by Brigitta Wohlmuth
“John Hinson Young II had a vision for the arts in Bermuda” says the National Gallery’s curator, Sophie Cressall, as she begins to describe a man she never knew, nevertheless a man who has become very important to her.
The Bermudian art collector, John Young was innovative to say the least. Driven by a purpose and passion for art, he and his wife Nelga Young opened the Lantana Cottage Colony in the late 50s. Their vision was to create a museum without walls and they did so successfully by running one of the most popular resorts on the island, carefully decorated with fine art from around the world.
“One has to understand there were no art galleries at that time in Bermuda,” Sophie adds as she guides me through the Young’s private collection which was recently gifted to the museum at the request of the late collector and his wife. The Gallery was given 68 pieces of art including sculptures that once lived on the Lantana estate in Somerset.
“He went on many journeys around the world, purchasing artworks that he thought would gain momentum in the art world. That would gain value and importance…” Sophie tells me.
Now, I am no art historian, but I did recognise the Maclet’s hanging as I scanned the walls around me. I begin to comment; “So he must have had a very good eye then, because he’s picked out some artists who have turned out to be quite…”
“Significant artists and artworks!” chimes Sophie, finishing my sentence for me. “This is why the BNG is so fortunate to have been gifted this collection of art – it is of enormous cultural value; the art spans across the globe with various mediums, styles and genres.”
The exhibit which is on display until the end of December, is both inspiring and emotional. It made me curious about what the experience would have been like, as a guest visiting the resort. Sophie attempts to paint the picture for me, explaining that while most of the fine art paintings were actually kept in the Young’s home and not in the cottages, the sculptures were strategically placed throughout the grounds, as if to create “little galleries” all throughout the property.
“For this exhibition I could have focused on an aspect of the collection, say all Bermudian, or South American art, but we decided that in keeping with the Young Collection we would take the viewer on a global experience of art, which is what they would have experienced if they went and stayed at Lantana.” Sophie explains.
The National Gallery has honoured the Young’s dream of creating a museum without walls by not only caring for the paintings within the gallery, but also requesting the permission of the city to allow for the magnificent sculptures which once stood in the gardens at Latana to be placed in the Queen Elizabeth Park, for all to enjoy.
“He’s inspired us at the BNG to take the same approach of a museum without walls. Today we are working diligently at positioning replicas of artwork from the Collection into the community space, for all to enjoy ” says Sophie, “In the BNG’s museum without walls.”