Circle of Sticks Richard Long
Richard Long, Circle of Sticks 1973

I’m Emily Down and I’m one of the two archive curators here in the archive. I’m responsible for overseeing the cataloguing that gets done here. From the collections that we accrued in 1974 I have picked an interesting example of an artist working with Tate on a piece that the gallery purchased. This item is a drawing by Richard Long and is a plan for his work ‘Circle of Sticks’, 1973 which is in the Tate collection.

Richard Long is an English sculptor, photographer and painter, and one of the best known British land artists. Long is inspired by his love of nature, the landscape, and the ways in which his actions infulence the way this landscape can change. Known mainly for his solitary walks which he then photographs he sometimes uses natural materials in the gallery. ‘Circle of Sticks’ is one such example of this.

Letter from Circle of Sticks Richard Long
Richard Long, Circle of Sticks, 1973

The plan was sent by Long to Anne Seymour, assistant keeper in the gallery’s modern collection, when the work was bought by Tate Gallery. The plan itself, Long is careful to point out, “is not an art work or exhibitable in any way.”  It is a very simple outline - the sticks themselves are not drawn in, just the circle in which they are to be arranged. However, the sticks do matter:  the gallery was given some extra sticks along with the work, but Long asks for them to be kept separately, so that the circle is made up of the same sticks each time. I chose this piece because it illustrates the relationships galleries have with artists and their art work: in this instance an example of both the very precise nature of the materials used, while also being quite vague about the make up of the circle. Since 1974 we have housed items such as this with the Gallery’s own records, although we often house items that accompany, but are not considered vital to, an art work for research use. Do you think that the artist should have complete control of how their artwork is displayed, or should the curator have some artistic right?

TGA 744

Written by Emily Down