By Andrew Woodger
The Bed by Will Ryman will fill the atrium area in the new High Street gallery
The old Ipswich Art School is re-opening as an art gallery with the help of London's pioneering Saatchi Gallery.
The exhibition will be displaying works by seven artists including a giant sculpture called The Bed by Will Ryman.
The Saatchi Gallery, which was founded in 1985, is bringing its exhibition to Ipswich 10 July 2010 - 9 January 2011.
"They're one of the big names in the contemporary art world," said Emma Roodhouse, curator with Ipswich and Colchester Museums.
Emma Roodhouse in the new space on Ipswich High Street
"I would hope that there's something that people can find in the exhibition to provoke comment or questions and it's free, there's no charge!
"Ipswich has got a really important artistic legacy and we've had former art school students come back and tell us where the old print room used to be and things like that."
Alongside Suffolk being famous for producing some of the nation's most famous landscape painters, the Ipswich Art School kept that tradition going in the late 20th Century.
Earlier in 2010, an exhibition was staged celebrating the life and work of Colin Moss, who taught at the art school for over three decades:
Aldeburgh Scallop artist Maggi Hambling and producer/musician Brian Eno were both art students there in the 1960s.
"That's what we want to bring back to the building - art and artists to make it a real buzzing centre for contemporary and modern art," said Emma.
"Christchurch Mansion will be the focus for our historic collections of John Constable and Thomas Gainsborough.
"We do have a fantastic modern and contemporary collection which we don't have the space to show at Christchurch Mansion, so that would come to the High Street in the longer term.
"The focus for the Town Hall Galleries would be as a space for temporary, mixed exhibitions rather than focussing on art."
It's hoped, that with around a dozen separate rooms in the new gallery, local artists will be able to mount their own exhibitions.
Unpacking the component parts of The Bed in the atrium
The seven artists who're part of the Saatchi exhibition are Alexandra Bircken, Thomas Houseago, Matthew Monahan, Will Ryman, Francis Upritchard, Rebecca Warren and Andy Yoder.
"The Saatchi Gallery aims to ensure that contemporary art remains accessible to the wider public, and in particular a younger audience of art students and enthusiasts at all times," said a Saatchi spokesperson.
"However, we are aware that for some groups based further afield, travel to London is not always the easiest option.
"For this reason, when we were approached to loan works to the former Ipswich Art School, we were more than delighted to be able to support them and to facilitate regular access to contemporary art for even more people."
Costs and long term plans
The Ipswich Art School building, which is next to Ipswich Museum, is owned by Suffolk New College and it's being leased by Ipswich Borough Council for two years.
The initial cost of re-opening is around £100,000 and it's mainly being funded by the Arts Council with the borough's contribution set at around £10,000.
In the current climate of cuts in public funding, the ruling Conservatives and Liberal Democrats on the local council say the cost to them is minimal.
"There's very little public money going into this - at least directly from the people of Ipswich," said Councillor Andrew Cann, portfolio holder for culture and sport at Ipswich Borough Council.
"There's an enormous amount of art and artists linked with Ipswich, but very little space to exhibit in, so bringing art gallery space to Ipswich when council taxpayers won't be funding it is an excellent idea.
"Many tourist destinations across the UK are known for specific buildings such as the Ashmolean in Oxford and the Tate in St Ives.
"We think Ipswich merits having a building of that type and having Saatchi here will raise the profile of the project and get the national media interested."
A close-up of Thomas Houseago's Joanne sculpture
Trust in art
An Ipswich Museums Trust has been formed with the aim of raising £500,000 of private money to buy the Ipswich Art School building.
"The view long term is that Ipswich won't be contributing taxpayers' money to this," said Cllr Cann.
"The arts bring a lot of quality to people's lives, but the signals we're getting from the Arts Council and other funding bodies is that they're going to cut the bad and not the good.
"The New Wolsey is only facing a tiny loss and I'm very confident that DanceEast will get the money as will projects like this one where the real quality will shine through.
"There's a £10m project to redevelop the whole High Street site.
"There's barren land there, so we're thinking about having a sculpture garden and to really bring the museum up to 21st Century standards whilst exhibiting far more of the art that the borough owns, giving that real inspiration to young people and realising a huge potential tourist attraction."
Suffolk artist Maggi Hambling will open the new gallery on Friday 9 July 2010 and it'll open to the public the following day.