Richard Long: Walking in Circles

Hayward Gallery

Hayward Gallery, 14 June – 11 August 1991

Richard Long: Walking in Circles was the first comprehensive exhibition of Richard Long’s work since his exhibition at the Whitechapel Gallery, London, in 1977.

The exhibition covered 25 years of Long’s career and featured four large-scale mud works – each made directly onto the gallery walls – ten major floor-pieces, and a range of text and photographic works.

At the time, the exhibition was considered by staff of the gallery to be ‘perhaps the most stunning ever to fill the building’.

By 1989, when the Arts Council invited Richard Long to develop a solo show for the Hayward Gallery, the artist had already exhibited in group exhibitions at the gallery numerous times, in shows including The New Art (1972), Pier + Ocean (1980) and Falls the Shadow (1987). As Andrew Dempsey argued in his letter of invitation, it was ‘time for a fuller exhibition!’

In 1989, as he prepared for his solo exhibition at the Hayward Gallery, Long was awarded the Turner Prize.

The exhibition was designed by Long, and installed by the artist over a period of ten days. All of the gallery’s partition walls were removed, leaving wide open spaces in which to exhibit the works.

A new floor-piece, South Bank Circle (1991), was made specifically for the exhibition and exhibited on one of the outdoor sculpture terraces. According to notes from a meeting between Long and the exhibition organisers, the slate for this piece was chosen for its ability to ‘glisten in the rain’.

Preliminary hand-drawn layout for Richard Long: Walking in Circles.

Exhibition poster.

Exhibition press release.

Exhibition guide.

A children's map was made for the exhibition.

Private view invitation.

Richard Long: Walking in Circles took place in the same year that the Hayward Gallery – together with the adjacent Southbank Centre venues the Purcell Room and Queen Elizabeth Hall – came under threat of demolition. Partly as a result of this imminent threat, many of the reviewers commented on relationship between Long’s work and the building’s architecture. Jonathan Glancey, writing in the Independent, argued that ‘rarely has an artist worked so closely and so convincingly within and without the structure of an existing building.’

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