The Garden Museum re-opens tomorrow, Saturday 4 July.
And, according to The Art Newspaper, we’re the first Museum in London ‘out of the blocks’.
We can re-open to the public because of our staff and volunteers’ determination to share the Museum with visitors again: in order to get to work one colleague is walking an hour from Brixton, another is scooting the six miles from Finsbury Park; a third is moving house. Philip Norman, our longest-standing volunteer, has been cycling twelve miles here and back each day of lockdown. That’s two thousand miles of pedalling.
And during this time we have been able to assemble our exhibition in celebration of Derek Jarman thanks to the support of The Linbury Trust.
And, also, the inventiveness of its designer and fabricator Jeremy Herbert. Jeremy specializes in design for stage and opera, with memorable productions at the ENO and Young Vic; the first garden Derek Jarman designed was for the 1968 production of Don Giovanni with which the ENO inaugurated its residency at The Coliseum Theatre. We have worked with many exhibition designers such as Michael Marriott and architects such as Carmody Groake, Feilden Fowles and Adam Khan on previous shows; this time, a theatre designer seemed right as we wished to transport to London the experience of being inside Prospect Cottage, Jarman’s house and garden on Dungeness. Its small rooms are some of the most intensely emotive spaces on earth, and many of the sculptures and paintings on loan to the show were conceived for that space.
Jeremy has been a hero, through the weeks of lockdown pursuing the right wooden panels, shingle, and pots of nautical tar from Hemel Hempstead to Lydd. We hope you like it! And, miraculously, every loan has arrived, including precious artefacts from the Cottage, paintings from private collections and via Dublin and Manchester two exquisite designs for formal gardens – one for Ken Russell’s “The Devils”, the other for his own sister’s garden – in water-colour and pencil just after he graduated from The Slade School of Art.
But we can only afford to open our doors thanks to the exceptional response to our emergency Appeal. The generosity of Friends, Patrons and followers towards my sponsored swim from Newlyn to Tresco in September has been quite astonishing and moving.
The Appeal continues as we need to look beyond Derek Jarman to future exhibitions, to re-starting our public programme, and to re-assembling our team to welcome back schools and community groups – and, of course, the challenge of this particular winter. But for now we can celebrate 4th July!