Monday, May 23, 2011

When Leicester can afford a new art gallery... St Saviour's Church

Tonight's Leicester Mercury quotes the city's new Mayor, Sir Peter Soulsby, as ruling out the building of a new gallery for modern art - at least for the foreseeable future.

It also quotes his Labour opponent comrade Ross Wilmott as saying:
"The art gallery was my idea, along with a few others.

"It would create jobs – building the gallery, running it, running the shop – which would help local people.

"There is nowhere in the city to see modern art, which is just disappointing. I know that it would be unrealistic to start building it tomorrow, but I had hoped it was still on the cards for some time soon."
I have a lot of sympathy for the view that the city's cultural policy has concentrated too much on buildings and not enough on individual artists. But the current pressures on council budgets render this debate rather redundant.

But when money does allow large new projects again, I hope the city fathers and mothers will look beyond the city centre or official cultural quarter. There is a remarkable historic building in an area that badly needs to be rediscovered and revitalised.

Step forward St Saviour's Church.


Anonymous said...

The wonderful church of St Saviour does not belong to Leicester City Council.It is currently on the market and, according to reports, is attracting interest from potential buyers. I don't believe the Council can afford to buy the Church even if it wanted to.

The interior of the Church is as much to be treasured as the exterior. An art gallery needs open space and plain walls against which to display the artworks. St Saviours may not be able to provide this because of the need to preserve the inside, although any other conversion or reuse would come up against the same problem.

The point of the modern art gallery is not to look at the works on display but to provide a showcase for artists where the public will buy their work. The gallery therefore needs to be in a place where there is a realtively affluent passing trade of the kind of people who buy original art works for their homes and businesses. The gallery will also offer educational activity facilities for groups of young people who will need coach and easy foot access.

Although I would love to be proved wrong, it is unlikely that St Saviours will meet all these requirements despite the desirability of finding a reuse which will allow the public to continue to enjoy the Gilbert Scott's wonderful creation.

Jonathan Calder said...

Anonymous: I am well aware that the counci does not own St Saviour's.

The reason I though of it for an art gallery is precisely that it might be possible to preserve the interior if it were used in this way. When churches are converted to flats it is precisely a sense of the scale of the interior that you lose.

I grant you that the location is some way out of the centre, but there are plenty of other buildingson the site that would be suitable for educational purposes.