24TH SEPTEMBER 2009 - JULY 2010

'...the show's most exciting work...a magnificent cabinet of curiosities'
Andy Port, New York Times, Sept. 2009

'...Ms. Wildgoose provides a dizzying overview of 18th-century tastes and fashions'
Karen Rosenberg, New York Times, October 2009

' astounding fantasy of the past'
Stephen Vincent Kobasa, New Haven Advocate, October 2009

Promiscuous Assemblage, Friendship, & The Order of Things is a site-specific installation commissioned from Jane Wildgoose by the Yale Center for British Art to accompany the exhibition Mrs. Delany and her Circle. Celebrating and commemorating the friendship between Mrs. Mary Delany (1700-1788) and Margaret Cavendish, 2nd Duchess of Portland (1715-1785), the work is on show at the Yale Center for British Art, New Haven, CT, USA from 24th September 2009 to 18th July 2010, and at Sir John Soane's Museum, London, from 19th February to 1st May 2010.

A celebration and commemoration of the enduring, productive friendship between Mrs. Delany and the Duchess of Portland, Promiscuous Assemblage, Friendship, & The Order of Things evokes the "Promiscuous Assemblage" described in the catalogue accompanying the sale of the Duchess's "Portland Museum", compiled by the botanist John Lightfoot and published in 1786. This magnificent collection of natural history specimens, fine and decorative arts, as well as curiosities, with which Mary Delany was certainly familiar, was sold in the year following the Duchess's death at an auction comprising over four thousand lots that took place over thirty-eight days. Working in close association with public and private collections in America and England, Jane Wildgoose brings together a wealth of natural history specimens, artefacts and curiosities, with objects she has devised and made for the project, presenting the installation within the context of two significant, though distinctly different, collections in the USA and the UK. Tailoring her exhibit to meet the unique architectural features of the Center for British Art in Connecticut, and Sir John Soane's Museum in London, Jane's site-specific installations offer complementary perspectives on the ways in which natural history collections of the 18th-century may be understood to reflect an intertwining of the manners, taste, friendships, and material culture of the people who assembled them.

Promiscuous Assemblage, Friendship, & The Order of Things was originally devised for the Center for British Art in downtown New Haven, Connecticut. Completed in 1974 as the showcase for the Paul Mellon (1907-99) Collection of British artworks, the Center is the final work of the American architect Louis I. Kahn (1901-1974). An acclaimed masterpiece of modern architecture with galleries structured around a geometrical system of "room-like" spaces, the interior is finished with exposed concrete surfaces interspersed with travertine marble, white oak, and natural linen wall coverings. For this streamlined setting Jane Wildgoose has designed an imposing black lacquered cabinet, garlanded with shell-flowers (a tribute to Mary Delany's handiwork made as gifts for her friend, as well as decorations for her own home) and lined throughout with mirrors, which presides over the installation emblemising the work's central theme of friendship. To realise the technical design for the cabinet and the overall making of the exhibit the artist worked closely with exhibition designer Stephen Saitas, and Greg Shea, an artist/craftsman member of the Center's installation team who undertook the construction.
Included in the installation are over two hundred objects on loan from the collections of Yale University's Peabody Museum of Natural History; the Center's Rare Books Department; Yale University Art Gallery, and a number of private collections including The Wildgoose Memorial Library. On the north wall of the gallery, adjacent to the cabinet, a double life-size replica of the Portland Vase made in collaboration with British ceramic artist Oriel Harwood is set amidst an elaborate "promiscuous assemblage" of drawers and shelves holding natural history specimens, in an arrangement derived from the frontispiece to the Duchess of Portland's sale catalogue. In the centre of the gallery an early 19th-century pier table, loaned by Yale University Art Gallery, has been topped with a mirrored surface bearing a delicate setting of objects inspired by 18th-centruy dessert servings - a reference to an elaborate 155-piece dessert service belonging to the Duchess of Portland. Completing the three themes of the installation's title, a dense collection of museum drawers arranged like pictures on the south wall of the gallery illustrate "the order of things": exploring evolving methods of natural history display from the 18th-century to the present, and reflecting on ways in which Linnaean principles of classification - familiar to Mrs. Delany and the Duchess of Portland, from the time of their first development - have evolved to become the foundational system in use in museum storage throughout the world today.


'Jane Wildgoose has created an installation in the Breakfast Room at 13 Lincolns Inn Fields that is not only a delightful temporary dramatisation of this world-famous room, but also an eloquent demonstration of the magical property of objects to stimulate the mind.'
Alan Powers, Spectator, Mar. 2010.

At Sir John Soane's Museum, in Lincoln's Inn Fields, London - which comprises three adjacent Georgian terrace town houses integrated and elaborated upon by the architect Sir John Soane (1753-1837) as home, workplace, and repository for his extraordinary collection of antiquities, books and paintings - Jane Wildgoose has developed Promiscuous Assemblage, Friendship, & The Order of Things to blend as closely as possible with the existing accumulative, and highly personal, interior decoration. Keenly aware that the Museum is itself an intricate cabinet of curiosities offering an intimate portrait of its ingenious creator, the artist's aim has been to strike a balance between the themes of her own "Promiscuous Assemblage", and Soane's approach to collecting and furnishing, while also conveying the underlying concepts of her original installation at the Center for British Art. Exhibiting in the Breakfast Room at No. 13 Lincoln's Inn Fields, Jane utilises a central oval table beneath the room's magnificent mirrored and domed canopy ceiling as the location for her table decorations themed upon friendship.
A small bookcase is surrendered to a condensed array of natural history specimens loaned from private collections including those of Tim Knox and Todd Longstaffe-Gowan, also from the Grant Museum of Zoology and Comparative Anatomy, University College London, along with Jane's handmade shellflowers and plaster curiosities, all of which pay tribute to Mrs. Delany and the Duchess of Portland's shared interests. A miniature, mirror-backed display case - at one time the housing for a pistol - becomes the site for a microcosmic "order of things"; and "promiscuous assemblage" appears in scaled-down form on Soane's built-in desk in the window overlooking the Monument Court. Elsewhere, in the Museum's Sculpture Court - which is visible through the Breakfast Room's interior windows - Jane's delicate plaster and shell-flower wreaths may be glimpsed, discreetly blooming among Soane's collection of classical fragments, on a pair of hooks that had previously stood empty over the years.

Promiscuous Assemblage, Friendship, & The Order of Things at the Yale Center for British Art, 1080 Chapel Street, New Haven, CT, USA has been extended from 24th September 2009 through to July 2010. The installation appears in a modified form in London in the Breakfast Room at Sir John Soane's Museum, No. 13 Lincoln's Inn Fields, from 19th February to 1st May 2010, accompanying the showing of Mrs. Delany and her Circle in the Museum's temporary exhibitions gallery. Promiscuous Assemblage, Friendship, & The Order of Things was on view simultaneously on either side of the Atlantic from 19th February 2010.

Organising Curator at the Yale Center for British Art: Elisabeth Fairman, Senior Curator, Rare Books and Manuscripts Organising Curator at Sir John Soane's Museum: Jerzy Kierkuc-Bielinski, Exhibitions Curator

Copyright Jane Wildgoose and The Wildgoose Memorial Library