The new MK Gallery in Milton Keynes, designed by 6a architects, will open to the public on 16 March 2019.
The original MK Gallery was constructed in the late 1990s and is located at the top of Midsummer Boulevard, next to Milton Keynes Theatre. The new development retains the first structure and adds a new one, to more than double its size.
The new MK Gallery reflects the natural world in its polished stainless-steel exterior surfaces inspired by the city’s original grid and the geometries of the adjacent Campbell Park. The completed development including both old and new structures provides five exhibition galleries, with a total of 500 sq metres of exhibition space; a large learning and community studio and The Sky Room, a flexible auditorium on the upper floor with 150 retractable seats and views over Campbell Park and the countryside.
Integrated within the new scheme, artists Gareth Jones and Nils Norman were commissioned, in collaboration with 6a architects and graphic designer Mark El-khatib, to create City Club, a sequence of new public spaces in and around the new MK Gallery. Inside, these include the foyer, café/bar and Sky Room. Outside, they include a playscape, a garden and a new façade for the existing gallery building.
The new entrance with a colour scheme that revives the original gallery ‘sandstone and terracotta’ facade of 1999 with additional iconic signs from early Milton Keynes features a large red neon heart, the first ever logotype for Milton Keynes, and a double headed axe, signs which are part of a homage to the city’s iconic original design.
The development provides for major exhibitions both contemporary and historical, films, music, performance, family events, workshops, and social spaces open free to all.
The new MK Gallery will open with The Lie of the Land, an ambitious exhibition spread across all five galleries curated by MK Gallery Director, Anthony Spira, with Sam Jacob, Claire Louise Staunton, Fay Blanchard, Tom Emerson, Gareth Jones and Niall Hobhouse.
The exhibition is designed as a kind of cabinet of curiosities that places Milton Keynes and the new gallery in a playful context. It looks at changing attitudes towards leisure, culture and landscape over more than 250 years. 85 artists, architects and designers, including Thomas Gainsborough, J.M.W Turner and Joseph Paxton, Yinka Shonibare MBE, Jeremy Deller and Bridget Riley are placed alongside a vintage picnic basket, one of the earliest lawnmowers, Gertrude Jekyll's gardening boots and a banner from Greenham Common. There are also new commissions including a 20-channel sonic portrait of Milton Keynes by sound artist and composer, Caroline Devine, a new film commission working with the community by Ed Webb-Ingall and an immersive installation by Project Art Works.
Anthony Spira, Director of MK Gallery, said: “Our ambition has been to create a building where the art centre and the social spaces come together in what we believe is a rare example of collective authorship across disciplines, where art, architecture and design are interchangeable. In doing so, we are proposing a new kind of accessible art centre, which pays tribute to and tells the story of Milton Keynes, fully engaged with playful ways of seeing and definitively open to all.”
Cllr Peter Marland, Leader of Milton Keynes Council, said: “We are proud to be partners and funders of the new MK Gallery. We passionately believe that investment in culture is investment in the future health and well-being of our citizens and will help us to build the reputation and success of our city. We are looking forward with excitement to the opening.”
The new MK Gallery receives regular core funding from Arts Council England as a National Portfolio Organisation and Milton Keynes Council, and is a member of Plus Tate network.