The Courtauld Gallery, Somerset House opened its doors to the press today for a preview after a three-year renovation and modernization program. The £ 50million project was money well spent, as the gallery has now entered the 21st century with new lighting floors as well as a state-of-the-art gift shop and cafe. The gallery reopens to the public on November 19, 2021.
The Courtauld is one of London’s most beloved galleries
Founded by collectors and philanthropists in 1932, the gallery is best known for its iconic Impressionist and Post-Impressionist masterpieces, making it one of the UK’s most important art collections. The organization has been at the forefront of the study of art through advanced research and curatorial practices, innovative teaching, the renowned collection and inspiring exhibitions of its gallery, as well as activities, attractive and accessible education and events.
The collection, which spans from the Middle Ages to the 20th century, has been completely redesigned and reinterpreted through the elegantly refurbished galleries. Additionally, new spaces have been created for the Courtauld’s temporary exhibitions and acclaimed projects that highlight the institution’s research-driven educational mission.
Designed by Stirling Prize-winning architects Witherford Watson Mann with a gallery design by Nissen Richards Studio, the redevelopment revitalizes and opens up the building designed by Sir William Chambers in the 1770s to create an inspiring setting for the 21st century. The project was supported by £ 11million from the National Lottery Heritage Fund, £ 10million from philanthropists Sir Leonard and Lady Blavatnik, the Blavatnik Family Foundation, and generous donations from foundations, individuals and other supporters.
The beautiful Blavatnik rooms, which extend to the second floor, provide the magnificent setting for a series of new exhibitions of works from the Renaissance to the 18th century. Highlights will include Botticelli’s large scale The Trinity with Saints, unveiled after a three-year conservation project, and the famous collection of works from The Courtauld by Peter Paul Rubens.
The famous collection of Impressionist and Post-Impressionist masterpieces by Courtauld, including Un bar aux Folies-Bergère by Manet
(1882), the Self-Portrait of Van Gogh with the Bandaged Ear (1889) and the largest collection of Cézanne’s works in the UK will be on display in the spectacular, recently restored LVMH Great Room, the oldest space in the world. specially built exhibition in London.
An epic modern painting by the great Austrian expressionist Oskar Kokoschka – over eight meters long and considered one of the artist’s most important works, will be on display at the Courtauld for the first time in over a decade. Presented in the Katja and Nicolai Tangen 20th century gallery,
The Myth of Prometheus (1950) will be on display alongside a selection of photographs by Lee Miller documenting Kokoschka working on this extensive composition in the home of Count Antoine Seilern, who will later present it to The Courtauld.
A new gallery has been established on the first floor to display The Courtauld’s extensive collection of paintings and decorative arts from the Medieval and Early Renaissance periods, including fine examples of Islamic ironwork, alongside works by Italy and Northern Europe. In addition, the large collection of works by Courtauld of the Bloomsbury Group will be allocated a dedicated space in the gallery. This will showcase the group’s radical designs for furniture, ceramics and textiles alongside paintings and drawings by Bloomsbury artists Vanessa Bell, Duncan Grant, Roger Fry and others.
Two new galleries on the top floor provide a new home for the Courtauld’s temporary exhibition program. Denise Coates exhibition galleries open with Modern Drawings: The Karshan Gift (19 November 21 – 9 January 22), presenting an exceptional set of drawings by European and American masters, including Wassily Kandinsky, Paul Klee, Georg Baselitz and Cy Twombly, collected by late collector Howard Karshan and generously donated to The Courtauld by his wife, artist Linda Karshan.
Temporary exhibitions will also be presented in the Gilbert and Ildiko Butler Drawings Gallery. From pen to brush: British drawings and watercolors (19 Nov 21 – 27 Feb 22); and in the new Project Space, Kurdistan in the 1940s (November 19, 2021 – May 30, 2022) will draw attention to The Courtauld’s little-known photographic collections.
Another highlight is a new large-scale painting by renowned contemporary artist Cecily Brown – specially commissioned for the curved wall atop the historic Courtauld staircase. Entitled ‘Unmoored from her reflection’, the image responds to its setting and to The Courtauld’s collection. Brown diverts the codes and conventions of past art to create a dreamlike painting landscape that oscillates between abstraction and figuration. The Garcia Family Foundation supported the commission.
Upgraded visitor facilities include a newly built boutique in Deborah Loeb Brice Safes and the colorful new Art Café, decorated in the interior style developed and championed by the Bloomsbury Group.
The gallery’s teaching and research facilities have been enhanced with new collections study spaces and a complete refurbishment of the suite of teaching and research facilities within the world-renowned curatorial department of The Courtauld. This was made possible by a large donation from The Linbury Trust. Visiting schools and community groups will also benefit from the new Leon Kossoff Learning Center and the Edmond and Lily Safra Studio, which will provide a dedicated space for educational activities exploring art, art history and our collection.
Top photo: A new large-scale painting by renowned contemporary artist Cecily Brown