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18th May 2020

A recent acquisition by the  Trust is Woman Weeping by the Wales-based painter Roger Cecil, who died in 2015.

Despite exhibiting rarely during his lifetime and with little involvement in the art world, Cecil is considered by many as one of the most significant abstract painters of his generation. He lived all his life in the former coal-mining town of Abertillery, driven by a singular determination to ‘do painting my way’.

From this base in the Ebbw Fach valley, Cecil was inspired by the way in which the industrial sat within the natural environment, ‘these big, gigantic sort of breaks in the mountain, man-made things’. Work as a casual labourer in the building trade gave him the means to maintain a distance from the pressures and vagaries of the art world, and develop unhindered his practice from his home studio. Cecil took pleasure in unusual materials, including Polyfilla, house paint, plaster and grate blacking, which give many of his canvas surfaces a textural, relief-like appearance.

Woman Weeping dates from the mid 1980s to 90s, a period when Cecil was exploring figure based imagery in this gestural, colourful vein. Although Cecil’s imagery was deeply personal, his collection of artist monographs included Basquiat, Hilton, Hockney, Kiff, Klee and De Kooning and their echoes can be detected in Woman Weeping.

In recent years, and particularly since the artist’s death in 2015, there has been a considerable growth of interest in Cecil’s output. The Trust is very pleased to have been able to acquire a significant example of the work of this exceptional artist.

© The Estate of Roger Cecil

30th August 2018

The Trust has recently acquired a major work by the Hungarian/French artist Simon Hantaï. Blancs (1973) is the first work by Hantaï to enter a public collection in the UK. The work is a significant example of the artist’s pliage method. This involved folding, knotting, painting, and unfolding the canvas to develop an ‘automatic’ process of mark making. Large areas of empty canvas, synonymous with the Blancs series, are interrupted by vibrant areas of colour.

Hantaï moved to Paris from his native Hungary in 1948. There, he came under the influence of the Surrealists, but by the mid-1950s he had been introduced to the work of, among others, Jackson Pollock and turned away from surrealism. From the early 1960s, he developed his pliage technique and his work received critical acclaim. Such was its success and his ensuing popularity that Hantaï, at times reluctant to even display his work publicly, withdrew entirely from the art world in 1982. He never painted again. Only recently, following a 2013 retrospective at Centre Pompidou in Paris, has his work re-emerged in the public consciousness and discovered anew.

7th February 2018

National Museum Cardiff, 3 February – 11 March 2018

Icelandic artist Ragnar Kjartansson will return to Wales to present a brand-new site-specific performance piece, The Sky in a Room, co-commissioned by Artes Mundi and Amgueddfa Cymru – National Museum Wales. The performance will see a series of organists performing the 1959 hit song “Il Cielo In Una Stanza” (The Sky in a Room) on the 1774 Sir Watkins Williams Wynn organ, and it will run from 3 February to 11 March at National Museum Cardiff.

Developed after Kjartansson’s participation in Artes Mundi 6 in 2015, the exhibition is made possible by the Derek Williams Trust Purchase Prize, which enables Amgueddfa Cymru to purchase work by Artes Mundi shortlisted artists. It is also the first performance piece acquired by the Museum.

As part of the work, all of the paintings, objects and decorative furniture from the Museum’s Art in Britain 1700 – 1800 gallery have been removed. In the centre of the empty gallery is a solo performer, seated at a chamber organ originally commissioned by the Welsh patron of the arts Sir Watkins Williams Wynn in 1774.

Throughout the day, across the five-week duration of the performance, the organist sings and plays Il Cielo In Una Stanza (The Sky in a Room), a famous Italian love song written by Gino Paoli in 1959. The lyrics of this song recall the power of love to disappear walls into forests and ceilings into sky. Kjartansson’s work similarly transforms the Museum, dissolving space and time through the hypnotic repetition of the song.

Ragnar Kjartansson was born in Iceland in 1976. Live performance and music are central to his practice which also incorporates film, installation and painting. His film installation The Visitors featured in Artes Mundi 6.

11th January 2018

Who Decides? Making Connections with Contemporary Art

National Museum Cardiff

This major exhibition, which opened in October 2017, celebrates 10 years of contemporary collecting and the 25 year partnership between Amgueddfa Cymru – National Museum Wales and the Derek Williams Trust. Who Decides has been curated by service users from The Wallich, a charity supporting people who have experienced homelessness in Wales, and selected from the large collection art work which has been acquired by the Derek Williams Trust and the National Museum over the last 10 years.

Artists include Anthony Caro, Olga Chernysheva, Richard Deacon, Laura Ford, Richard Long, Paula Rego, Clare Woods and Bedwyr Williams.

The exhibition also features an installation of over 70 ceramic works from the private collection of the gallery owner Anita Besson (1933-2015). This outstanding group, bequeathed to the Derek Williams Trust in 2016, features work by 13 makers including Lucie Rie, Hans Coper, Ryoji Koie and Claudi Casanovas and will be displayed together in the exhibition for the first time.

Until 2 September 2018

7th June 2016

The Trust has recently purchased two large works of contemporary sculpture: Richard Deacon’s Tall Tree in the Ear, 1983–4 and Sir Anthony Caro’s Serenade, 1970–71.

It is hoped that these exciting and significant acquisitions to the collection will be displayed at National Museum Cardiff as part of a collections-based exhibition in late 2017.

10th May 2016
All works by Lucie Rie. Photo credit: Copyright Erskine, Hall & Coe Ltd.; Photography by Michael Harvey.

Highlights from an important collection of 20th century ceramics are currently on display at National Museum Cardiff. The collection, belonging to London gallery-owner Anita Besson, who passed away in October 2015, has been bequeathed to the Derek Williams Trust, who have placed it on loan at National Museum Cardiff. A selection of highlights from the collection, 40 ceramic works, went on immediate display in the Museum with the full collection of nearly 80 works to be exhibited in 2017.

Andrew Renton, Keeper of Art, Amgueddfa Cymru — National Museum Wales, said, ‘We are delighted to be displaying this significant collection here in the museum and very grateful to the Derek Williams Trust for loaning this bequest to Amgueddfa Cymru’ — National Museum of Wales.

William Wilkins, Derek Williams Trust, said, ‘The Trust are honoured to have been chosen as the guardians and promoters of this great legacy of 20th century ceramics, the first bequest that has ever been made to the Trust . Anita Besson was hugely helpful in building up the Trust’s collection and she admired what we are doing. One of her particular interests was our emphasis on the importance of displaying all the work in our collection.’

11th April 2016
© Alexander Adams

Boy © by Alexander Adams is currently on display in Cardiff Museum’s Gallery 18, The Derek Williams Gallery. This powerful work, painted in 1999 as part of Adams’ ‘Defaced Portrait’ series, was purchased for the Museum with generous assistance from the Trust in 2015.

The artist recently visited the Museum and was thrilled to see his work on display there for the first time.