Cheltenham Museum and Art Gallery is reborn as The Wilson

By Culture24 Reporter | 04 October 2013

One of the country’s best arts and crafts collections re-opens its doors to the public this weekend as Cheltenham Art Gallery and Museum is transformed into The Wilson.

three people holding cubes next to a large cube on a stand
The Wilson cube outside the new building with Cllr Rowena Hay, Jane Lillystone and Marksteen Adamson from creative agency ASHA.© Courtesy Cheltenham Borough Council
After two years of building work and nearly £6 million in investment, four new floors are about to open to house a gallery dedicated to the art gallery and museum's extensive fine art collection and two new galleries that will enable Cheltenham to become a major venue for national and international touring exhibitions.

The Wilson also boasts a space to discover more about local heroes, including the eponymous Edward Wilson – one of Scott’s key men on his 1912 expedition to Antarctica – and a re-interpreted Arts and Crafts gallery housing a world-renowned and Designated collection of national importance.

The collection reflects the importance of the Cotswolds in the development of the movement between the 1880s and 1940, with works by local craftsmen such as CR Ashbee and Ernest Gimson sitting alongside nationally important pieces by William Morris, CFA Voysey, Baillie Scott, Eric Gill and many others.

Cementing the link to Gloucestershire’s craft and making tradition, the Gloucestershire Guild of Craftsmen also have a new retail outlet at the site, The Guild at 51 which is selling beautiful contemporary crafts.

Andrew Proctor, the Arts Council’s visual arts Relationship Manager in the South West, said the opening came at a “really exciting time for the arts and crafts in the South West, with increasing recognition of the significant work housed and being created here”.

“We are looking forward to the reopening of a transformed Cheltenham Art Gallery and Museum and are particularly excited by the opportunities they now have to display more of their significant collection as well as presenting important touring exhibitions.”

Gloucestershire artist Colin Reid's stunning glass sculpture are showcased in the first exhibition to open at the newly rebuilt gallery, bringing together a significant collection of the artist's work from his early days to the present.

An ambitious programme of exhibitions for 2014 is also being developed, including the loan of Rodin’s Kiss from Tate, a national touring show from the National Portrait Gallery and a summer family blockbuster exhibition, Dinosaurs Uncovered.

The elegant building, re-designed by architects Berman Guedes Stretton is also now home to town’s tourism services with the re-location of Cheltenham’s Tourist Information Centre and the opening of a new ground floor café-bistro.

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