In Brief

National Trust under fire for hiding artwork featuring men

Trust defends temporary cover-up of male artwork during women-centric installation at Cragside in Northumberland

The National Trust has come under fire for covering up artwork featuring men inside a Northumberland country house hosting an installation highlighting the lives of 19th century women.

Busts and paintings depicting male subjects were draped in sheets at Cragside, near Rothbury, formerly the home of Victorian industrialist Lord William Armstrong, as part of an art project called the Great Cragside Cover-up.

The installation, the work of Newcastle artist Kate Stobbart and art PhD students Rob Blazey and Harriet Sutcliffe, was intended to focus on the life of his wife, Lady Margaret Armstrong, as well as other female relatives and women employed at the house.

Sutcliffe said before the opening that “by concealing some of the male objects and artefacts within the house, it might shift the lens slightly so these women would have the space for three weeks to shine”.

A notice duly informed visitors that artworks featuring men had been veiled to “draw attention to the lack of representation of women at Cragside”, says the Northumberland Gazette.

However, the Trust was “inundated by complaints from visitors to the house, which has a large collection of works including celebrated pieces from the 17th and 18th centuries”, The Times reports.

One disappointed visitor, who paid £49.50 for a family ticket, said he was baffled by the decision to cover up artwork featuring men and that “an extra exhibition recognising the achievements of women would be more constructive”, the Daily Express reports.

However, the National Trust said the nature of the exhibition “was well publicised and visitors should have been aware prior to entry”, says The Guardian. The organisation also denied that the decision was the result of “political correctness”.

“This temporary student exhibition at Cragside was not about censoring art or being politically correct, but to encourage people to look at the collection differently and stimulate debate,” the Trust said in a statement.

However, a spokesman acknowledged that the installation had been met with “a mix of positive and negative comments” and that the organisation would take visitor feedback into account.

The three-week exhibition, which ended on Sunday, was funded by part of a £114,748 government grant awarded to the Trust to promote its Women and Industry project. 

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