Gallery commissions Richard Deacon sculpture for Milton Keynes

Richard Deacon_roundabout research visit_Nov2015_#2_crop_rotated

The dust (or rain) has barely settled on MK’s latest public artworks, including David Batchelor’s beautiful colour clock Chromocochere near the gallery on Midsummer Boulevard, but we’re already preparing our next offsite art commission – a new sculpture from the celebrated UK artist Richard Deacon.

Richard is researching the possibility of making a piece for one of MK’s roundabouts. The idea stems from an unrealised MK Development Corporation proposal in the 1970s to install a sculpture on every roundabout in Milton Keynes, providing landmarks across the city.

As we’re only at early project development stages we can’t confirm when the Deacon commission will be ready, but one possibility is early 2017 to coincide with the launch of MK:50 (the city’s 50th anniversary year celebrations). Richard was in MK recently researching possible roundabouts with us; you can just see him at the edge of this picture we took was we measured and documented one possible location.

Richard Deacon (b.1949) is a former Turner Prize winner (1987) with a career spanning more than forty years. Tate Britain presented a solo survey show of his work in 2014. A sculptor who describes himself as a fabricator, Richard teaches, and writing also forms a part of his practice.  Richard is known for his innovative use of a broad range of materials, from contorted steel and sinuous bent wood to polycarbonates, leather, cloth and highly glazed ceramics. Working on both domestic and large scales, Richard combines organic forms with elements of engineering, and has vast experience of large-scale public projects, including permanent commissions in New Zealand, Japan, Canada, Europe and the USA. Let’s not be stupid (below) was Richard’s first commission for a large-scale, outdoor, permanent work in the UK. It can be seen on Warwick University campus.

Naturally we’re thrilled to be working with Richard, and we’ll keep you posted on the progress of this exciting public art commission for Milton Keynes.

Richard Deacon_installationView_WarwickUniversity

Richard Deacon, Let’s Not be Stupid (1991).  Photo: © Copyright Robin Stott.

Behind the Scenes: Work begins on staff offices

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Before work can begin on our expansion and renovation, we need to decommission our main gallery building.  This includes moving Curatorial and Learning staff across Margaret Powell Square to join Administration, Finance, Development and Marketing staff already in offices on the first floor of the Project Space. But before that can happen, the Project Space needs minor internal reconfiguration so that everyone can be accommodated and after sixteen years of wear and tear on the building some essential basic redecoration is needed.

For the last few weeks the decorators have been working around staff in the Project Space but on Monday work began in earnest on the office reconfiguration. Five of us moved our desks and filing along the top floor to the large room overlooking Midsummer Boulevard; this will become an open plan office accommodating most of the gallery team.  We vacated and emptied our office in double-quick time, and some redundant, space-hungry furniture and equipment was sent to the skip for recycling.

For the next few weeks we swap gloss paint fumes for the cacophony of builder’s hammers, carpenter’s saws and electrician’s drills…but it will all be worth it in the end when everyone is united in one place and we are a step closer to the main building being ready for handover to a contractor.  Here are a few pictures showing some of what’s been happening; we look forward to updating you with the final results when work is complete!

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Behind the Scenes: Learning Team Research Visits

A South London Gallery commissioned public artwork in nearby Sceaux Gardens Estate.

A South London Gallery commissioned public artwork in nearby Sceaux Gardens Estate.

Over the last week our Learning Team – Victoria Mayes, Head of Learning, Bethany Mitchell, Childhood Learning Coordinator, and Jonny Hill, Early Years Learning Coordinator have made research visits to other organisations in London, seeking inspiration and ideas as they shape our future Learning Programme.  Bethany writes:

“During the Gallery’s expansion period we’re taking the opportunity to research new models of learning and participation for our visitors and fresh ways of working, both in the interim build period and post-expansion.  The first of our trips took us to Gasworks, a contemporary visual arts organisation in Vauxhall, and then Glamis Adventure Playground in Shadwell. Our second visit was to South London Gallery in Peckham.

At Gasworks, Participation Coordinator Katie Orr provided us with an overview of their learning programme.  We were particularly inspired by their strong inter-generational family learning ethos and excited by the potential for crossovers between age groups in our own future learning programme.

At Glamis Adventure playground their lead play worker Mark shared insights into the value of open space for free play, and its culture of involvement in a dense inner city area.  We must admit that we really enjoyed roaming the colourful landscape of nets, walkways and rope swings and scaling the heights of the painted plank fortresses!

At South London Gallery (SLG) we met with Sarah Coffils, Head of Learning, Heather Kay, Schools and Community Project Manager, and Lauren Willis Children and Families Project Manager to hear about their play centred ethos. Afterwards, on the nearby Sceaux Gardens Estate, we toured their successful ‘Shop of Possibilities’ project. We also saw the impact of the SLG artist commissioned Signs Project , where artists and designers have worked with local residents to improve way-finding and the visual identity of the estate.

