News From Charlie Hall – Summer 2016
The celebrations of our fiftieth anniversary and fiftieth course are firmly in the past and now we consolidate and move forward – for the next fifty years. The dust seems to have settled, kicked up by the ‘Brexit’ referendum – and we wait to see how that affects our world. In my view it only increases my desire to spread and encourage an enthusiasm for Europe – a continent that was still in the aftershocks of the Second World War when my father set out to find a home for the extraordinary course he had imagined. Dreams of a federal Europe were still in their infancy, helped by America’s fantastic intervention, The Marshall Plan, and the desire to avoid further European wars. We are still in the early days and naturally there are going to be more nursery tantrums and schoolyard scraps. My view? Let us discover more about our incredible continent by embracing it and immersing ourselves in it. Coming to Italy has been a vital part of that, since the Grand Tour of the late sixteenth century and perhaps it has become more important. Lest we forget, it was virtually heretical to visit Italy in the sixteenth century!
An element of how important or indeed, how influential the JHV experience has always been, and the networks that this programme create was brilliantly expressed to me the other day. I had offered to take somebody to the Tate Modern, a few days after the opening of the wonderful Switch House extension. My friend, who was visiting from Los Angeles, had met somebody on the flight, an eminent and lovely gentleman who was over to represent The Smithsonian Institution and we met at Tate Modern for a tour led by their Head of Displays. That excellent individual had shared a room with me when I had been a student on the John Hall Course. Our next visit was to the V&A (as the Smithsonian is working on a joint venture with The Smithsonian). The Head of Research & Collections took us to his favourite part of the museum; the Cast Courts where he raved about one of the new heroes of conservation, restoration and the reproduction of great works of art. Of course he was referring to Adam Lowe, director of Factum Arte in Madrid, who was also on the John Hall Course in my year, 1978.
What this day illustrated to me so brilliantly was that when we leave the course we are not in possession of a document that will open doors to curatorial departments or positions in museums, sale rooms or galleries but it engenders a combination of curiosity, confidence and off-grid knowledge that only comes from spending a lot of time free of syllabus in the company of like-minded individuals being spoken to by experts who are at the top of their fields, or on their way.
This stays in most of us, sometimes like a little stone in the shoe or a bug that you can never shake off and at some point in your life you find that you must attend to it. Some of us go back to study for an MA in Art History, some use their business skills in the Art World and Education and some, like Adam Lowe go into uncharted territory.
Just as in the days of The Grand Tour, this experience of being in the ‘cradle of Western Art’ (rather than the Birthplace – Greece?) throws out great and unusual thinkers and activists. It would be tedious to list them all, the John Hall Course rarely appears on CVs, but we are there, from museum directors, curators, writers, critics, and gallery owners….and still we come….
The summer of 2017 sees the re-boot of our three-week Venice course; a programme that is more focused on Contemporary Art and Architecture but still retains the rigour and wide content of the central Gap Year Course.