I am the Keeper of Art at the Hatton Gallery on the campus of Newcastle University, home to Kurt Schwitters’ Merzbarn Wall.

Rob showing his research on the Merzbarn to John Elderfield, who is a Schwitters expert and Chief Curator Emeritus at the Museum of Modern Art in New York

Rob showing his research on the Merzbarn to John Elderfield, who is a Schwitters expert and Chief Curator Emeritus at the Museum of Modern Art in New York

Photo: Rob Airey

Although I have twenty years experience working with different art collections, with four years here at the Hatton, I have never had responsibility for a work of art that I am able to see every working day or that remains, even with daily visits, so engrossing, mysterious and delightful than this fragment from Schwitters’ unfinished project.

Kurt Schwitters, Merzbarn Wall (1947-48) at the Hatton Gallery Photograph: Nick May

Kurt Schwitters, Merzbarn Wall (1947-48) at the Hatton Gallery

Photograph: Nick May

There are of course many challenges associated with this responsibility. The Wall was incorporated into the fabric of a 1960s extension to the gallery. Due to the materials and manner of its construction it is extremely fragile, and whilst at the heart of the gallery it does not provide ideal environmental conditions to ensure its longevity, or naturally assist the appreciation and interpretation of Schwitters’ intentions and achievements. However, we hope to address these issues as part of a major refurbishment of the Gallery which, funds permitting will begin in 2015.

Merzbarn, Cylinders Farm, Oct 2010

Merzbarn, Cylinders Farm, Oct 2010

Photo: Rob Airey

Despite the challenges, now, nearly 50 years since Harry Pierce, then owner of the barn in Elterwater, donated the Wall to the Hatton Gallery, it remains a place of pilgrimage for many. It’s a source of inspiration for successive generations of Newcastle University Fine Art students and a thing of wonder and enchantment for thousands of visitors to the Hatton every year, many of whom perhaps had no idea of its existence before their visit.

Have you visited the Merzbarn wall with us at the Hatton Gallery? If you haven’t seen it, I strongly recommend a visit!