A plan to find a new home for new Swindon’s notable collection of 20th Century modern art has been given a major boost after the Arts Council announced a £95,000 grant towards advice on how to house and present the works donated to the town in 1944 by collector and benefactor H J P Bomford.
The original collection includes work by Ben Nicholson, Henry Moore, Graham Sutherland, L S Lowry and Paul Nash to which has been added pieces by Terry Frost, Howard Hodgkin, Gwen and Augustus John, Maggi Hambling, Ivon Hitchens, Christopher Le Brun, and Lisa Milroy.
The museum holds a significant collection of studio pottery by David Leach, Lucie Rie and Hans Coper. More recently 12 photographs by Turner Prize short-listed artist, Steven Pippin, called Laundromat Locomotion, has been added.
Right, Lord and Lady Joffe, centre, and guests at the opening of Action! a free exhibition at the present Swindon Museum & Art Gallery until Saturday 31 May
Swindon’s cabinet agreed in Autumn 2013 that an art museum would be the centrepiece of a new cultural quarter in the town centre, located between the Wyvern Theatre and the magistrates’ court – see image below.
The grant will permit the art to be moved out of the cramped and difficult to-get-to Museum and Art Gallery at Apsley House in Bath Road, Old Town. Before this can take place the council needs to find the best way forward.
The money will be used towards bringing in expertise so the council can make take the right decisions for the future said Councillor Garry Perkins, cabinet member for regeneration. “This really is a massive boost for the art museum project and we are all delighted with the grant allocation. We haven’t built an art museum recently so we need to bring in outside experts so we get the right type of facility for the town.
“Getting the money is also validation for our objective and shows that there is a belief that the artworks in the Swindon Collection should be seen by the wider community in the right setting.
"A new museum and art gallery will contribute massively to Swindon’s continued regeneration, so it’s crucial that we make the most of the commercial opportunities the collection offers by learning from other towns and cities around the country.”
The funding from the Arts Council’s Museums Strategic Support Fund will also be used to examine the ‘collections significance’ which will include the council’s collection in storage, including archaeology.
The site for the new cultural centre which will involve demolition of the Wyvern car park, left, in late 2014