One of the most important events of 2021 was the reopening of The Courtauld Gallery in London which was inaugurated in the month of November, following significant renovations. The gallery closed in 2018 to carry out these architectural upgrades. The resulting exhibition spaces, including welcome lobby, café and shop, are fantastic and the modernization, an absolute success.
Conceived by Stirling Prize-winning architects Witherford Watson Mann with gallery design by Nissen Richards Studio, the radical transformation boosts the original building conceived by Sir William Chambers in the 1770s and projects the museum into 21st century art presentation. New display cabinets, widened doors, and standardised floor levels between rooms brillantly enhance audiences’ circulation and learning experiences.
Collections, which include masterpieces by the likes of Van Gogh, Gauguin, Botticelli, Cranach and Manet to name a few of the very prestigious names, are now well-celebrated within the refurbished, airy, and elegant galleries.
Professor Deborah Swallow, Märit Rausing Director of The Courtauld, said: “The transformation has been incredible, and the masterpieces in our collection now shine brighter than ever before. The Courtauld was founded in 1932 on the belief that everyone should have the opportunity to engage with art. With improved visitor facilities and greater accessibility, we’re also looking forward to welcoming people who might not have visited The Courtauld before – as well as being once again able to use the Gallery to teach our wonderful art history, curation and conservation students.”
The refurbished gallery now holds a new large-scale site-specific, curved frieze by Cecily Brown. Entitled ‘Unmoored from her reflection’, the picture responds to its setting and The Courtauld’s collection.
The Courtauld’s world-famous collection of Impressionist and Post-Impressionist masterpieces, including Van Gogh’s Self-Portrait with Bandaged Ear (1889), one of the Dutch artist’s most important paintings, and the most significant collection of works by Cézanne in the UK (The Card Players for example) are presented in the spectacular, newly restored LVMH Great Room, London’s oldest purpose-built exhibition space.
Other important pieces include an epic modern painting by the great Austrian Expressionist Oskar Kokoschka – over eight metres long, and considered to be one of the artist’s most important works. It is displayed 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) is exhibited alongside a selection of striking photographs by Lee Miller documenting Kokoschka working on this vast composition in the home of Count Antoine Seilern, who would later present it to The Courtauld.
There are other ‘first times’ too: The Courtauld’s significant collection of works by the Bloomsbury Group have been given a dedicated room, showcasing the group’s radical designs for furniture, ceramics and textiles alongside paintings and drawings by important Bloomsbury artists, including Vanessa Bell and Duncan Grant.
Two new rooms on the top floor are dedicated to The Courtauld’s engaging programme of temporary exhibitions. The Denise Coates Exhibition Galleries has opened with Modern Drawings: The Karshan Gift (on view until 9 January 2022), showcasing an outstanding group of drawings by European and American masters including Wassily Kandinsky, Paul Klee, Georg Baselitz and Cy Twombly, assembled by the late collector Howard Karshan and given to The Courtauld by his wife, the artist Linda Karshan.
That’s not all, the first-ever exhibition of Van Gogh’s self-portraits spanning his career and a significant collection of paintings by Edvard Munch, shown in the UK for the first time, will feature in The Courtauld Gallery’s 2022 exhibition programme.
Image: Van Gogh, Self-Portrait with Bandaged Ear, 1889, © The Courtauld