Transformed William Morris Gallery Reopens 2 August

  • Grayson Perry, Laurence Llewelyn-Bowen, Tony Robinson support. [Quotes below].
  • PRESS PREVIEWS 30, 31 July with Laurence Llewelyn-Bowen. [Info below].
  • Turner Prize winner Grayson Perry the first artist to exhibit in the new temporary exhibition gallery displaying his Walthamstow Tapestry.  (Runs until 23 Sept ‘12).
  • £10m revamp of gallery, gardens and park creates a new world-class destination to explore the life and works of William Morris, the revolutionary and globally influential designer, decorator, environmentalist and political activist. 
  • New galleries, learning resources and Georgian orangery inspired extension.
  • Transformation part of Waltham Forest Council’s commitment to arts and culture

Pics: http://bit.ly/LMsp8r

The William Morris Gallery – in Walthamstow, London, the place of Morris’ birth - has been transformed to create a new world-class destination and international centre of excellence for the study of Morris, where visitors can enjoy the most intense and personal encounter with one of the foremost creative artists and original thinkers of the nineteenth century. Both the William Morris Gallery and the Gardens will open on 2 August. Entry is free.

William Morris, born in Walthamstow in 1834, was a founder of the Arts and Crafts movement, supporter of the Pre-Raphaelites, a socialist pioneer, designer, craftsman and visionary, whose work still influences these fields today. The collection housed at the William Morris Gallery is the only one in the world to represent all aspects of Morris’s work and the transformation of the building provides a unique opportunity for the visitor to become immersed in the life and works of this creative genius.

The William Morris Gallery is housed in Morris' family home where he lived from 1848 to 1856. The 18thCentury, Grade II* listed building has been completely refurbished, revealing many of the orginal Georgian features for the first time and enabling people to experience the house as Morris would have done. The gardens have been restored using design and planting inspired by Morris and plans of the garden from the 18thCentury. The drive to the house has been remodelled as a circular carriageway sweep, giving a fitting, and historically accurate approach to the house. The Gardens have been restored as part of a wider refurbishment of Lloyd Park, in which the Gallery is situated.

The transformation delivers increased and fully-refurbished exhibition space with three new galleries and the chance for previously unseen works to be displayed, a library, research and education centre and a new Georgian orangery-inspired extension housing a new tearoom and balcony overlooking the gardens.

Almost 600 objects will now be on display across 12 galleries.  Many artefacts are on display for the first time and arranged across six major themes exploring different aspects of Morris’ life. 

Examples include [images at http://bit.ly/LMsp8r]:

  • The deeply personal, such as a letter to his mother from her student son addressing her feelings that he lacked of ambition and her concern about him not going into the Church; a hand inscribed book for his wife, Jane, for her birthday; and his coffee cup and trusty satchel in which he carried his sketchings, essays and political pamphlets.
  • Majestic and influential works such as his first ever wallpaper design, through to the wallpaper he designed for St James’ Palace. Amidst the woven, printed, embroidered and knotted textiles is The Woodpecker - the only tapestry Morris designed alone. Some of the Firm’s earliest tiles, such as the Beauty and the Beast panel, the stained glass designs that made their name, furniture and finally the last masterpiece Morris created, the Kelmscott Press Chaucer.
  • A range of work reflecting Morris’s influence on other artists, for example the fretwork chairs designed by Mackmurdo, one of only five to exist in the world and indentified as the precursor to Art Nouveau.
  • Political thinking and writing including his utopian fiction News From Nowhere where Morris imagines a future in which capitalism, government and industry have been swept away and the countryside has replaced towns and cities.
  • The Galleries also include designs, paintings and furniture by the talented artists and craftspeople Morris surrounded himself including works by Edward Burne-Jones, Dante Gabriel Rossetti, Ford Madox Brown and Phillip Webb.
  • Other examples online at: http://bit.ly/LMsp8r

The William Morris Gallery was first opened in 1950 by then Prime Minister Clement Attlee, reflecting Morris status to political thinking and his contribution the nation.

The redevelopment works in the Gallery have been carried out by Pringle Richards Sharratt Architects only made possible by funding from Waltham Forest Council and the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) as well as many notable trusts, foundations, sponsors and Friends of The William Morris Gallery. The restoration of Lloyd Park has been made possible through funding from Waltham Forest Council, HLF and the Big Lottery Fund.

Chris Robbins, Leader of Waltham Forest Council, said: The new-look William Morris Gallery is truly stunning and promises a wonderful family day out whether you’re visiting from a few streets away or another part of the country altogether.

