Untitled by Kenneth Halliwell

Part of the artwork by Kenneth Halliwell

A LONG-lost collage by the notorious Kenneth Halliwell has been put on display at Islington Museum.

The £2,800 collage, bought with a lottery grant, was unveiled on Thursday (6 February) as part of Islington's LGBT History Month.

It will join the permanent display of book jackets that were artistically defaced by Kenneth Halliwell and artist Joe Orton. The lovers used to steal books from the South Library on Essex Road in the Sixties, and modify them with controversially-themed images such as naked people, animals and messages about society – an act which landed them in Pentonville prison.

...After a 17 year relationship and dozens of joint pranks, publications and works of art, their lives ended when Halliwell killed Orton with a hammer before committing suicide.
Cllr Janet Burgess, Islington Council's executive member for health and wellbeing said: "Kenneth Halliwell was a rebel whose name is synonymous with Islington and now notorious because of his exploits in South Library.

"He was a talented artist in his own right as this collage - purchased by the Council for the borough – shows.”
(http://archive.islingtontribune.com/news/2014/feb/lost-collage-kenneth-halliwell-goes-display-islington-museum)


While Orton has long been celebrated for the dark and shocking plays he wrote in his short life, Halliwell’s art has since come under focus and a lot coming up at auction nearly 50 years after he ended Orton’s life recalls his work.

A four-panel screen decorated by a collage now on sale in Northamptonshire on September 22 represents “an important part of 1960s cultural history as well as an engaging piece of art work”, according to the auctioneers, JP Humbert.

Estimated at £3000-5000, it was produced about a year or so before Orton’s murder and Halliwell’s suicide.

Orton met his partner at RADA (Royal Academy of Dramatic Art) in 1951. They lived together in a small flat in Islington, north London. In 1963 Orton and Halliwell were sent to prison for ‘maliciously defacing’ books from London libraries, in a spree of anarchic and unlawful redesign of book covers during the late 1950s. This experience inspired Orton but depressed Halliwell.

The use of extensive floor-to-ceiling collage work of Halliwell had become a signature design feature of their flat. As a story in The Guardian notes: “The men soon moved in together and began writing novels and plays – as well as pursuing their library transgressions. But as Orton's celebrity and success took over, Halliwell increasingly came to see himself as an artist, and he expanded their collages into the room the two men shared.”

“I remember the back wall of their tiny bedsit,” Orton’s sister, Leonie, recalls in Malicious Damage, a book by Ilsa Colsell analysing the collaborative art of these two men. “It was covered from floor to ceiling with hundreds of colour plates made into collages. I remember them as being very dark in tone, no hue of brightness; they'd been torn out of Renaissance art books.”
(https://www.antiquestradegazette.com/news/2016/screen-collage-by-joe-ortons-lover-and-killer-kenneth-halliwell-at-auction/)
Click to select the cover image for this artwork.
Media: collage

More from Kenneth Halliwell 1

World of Cats by Kenneth Halliwell on Curiator - http://crtr.co/2nvp
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