Esmee Fairbairn grant for collection conservation

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Esmee Fairbairn grant for collection conservation

August 26, 2010

Holburne Museum awarded £86,000 for collection to be conserved before re-opening 14 May 2011.

The Holburne Museum is thrilled to announce that it has received a grant of £86,000 from the Esmée Fairbairn Foundation, from the Museum and Heritage Collections strand, for the conservation of its founding collection which will be newly displayed when the Museum re-opens its doors free of charge on Saturday 14 May next year.

The Museum, founded in 1882 as Bath’s first public art museum, is currently closed for a development project of restoration and extension and the grant will ensure that the collection will be looking its best when the Museum re-opens; over half the works in the new Museum will be shown for the first time in generations.

The development will see the complete redisplay of the Holburne’s collection in displays created by the exhibition designers Metaphor, who were responsible for the recent much-praised transformation of the Ashmolean Museum in Oxford.

Alexander Sturgis, Director of the Holburne Museum, notes, “The grant from the Esmée Fairbairn Foundation is wonderful news. Our new building is only one element in the transformation of our museum. The conservation, cleaning, redisplay and re-interpretation of our collection will be revelatory and offer all kinds of new excitements and discoveries for our visitors.

Our museum was founded by a far-sighted act of generosity when Sir William Holburne’s collection became the founding kernel of an art museum for Bath over a hundred years ago. The Esmée Fairbairn grant will ensure that this founding collection can be enjoyed and preserved for the next hundred years.”

The Holburne Museum holds a nationally significant art collection which retains the character of Sir William Holburne’s founding collection. Sir William (1793-1874) collected important groups of Renaissance maiolica and bronzes, seventeenth and eighteenth-century paintings, silver and porcelain.

Amina Wright, Curator of Fine Art at the Holburne remarks, “This grant will allow us to unlock the full potential of some of the Museum’s finest works. The Esmée Fairbairn Foundation’s generosity will enable expert conservators to undertake the painstaking work needed to reveal the objects beauty and prevent these treasures deteriorating further. It will also help us to understand their history and purpose.”

The Holburne’s collection now comprises over 9,000 objects and has developed a significant strength in eighteenth-century British art, including a number of important works produced in Bath when the city was England’s most important artistic and cultural centre after London.

Sir William’s collection is domestic in scale having been amassed while he lived in a Bath townhouse at Cavendish Crescent. Most of the objects that require conservation are small and include cabinet-sized paintings and their frames, furniture, gilt-bronze mounted porcelain, coins, polished minerals, hard-stone vessels, seal-top spoons, miniature bronzes, Grand Tour souvenirs, Chelsea-Derby porcelain figures and silver.

Matthew Winterbottom, Curator of Decorative Art says, “Among the pieces that will be conserved will be a spectacular gilt-bronze and Chinese porcelain candelabrum and a Chinese bowl and cover that were dismantled in the early 20th century. A particularly poignant object is the sword of Captain Francis Holburne that he bequeathed to Sir William as he lay dying from wounds received at the Battle of Bayonne. There will be many surprises for visitors who thought that they knew our collection.”


For further information please contact Katie Jenkins
The Holburne Museum, Great Pulteney Street, Bath, BA2 4DB
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The Holburne Museum is currently closed for a development project of restoration and extension. Our Grade I listed home is being lovingly restored while a striking extension designed by Eric Parry faces Sydney Gardens behind the Museum. Our project is supported by The Heritage Lottery Fund and many other trusts, foundations and donors. In addition to our endowment we have raised £9million and have £2million left to raise before we re-open our doors to the public free of charge in spring 2011.

When we re-open the Holburne will house a collection of fine and decorative arts, built around the exquisite art collection of Sir William Holburne assembled in 19th-century Bath. We hold a nationally significant collection of paintings, Renaissance bronzes and maiolica, silver, sculpture, furniture and porcelain, including important and popular works by Brueghel, Gainsborough, Stubbs and Turner. In recent years we have also established a national reputation for imaginative, scholarly and popular exhibitions.

The Holburne’s project transforms what we are able to offer all our visitors. It will make us fully accessible to all visitors for the first time, allow more of our collection to be displayed than ever before and enable us to stage far more ambitious exhibitions, offer a garden café, creative learning opportunities for all ages and a family friendly environment.

Esmée Fairbairn Foundation was established in 1961 by Ian Fairbairn as a memorial to his wife Esmée. Today it is one of the largest independent grant-making foundations in the UK. Our aim is to improve the quality of life for people and communities in the UK both now and in the future.

We aim to commit £25million annually towards a wide range of work. Our primary interests are in the UK’s cultural life, education and learning, the natural environment and enabling disadvantaged people to participate more fully in society.

Published on: 26/08/2010

    • Vase in the form of a lamp, (detail) Josiah Wedgwood, Black basaltware, about 1775, 23 x 22 x 9cm Photograph by Tony Gilbert.

Cameo of the Birth of Venus, North Italian, Agate, about 1560, 3.5 x 3.5cm. Photograph by Tony Gilbert

  • Pieter Brueghel the Younger (1565-1638) Robbing the Bird’s Nest, oil on panel, 17.8cm diameter. Photograph by Dan Brown