In 1985/6, Mary Kelly was the Artist in Residence at Kettle’s Yard and New Hall (now Murray Edwards College). Following this residency, New Hall acquired her work Extase with the generous help of the artist and funding from the Eastern Arts Association.
Following the acquisition of Extase, the then President of New Hall, Dr. Valerie Pearl, saw the potential of a permanent collection of 20th Century Art by women to inspire the community who would live and study among it. And so, in the early 1990s, she and her advisor, Ann Jones, drew up lists of the leading artists practising in the UK and began to write to them. These initial letters cited Extase as the influencing factor in this exciting endeavour and asked if artists might be prepared to donate a work to the Collection. In these early years the College received an overwhelming response, being gifted works from artists such as Judith Cowan, Mary Husted and Maggi Hambling and the New Hall Art Collection began with an explosion of enthusiasm and generosity.
Twenty five years later, we have around 400 works by nearly 300 artists and continue to grow in both size and reputation. We are now regarded as the most significant collection of women’s art in Europe, a status we are very proud of. The Collection has developed from a call for artworks to a vibrant part of the Cambridge art scene. With a generous three year grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund, since 2008 we have been able to appoint a professional curator, expanding the exhibitions, the events programme and the outreach for the Collection.
The New Hall Art Collection is open to the public every day free of charge and there are regular tours, projects and workshops that are open to all. Our leaflet, 'A Guide to the Collection' is another tool for both guided and self-led tours. We are involved with many national and local open access, art and culture initiatives, including Heritage Open Days, the Cambridge Festival of Ideas, Twilight at the Museums, Night Jar, Midsummer Fair and the Chypps Summer Daze programme. With 2011 marking the 25th anniversary of the acquisition of Mary Kelly’s Extase and the establishment of the New Hall Art Collection, we are excited to be celebrating this milestone with a number of exhibitions and events across the year.