The history of the Ferens Art Gallery
After its refurbishment earlier this year, the Ferens Art Gallery has become a focal point for Hull UK City of Culture 2017 celebrations.
A focal point of Hull’s cultural activity both now and historically, we met up with Curator Kirsten Simister to get a real feel for the developments.
The Ferens Art Gallery reopened its doors last month following a 15-month refurbishment that cost £5.2 million.
“The complete re-hang of the permanent collection alongside loaned pieces is now integrated across the site. Examples are the Lorenzetti display and Francis Bacon’s Screaming Popes.”
This process saw the gallery’s early 20th century British art brought down to the ground floor. An important and wide-ranging collection, it is now being enjoyed by more people than ever before.
“Upstairs there are two entirely new displays,” Kirsten continues. “One explores maritime highlights and the other tells the story of T.R. Ferens, including his philanthropic legacy over the past 90 years since opening.”
The latter also focuses on the work of the Friends of the Ferens Art Gallery, including acquisitions and the Adopt a Painting scheme.
“Many new acquisitions are being displayed for the first time,” says Kirsten, “such as the Lorenzetti, Joseph Wright of Derby bequest, and the Bik van der Pol purchase. It’s all very exciting.”
A major part of the renovation was the gallery’s infrastructure. State-of-the-art lighting has been installed across the site, as well as an environmental system that ensures optimum temperature and humidity levels. Whilst invisible to the eye, this technology opens up the opportunity to house fragile and conserved art works.
“We’ve refreshed the décor in a neutral colour scheme,” says Kirsten. “This allows paintings to be seen at their best. Darker tones are used for the Old Masters and lighter shades for the modern and contemporary pieces.”
“This also makes it easy for the visitor to orientate themselves and find their way around naturally.”
An additional gallery space at the main entrance is dedicated to children aged 0-5 and their families. This bright and exciting area is called Explore Art and encourages young ones to express themselves.
A plan of the venue is available free of charge at the gallery’s entrance. Hull Museums staff and Hull UK City of Culture 2017 volunteers are also available to provide help. Clear signage, more concise labels, and the addition of interpretive panels to introduce the themes add to this improved accessibility.
“The Ferens is already playing a crucial role in the delivery of the Hull UK City of Culture programme,” says Kirsten. “High-profile programming will help to raise awareness of the ambitions and growing confidence felt not only in the gallery, but across the city.”
This is reflected in the Ferens hosting the Turner Prize from 26 September until 7 January:
“This will help to attract new audiences both in Hull and beyond, which we will continue to sustain and build on over the years to come.”
We asked Kirsten what she’s most excited about:
“The Francis Bacon loans are incredible and I’d urge people to come and see them. It’s a first for Hull and they make a great counterpoint to the wonderful display of early religious Renaissance panels by Lorenzetti and his contemporaries in Siena.”
The Ferens Art Gallery is located in Queen Victoria Square. Open hours are 10am-5pm Mon-Wed, 10am-7pm Thursday, 10am-5pm Fri-Sat, and 11am-4:30pm Sunday.
“We present a welcoming, friendly and free place to explore, with a fantastic permanent collection and ambitious exhibitions programme,” says Kirsten. “The Ferens is well worth a visit!”