House of Doors is a contemporary sculpture by artist Kristina Clackson Bonnington, which explores issues of women’s equality and access, and how that access has changed over time.
The focal point of the House of Doors is a large sculpture, created in response to Harriet Halhed’s painting The Little Girl at The Door (1910), which shows a small girl standing at a closed door. The sculpture, a monolithic structure, references architectural details from significant sites of women’s equality and exclusion:
- The Houses of Parliament, as the site of women’s enfranchisement
- University College London - which in 1878 became the first university in England to admit women on equal terms to men
- The Gentlemen's Clubs of St James', London, some of which continue not to admit women today
Westminster Hall, as the historic entrance to the Houses of Parliament, represents the history of British democracy and the political obstacles which women had to overcome in the early 20th century. 2018 marks the 100th anniversary of the Representation of the People Act 1918 and the Parliament (Qualification of Women) Act, which first allowed select women to vote in and stand for election.
While creating the House of Doors sculpture, the artist took detailed rubbings of the Medieval York stone paving in Westminster Hall. The artist specifically selected this paving as representative of the political sphere which women fought for access to. The artist used her rubbings to create the individual 28 paving casts which together form the focal point of the artwork, the white monolith which is simultaneously an obstacle, a path, and an opportunity.
The girl at the door
The placement of the sculpture in Westminster Hall marks the centenary of the Parliament (Qualification of Women) Act which, on 21st November 1918, allowed women to stand for Parliament. The audience is invited to consider how access to public life has changed since 1918, with particular emphasis on the spaces and roles that were closed to women and that have since opened up.
The stone ‘door’ represents a physical obstacle, rather than an entrance point and audiences are asked to consider how this barrier could then be opened, over-leaped, or manipulated to turn the obstacle into a pathway. The sculpture invites audiences to think about the future as well as the past, and how women’s access to spaces may continue to change in the 21st century.
You can book free tickets to view House of Doors at Westminster Hall online.
About the artist
Kristina Clackson Bonnington is Artist-in-Residence at University College London (UCL). Central to her practice is the examination of socio-spatial control, expressed through architectural design and the built environment. Clackson Bonnington first launched House of Doors in 2015 at UCL, selected due to its historical ethos of equality. UCL’s Quad was reworked into the full, participatory version of House of Doors, and the first Members of the House of Doors were welcomed.
In 2018 UCL launched Female Firsts, a development of House of Doors. This year-long project celebrates 12 pioneering women from an extraordinary breadth of fields. Focusing on 12 sites of public life, linked to each woman featured, UCL Female Firsts explores the roles and spaces these first women occupied. The project culminates in an exhibition of all 12 portraits by Clackson Bonnington. The full exhibition will be on display from Friday 14th December.
UCL Female Firsts 14th December 2018 – 2nd February 2019 at www.ucl.ac.uk.
Find out more
House of Doors is supported by the Lord Speaker’s Advisory Panel on Works of Art and the Speaker’s Advisory Committee on Works of Art.
Find out more about House of Doors at www.houseofdoors.org