House of Illustration, the UK’s only gallery dedicated to illustration and graphics, has revealed an £8m plan for its relocated space in Islington as well as a new name — The Quentin Blake Centre for Illustration.
Named after the organisation’s founder, it will house Blake’s collection and keep selections from his archives on permanent display.
The gallery’s current site in Coal Drops Yard, King Cross closed in March at the start of lockdown. It will not re-open. According to artistic director Olivia Ahmad, this site – established in 2014 – was only temporary and the new space will match the organisation’s expanded focus. The Islington site is scheduled to open in autumn 2022.
What will the new space look like?
Work is scheduled to begin in June 2021 at the permanent New River Head site in Islington. Described as a “mini-campus”, the new site will consist of four buildings housing exhibition galleries, an education centre, as well as event spaces and catering facilities. Tim Ronalds Architects has been appointed to transform the site and was chosen for its focus on retaining traditional design details, Ahmad says.
The orgnisation has raised £3m of its £8m target for the project, and secured £1m from the Architectural Heritage Fund. It is a challenging time for cultural institutions, which have remained closed during lockdown and are only just starting to reopen but Ahmad says that plans are on track. The remaining funds are to be raised through donations as well as a public fundraising campaign, which will go live at a later date.
In the past few years, House of Illustration has exhibited on a wide range of topics, which might have expanded some visitors’ expectations of the medium. Last year, a W.E.B. Du Bois retrospective showed how issues around racism could be presented visually. Designed In Cuba, meanwhile, highlighted the hidden history of Cuban graphic design.
Of the new project, Quentin Blake says: “I am enormously proud to have my name associated with this international home for an art which I know and love, and for artists who speak in a myriad of visual languages, but are understood by all. It is going to be amazing.”
New River Head dates back to the 17th century when the buildings were used to create clean water for the city. The space has London’s only surviving windmill. Ahmad says that the organisation is “committed” to working with local organisations and societies to create a “dynamic creative space that welcomes all”.
The Quentin Blake Centre for Illustration is also appointing a studio to create its new visual identity and is inviting submissions from designers. The previous identity was created by Hat-Trick design studio. Details can be found on the gallery’s website.