It’s an absolute privilege to be given a guided tour of this year’s Sculpture at Kingham Lodge, which opens tomorrow (May 20), by the man himself Christopher Stockwell.
Not only because Christopher is hosting the annual Oxfordshire Artweeks event in the gardens of his home Kingham Lodge, but because he knows the name of every sculpture and sculptor being exhibited, alongside each plant in his magnificent garden.
There are around 600 pieces by 50 UK, and 50 Zimbabwean sculptors, for Oxfordshire Artweeks visitors to enjoy this year, in the six acre garden landscaped by Christopher himself.
“I enjoy seeing the pleasure the sculptures give people”
And while he has a team of gardeners to help him keep on top of things, it is very much his baby.
He and his family open the gardens every year to raise money for charity, while showcasing the schools outreach work they do in the local area, and help Zimbabwean sculptors.
It is an enormous endeavour and hopes to raise £150,000, most of the work on display up for sale, with over 10,000 guests expected over the next 10 days (20-29th May).
3000 school children have already been to visit, from 20 surrounding primary and secondary schools, to see their work exhibited alongside the world’s most famous sculptors.
“I’ve always thought that if you have a lovely garden, they are for sharing”
And with prices ranging from £15-£72,000 there really is a price tag for everyone, with £350,000 worth of sculptures sold last year alone.
Christopher visits the Zimbabwean sculptors they support every year to choose the work for the exhibition, and ship it back to Kingham to raise money for the collective, which has been so decimated by the civil war.
Over £400,000 has been raised for charity over the years, this year The Koestler Trust – Art in Secure Institutions, Helen and Douglas House, Sculpture Park in Harare and Rafiki Thabo Foundation will be the beneficiaries.
And with a cafe erected on the lawns, visitors can not only enjoy the sculpture and gardens but a cream tea to match.
Helpers are erecting two huge Zimbabwean hippos, Richard Creswell’s incredible gleaming silver spitfire rotates gently on the lawn and John Lennon’s mosaic The Psychedelic Eye, recently returned from a world tour as part of the major V&A exhibition ‘ is in situ, when I visit.
Being being sold at auction at Bonhams in the autumn, potentially never to be seen in public again, it is a coup to have the Lennon piece here at Kingham Lodge.
But then it is such an idyllic location, perfect for framing the carefully placed sculptures in the nooks and crannies of the vast manicured garden which leads you out past the lake, eco garden, Coronation meadow, landscaped lawns, flower beds, and wild areas. The Pavilion also houses some really interesting work.
So does Christopher mind opening his gardens to the public? “Not at all. I enjoy seeing the pleasure it gives people,” he says as we pass a huge blue glistening teardrop by Richard Cresswell.
“I’ve always thought that if you have a lovely garden, then they are for sharing so no, I don’t mind at all.”
But don’t forget to book. Tickets are free but booking is essential. Sculpture at Kingham Lodge runs from May 20-29. Book here https://www.sculptureatkinghamlodge.com