18, 2019, makes ample use of OMA’s new additions to Sotheby’s York Avenue home in Manhattan. The two new grand galleries on the building’s third floor have been transformed to allow for monumental installations that, ironically, spotlight intimate items from the Chatsworth collection.
After Korins was invited to design the exhibition, he traveled to the Chatsworth House in Derbyshire, England, to draw inspiration from how the pieces were staged in their natural habitat. In doing so, he was drawn to the quieter moments scattered throughout the house; the ornate frames, sections of carpet, embossed and hand-painted leather wallpaper, and carved stone moldings.
All of those tidbits from the Chatsworth House, still an active home for the Cavendish family, can be found at Treasures from Chatsworth as supportive framing for 500 years of art from the Chatsworth collection. The new freely mingles with the old.
While a portrait from Rembrandt or line drawing from Leonardo da Vinci may hang in a protected alcove, just around the corner sits a massive “portraiture” of the Cavendish family—the painting may seem like a simple collection of birds, but scanning a Sotheby’s-provided iPad over the piece reveals a virtual reality portrait gallery. Additionally, QR codes on many of the wall plaques, when scanned, reveal a 360-degree, VR recreation of an associated room in the Chatsworth House.
Korins had to balance both the demands of recreating the spirit of Chatsworth House with the construction underway at Sotheby’s; the OMA-designed expansion was well underway during the show’s planning. Ultimately, Treasures from Chatsworth takes ample advantage of the long sightlines, intimate viewing rooms, and two double-height spaces afforded by the renovation, oversizing the setting without overwhelming the viewer.