5 Questions with Hamiltons

This week, Joshua White, Gallery Director at Hamiltons, discusses works from Don McCullin, Bruce Nauman, and collections from the British Film Institute.

What’s your favourite piece of art?
That’s a question I’m often asked, and I honestly reply that my interest in art is so wide that I find it almost impossible to narrow the answer down to one painting, sculpture or photograph. I think that you can have a favourite piece of art in a particular moment. At present – facing this global pandemic – I’m going to choose two works that each address either my heart or my head. I often have the opportunity to see Don McCullin’s Fishermen Playing Football During their Lunch Break, Scarborough, Yorkshire, 1967 in my office at the gallery and although I have no interest in football it seems to express a mood of friendship, community and team spirit that will be so vital in the months ahead. 

By contrast, Bruce Nauman’s neon sculpture Good Boy, Bad Boy (1987) is a conceptual artwork physically built out of language. It blends together statements that express desire, bodily sensation and authority. Nauman is one of the most interesting contemporary artists because he exposes the tension between opposing forces of instinct and control.  In an age of increasing populism and authoritarianism Nauman’s investigation of the malleability and meaning of language is highly topical but also illustrates how it remains an essential expression of our humanity.

A: What’s your favourite gallery?
This again changes depending on my mood! I’ve always wanted to visit the Lenbachhaus in Munich which houses one of the best collections of German Expressionism. Fortunately, I was able to go before the lockdown and it exceeded my expectations. It’s almost a perfect small gallery containing some of the best examples of early modern art including paintings by Kandinsky, Franz Marc, Gabriele Münter and Ernst Kirchner. There’s also a strong post war section of contemporary art with a focus on Joseph Beuys. In half a day, you can walk through modern German art which was almost entirely destroyed by the Nazis and yet fortunately emerged reinvigorated for an age of redemption.

A: What’s your favourite social media platform?
Instagram is the obvious choice as a dynamic platform for showing art and exhibitions but I will actually choose Youtube because I personally use it with my colleague Grace to make and post films on The Art Channel about contemporary art exhibitions which remain available to all in possible perpetuity. Youtube has that desirable global reach, allowing you to view material made around the world. It’s possible to discover almost endless films relating to culture and the creative process. The site becomes a universal library of knowledge which makes full use of the extraordinary access afforded by the world wide web. Best of all, anyone can contribute and share.

A: What’s the best thing about your current role?
The opportunity to support working photographers. I have the privilege of speaking to them about their work and learning how their images are conceived. Furthermore, I’m part of a team that works to produce exhibitions which– for a brief moment of time – offer a unique experience in the gallery to anyone who is interested. During an exhibition, I then enjoy communicating the ideas that flow out of the works to our clients and the wider public. The gallery operates to link practitioners to enthusiasts.

A: What are your top recommendations for staying home?
Firstly, we all have to try to keep sane and calm! We are living in unusual times, but I remind myself that my grandparents lived through the fear and anxiety of nightly aerial bombardment during WWII. The challenge now is to learn to work and live in isolation. However, we are lucky that new technology developed over the past twenty years does allow constant contact. Can I admit that I’m rather enjoying temporarily retreating from the hurly burly of a big city? I’m hoping it will be a valuable time to read and reflect. My one discovery is the British Film Institute’s website where you can stream classic films and view other more obscure documentaries. My other luxury is an online subscription to the Financial Timeswhich has the best coverage of contemporary culture of any newspaper and some of the most intelligent columnists who challenge me to think more deeply about the big issues of day. Lastly, in lockdown it’s important to keep moving. Cake and chocolate are becoming dangerous consolations for the loss of human contact. I exercise with a great trainer twice a week via Whatsapp, managing to raise my heart rate in my modestly sized kitchen.


1. Don McCullin’s Fishermen Playing Football During their Lunch Break, Scarborough, Yorkshire, 1967.© Don McCullin.