The Minories Exhibition, Colchester
The Minories Gallery is situated in a Grade II listed building in Colchester. It is managed by the Victor Batte-Lay Foundation, which was established at the bequest of Geoffrey Butt to present his collection of art for the benefit of the people of Colchester. VBLF started organising exhibitions at The Minories in 1956, showing work by luminaries including Edward Bawden, Eric Ravilious, Lucien Pissarro, Maggi Hambling, Mark Wallinger, John and Paul Nash, Jacob Epstein and even Winston Churchill. From 1994-2008, Firstsite took on the running of the building and exhibition programme whilst they planned their new building. and in 2008 Colchester Institute’s School of Art began their tenure there, providing opportunities for their students to exhibit and experience exhibitions that would further their education.
In 2012 I was appointed as The Minories’ curator, and was keen to develop a diverse exhibition programme to explore various areas of artistic exploration from contemporary art to fashion, and product design to graphic design. As someone who was not particularly familiar with the town and its histories, I was keen to discover those working close by whose work could contribute to a critical discourse around art education and creative culture. When David Jury (course leader for the MA in Art, Design and the Book at Colchester Institute) told me that Romek Marber lived nearby and could be interested in presenting some of his work for an exhibition, my interest was piqued. There had been a Penguin book on my bookshelves for over 30 years that I had bought at around the age of 12 purely for the design of the front-cover, and it was one of Romek’s designs for the Crime Series.
Meeting with Romek to discuss the idea of an exhibition resulted in a most incredible personal journey, both creatively and emotionally. He was insightful, thorough, had a keen eye for detail and utterly charming. It was a privilege to work with him, as well as Orna Frommer-Dawson, Romek’s partner, who contributed her own extensive design expertise along with that of Geoffrey Windram to support the exhibition design. The result was an extensive and intimate journey through some of the highlights of Romek’s work selected from a period of over 50 years. It presented some of his striking covers for The Economist, many of his iconic Penguin Crime Series covers, and examples of beautifully detailed book and catalogue designs, but the exhibition told only one aspect of Romek’s contribution towards the field of graphic design, as his legacy lies not only in the work he created, but also in his dedication to teaching, and the experience and sensitivity that he passed on to many others that continue to be seen in design influences today.
David Jury: Romek came to give a talk at the college, again the hall was packed to the rafters but he gave a brilliant performance, full of grace and charm but also with a steely sense of determination. Read more