“We’re all extremely proud to have been part of the multi-million pound development. The work has seen the building restored to its former glory and complemented by a new tearoom, a fantastic new exhibition space, beautiful surroundings and the means to have more of our collection on display than ever before.

“It’s a first-class destination and a true one-off for fans of Morris or anyone interested in art and design – fields that continue to draw influence and inspiration from Walthamstow’s most famous son to this day.”

Wesley Kerr, HLF London Committee Chairman, said:  “William Morris famously said ‘Have nothing in your house that you do not know to be useful, or believe to be beautiful.’ The Heritage Lottery Fund is delighted that the representation of Walthamstow’s wonderful William Morris Gallery follows that advice; our grant of £1.6m has made the childhood home and landscape which inspired the 19th century’s most influential designer to show 50 per cent more exquisite objects in a fabulous setting.  

“Morris wanted ordinary people to enjoy quality Arts and Crafts artefacts - from furniture to stained glass, tapestries to pottery - and the Gallery presents hundreds from its world class collection, inside  the now fully accessible and expanded 18th-century mansion. There’s a new cafe, fresh exhibition spaces and an exciting programme of activities which will connect Morris’s cross-cultural designs with all communities. 

“The £3.5m which HLF and the Big Lottery Fund have jointly awarded to Lloyd Park means that Waltham Forest has been able to undertake  a once in a generation restoration of Gallery, ornamental gardens and Park - with its  rare medieval moat - giving a huge boost for visitors and residents.”

Grayson Perry said:  “I admire Morris for the range and depth of activity he was able to explore and the lasting influence he has had.  I love ornate pattern and this is where Morris excels, his work has a joyous sense of design that provides visual delight and is immediately accessible to everyone.  I always hope to achieve similar aims through my work which means I am extremely delighted that my Walthamstow Tapestry is the first temporary exhibition in the transformed William Morris Gallery. 

“Morris typifies what makes places like Walthamstow special.  A place that most people think is just an ordinary part of London is actually rich with interesting people, histories and social and political activity.  My studio is in Walthamstow and that is where I designed the Walthamstow Tapestry. The most famous textile artwork for most Britons is the Bayeux Tapestry so I wanted to echo that.  But I wanted the title to reflect it is about all our lives and Walthamstow exemplifies the idea that behind the facade of the average is there so much more.” 

Laurence Llewelyn-Bowen, designer and gallery patron said:  “Never lose sleep over what quintessential British style is because the answer is William Morris.  Like some wonderful, noisy, hand wrought machine, he devoured the raw ingredients of design history and manufactured a look that was so easy to love, so easy to live with we’ve never been able to surpass it. Even arch modernists have a soft spot for his kindly, blokey, romantically British aesthetic. And I think the real secret of his universal timeless appeal is the energetically engaging lack of any whiff of snobbery. The transformed William Morris Gallery is the place to immerse yourself in Morris’ mind and vision – I thoroughly recommend a visit

Tony Robinson, actor, broadcaster, writer and gallery patron said:   "William Morris was not only a magnificent designer and champion of craftsmen and women, he was also a major intellectual figure, a socialist whose thinking was rooted in his English sensibility. There has always been a strong radical tradition in Walthamstow, and I think it's particularly appropriate that his life should be celebrated here."

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Press contacts and images of gallery and key exhibits

Kallaway PR

Nazneen Nawaz, William Kallaway or Susannah Glynn on: 

020 7221 7883 or email williammorris@kallaway.com

Images, detailed captions and full press pack at http://bit.ly/JpVV0X

Grayson Perry’s Walthamstow Tapestry

Temporary exhibition, until 23 September 2012.

[A separate press release on the exhibition will be issued in due course.]

The Walthamstow Tapestry (3m x 15m) explores the emotional resonance of brand names in our lives and our quasi-religious relationship to consumerism. Charting man's passage from birth to death, the tapestry is peppered with leading brands encountered along the way. Stripped of their logos and thus much of their identity, the names run alongside - often incongruous - depictions of people going about their everyday lives: walking the dog, nursing children, skateboarding, hoovering, and, of course, shopping. Perry is a great chronicler of contemporary life, in whose work sentiment and nostalgia sit subversively alongside fear and anger. In The Walthamstow Tapestry many of the world's leading names, from luxury brands such as Louis Vuitton and Tiffany to high street giants such as Marks and Spencer and IKEA, come under Perry's excoriating gaze in this cautionary and prophetic tale of modern day life. Inspired by antique batik fabrics from Malaysia as well as eastern European folk art this vast work provides a colourful, rich and complex visual journey across our contemporary landscape.

