...in the bottom drawer
I knew I'd lose it so I put it in a safe place, and now I can't remember where it is.

currently stashed in: Cheshire Street, London
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January 29, 2007 || 7:36 pm
Pallant House

We went down to Pallant House in Chichester last weekend for the opening of their new exhibition of William Roberts paintings, and to snoop around their new wing, designed by Long & Kentish with MJ Long's life partner Colin St John Wilson as a collaborator. Sandy Wilson, as he is universally known, is best known as the architect of the British Library, a magum opus that took up virtually his whole working career. He recently donated his fantastic 20th century British art collection to Pallant House, and the new wing is great, with a lovely courtyard cafe.

Pallant House has a really interesting history, founded as a gallery when the Dean of the cathedral donated his collection to the city and demanded that they house it in a rather magnificent Queen Anne town house right in the centre. Now about three times larger than the original house, it has an impressively serious collection and programme, really positioning itself as a resource for the town and truthfully rivalling many more metropolitan institutions. It has a proper library and education programme and, in a lovely touch, the reserve collection is shown publicly, hung on utilitarian rails around the walls of the lecture room.

It is here that one finds the subject of my photo: a wonderfully eccentric series of architectural models of the gallery, filled with miniature works of art. Their history is peculiar: in 1934 an Sydney Burney, an art dealer and patron, wanted to raise funds for the blind, and decided to create a mini museum in which mini works of art by artists of the day should be exhibited. The result, a scale model interior stocked with little pictures and little sculptures, would be placed on public display. He managed to persuade the likes of Paul Nash, Henry Moore, Augustus John and Barbara Hepworth to contribute work and the end results are absolutely enchanting with some genuine miniature masterpieces.

What is particuarly sweet is that, to surprise St John Wilson, Pallant House commissioned new models, at the same scale, of some of the rooms in the new wing and stocked them with new miniature artworks from some of the artists in his collection. I can't really think of a more touching tribute to the man and his contribution to Chichester.

Miniature gallery

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