Think of the British aristocracy and their art collections and you may picture oils hung in gilt frames, ancestral portraits, favorite horses on green lawns, and paintings with plenty of dogs. The Cavendish family’s collection is no exception. Although, unlike previous generations, Peregrine Cavendish, the current Duke of Devonshire, and his wife, Duchess Amanda, have mechanical horses in their backyard, flown in from Nevada.
Welcome to Chatsworth, where the 12th Duke and Duchess of Devonshire are seeing out their final season in the estate with a bang. Before passing the house to the next in line, Lord Burlington, they’re hosting 12 sculptures made by artists who show their work at Burning Man, an annual experimental arts event in Nevada’s Black Rock Desert.
The exhibition, titled “Radical Horizons: The Art of Burning Man at Chatsworth,” includes Wings of Glory by Adrian Landon—a mechanized Pegasus powered by a 1980s golf cart engine (it was the centerpiece of the 2019 Burning Man festival). And Mum, a penny-covered grizzly bear made by the duo Lisa and Robert Ferguson, looks pleasingly at home within the green pastures of Derbyshire, England.
While the Duke and those who attend Burning Man might seem worlds apart, they’re aligned by their open-mindedness and a focus on sustainability. Inside the estate, the Duke and Duchess are showcasing their personal collection. On view in “Living with Art We Love” is the Duke’s desk, a 2008 commission from the Dutch designer Piet Hein Eek. The piece is made of salvaged wood and in a room of Baroque splendor it looks particularly striking.
Like his father and mother, who were patrons of Lucian Freud, the Duke is passionate about art. The Cavendish family has supported modern British and contemporary painting, furniture, and ceramics—and they have fun with it. Note their commissions from the pop artist Michael Craig-Martin, which include a musical dinner service that features pink guitars, and color-changing portraits of the Duchess of Burlington.
In both these exhibitions, the juxtaposition between the past and the present is bold and brilliant. Dukedom is a fleeting thing—the line stretches far back and must always be passed forward. The hallowed grounds of Chatsworth provide an inspired context for the art of the future.
“Radical Horizons: The Art of Burning Man at Chatsworth” and “Living with Art We Love” are on view at Chatsworth House through October of this year
Daisy Allsup is the editor of the newsletter A Little Bird. Her writing has appeared in numerous publications, including CN Traveller and House & Garden