Tuesday, 22 March 2011

Ada Freeman Gell

A fine classical sculpture "Seated Girl" by Ada Freeman Gell 1850-1929, from the large unseen inventory of Brighton & Hove Museums.

Ada may have had strong local connections, her  sister Louisa was born in Brighton. In the 1890's she took a studio in Roland Gardens, South Kensington and became part of a remarkable surge at that time in the number of female sculptors. This surge took those exhibiting at the Royal Academy from near zero in the 1880's to 24 out of 80 in the 1896 exhibition.

None of her work appears to be on public display or illustrated. In 2005 an "Exhibition Charger" by her, sold at Bonhams for £300.

One knows about the financial constraints on Museums. In Brighton & Hove a small amount of cycling between store and display does occur but exhibition space is limited and Victorian sculpture does not appear to be flavour of the month: so there is probably little hope of ever seeing this work in the round.

Leaving aside any restrictive covenants that may apply, what is the point of maintaining large hidden collections? Would not one solution be to sell enough to be able to afford to display the remainder. This leads on to the question of what should be sold and then on to the even thornier question of what are museums for? Would provincial museums better confine their collections to items of purely local interest? In the age of the internet and London museums within an hour's travel, are local museums the place for egyptian mummies and african tribal masks?

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