Abbot Hall reopens with Julie Brook’s ‘What is it That Will Last?’




A decade of work by British artist Julie Brook goes on display in a major exhibition for Abbot Hall art gallery in Kendal, Cumbria.

The reopening show invites viewers to explore the complex relationship between artist, land and the forces of nature.  
Inside the gallery visitors will experience Julie Brook’s What is it That Will Last? (20 May to 30 Dec 2023).  
Running across both floors of Abbot Hall, this exhibition offers a rare insight into Julie Brook’s extensive body of work made in remote locations in Scotland, Japan and Cumbria.  
Incorporating sound, photography and drawing, What is it That Will Last? presents the artist's immersive relationship with the landscape.
The exhibition offers an exciting extension of the experience beyond the gallery walls and into the Cumbrian landscape with a new large-scale outdoor sculpture created by Brook at Holker Hall’s Deer Park.  
Scotland-based Julie Brook (b. 1961) works primarily in remote landscapes, creating large scale sculptural interventions that express the invisible forces - gravity, time and tide – that govern our lives.
Julie Brook said: “I am so pleased to have my work exhibited in the Lake District. The show at Abbot Hall will focus on work I’ve made in remote landscapes in the form of sound, film, photography and drawing.  
“I am excited for people to experience the exhibition and then travel into the landscape to see the physical piece at Holker Hall. The installation resonates with what people will see in the exhibition.  
“The piece, made of Brathay Cumbrian Black stone, is in dialogue with the hills where it originally came from and is accessible to people of all ages.”  

Abbot Hall is one of Britain’s leading small art galleries, set in a beautifully restored Grade I listed Georgian building on the banks of the River Kent in Kendal, Cumbria. It was temporarily closed in February 2020 to enable essential renovation work. The gallery reopens as a place for members of the community to gather, experience art and be inspired to create.
What is it That Will Last? signals a fresh direction for Abbot Hall as the gallery aligns its programme to explore the themes of landscape, ecology and identity through its collection and new collaborations.

Several works from Abbot Hall’s collection will also be on display throughout the exhibition. Selected with Julie Brook, works including those by Frank Auerbach, John Piper, John Ruskin, JMW Turner and Elizabeth Frink, will further explore the timeless relationship between artist and landscape.
Dame Barbara Hepworth’s Moon Form - which entered the Lakeland Arts permanent collection during lockdown - will go on display in the entrance hall at the gallery. The acquisition was included in the Arts Council’s Cultural Gifts Scheme and Acceptance in Lieu Annual Report 2020-21.
Rhian Harris, Chief Executive of Lakeland Arts, said: “We are delighted to be reopening Abbot Hall with a stunning exhibition by the British artist Julie Brook. This is the start of a new era for Abbot Hall as a welcoming and vibrant space for all.”
Abbot Hall will also launch a new digital gallery guide to enrich both onsite and offsite visits. The free guide joins more than 150 cultural institutions around the globe on the established Bloomberg Connects network.
The free arts and cultural app created by Bloomberg Philanthropies will be available for download from Google Play or the App Store. It will feature photo, audio and video features offering unique insights into Abbot Hall.  
On the opening weekend Abbot Hall is promising family activities both inside and outside the gallery. A creative space will offer a place to relax with a coffee bar serving drinks and cakes.  
Helen Stalker, Lakeland Arts Senior Producer (Collections), said: “Abbot Hall will offer a new exhibition and engagement programme that explores dynamic stories behind landscape, ecology and identity. This signals a new direction for the refurbished gallery.”
Julie Brook’s work frequently emerges from her inhabitation of a landscape and its materials. Exposed to the full range of natural forces, these works are often transient in character, or eventually eroded by the elements.

Her seminal work, Firestacks, will be presented as an immersive series of films that enable us to experience the might and mystery of the tidal forces that surround the islands of Scotland. These dazzling beacons of fire, crafted by the artist through feats of physical endurance, are eventually consumed by the sea, inviting us to engage with our own precarious co-existence with the natural world.

Other works include:
• Ascending. A stepped stone path that has been hand-built by Brook in the steep Kanagaso quarry in Japan.

• Winter Wall. Built on moorland on the Isle of Harris, Winter Wall receives the evening light at midwinter.

• Parallel Space. A sculptural work created deep inside the Winter Chamber of the underground quarry in Takigahara, Japan.

• Outdoor sculpture, Holker Hall. Commissioned by Lakeland Arts in collaboration with the Holker Group and its subsidiary Burlington Stone. Here Brook has created a major work using stone extracted from the Brathay and Kirkby-in Furness quarries. Over two years, Brook has explored the industry and the dramatic sites of local quarries. This monumental outdoor sculpture reflects the region’s historical relationship with slate and stone and contrasts with the formal architecture of Holker Hall, offering a rare opportunity for people to physically interact with Brook’s work in the pastoral setting of Holker Hall’s Deer Park.

A new book accompanying the show will be published by Lund Humphries to coincide with the exhibition. What is it That Will Last? Land and Tidal Art of Julie Brook offers a rich and expansive visual record of Julie Brook’s artistic practice and proposes a unique collaboration between Brook and distinct voices from the nature writing and craftsmanship traditions. Find information about the book here.

What is it That Will Last? is generously supported by The Granada Foundation, the Holker Group and Burlington Stone, Kendal Town Council, Lakeland Arts Support Trust, L & W Wilson Ltd, South Lakeland District Council, and Young Films.


Photographs by Robin Zahler, Abbot Hall, and Lakeland Arts.


Sign up to receive our journal.

Download Journal