New galleries housing outstanding collections reopen on Good Friday
The Lady Lever Art Gallery will reveal its new South End galleries in a Good Friday opening on 25 March 2016, following a £2.8m major development project, part funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF).
The new galleries have been returned to their original architectural glory as part of the improvement works, showcasing William Hesketh Lever's internationally-renowned collections in a similarly impressive style to that employed by Lever when the Gallery first opened in 1922.
The galleries, which closed for the refurbishment in November 2014, house more than 1,500 objects, including the best collection of Wedgwood jasperware in the world, one of the finest collections of Chinese porcelain in Europe and outstanding 18th century paintings, furniture and sculpture.
Sandra Penketh, Director of Art Galleries at National Museums Liverpool, said:
"The new South End galleries are a true representation of Lever's remarkable vision. He believed that art should be an inspiration to all, and the rooms in this spectacular space were re-imagined with this message at heart.
"We've reversed some of the changes that were made to the South End in the 1960s, opening up the galleries to allow us to display Lever's outstanding treasures in the best possible way. We're incredibly excited to reveal the new galleries to visitors and hope that they'll enjoy exploring the collections in new and inspiring ways."
The new galleries include:
- Wedgwood rooms – two interlinked rooms showcasing the Gallery’s remarkable Wedgwood collection, which includes the world’s finest collection of Wedgwood jasperware. The new displays highlight incredibly rare objects, such as two copies of the celebrated Portland Vase, three complete jasperware fireplaces and plaques made by Wedgwood and painted by George Stubbs.
- 18th century room – female portraiture and the lifestyles of women living in the 18th century are explored through portraits by artists including Sir Joshua Reynolds, George Romney and Élisabeth Louise Vigée Le Brun. This room also houses some of the most outstanding examples of English 18th century furniture in the country.
- Chinese rooms – two interlinked rooms demonstrate the importance and influence of Chinese ceramics on European art and taste. This rich collection includes 17th - 18th century porcelain Kangxi, Yongzheng and Qianlong periods), reverse paintings on glass, cloisonné and jade, as well as snuff bottles and earlier ceramics of the Han, Tang and Song dynasties (2nd century BC - 14th century).
- Chinoiserie room – a new room exploring the ways in which European artists re-interpreted oriental designs and decoration in objects made in the West. Much of the Gallery’s Chinoiserie furniture is displayed together here for the first time.
- Napoleon room – a dazzling display of furniture and artefacts related to Napoleon, including a Napoleon death mask, will be given new life as visitors will be able to get much closer to the objects. The room not only demonstrates Lever’s eclectic taste, but also his drive to collect, assemble and share those things which inspired him most.
- The sculpture gallery – refurbishment of the beautiful south dome has created a dramatic backdrop for fine examples of Victorian and early 20th century sculpture. At the centre of the gallery is Desiré Maurice Ferrary's breath-taking Salammbo, which Lever purchased from the Paris Universal Exhibition in 1900.
A number of architectural changes have been made to the galleries in order to return them to their impressive former grandeur, including the opening up of original doorways to improve circulation within the galleries.
The striking, original double-height spaces with barrel vaulted ceilings have also been revealed by removing the low, suspended ceilings that were installed in the 1960s. The new galleries boast an array of beautiful period features, from elaborate plasterwork architraves and skirting, cast from the original designs, to parquet flooring throughout.
New glazed doors provide picturesque views of Port Sunlight village from the South End, while innovative architectural lighting highlights some of the Gallery’s most beautiful and iconic features, including the South End glass dome.
Sara Hilton, Head of HLF North West, said:
“It’s great to see the south galleries returned to their former glory, creating a fantastic setting for one of the most stunning fine and decorative art collections in the UK. The Lady Lever Art Gallery demonstrates the leading role heritage plays in making this area such a special place to live in and visit and I’m delighted to see it go from strength to strength, thanks to National Lottery investment.”
The new galleries and opening events programme have been designed to encourage visitors of all ages to enjoy William Hesketh Lever's internationally-renowned collections, in line with his belief that “art is within the reach of all of us.”
Jo Keenan, Education Manager at the Lady Lever Art Gallery, said:
“The new galleries tell the story of Lever’s collections in an engaging and imaginative way, bringing star objects to the forefront to reveal their significance and beauty. We’ve also introduced a number of interactive points, where visitors can get hands-on with items from the collection.
“We’ve been working closely with schools and community groups throughout the duration of the project. The groups have been inspired to create some wonderful artworks of their own as a result, which we’re looking forward to displaying in our Reflections exhibition, which opens on 18 March.”
The scheme has been funded through donations, corporate sponsorship and major grants, including a generous grant of £1.4m from the Heritage Lottery Fund.
2016 is set to be a memorable year in the Lady Lever’s history. Shortly after the much-anticipated South End reopening, the Gallery will host a major new exhibition of Picasso linocuts (24 June 2016 – 8 January 2017), acquired by the British Museum with support from the Art Fund.
Open daily 10am-5pm
Lady Lever Art Gallery
Port Sunlight Village, Wirral, CH62 5EQ
Telephone 0151 478 4136
Notes to Editors
About the Lady Lever Art Gallery
The Lady Lever Art Gallery houses one of the UK’s greatest collections of fine and decorative art. An extensive programme of restoration and improvement is currently underway in the South End of the Gallery. The £2.8m project will see 500 square metres of gallery space transformed. The galleries will be returned to their original architectural design and more than 1,500 objects will be redisplayed, including the best collection of Wedgwood jasperware in the world, one of the finest collections of Chinese porcelain in Europe and outstanding 18th century paintings, furniture and sculpture. The scheme will be funded through donations, corporate sponsorship and major grants. This includes generous grants from the following donors:
The Heritage Lottery Fund
Lord Leverhulme’s Charitable Trust
DCMS/Wolfson Museums & Galleries Improvement Fund
Garfield Weston Foundation
The Headley Trust
J Paul Getty Jr Charitable Trust
Professor Phil Redmond CBE and Mrs Alexis Redmond MBE
The Granada Foundation
Charles Hayward Foundation
The Henry Moore Foundation
Sir Siegmund Warburg’s Voluntary Settlement
29th May 1961 Charitable Trust
Andrew and Liz Collinge
For more information on the project, visit www.liverpoolmuseums.org.uk/leverplans
About the Heritage Lottery Fund
Thanks to National Lottery players, we invest money to help people across the UK explore, enjoy and protect the heritage they care about - from the archaeology under our feet to the historic parks and buildings we love, from precious memories and collections to rare wildlife. www.hlf.org.uk @heritagelottery
About National Museums Liverpool
National Museums Liverpool comprises eight venues, including some of the most visited museums in England outside of London. Our collections are among the most important and varied in Europe and contain everything from Impressionist paintings and rare beetles to a lifejacket from the Titanic. We attract more than 2.7 million visitors every year. Our venues are the Museum of Liverpool, World Museum, the Walker Art Gallery, Merseyside Maritime Museum, International Slavery Museum, Border Force National Museum, Sudley House and the Lady Lever Art Gallery.