Francis Bacon at the British Library

11 / 10 / 2021

From 13 October to 5 December 2021, the British Library will host Detritus, a facsimile edition recreating the atmosphere in British artist Francis Bacon’s studio in Reece Mews, South Kensington in The Sir John Ritblat: Treasures Gallery.

“The process to produce Detritus was a long and extraordinary experience in research and publishing, lasting more than three years”, says Elena Ochoa Foster, founder and CEO of Ivorypress. “From his home and studio in London to the later archives in Dublin, his presence could be felt and nearly touched in his books, drawings, diaries, tools, remains of paint and canvas”.

Detritus is a reflection of the Irish painter’s personality, his creative process and the chaotic atmosphere in which he created his artworks in Reece Mews. As described by Brian Clarke, executor at Francis Bacon’s Estate, “it was the densest room I had seen in my whole life”. Photographs, objects, and papers, hardly leaving any space for the artist to paint in the middle of that chaos. “The smell was strange but sweet, a mixture of linseed oil, paint, turpentine, dust and old papers, […] it was a delirium of chaotic and indiscriminate accumulation”, describes Clarke.

Each edition of Detritus contains seventy-six reproductions of some of the elements discovered in Reece Mews, currently kept in the Dublin City Gallery, Ireland. Among the pieces are Francis Bacon’s photographs, pages from magazines, drawings, tools, letters and notes. All the elements were created individually, hand-made, using special techniques so that each of them is a new original.

Detritus was published in 2006 in collaboration with The Estate of Francis Bacon and the Dublin City Gallery (The Hugh Lane Gallery), Ireland. The book succeeds, through painstaking facsimile, in transmitting the artist’s creative space.

The edition comprises twenty-five numbered copies, accompanied by a certificate of authenticity signed by The Chairman of The Estate of Francis Bacon. In addition to the described facsimiles, each edition contains several texts, one of which was commissioned to Martin Harrison by Ivorypress. His research work to develop this text took over two years, to historically frame every single element that makes up Detritus.

This exhibition is part of a multi-institutional exhibitions program taking place in museums and libraries across Europe and the United States during 2021 and 2022 on the occasion of Ivorypress’ twenty-fifth anniversary. Participating institutions include the Biblioteca Nacional de España in Madrid, the Bodleian Libraries at the University of Oxford, the British Library in London, the Centro de Iniciativas Culturales at the Universidad de Sevilla, Ivorypress Space in Madrid, Kettle’s Yard at the University of Cambridge, Museo de Bellas Artes in Bilbao, Museo Chillida Leku in Hernani, Museo Lázaro Galdiano in Madrid, Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía in Madrid, the Museum of Modern Art in New York, the Neues Museum in Berlin, Stanford University Library in California, the Warburg Institute in London, and
the Yale Center for British Art in New Haven.

As part of the celebration, Ivorypress is publishing moreover a three-volume book that chronicles the history of Ivorypress since 1996, using a variety of primary sources that range from oral histories and archival documents to pictorial records and texts.