President’s Column: April 2023

President’s Column: April 2023

Most people have a picture or two on the interior walls of their house. Hilda Ogden had her mural of the three ducks on the living room wall in her house in Coronation Street. The ducks were admired by millions of watchers around the world. Visitors to the set could go and see them in reality.

There are other houses that have been turned into galleries and with works of more interest than Hilda’s muriel. They have been private residences and later become open to the public. One of the early ones which has become just a gallery is the Maurits Huis in The Hague. It was originally a rather palatial home. It underwent various changes of ownership and then was converted into a gallery. The pictures in the gallery were not those of the original owners but, wandering around the gallery, it still has the feel of a house.

The Frick collection in Manhattan was the house of Mr Frick and his family. Mr Frick was wealthy, very wealthy and so he collected very expensive paintings and hung them on the walls of his very big house. When he gifted them to the nation it became possible to walk around Mr Frick dining room and admire his taste in old masters.

Closer, much closer, to home is a new and wonderful house gallery bequeathed to the nation by Susan and Jim Wakefield. The Wakefields built a house, calling in Ravenscar, in Scarborough in Christchurch overlooking the ocean. They also collected paintings to hang in their house. The house was wrecked in the Christchurch earthquake of 2011.

They then commissioned a new house in the centre of the city near the Christchurch art gallery, a house with a dining room, a living room, a lounge, a bedroom, a library but not a house to live in, a house to display their art and objects such as art glass. The result is a quite extraordinary building, built as both a gallery and a gallery in which the rooms are the rooms of a house with the associated furniture. It’s called Ravenscar. If you go to Christchurch, you must see it.