Published  16/11/2004

Museum Building Boom

Museum Building Boom

For London, the recently announced plans for a new Wellcome museum-cum-gallery, inside the new Wellcome headquarters, will add a public museum, art gallery and library to the capital’s resources. The Wellcome Institute too will reveal its own collection of medical items, as well as accommodating 600,000 volumes on medical history. The Centre will cost some £20 million. There will also be newly commissioned artworks, the first here being an amazing cascade of 150,000 crystal spheres, entitled 'Bleigiessen', by Thomas Heatherwick. The founder, Henry Wellcome, sought to join science, art history and traditionally mysterious areas of human superstition. But, for exhibition awareness, nothing can compete with the various relics of Jeremy Bentham. The Wellcome does have a small piece of him, but his body as such was left to University College London, while his clothed effigy still holds court at the Dulwich Picture Gallery. Perhaps Wellcome could re-unite the whole.

Meanwhile, in other developments worldwide, Canberra is planning a new National Portrait Gallery expansion. Paris has François Pinault (the third richest man in France) planning to turn the abandoned Renault factory on the Ile Seguin into a contemporary art museum. Oslo, Norway, is just embarking on a mega-gallery. Taiwan is pondering a new Guggenheim Museum in Taichung. And Samsung has just completed a great gallery for Koreans in Seoul. Are we on the threshold of a new golden age of art? Or will it all turn to lead?

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