Aspex Gallery has moved - it now occupies a prime spot on Portsmouth's Gunwharf Quays. © Aspex Gallery
Portsmouth’s Aspex Gallery has finished its delicate process of moving and is due to open to the public with the first of a series of ambitious monthly programmes in December 2006.
Previously based in an old church in the city, Aspex intends to use its palatial new headquarters in Gunwharf Quays to expand its display and educational activities when it reopens to the public on December 2.
The move into an old military storeroom, converted by the award-winning architects Glenn Howells, was made possible with the help of funding from Arts Council England and Portsmouth City Council amongst others.
Joanne Bushel, Director of the gallery, feels the building has just the right mix of new and old. “We wanted to retain its historic structure yet give it a contemporary layout,” she said.
The new gallery includes a modern cafe tastefully incorporated into the fabric of the building. © Aspex Gallery
The gallery, which is all on one level, consists of two exhibition spaces and an open plan shop and café selling locally produced organic food. In a bid to offer support to aspiring creative practitioners the gallery also has an artist resource centre, called ARC, which provides information and support for creative practitioners in Portsmouth and across the southeast.
Inaugural events celebrating the re-launch of the gallery include the internationally renowned Caravan Gallery UK, which will start its world tour from the venue and be in residence from December 2 to February 11 2007.
Up to 12 exhibitions a year are planned in the main viewing space, the first of which will be the Caravan Gallery’s travelling exhibition of photographs, showing the seamier side of British life. This fascinating look at the often hilarious underbelly of modern existence features images of everyone and everything, from Romany-type travellers to badly spelt graffiti.
The inaugral exhibition at the new space is Jan Williams' and Chris Teasdale's Caravan Gallery. © Aspex Gallery
Jan Williams, one half of the caravan photographic team, believes the exhibition is essentially about the evolution of the UK shown through its people and places. She says: “We are documenting changes. A prime example is cities that change so quickly. We look at trends that are happening.”
If you ever want to see an exhibition that destroys the myth of Britain as a quaint chocolate box land of cottages and laughing policemen, this is it.
The other viewing space next to the café will host from December 2 2006 an exhibition entitled Must Have, showcasing an eclectic collection of original works from twenty of the most exciting designers/makers from the world of contemporary craft and design.
The gallery hopes that a much more user-friendly design will help it to become a leading facility for children to learn about and experiment in creating art. A classroom will run art workshops and clubs starting with a Christmas Art Club from December 20 this year.
Greetings from Pompey - the Caravan Gallery offers a wry look at our towns and cities as it travels from place to place in the UK. © Caravan Gallery
The re-launch of the Aspex is expected to enhance the profile of Portsmouth as a centre for the arts. The tailor-made facility will almost certainly bring in more artists, art enthusiasts and, perhaps most importantly, people who are often put off by formal art galleries.
With its inviting café and friendly staff the gallery is a welcome addition to the increasingly cosmopolitan atmosphere of the regenerated Gunwharf Quays area of the city and bodes well for the future of art in Portsmouth.