For the first time, Tate St Ives is now able to give a permanent presence to those 20th century artists who lived and worked in the town, including Alfred Wallis, Ben Nicholson and Barbara Hepworth, demonstrating the role of St Ives in the story of modern art.
The revamped Tate St Ives opens on October 14. A new gallery, sunk into the cliff alongside the original building, offers artists and curators a column-free space lit by six huge skylights. It will allow Tate St Ives to stay open all year round for the first time, without the need to close each time the exhibitions change.
The original building is now dedicated to a display exploring modern art in St Ives and its relationship with the wider world. It offers a chronological overview of 20th century art from the perspective of St Ives.
Mitchell the former miner
One of the less well-known names of St Ives art is Denis Mitchell (1912-93), although he was a prominent member of the St Ives group of artists. However, a lot coming up in The Modern & Contemporary Art Sale at North Yorkshire auction house Tennants on October 28 is a good example of his talent at a more ‘affordable’ level compared with some of his works sold in London.
Following a move to Cornwall from his native Wales, Mitchell focused on painting landscapes and would become part of the growing community of artists in St Ives. Having worked in Geevor tin mines as part of his war service, Mitchell began experimenting with three-dimensional materials. From 1949 he spent 10 years working with Barbara Hepworth as her principal assistant, following which he made the complete transition from painting to sculpture.
Tumaco (1970) is number 1 of an edition of 6, and is being offered at Tennants with an estimate of £1000-1500.
Past Mitchell highlights
In 2015 several Mitchell sculptures turned up at regional auctions, according to thesaleroom.com. In April that year Barbara Kirk in Penzance sold Nanjivey, a polished slate sculpture from 1991, for £5700 hammer (estimate £4000-6000), while in the same sale Buryan, a bronze sculpture on slate base from 1976, took £12,800 (£5000-7000).
In February 2015 Gorringes of Lewes, East Sussex, sold Gurnic, a bronze initialled and dated ’70, for £9500 (£7000-9000).
However, it is at Sotheby’s in London where the best recent Mitchell auction prices have been achieved, according to the Art Sales Index. The highest results listed both come from the David Bowie collection sale in November 2016 (the Bowie connection almost certainly boosted the price, however).
A Mitchell Botallack sculpture from 1961 sold for a premium-inclusive £75,000 (estimate £7000-10,000), and another 1961 sculpture, Porthcressa, took £62,500 (£10,000-15,000).