We’re enormously grateful to all concerned for the welcome they gave us along with generous amounts of their time. These three visits helped us to appreciate what is at the heart of these organisations’ participation offers for their local communities. We left London full of ideas and even more excited by the potential of the unique visitor participation and engagement programme that we are currently developing for MK Gallery.’”

Learning Team launches The Green Town Group artist-led outdoor learning project

MK’s green spaces. Aerial view, courtesy The Parks Trust. Photo: Steve Carey

MK’s green spaces. Aerial view, courtesy The Parks Trust. Photo: Steve Carey

This week we’re writing to Milton Keynes primary schools inviting them to be part of The Green Town Group, a pilot programme of artist-led activity designed to test new approaches to outdoor learning. Schools’ expressions of interest need to reach the gallery by the deadline of Tuesday 1 December 2015. You can read more about the programme HERE on our website.

The Green Town Project has been conceived in relation to City Club – our major artists’ commission addressing the public realm around MK Gallery in the context of our expansion.  Just to recap, City Club, is a concept framework ‘borrowed’ from an ambitious unrealised project in the original MK Masterplan (the c.1970 strategy document that informed the design and development of Milton Keynes). We’ve commissioned artists Nils Norman and Gareth Jones to revisit the City Club vision to bring to life a proposal for a new type of social space for Milton Keynes.  Norman and Jones will be sharing the results of their initial researches in a presentation at MK Gallery on 10 December 2015.

City Club will comprise three main elements; a garden, piazza and playground.  These elements, and their associated links (landscape, place-making, outdoor learning, gardening, environment, public art, architecture and play), inform our artistic and learning programmes between now and reopening MK Gallery in 2017.

The Green Town Group project addresses the proposed garden element of City Club and the historical positioning of green spaces within Milton Keynes.   Externally perceived as a town designed for the car and indoor artificial ‘experiences’, Green Town Group will focus on the many green spaces and pockets of woodland around Milton Keynes, supporting children and families to respond to, and engage with, their local natural environments.  By exploring the relevance of art and nature to their everyday lives the programme will, in turn, act as consultation for the development of a centralised green space as part of the City Club vision, and inform and underpin a new long-term MK Gallery Learning Strategy, including a focus on learning outdoors.



Project Briefing for City Breakfast Club this week

Clare Wood, Head of Development, MK Gallery

Clare Wood, Head of Development, MK Gallery

Tomorrow MK Gallery’s Head of Development, Clare Wood, will be guest speaker at The City Breakfast Club, hosted at Doubletree, Stadium:MK.

Clare will be giving business guests an overview of the Gallery’s work, and telling them about our capital expansion and redevelopment project.

Clare says: “I’m looking forward to sharing our development story with members of the Milton Keynes Business community. People often don’t realise the many different ways in which MK Gallery benefits our communities – and the many strands of activity taking place within the Gallery and in schools and organisations throughout Milton Keynes. The Gallery’s exhibitions are a fantastic source of inspiration, which act as an anchor for our publications, films, tours, workshops, talks and other events. It will be great to share the message about the breadth of our activity at this important time in the Gallery’s history.”

In her illustrated talk Clare will be highlighting the impact of the Gallery’s work and explaining why the forthcoming expansion is an important part of the infrastructure which will enable Milton Keynes to continue to thrive over the next twenty years and beyond.

If you’d like to know more about ways of supporting us – and naturally we hope you will – then please visit the Support Us page on our website.

Talk Invitation: David Batchelor, Sam Jacob and Will Nash in Conversation with Rebecca Heald on 4 November

David Batchelor: Chromocochere (artist visualisation)

David Batchelor: Chromocochere (artist visualisation)

We continue our artistic and event programming during our main building closure period, most obviously at present via our Flashback archival project exploring our rich 16-year exhibition history.

But we’ve also been working with Milton Keynes Council recently to deliver an offsite commission by artist David Batchleor. Installation of Chromocochere, his striking sculptural intervention above a Porte Cochere beside the gallery on Midsummer Boulevard, began today (see pictures below), despite the rain!

Batchelor is one of four distinguished artists who were commissioned by MK Council and MK Gallery with funding from Arts Council England to make public art in response to the iconic Porte Cocheres and covered walkways in Central Milton Keynes. Read about all four artist’s works HERE.

We are delighted that three of the four commissioned artists, David Batchelor, Sam Jacob and Will Nash, are free to join us at 7pm next Wednesday 4 November for a talk timed to coincide with the installation of their new works in the city centre. Rebecca Heald, a curator and Royal College of Art lecturer, will facilitate the In Conversation event, which should provide a unique insight into their respective practices, and the ideas that lie behind their latest, sculptural installations.

MK Gallery’s Director Anthony Spira said today:

Prominently sited at this end of Midsummer Boulevard David Batchelor’s ‘Chromocochere’ is a work that will be enjoyed by thousands of Theatre and Gallery visitors, motorists and pedestrians for years to come. We are delighted to have worked with MK Council to deliver this offsite commission from David, and to have lent support and advice in the delivery of the other commissioned artworks. One of our main aims as an organisation is to connect artists with audiences, so we are delighted to offer this opportunity for people to meet and hear David, Sam and Will talk about their work in response to Milton Keynes’ unique public realm.”

