Newcastle, the wall without barn (1966-2008)

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Schwitters: ’the new Merz construction will later stand close to nature, in the midst of a national park, and afford a wonderful view in all directions’






Upon its arrival at Newcastle the wall was given temporary shelter in a purpose-built shed and nine months later was housed in a special alcove in the Hatton Gallery. It has been on public view since 1966.

During the 1970s the wall was given little publicity by the gallery; it was boarded up for long periods of time when space was needed for other exhibitions. This was still the case when we visited the Gallery in the 1980s, expecting to find the wall and “its story” in all its glory.

In recent years the Gallery has put more effort into a better presentation of the wall, although the additional explanatory information was rather thin, consisting mainly of Fred Brookes’ report. There were no enticing photographs of the Merzbarn story, nor was there any reference to the ideas of Schwitters.

We believe it is for this reason that it is difficult for visitors to grasp the true significance of the wall – namely that it is but a part of an unfinished work of art which had never been intended for display at this artificial location. On the other hand the lovely, intricate detail of the small window, imitating the skylight in the barn, does give you the feeling that the removers and the Gallery did understand its essence.

1. Merzbarn wall in the Hatton Gallery, 2008
2. Wall with skylight, 2008
3. Alcove of the wall
4. Wall in the Hatton Gallery
5. Additional explanation