A new exhibition at Harewood House celebrates extraordinarily ordinary objects


Beauty is not always obvious. Sometimes you have to look twice, think harder and dig deeper to find it.

Beauty is not always obvious. Sometimes you have to look twice, think harder and dig deeper to find it.

Collector David Usborne has uncovered great beauty in the everyday while putting together Objectivity, a new exhibition in the Servants’ Hall at Harewood House in Leeds, which runs until September 1st.

He has brought together useful tools that have made an impact on ordinary lives; items that are beautiful in their own right but largely uncelebrated outside their practical remit.

These ‘accidental masterpieces’, now rather aptly adorning what was once the stately home’s original hub of domestic activity, celebrate diversity, form and engineering through their utilitarian elegance.

As a dedicated collector, David hopes the exhibition will capture the imagination of all ages, from child to adult, giving Harewood’s visitors a vital chance to absorb the art of the everyday.

Objectivity focuses on five eclectic areas: utility (items that are functional and get the job done); mystery (their purpose is initially not clear); indifference (they don’t try to please us like decorative objects do); resonance (they provoke memories of faces, figures or works of art); anonymity (their makers remain largely unknown).

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David’s passion for collecting began at an early age. He was born in 1939 to an English father and American mother, and spent the war years in Albuquerque, New Mexico, where he vividly remembers his first collections of mineral samples and Native American arrowheads.

Returning to England in 1946 he was dispatched to boarding school where collecting (cigarette cards, stamps, sweet papers, birds eggs) was universal among his fellow pupils. After reading history at university, he decided to study architecture. He then worked as an architect and graphic designer for several years before becoming a lecturer in the history of design and latterly a teacher of design in schools.

He has always used collected objects in his teaching to introduce pupils to the problems and intricacies of design. Now, he travels the world with his Objectivity collection.

His carefully curated exhibition at Harewood is his first in the north of England. For more details, visit harewood.org/objectivity.

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