Your place to explore new perspectives on British art from 1900 to now. Through interviews, films, image galleries and essays, we uncover the creative lives of the people behind the art on our walls.
The 2000 Model Art Gallery
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At the turn of the millennium, our collection of Modern British art was displayed in the 18th century Pallant House. It was a space that we were rapidly outgrowing, particularly thanks to a generous gift from Colin St John Wilson (Sandy to his friends). Along with his wife MJ Long, he formed one of the most significant collections of post-war British art, including works by R.B. Kitaj, Eduardo Paolozzi, Richard Hamilton, Jann Haworth, Peter Blake, Patrick Caulfield and more.
Many of these artists were personal friends of the couple. MJ Long had designed studios for Frank Auerbach, Peter Blake, and R.B. Kitaj. Wilson meanwhile had been a member of the radical Independent Group. He and artists such as Richard Hamilton, Nigel Henderson and Eduardo Paolozzi met at the Institute of Contemporary Arts in London in the 1950s to discuss architecture, art, design and advertising. Wilson collected early works by these artists, who went on to become key figures in the British Pop movement.
By the mid 1990s, Wilson had generously offered the Gallery some of these works, including Richard Hamilton’s Swingeing London (1967), David Hockney’s Kaisarion with all his Beauty (1961), Patrick Caulfield’s Coloured Still Life (1967) on a long-term basis. However, in order to display these works, the Gallery needed more space.
Handily, Sandy and MJ were architects. Not just any architects – they had designed the new British Library beside St Pancras station in London with Long & Kentish (the architecture firm formed by MJ Long and Rolfe Kentish). Their friends Patrick Caulfield, Antony Gormley, Dhruva Mistry, and Eduardo Paolozzi all created works for the new building.
The Gallery’s contemporary wing is a truly unique example of significant architects designing a gallery to house their own collection. It finally opened to the public in 2006, but in 2000, using some of the plans that Long & Kentish had already created, the Gallery commissioned a new model art gallery. It was inspired by The Thirty Four Gallery, which had been the brainchild of collector Sydney Burney and had been on display in the Gallery for many years.
This new model gallery was soon dubbed “Sandy’s Surprise” because all of the artists who created works for it were friends of Wilson. They were also represented in the collection of British Pop and figurative art that he and MJ Long donated to the Gallery.
Like the original Thirty Four Gallery, each artwork was characteristic of the creator’s individual style. The artists took the challenge set to them seriously. Frank Auerbach commented that “a tiny painting is as difficult as a huge one,” while Patrick Caulfield emphasised the complexities of painting miniatures, saying, “this image is more of a small painting than a miniature large one”. The miniature painting by Prunella Clough was her final work before she died in 1999.
The model was awarded the Architects’ Journal Bovis Lend Lease Grand Award at the Royal Academy Summer Exhibition in 2000 and was donated to Pallant House Gallery through the Art Fund in 2006.