This event had long been awaited. The grand re-opening of Pitzhanger Manor & Gallery, the Grade-I listed country home of visionary British architect Sir John Soane (1753-1837), was held in Ealing last month after 3 years of restauration work.
This big event also gave the occasion to celebrate a brilliant contemporary artist, whose mirror sculptures are displayed in the adjoining Art Gallery: Anish Kapoor.
Be aware, West London will now have its trendy venue!
Sir John Soane’s country house
In his time, Sir John Soane was a reputed architect whose best-known work was the Bank of England. After purchasing a building in London (which is now known as a museum), he bought Pitzhanger Manor as a country house in then rural Ealing.
Sir John Soane rebuilt it to his own taste between 1800 and 1804 and occupied it afterwards.
The Regency Manor was mainly used to entertain friends and showcase the architect’s talent, but also to create an inspiring environment for his sons, who Sir John Soane thought would follow his professional footsteps.
For that purpose, the house hosted a large collection of art and archeology that were part of the overall design of the Manor.
But nothing happened as expected and none of his sons would show any interest in architecture. As a result, the house was put up for sale in 1810.
Outstanding restoration project
It took 3 years to carry out this restoration project. I vaguely remember seeing a quite derelict building at the place of the present Manor a few years ago and I can feel how ambitious and exciting these rebuilding works must have been for the people involved. Starting with the architects Jestico + Whiles, conservation experts and of course funders.
The building and rooms have been restored according to Soane’s vision and key structural and decorative elements of his design have been reinstated.
The Manor offers a very pedagogic visit with a large array of audiovisual supports explaining the personal life of Sir John Soane and his struggles to inspire his sons professionally.
Even though I had the desire to find out more about Sir John Soane, I admit the research made about him and layout of the House give a perfect idea of the man he was and life he had. And I guess the Soane’s Museum in London perfectly complete this visit.
This conservation project aims at establishing Pitzhanger as a destination for heritage and culture. The grand re-opening of the Manor was no only revealing the thoughtfully restored building and its interiors, it also unveiled the adjoining Gallery’s first exhibition…
Anish Kapoor’s new exhibition in London
Anish Kapoor is a worldwide acclaimed artist, who counts many exhibitions in London (including at the Royal Academy of Arts in 2009, in Kensington Gardens in 2010…) and won there the Turner Prize in 1991.
This time, Anish Kapoor has chosen Pitzhanger Gallery to feature several impressive polished mirror sculptures.
Each one interacts with the visitor as the portrait seen in the mirror does not always relate to the idea we have of ourselves…!
These concave and convex mirrors create unexpected reflexions -sometimes jubilant if listening to everyone’s reactions in the Gallery- and questions ourselves and the surrounding environment.
Some mirrors give the impression that they attract and swallow the viewer. With all of them I found myself caught up in the game.
Not only was the exhibition a pleasure for the eyes (because these highly polished stainless-steel sculptures are really a wonder), but it also proved how innovative and challenging Anish Kapoor’s Art is.
For those who want to enjoy the full visit of Pitzhanger Manor & Gallery, you can have a bite to eat at Soane’s Kitchen, a contemporary café-restaurant, built within Soane’s walled kitchen garden.
The great interior design and the available menus will help you let your hair down after (or before!) a cultural journey at Pitzhanger Manor & Gallery!
I loved this visit and hope I inspired you to go to the west of London and make the most of this amazing place.
Enjoy and share your experience on this blog!