London’s Leighton House art museum will reopen in October after an £8million redevelopment

London’s Leighton House is set to reopen in October, following an £8million redevelopment, showcasing works by Middle Eastern artists.

Noted for its spectacular Arabic hall and collection of Middle Eastern tiles, the Victorian art house on the edge of Holland Park in central London is the former home of the artist and former Chairman of the Royal Academy, Frederic, Lord Leighton.

It features a completely transformed new wing with new exhibition spaces and unseen historical elements that will be open to the public for the first time.

The new wing includes the museum’s first permanent contemporary commission, Unity by Iranian artist Shahrzad Ghaffari.

She painted an 11-meter-tall mural, which wraps around the curved walls of a new three-story spiral staircase.

Inspired by a 13th-century poem by Rumi exploring cultural unity, its turquoise calligraphic brushstrokes reference the distinctive tiles of the iconic Arabic room.

A suite of specially hand-commissioned furniture by Syrian artisans based in Amman, the Jordanian capital, is also featured in the new space.

These include marquetry – the art of applying pieces of veneer to a structure to form decorative designs – derived from inlaid designs on a Syrian chest that Leighton acquired on his travels and converted into a seat in the historic house.

They were created in partnership with Turquoise Mountain, a British charity set up by Prince Charles to preserve and develop traditional craft practices, originally in Afghanistan, as a means of economic regeneration.

Located in Kensington, Leighton House is famous for its lavish interiors. Its Arabic Room features mosaic floors and tiles acquired during Leighton’s travels in Turkey, Egypt and Syria.

The project focused on the 20th century additions made to the wing at the east end of the original house.

This has been completely renovated, revealing original historical features and creating new exhibition and presentation spaces. It also includes the De Morgan Café, which opens onto the redesigned garden, a new learning center and a collection store.

Designed by BDP architects, engineers and consultants, the project also includes the recovery and restoration of parts of Leighton House lost during 20th century alterations.

“This project will have a transformative effect on the museum, enabling it to be accessible to all for the first time and to provide excellent visitor and collections care facilities,” said David Artis, Director of Architecture at BOP.

“This renovation supports the museum’s ambitions to safeguard and preserve the integrity of the original house, while meeting the needs of new audiences and making it a unique asset for the borough.

“Leighton House is one of London’s great houses and we look forward to seeing it reopen to the public at a time when such venues are needed more than ever.”

The two new gallery spaces will exhibit A Life of Drawing: Highlights from the Leighton collection, which will feature a rarely seen selection of Lord Leighton’s studies and sketches made in his studio and on his travels, and Artists and Neighbours: the Holland Park Circle, which will feature local artists.

The house will reopen to the public on October 15.

Updated: July 02, 2022, 03:00

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Mildred D. Field