It’s a case of bad news, good news as House of Illustration, the UK’s only gallery and education space dedicated to illustration and graphics, has announced both its closure and also an £8m project to become the world’s largest public arts space dedicated to illustration.
The renamed Quentin Blake Centre for Illustration will be a new cultural landmark for the UK, redeveloping New River Head in Islington, London into what will also be a permanent home for the archive of the organisation’s founder, Sir Quentin Blake, with selections from his archive of more than 40,000 works on permanent display.
Work is scheduled to begin in June 2021, with the organisation repurposing four 18th and 19th century industrial buildings and half an acre of surrounding land into exhibition galleries, an education centre, event spaces, plus retail and catering facilities. It is planned to open in autumn 2022, and should surpass in size similar institutions such as the Society of Illustrators museum in New York.
House of Illustration has already raised over £3 million of its £8 million target, and has recently secured £1 million in financing from the Architectural Heritage Fund. The balance is set to be raised through individual donations, grants from trusts, foundations and a public fundraising campaign.
House of Illustration’s current site in King’s Cross – which has been closed since March, due to the coronavirus outbreak – as been confirmed as not reopening in order to focus resources on the redevelopment.
The historic site of New River Head (above) has remained largely unchanged for nearly 400 years, when it became instrumental in the creation of London’s clean water supply during the 17th century, and includes the atmospheric remains of London’s only surviving windmill and a spectacular 19th century engine house.
Following an international competition, Tim Ronalds Architects have been appointed as the lead designers for the project.
The House of Illustration is dead; long live the Quentin Blake Centre for Illustration!