Thursday, 17 May 2012

feature : Judicious Jerwood

I once lived a short pedal from Cambridge’s wondrous Kettle’s Yard and became, in a very short time, hooked by modest, intimate art spaces. So imagine my joy when I discovered that a new interpretation of my favoured type of gallery had opened amongst the fishermans’ unique high-rise huts on Stade Beach in Hastings.

Thanks to architects HAT Projects, the Jerwood Foundation have created a sympathetic structure that blends beautifully with the surrounding huts, boats, and fishing paraphernalia of the Stade. Designing such a structure was obviously a tough challenge for the architects, yet they’ve succeeded quite brilliantly, and all for a cost of £4million, a positive bargain by today’s standards.

Gallery visitors are greeted by a mixture of single and two storey orthogonal masses, all clad in very sympathetic, very sensible (seagull poo, and lots of it) black-glazed tiles, which they enter by a light-filled ticket area with wonderful little courtyard beyond.  The rest of the ground floor comprises a large gallery space, from which you pass into two smaller spaces before taking the stairs up to the four gallery spaces above.

But it’s upstairs where you feel the soul of the building, with oak-planked flooring giving the spaces an harmonious feel, much helped in a couple of rooms by down to the floor windows that offer tremendous views out over the beach and town.

As for what brought about the creation of the gallery - the Jerwood Foundation’s permanent collection of 20th century art - all I can say is that I was surprised, and in a most gratifying way.  None of the paintings were big-ticket purchases, yet the collection, from Spencer and Sickert to Lanyon and Lowry, is highly impressive. Did anything stand out from the crowd? No question. A great Alan Reynolds. 

by Richard Woollen, guest author

all photos by R. Woollen

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