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  • Reliquary for a Common Man (detail), Julian Stair, 2012. Photo: MIMA

Reliquary for a Common Man

Keeper of Collections Christina McGregor tells us about the latest acquisition for the Crafts Council Collection

This exciting acquisition is a significant addition to the Crafts Council Collection and is also a key update to our existing Julian Stair holdings. Stair is representative of the growing numbers of contemporary makers exploring their practice through installation and multimedia formats.

Reliquary for a Common Man (detail), Julian Stair, 2012. Photo: Julian Stair

Reliquary for a Common Man is a memorial to the maker’s uncle-in-law, Leslie James Cox (1926-2008). It is also, arguably, the anchor piece in Stair’s recent solo show Quietus: The Vessel, Death and the Human Body, a collection of ceramic vessels that address the containment of the human body in death. An intensely personal work, Reliquary embodies the themes of the exhibition through the incorporation of Leslie Cox’s cremated remains into the actual artwork. Stair has substituted the ox-bone element of bone china with Leslie Cox’s remains to create a cinerary jar to hold the remaining ash, and in doing so reinforces the corporeal identity of the vessel and creates a piece which is both memorial to, and made from, Leslie Cox.

This work comprises jar, plinth, slide show, film and audio. Through our acquisition programme we have previously purchased ambitious works that include multimedia and material elements by makers such as Cynthia Cousens, Pierre Degan and Caroline Broadhead. However, it is acknowledged this is an aspect of contemporary craft practice currently under-represented in public collections. We anticipate that the purchase of this work will serve to lead the way for a programme that continues with the purchase of larger-scale installation, performative or ephemeral works for the Crafts Council Collection.

Reliquary for a Common Man will be showcased during COLLECT at the Saatchi Gallery in May as part of Legacy: Two works on hope and memory, a new partnership exhibition with Forty Hall & Estate under our Curate with Us programme. This exhibition will go on to show at Forty Hall between August and October and then be available for hire. Whilst neither work is directly concerned with war, together they offer a means of contemplating the associated themes of loss, legacy, hope and memory and as such are presented as a First World War Centenary commemorative exhibition.

Reliquary for a Common Man has been acquired with the assistance of the Art Fund.  

Julian Stair Profile