11 February 2022
Thanks to support from the Blavatnik Family Foundation, Imperial War Museums (IWM) is building new art, film and photography galleries at IWM London, opening to the public in late 2023.
IWM London is continuing the trend of turning war into art museums with the announcement of a new gallery. The Blavatnik Art, Film and Photography Galleries will explore how artists, photographers and filmmakers together bear witness to, document and tell the story of conflict, and demonstrate how artistic interpretation can uniquely shape our understanding of war. Spanning World War I to the present day, new acquisitions will be exhibited alongside renowned works from IWM’s existing collection, including Gassed by John Singer Sargent, They Shall Not Grow Old by Peter Jackson and Steve McQueen’s Queen and Country.
Dame Diane Lees, Director General of Imperial War Museums, said, “Art, film and photography provide unique insight into conflict, and the interpretation of artists, filmmakers and photographers. They can dramatically enhance our understanding of war and conflict and also radically challenge it. Through our new Blavatnik Art, Film and Photography Galleries, visitors will be able to explore our fantastic visual media collections in greater depth and consider how these works and their creators have the power not only to shape our understanding of war and its wide-reaching impact, but to deeply move us. We are grateful to our supporters, in particular the Blavatnik Family Foundation, for helping us to make these visionary Galleries a reality.”
Sir Len Blavatnik, founder of the Blavatnik Family Foundation, the predominant funder of the project, said, “I have long taken a special personal interest in the history of conflict, and the experience of war. I am delighted that my Family Foundation has been able to support this historic new development at the IWM, which confirms its importance as a world leader in this field.”
Covering up to 1000m2 of IWM London’s third floor, the Blavatnik Art, Film and Photography Galleries will reflect IWM’s expansive remit of global conflict from 1914 to the present day and include a broad range of works from diverse artists, filmmakers and photographers. Artworks include John Singer Sargent’s iconic 6m-long painting Gassed, 1919, which moved contemporary audiences to tears as it brought home the reality of World War I fighting, as well as works by renowned artists Paul Nash, Dame Laura Knight and Steve McQueen. Highlights from IWM’s film collection, one of the oldest in the world, will include Peter Jackson’s award-winning 2018 film They Shall Not Grow Old, which reinterpreted original archive footage into an unprecedented, colourful depiction of WWI. Also represented will be the original big battle pictures from this conflict, with The German Retreat and the Battle of Arras, 1917, on display. The Galleries will also include images from the portfolios of renowned photographers and photojournalists, including Cecil Beaton, Olive Edis and Tim Hetherington, revealing the unique perspectives of photographers and the processes by which their iconic works resound through time.
As well as bringing treasures from IWM’s existing collection out on public display, the development of these Galleries has offered an opportunity to present new acquisitions. With the support of Art Fund and the National Heritage Memorial Fund, IWM has recently acquired acclaimed Modernist artist Walter Sickert’s painting Tipperary, 1914. Sickert painted several versions of Tipperary; this, however, is the only version which includes a soldier, reflected in a mirror and looking out of the window. Because so few artists broached the subject of the war as early as 1914, this is a highly significant acquisition for IWM and for these new Galleries, which will illuminate British cultural attitudes at the start of World War I.
The development of these Galleries is the third phase in the dynamic transformation of IWM London and will enable IWM to share works from its exceptional art collection, one of the most important representations of 20th century British art in the world. They will also showcase some of IWM’s vast and era-defining film and photography collections, which include over 23,000 hours of footage and over 11 million photographs.
Like previous developments at IWM London, the Blavatnik Art, Film and Photography Galleries will be free to enter, making more of IWM’s world-class collection available and accessible to all.
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