You are warmly invited to join us for this free event which is open to everyone. Pre-booking is required; you can reserve your ticket now, HERE.

Installation of David Batchelor's Chromocochere starting in Midsummer Boulevard today

Installation of David Batchelor’s Chromocochere starting in Midsummer Boulevard today

Chromocochere by David Batchelor during installation today, 28 October 2015

Behind the Scenes: Plus Tate Communications Group

Herzog & de Meuron 's Tate Modern extension.

Architects impression of Tate Modern extension  opening summer 2016.

Last Tuesday Communications staff from Plus Tate member organisations, including MK Gallery, convened at Tate Modern. The event gave us the opportunity to hear at first-hand how Tate staff are preparing for the launch of their extension to the Bankside building in summer 2016.

Along with attendees from Modern Art Oxford, Camden Arts Centre, Kettle’s Yard (Cambridge), Spike Island (Bristol), Nottingham Contemporary, Artes Mundi (Cardiff), Mima (Middlesborough), Turner Contemporary (Margate) , Mostyn (Llandudno), John Hansard (Southampton), Towner (Eastbourne), Fruitmarket (Edinburgh) & Centre for Contemporary Art (Manchester) we heard about Tate’s communications priorities, marketing and digital strategies and forward planning in relation to the extension.

It was encouraging to hear that Tate wishes to involve its Plus Tate partners in their celebrations as much as they can, and in particular to find ways of working together to signpost public and international media attention back out to its visual arts peers in the regions during the launch period.

We look forward to developing reciprocal communications with Tate and our other Plus Tate partners, and sharing knowledge and expertise, particularly in relation to capital expansion launch activities. The day concluded with the privilege of a hard hat tour of the new Herzog & de Meuron building, reaching its top floor viewing terrace as the sun was setting. Perfect!

Double your Donation with ‘Grow Your Tenner’


Double your Donation with Grow Your Tenner

We’d like to tell you about an excellent way to support MK Gallery expansion!

From Tuesday 13 October onwards, all donations up to £10 made to MK Gallery via Localgiving can be matched pound-for-pound at no additional cost to the donor. The doubling of donations is applicable for both one-off and monthly direct debit donations made online via

The money raised will contribute towards the final stages of our fundraising for MK Gallery expansion, which will deliver a fantastic new art centre in the heart of the city in 2017. Comprising, beautiful galleries, a dedicated learning space, multi-purpose auditorium and welcoming café/ bar, the expanded Gallery will be a superb facility for residents and visitors alike.

Clare Wood, Head of Development at MK Gallery said “Grow Your Tenner is a fantastic way to make your donation go further. Making a £10 donation via Grow Your Tenner using the simple online system releases an additional £10 to MK Gallery on top of the donation. There is no more cost effective way to show your support for MK Gallery and its vital work bringing the arts to life in Milton Keynes.

For the last 16 years, through an extensive range of exhibitions, events, participatory workshops and community projects, MK Gallery has provided hundreds of thousands of people in and around the city with creative opportunities, including learning opportunities for families, children and young people, people with profound and multiple disabilities and those living at disadvantage.

Thank you in advance for your support and generosity, and please let others know about this campaign!

First Flashback show now open

We’re delighted to have opened our first Flashback display last night. Drawn from our exhibition archive, it focuses on the gallery launch in 1999 and first exhibition by Gilbert & George. We share here some example exhibits, and a couple of photos of staff involved in putting the project together:  Claire Corrin, Exhibitions Organiser; Aimee Holmes, Digital Communications Co-ordinator,  Katie Fields, Gallery Co-ordinator, and Victoria Mayes, Head of Learning.

Flashback: 1999 runs until 29 November 2015.  Open Tuesday – Friday 12noon – 8pm, Saturday 11am-8pm, and Sunday 11am-5pm. Admission is free.


Gilbert & George’s message on first page of MK Gallery’s visitors book for the opening events.

Gallery model made by Gilbert & George indicating how they proposed to hang their pictures (1999).

Gallery model made by Gilbert & George indicating how they proposed to hang their pictures (1999).

Claire Corrin (L) and Katie Fields (R), with one of the original banners that were hung in thecentre:mk to promote the Gilbert & George exhibition.

Claire Corrin (L) and Katie Fields (R), with one of the original banners that were hung in thecentre:mk to promote the Gilbert & George exhibition.

Invitation: Flashback Launch Thursday 8 October

Whilst our main building is closed for renovation and construction we’ll be exploring our rich exhibition history with you via our ‘Flashback’ archival displays.  Click HERE for more details.

We share below our e-invite to the first Flashback display launch tomorrow evening; everyone is welcome!  Did you visit when the gallery first opened 16 years ago in October 1999? If so, what do you remember?! We hope you are free to drop in and tell us about your experience and recollections, and bring along others who may be interested in finding out more about how the gallery all started!Screen Shot 2015-10-06 at 17.25