THE Former director of the National Portrait Gallery is giving a lecture at Salisbury Cathedral.

Sandy Nairne’s lecture is going to be focusing on the theme of Commemoration and Celebration in Art.

Reflecting on an astonishing four years of creative commissioning to commemorate the losses of the First World War and the 100th anniversary of the ‘war to end all wars’, Nairne’s talk explores the power of art to add new dimensions to collective remembrance and national expression.

Using ten examples of contemporary art in churches, cathedrals and other public spaces, he asks why such works might matter to us over the longer term.

Nairne, who is a well-known art curator and writer, said: “Like five million others, I went to the Tower of London to see Blood Swept Lands and Seas of Red by Paul Cummins and Tom Piper.

“The very visible, powerful and almost visceral effect of that sea of poppies flooding into the moat, powerfully connected the viewer to the sacrifices of individuals: each poppy a husband or a wife, a sister or a brother, once a son or a daughter, now a grandfather or grandmother but also possibly created another emotion, less direct but equally powerful, related to the uncertain contemporary world in which we live.”

Cathedrals and churches have always played a special role in providing space for public acts of remembrance in the form of services, music and visual arts but more recently contemporary art has been used in sacred spaces to provide a commentary on the secular as well as the religious world.

In his lecture, Nairne explores the role of public art, in particular in cathedrals, and asks why it often produces such strong critical and public reaction.

Commemoration and Celebration in Art takes place on Wednesday, September 18 at 7pm in the South Transept of Salisbury Cathedral.

The lecture is followed by a drinks reception.

Tickets are £10 and can be bought in advance by going to