Press previews: 

The following times are available for press previews (main press preview 0930-1200 on 30 July). Note Laurence Llewelyn Bowen will only be available on 31 July at 1430hrs.  To confirm your place you must RSVP to Kallaway PR on 020 7221 7883 or williammorris@kallaway.com

  • Tuesday 30 July – Press preview morning - 0930 – 1200noon.  Tour at 1000hrs with curators.  Breakfast will be provided.
  • Wednesday 31 July – Press preview with Laurence Llewelyn-Bowen from 1430 – 1700hrs.  Tour at 1500hrs with curators and LLB.  
  • Tuesday 7 August – press tour with curator at 1000hrs.
  • Tuesday 21 August – press tour with curator at 1000hrs  
  • Monday 2 September – press tour with curator at 1000hrs.

Public venue information:

  • William Morris Gallery, Forest Road, London, E17 4PP
  • Opening times 10am – 5pm Wednesday – Sunday.  Pre-booked, group visits on Tuesdays.  Closed on Mondays.
  • Telephone number:  General: 020 8496 4390, Pre-booking group trips and pre-booked curatorial tours for all days: 020 8496 1466 or email wmg.enquiries@walthamforest.gov.uk
  • Website:  www.wmgallery.org.uk
  • Entry is FREE
  • Nearest public transport links: The Gallery is a 15-minute walk from either Walthamstow Central or Blackhorse Road tube stations on the Victoria Line. It is also served by the 97, 215, 34, 357 buses from Walthamstow Central or the 123 from Blackhorse Road.

Follow William Morris Gallery on social media:

  • Twitter: @WMGallery
  • Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/WMGallery

Notes to editors

Pringle Richards Sharratt

Pringle Richards Sharratt are the architects and exhibition designers for the William Morris Gallery project.  Many of their projects involve working with cultural and listed buildings funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund.  These include many Grade I buildings and Scheduled Ancient Monuments.  PRS also has an exhibition design company called GuM Studio, with a specialism in exhibition strategies, interpretation and graphic design, which carried out the exhibition design element of this project.

On the William Morris Gallery PRS worked with interpreter Benedetta Tiana of BT Museum Consultancy, graphic designer Thomas Manss & Co. and lighting designers DHA. The project manager is Faithful+Gould and Ramboll UK are the engineers. PRS’s previous experience on cultural projects includes the Sheffield Millennium Gallery and Winter Garden, Oldham’s Gallery and Library, the Herbert Art Gallery & Museum at Coventry, the Pitt Rivers Museum at Oxford, Fort Nelson at Portsmouth, the Stanley Spencer Gallery at Cookham, Hull History Centre, Black Cultural Archives in Brixton, the National Railway Museum at York and many projects at the Victoria & Albert Museum.

Heritage Lottery Fund

Using money raised through the National Lottery, the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) sustains and transforms a wide range of heritage for present and future generations to take part in, learn from and enjoy. From museums, parks and historic places to archaeology, natural environment and cultural traditions, we invest in every part of our diverse heritage.  HLF has supported over 30,000 projects, allocating £4.9billion across the UK.  Website: www.hlf.org.uk For more information, please contact Katie Owen, HLF Press Office, on tel: 020 7591 6036.  

Big Lottery Fund

The Big Lottery Fund, the largest of the National Lottery good cause distributors, has been rolling out grants to health, education, environment and charitable causes across the UK since its inception in June 2004. It was established by Parliament on 1 December 2006. Full details of the work of the Big Lottery Fund, its programmes and awards are available on the website: www.biglotteryfund.org.uk

Trusts, Foundations, Friends Groups and Sponsors 

Waltham Forest Council is grateful to following trusts, foundations, friends groups and sponsors for their support including:

  • The Allchurches Trust
  • Clothworkers Foundation
  • The Drapers' Company
  • Esmée Fairbairn Foundation
  • Foyle Foundation
  • The Friends of the William Morris Gallery
  • Garfield Weston Foundation
  • The Heritage of London Trust
  • The Hintze Family Charitable Foundation Morris & Co
  • The J Paul Getty Jnr Charitable Trust
  • The Kathy Callow Trust
  • The Leche Trust
  • The Mercers' Company
  • The Monument Trust
  • The Pilgrim Trust
  • The Radcliffe Trust
  • Sanderson & Co
  • Textile Society
  • The Wolfson Foundation

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