As the Ket­tle’s Yard gallery re­opens, the art critic Richard Cork pays trib­ute to its vi­sion­ary founder Jim Ede

Town & Country (UK) - - TOWN -

The re­launch of Ket­tle’s Yard, en­larged and ren­o­vated with flair, is a very ex­cit­ing event. It takes me back to ar­riv­ing as a young Cam­bridge stu­dent in au­tumn 1965. My ap­petite for modern art was ex­pand­ing ev­ery day. So I grew ea­ger to visit this as­ton­ish­ing house, and Jim Ede was the first art col­lec­tor I ever met. Af­ter ring­ing his door­bell, I felt ap­pre­hen­sive. Why on Earth would he want to be both­ered by a rest­less teenager? But Jim could not have been more friendly. I be­came a reg­u­lar vis­i­tor, thank­ful to find a haven where the act of look­ing was such a lu­mi­nous plea­sure.

Jim Ede loved his col­lec­tion with an in­fec­tious pas­sion, dis­played it with imag­i­na­tion and wel­comed un­der­grad­u­ates. In 1965, Ket­tle’s Yard was still a pri­vate house be­long­ing to Jim and his wife He­len. No ex­hi­bi­tions were held there, and Les­lie Martin’s ex­ten­sion had not yet been built on the mod­est yet be­guil­ing 18th-cen­tury premises where Jim lived among the ob­jects he cher­ished.

With hind­sight, I can now see that my friend­ship with Jim added up to an in­valu­able for­ma­tive ex­pe­ri­ence. He con­veyed en­thu­si­asm for all the work in his charge (he once wrote to me ex­claim­ing that ‘any­one could come in and draw!’). Ket­tle’s Yard was his spe­cial place, clearly cre­ated around the art and re­flect­ing his very sin­gle-minded aware­ness, where a match­box-size Ben Ni­chol­son re­lief nes­tled with pol­ished seashells, and a Gaudier-brzeska carv­ing on a tree trunk was care­fully coun­ter­pointed by a bowl of smooth peb­bles. The highly idio­syn­cratic space he evolved there, al­low­ing a Bran­cusi bronze to lie un­per­turbed on a pi­ano-top, amounted to a sym­pa­thetic en­vi­ron­ment for the im­ages on view.

Jim showed me that art could be cared for and en­hanced in ways I had never en­coun­tered be­fore. Art and life slipped into each other at Ket­tle’s Yard with an air of con­tem­pla­tive calm, thanks to this re­mark­able man, a gen­tle yet per­sua­sive aes­thetic mis­sion­ary with a lim­it­less abil­ity to re­new his de­light in the works he ad­mired. www.ket­

left: a henry moore head, among the trea­sures at ket­tle’s yard. above: the gallery’s founder, jim ede

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