The De Morgan Foundation is seeking a new home after announcing that its exhibition space in Wandsworth will close at the end of this month.
Its current location, tucked in beside the Wandsworth Museum in southwest London, has long been something of a compromise – Wandsworth Council’s foreclosure of the centre’s original lease in 2009 forced it to shut its doors until the Wandsworth Museum Company, who owns the overall lease for the building, agreed to house it onsite in 2011. But it did at least ensure the visibility of the foundation’s small but impressive collection of ceramics and oils by Evelyn and William De Morgan, two leading figures in the British Arts and Crafts Movement. Now that the Wandsworth Museum intends to relocate, the foundation must too – for the moment to new office rather than exhibition spaces.
The foundation has hosted a number of memorable exhibitions in Wandsworth, but will now focus on making its collection visible in other ways. ‘We’re obviously working very hard to ensure that much of the collection is available to be seen elsewhere, in other museums, art galleries and heritage sites’, explains Claire Longworth, the De Morgan’s manager and curator. One such display, ‘De Morgans and the Sea’, is already open at the Russell-Cotes Art Gallery and Museum in Bournemouth (until 28 September).
‘The website will be a key resource for finding information about the collection going forward’, Longworth adds. ‘We’ve added a location field to the collections search so that people looking for a particular artwork will be able to find out where it is currently located.’ A grant from the Association of Independent Museums will be used to re-box the foundation’s drawings, design and manuscript archives, which they hope to make available as part of their archive and outreach service.
The foundation’s immediate priority, however, is to safeguard the objects in its care. ‘Prior to moving we will be undertaking a conservation project. We have received a generous donation from Birkbeck Art History Society towards the cost of conserving Evelyn De Morgan’s The Soul’s Prison House, and we are seeking further donations to cover the costs of conserving other paintings deemed in urgent need of care.’ Those costs are expected to total around £25,000 – see our gallery for details of the 11 paintings considered most at risk. A further £12,000 is required to add conservation backing boards onto all paintings that currently lack them.
After its relocation, the foundation will begin consulting on new partnerships and fundraising opportunities in order to reunite the collection. Anyone interested in offering support is encouraged to contact Claire Longworth at email@example.com, or to donate via the foundation’s website.