In the frame: Lucy Byatt

Lucy Byatt
Lucy Byatt

Lucy is the director of the Hospitalfield arts centre in Arbroath and curator of Scotland + Venice 2015 with artist Graham Fagen. Next year she hopes to raise nearly four million pounds to commission architects Caruso St John to realise the first stage of the redevelopment of the historic house, which was one of Scotland’s first art schools.

Image: Louise Coupar
The 19th-century façade of Hospitalfield House. Image: Louise Coupar
Graham Fagen’s Scheme for Our Nature installation at the Palazzo Fontana
Graham Fagen’s Scheme for Our Nature installation at the Palazzo Fontana

Has being at Hospitalfield altered your sense of style?
Everything about the design of Hospitalfield is extraordinarily detailed – there’s hardly a surface without a carving, emboss or inlay. The principles that lie behind this 19th-century celebration of creativity and craft are wonderful ideals and I really enjoy watching a first-time visitor’s process of discovery. I love the fantastical interiors but I need a little more simplicity in my own home.

Who are your main influences and heroes?
One of my greatest heroines is the writer and critic Lucy Lippard. She was born in New York in 1937 and has written many books on art, particularly about the way in which art makes relationships to the place in which it is sited. She was very close to the artist Robert Smithson and it was probably her influence that encouraged him to make a series of temporary works in the landscape, where he poured glue and then asphalt down the sheer wall of a quarry – like huge drawings in a landscape, fleeting artworks, so extraordinary that they will continue to exist in our imaginations for ever.

What is your favourite building?
Hospitalfield – I spend all my waking hours thinking about how to make it a place of work for artists and a generous host to our visitors. I have also got to know the 16th-century Palazzo Fontana very well, the location for Graham Fagen’s exhibition in Venice. Facing the Grand Canal, the light in the rooms is astonishing against the splendid Venetian details.
What is your dream home? The Schindler House in Los Angeles, built by Rudolf Schindler in 1921. It’s the way the garden is almost inside the living space that I like so much.
What is your own home like? I live in house designed ten years ago for the Director of Hospital­field. It has big windows looking out across fields to the North Sea. I’m surrounded by art and my huge ceramics collection.

How do you relax?
Gardening. The walled garden here is a wonderful place. I work with brilliant volunteers on it, and we opened to the public this year for the first time. It takes seven years for a truly great garden to mature – each year we see it getting more complex and interesting.
What’s Scotland’s Greatest Attribute? The Arbroath Smokie – a wonderful, simple process for preserving excellent, simple food.