It is a world-renowned venue which became part of the drive for Glasgow to reinvent itself in the 1980s through culture and was a springboard which helped to transform the city following the demise of heavy industry.
Opening its doors for the first time in 1983, the Burrell Collection has attracted millions of visitors and now as it prepares to reopen following a £69million refurbishment and five-year closure, it is hoped it will be a key asset to aid recovery from the pandemic.
Run by Glasgow Life, the charitable trust which operates culture and leisure services on behalf of Glasgow City Council the Burrell Collection will reopen in March 2022.
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As Kier Construction Scotland finishes work on the refurbishment of the A-listed building, based on designs from architects John McAslan + Partners, installation of the works of art has now begun.
Nearly half of the funding for the £68.25 million project was committed by Glasgow City Council with significant contributions from the National Lottery Heritage Fund, The Scottish Government, the UK Government, and from many generous trusts and private donors.
The Burrell is a reminder of culture’s contribution to the vibrancy and international appeal of Glasgow and could help drive recovery.
Covid severely impacted the city’s culture and leisure services with Glasgow Life losing £38m as a result of lockdown and its estimated income for 2021/22 is around £6.4m. Despite an agreed council funding deal which will see Glasgow Life receive a guaranteed £100m for the next four years to open 90 out of its 171 venues they cannot reopen any more venues without further funding. It led The Herald to launch A Fair Deal for Glasgow campaign alling for the city’s venues and treasures to be funded appropriately and for both the Scottish and UK governments to come together to deliver a new funding plan for Glasgow’s culture and leisure services.
The Burrell’s opening was one of the first demonstrations of Glasgow’s commitment to cultural-led regeneration. It helped the city position itself as one of the world’s great cultural and creative cities, making it a must-visit destination.
Councillor David McDonald, chairman of Glasgow Life, and Depute Leader of Glasgow City Council, said: “It’s wonderful to see that the installation of Sir William’s precious, beautiful and intriguing Collection has begun, now the delicate refurbishment of its home is almost at an end.
“This major refurbishment and redisplay will celebrate Sir William’s outstanding gift to the city and ensures it is at the heart of Glasgow’s cultural identity for the future, and having much more of the collection on display and accessible will be one of its immediate successes.
“Sir William’s incredible legacy will help Glasgow and Scotland’s recovery from Covid-19, bringing increased pride and confidence, which has a tangible effect on our wellbeing. As we move out of a pandemic that is vital.”
Chief Executive of Glasgow Life, Dr Bridget McConnell, CBE, said: “March 2022 will mark a historic milestone in Glasgow’s story, as the completely refurbished Burrell Collection reopens to the world.
“Very soon, thanks to all the project’s funders, these wonderful works of art, which Sir William Burrell gave to the people of Glasgow, will be enjoyed in a modern, green museum, fit for purpose and for the future.
“Our vision for The Burrell Collection demonstrates the city’s ambition for it to become more widely appreciated and well known around the world and for Glasgow to retain its place as a global cultural leader.”
Works to the building began in 2018 with repairs to the roof and the installation of modern glazing making the building more air-tight, reducing its overall energy consumption.
A new entrance will bring visitors straight into the heart of the building and a newly created central stairway will encourage people to explore all three floors of the reimagined Burrell Collection for the first time. The outdoor green space has been also been enhanced, creating new links between the museum and its stunning setting in Pollok Country Park.
On reopening, the museum’s gallery space will have increased by 35%, allowing important and unique objects from the collection, which have not been seen for decades, or have never been on permanent display, to go on show. New displays will give visitors a better understanding of the artworks, the people who made them and some of the people who have owned them.
Sir William Burrell devoted more than 75 years of his life to amassing one of the world’s greatest, single personal collections, renowned for its quality of Chinese art, exquisite stained glass, intricate tapestries and breadth of fine art.
Highlights include Chinese pottery and porcelain produced over a 5,000-year period, making it one of the most significant collections of Chinese Art in Europe; paintings by renowned French artists including Manet, Cézanne and Degas; Medieval treasures including stained glass, arms and armour and over 200 tapestries and carpets, which are among the finest in the world.
The collection is also home to the Wagner Garden carpet which is one of the three earliest surviving Persian garden carpets in the world, and has rarely been on public display since The Burrell Collection opened, but the refurbishment and redisplay means it will be on permanent display accompanied by new and innovative methods of interpretation.
Sir Angus Grossart, Chair of Burrell Renaissance, said: “The Burrell Collection has a reputation as being one of the finest in the world. The wonderful new displays have enhanced and informed what visitors will see. They will find great cultural diversity, much beauty and wonder and the great achievement of one enquiring and questioning mind, that of Sir William Burrell.”