Thursday, 21 October 2021

Museum appeal to fund new gallery

THE River and Rowing Museum in Henley has launched a crowdfunding campaign to create a gallery dedicated to the work of artist John Piper.

THE River & Rowing Museum in Henley has launched a crowdfunding campaign to create a gallery dedicated to the work of artist John Piper.

It would be the largest permanent exhibition of his work in the world and will bring together some of his greatest creations, including rare pieces from private collections seldom seen by the public.

The museum will also receive pieces donated from the Piper family, who are keen to mark his prolific and extraordinary talent with a dedicated permanent gallery in his own home town.

Piper was a major contributor to the artistic landscape of 20th century Britain. He spent most of his working life at his farmhouse in Fawley where he built a pottery and a studio large enough to create full sized designs for stained glass windows.

He worked across an extraordinary range of artistic and cultural fields, collaborating with poets, choreographers, ceramicists and composers including John Betjeman and Benjamin Britten.

Piper also worked with some of the most renowned artists of the time, such as Henry Moore, Barbara Hepworth and Ben Nicholson. He paved the way in bringing modern and abstract art to Britain.

The crowdfunding bid, which went live on Thursday last week, aims to raise £22,000 across a 30 day period. It is the first time the River and Rowing Museum has embarked on a crowdfunding initiative.

Ludo Keston, the museum’s chief executive, said: “To work on a project that brings together works of art from one of the most important artists our country has ever produced is a massive thrill.

“When that artist is local it becomes hugely more personal and significant, especially when that project is entirely in the hands of the community.”

The gallery already has the approval of Piper’s children, Sebastian Piper and Clarissa Lewis.

In a statement, they said: “Our father would be delighted to have a gallery dedicated to his work in Henley, his local town for nearly 60 years. All the family is fully behind the bid and can think of no better or more fitting tribute.”

His grandchildren, Luke and Henry Piper have already donated a piece from their personal collection to the museum.

Luke followed in his grandfather’s footsteps in becoming a successful artist, who lives and works in Shepton Mallet. In return for donations, a range of exclusive gifts has been created. The museum has worked with a number of partners to develop unique items influenced by Piper’s work.

David Whitehead and Sons have reproduced a series of textile prints created by Piper in the Sixties. The textiles have been used to create a range of items including silk scarves and cushions to reward crowdfunding donations.

The rewards that are available range from £5 for an online acknowledgment of the donation, through to £15 for some specially commissioned postcards, £25 for a Totebag, up to £60 for a cushion, £200 for a Luke Piper print of the museum and up to £400 for a limited edition John Piper print, and £995 for a private tour of Luke Piper’s studio.

Eloise Chapman, head of collections and exhibitions, said: “Whether you’re donating because you believe in creating a permanent local space to celebrate Piper’s genius or you contribute because you’d like a limited edition Piper print or a few cushions to brighten up a room, we are incredibly grateful.

“We passionately believe that the River & Rowing Museum is the perfect place to give John Piper’s work the home and recognition it deserves. We very much hope Henley will help us bring that dream to life.”

She added: “Finally it feels as if John Piper is getting the recognition he so richly deserves. With our local community’s support we can celebrate Piper’s work in the landscape that inspired him to create some of the most important art our country has ever produced.”

Mr Keston is currently presiding over the museum’s “Year of Art”. He said: “We pride ourselves on being a museum which is very family and community focused. Although small, we punch well above our weight in the calibre of the exhibitions we offer to our audiences.

“Achieving our dream of launching the permanent John Piper gallery would be a fantastic way to reinforce our commitment to the visual arts and create a lasting legacy for Henley. Most importantly we would be truly honoured to bring together and display Piper’s great works of art for everyone to enjoy.”

The museum’s exhibition bid coincides with the publication of a new book on the artist by David Fraser Jenkins, art historian and former senior curator at Tate Britain.

To make a bid, visit

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