UNITED KINGDOM: One of the most well-known British artists of the 20th century, Eric Gill’s work has long taken center stage in the little museum housed in the community where he grew up.
However, facts of his horrible sexual behaviour, including sustained abuse of two kids and his younger sister, came to light after his passing. There has subsequently been growing pressure for his work to be hidden.
In January, a protester defaced one of Gill’s most famous works, the statue of Prospero and Ariel, outside the BBC’s Broadcasting House, using a chisel. This act brought the escalating dispute surrounding Gill to the public’s attention.
The local gallery where Gill is represented has reportedly started a campaign to dissociate itself from the artist. Since its founding in 1985 and subsequent receipt of £2.3 million from the Heritage Lottery Fund, the Ditchling Museum of Art and Craft in East Sussex has had a closer relationship with Gill than any other artist. Due to this strong connection, it was for many years referred to as “the Eric Gill museum.”
But since the majority of 2022, none of his vast body of work has been on show in the museum, and instead of being classified as “central,” he is now listed as one artist “among many others” featured there.
Until 2017, the museum’s exhibition of Gill’s work, who spent 15 years living and working in Ditchling, was free of any criticism of his behaviour. But after a protracted assessment by a group of artists and critics, the museum ultimately chose to mention it next to his piece while still displaying it.
The company has since deleted all traces of Gill, with his work still being stored, without making any public announcements. Thus, they have subtly changed their minds. The museum was entirely dedicated to a show featuring the more upbeat local figure of Dame Vera Lynn from January through May.
Four smaller works were recently placed back on display for context in an exhibition honouring another artist, Japanese potter Shoji Hamada, who also produced work in Ditchling.
The absence of a piece by Gill from the museum’s collection this year, which lasted ten months, is believed to be a first in the institution’s history.