Sir John Soane’s Lincoln’s Inn Fields townhouse has become one of London’s most beloved museums, but his Pitzhanger Manor country home in Ealing had languished in the public conscious. That’s set to change this weekend when it throws open its doors as a gallery – inaugurated by an eye-catching Anish Kapoor exhibition.
Pitzhanger Manor was designed and built by Sir John Soane between 1800-1804 as his neo-classical country retreat. For the last century, it’s been owned by Ealing Council, who used it as a public library and gallery, altering Soane’s design along the decades.
Now the Regency period building – which features domed canopy ceilings, dazzling paint schemes and clever use of mirrors and light to exaggerate space – has been returned to Soane’s original vision following a £12m, three-year-long restoration project. The council’s 1939 public lending library meanwhile has been converted into the Pitzhanger Gallery.
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For Pitzhanger Manor and Gallery’s debut show, British Indian artist Anish Kapoor has installed sculptures that create a dialogue with Soane’s architecture, and complex use of mirrors and light to exaggerate and dissolve space.
Speaking at the new London gallery’s preview, he said: ‘Concavity invites interiority, which is why I’m interested in it – it turns the world upside down. It has a conversation with Soane’s idea of repeated mirrors. These points of overlap occur [between our work]. All one can do is let the conversation happen by itself.’
Kapoor’s sculpture Red to Blue, (2016) echoes the three skylights of the 1930s roof – itself riffing on Soane’s neo-classical symmetry – while the most recent artwork, Untitled (2018), features concave and convex surfaces that disorientate and break the solidity of the gallery space.
Added Kapoor: ‘Soane was obsessed with this warm, Italian, Turner-esque yellow (rather melancholy) light. It’s one thing that’s in and around these works. You can’t intend it, but it’s there.’
The Anish Kapoor exhibition runs at Pitzhanger Manor & Gallery from 16 March to 18 August 2019