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Wednesday 5 May 2021

Octagon 300 Virtual Tour

Octagon 300 opened in October in celebration of the 300th anniversary of the Octagon Room here at Orleans House Gallery. The exhibition has been a huge success and as the show comes down to make way for Remember the Future, we would like to share some of the exhibition content and say a massive thank you to the artists responsible for the exhibition, Jonathan Roson and art group Alice in Hackneyland.

The Octagon Room at Orleans House Gallery was built in 1720 to entertain. Through its 300 year existence, it has seen the demolition of much of the site, lavish banquets with royalty and many weddings. Jonathan and Alice in Hackneyland were commissioned to create an exhibition that paid homage to the history of the room. Watch this short video to see what the work is all about.

The exhibition is made up of two key art works; Play with Baroque and the Fluorescent Banquet, as well as some curated artworks from the Borough Art Collection.

Throughout its history the Octagon Room hosted many parties and welcomed multiple royals including George I, Queen Caroline (wife of George II), Queen Victoria, Louis Philippe of France, and Prince Charles. The Fluorescent Banquet celebrates the Octagon Room through a sculptural re-enactment of the reception held for Queen Caroline in 1729. It also references lesser known themes in Orleans House’s history: James Johnson’s vineyards and gardens, bulldog statues cited in Alexander Pope’s The Alley, and the first British-grown pineapple cultivated in Richmond in 1715 during the pineapple craze of the 1700s. The gravel commemorates the demolition of the main house and its transformation into a gravel excavation site in 1926.It also pays tribute to Nellie Ionides who saved the Octagon Room from a similar fate. The wedding toppers represent the Octagon’s most recent transformation into a gallery and a venue for celebratory gatherings. The bright fluorescent pink brings together the eclectic mix of objects into an exuberant sculptural tableau. The individual elements in the installation create a sense of deceptive interplay between the detail and the whole.

Play with Baroque is an immersive installation that was inspired by the grandeur and exuberance of the Octagon Room and the Baroque art techniques. The installation is built in a shape of an Ames room. The first Ames room was built in 1946 and named after its creator, an American ophthalmologist Adelbert Ames, Jr. When viewed through a carefully placed peephole, the same object appears to be smaller or bigger depending on its position in the room. A loss of perspective is created by the distortion of a trapezoid structure into what appears to be a regular rectangular room. In order to experience the installation at least two people should participate at the same time, with one moving within the room and another observing from the peephole. Find out more about the links to the Baroque era here: Baroque Art and Illusion

Read more about Jonathan and his inspiration for the show here: In Conversation with Jonathan Roson

Create your own mini-Ames Room and colourful collection with our family activity here: Family Activity

Octagon 300 was curated by Jonathan Roson and created by members of artist group Alice in Hackneyland: Jonathan Roson, Patterson Falls, Michelle Meola, Yuliya Keselman, Nina Mankin, Robin Garms, Maite de Orbe and Nicholas Wong. Alice in Hackneyland would like to extend a special thanks to: Robert Haynie, Benoit Audureau, Rosa Iavarone, Flavia Caputo, Andy Sparks and Omega Hub. Follow @Alice_in_Hackneyland on Instagram to see what they are up to next.