Global Galleries: Kettle’s Yard

Kettle’s Yard, in the heart of Cambridge, is set in the former home of British art collector Jim Ede, and displays an incredible collection of modern art, with works by world-renowned artists such as Joan Miró, Henry Moore, Barbara Hepworth and Ben Nicholson

Back in 1957, art collector Jim Ede and his wife, Helen, moved to Cambridge and bought Kettle’s Yard. Originally four run-down 19th-century cottages, they decided to convert the buildings into one large house. It is here that Ede lived and displayed his impressive collection of early 20th-century art. He had an “open house” every afternoon from 2 to 4pm, during which visitors – especially university students – could have a personal tour of his collection. Since 1966, the space and artworks have been owned by the University of Cambridge and the Edes continued to live there until moving to Edinburgh in 1973.

Kettle’s Yard has been preserved just how it was when the Edes lived there, creating an informal and relaxed environment where people can enjoy seeing art and listen to live music in the comforts of a home.

According to Andrew Nairne, director of Kettle’s Yard, ‘Jim’s philosophy was to encourage everyone to be interested in the arts, regardless of their background or previous artistic knowledge’. To this day, the gallery still upholds his philosophy. A knowledgeable and enthusiastic guide takes you around the house for a 40-minute tour in small groups and gives you an insight into the collection, making it a very intimate gallery experience. There are even beautiful flower arrangements around the house, adding to the homely and personal feel of the place.

A lot of the house is still lit by natural lighting and the sensitive art hanging allows for a more authentic experience, true to how Ede left the house and collection. It is rare to find a gallery that is in someone’s home, especially with such a remarkable collection. Ede had personal connections to many of the artists whose works he displayed. It was through spending a year as assistant curator at the National Gallery of British Art [now the Tate Gallery] that he became friends with Henry Moore, Barbara Hepworth and Henri Gaudier-Brzeska, all of whom have pieces in Kettle’s Yard.

The gallery has very much kept up with the times with an expansion of facilities that opened in 2018. The new space hosts a variety of changing exhibitions and events. The exhibitions are free and show artists from all around the globe. From 12 November 2022, it will host Paint Like the Swallow Sings Calypso, a new exhibition curated in dialogue with three important first-generation diaspora Caribbean painters – Paul Dash, Errol Lloyd and John Lyons. These artists will bring together the collections of Kettle’s Yard and The Fitzwilliam Museum in an interesting light, with paintings relating to the theme of Carnival.

Be sure to check out the Garden Kitchen when you’re there. It’s a perfect place to round off your visit at the gallery and enjoy delicious food and drink. It offers a selection of pastries, cakes and baked good, some of which are vegan-friendly and gluten-free. You can sit out in the courtyard, a lovely place to sit and eat when the sun is out.

Kettle’s Yard is arguably one of the most unique and intimate galleries in the UK and is a must-visit, being around an hour and a half from London.

Kettle’s Yard, Castle Street, Cambridge CB3 0AQ; kettlesyard.co.uk

By Scarlet Bailey Tait. Scarlet is based in London and specialises in writing about art

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