s History of the Ferens Art Gallery (part 2) - Hull Museums Collections

History of the Ferens Art Gallery (part 2)

The Gallery opens to the public

The building of the new art gallery was completed within eighteen months. On 29th November, 1927, the gallery was officially opened to the public. Ferens was unable to attend the opening ceremony as he had broken his ankle whilst on holiday so it was Ferens' niece Miss Wentworth, who formally declared the gallery open in her uncle's name. She was presented with a gold ceremonial key in recognition of the part she played in the opening.

The Opening Exhibition of 1927 included many works that had been bought by Ferens, including Herbert Draper's 'Ulysses and the Sirens', Sydney Lee's 'The Cathedral Doorway' and Sir Alfred East's 'Evening on the Cotswolds'.

Display galleries

The gallery contained seven display galleries on the ground floor that were arranged around an octagonal central court intended for sculpture. The galleries were designed to be floodlit from overhead glass domes. There were also two galleries on the first floor. The design of the building allowed visitors to walk right through without having to turn back and also enabled each individual gallery to be separately closed.

When it opened the gallery featured a white marble fountain in the centre of the octagonal court. This was such an impressive structure that visitors often mistakenly thought that it was the tomb of Ferens himself. It was removed in 1964 in order to open up the court space for displaying sculpture. Taking the fountain out also solved the problem of school children splashing their shoes in the water reservoir!

Modern extension

In building a new art gallery for the city, Ferens provided adequate space for the permanent collection of art to be kept on display. In 1989, work began on a major extension of the gallery that would still allow these collections to remain on view whilst also accommodating visiting temporary exhibitions. The extension provided three new exhibition galleries, a new cafe and an auditorium effectively doubling the gallery's public display space.

There were also new public toilets, a lift to enable access to all floors in Monument Buildings and improved physical access for visitors to the ground floor galleries. The auditorium became the Live Art Space which is capable of accommodating 200 seated visitors for events.

The gallery was formally re-opened after its redevelopment and refurbishment on 31st October, 1991, by the Queen Mother. She was given a tour of the gallery and watched a wheelchair ballet performance that was given by disabled children in the Live Art Space. She also unveiled a plaque marking the re-opening which is located near the front entrance, close to the foundation stone that was laid by her brother-in-law in 1926.