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The Burrell Collection in Glasgow reopens following £68.25m refurbishment

The Burrell Collection in Glasgow reopens following £68.25m refurbishment

The Burrell Collection in Glasgow opens to the public at 10am on Tuesday 29 March after major refurbishment, the charity Glasgow Life today confirmed.

The A-listed home of The Burrell Collection in Pollok Country Park is now a modern, greener museum that will show more of the Collection to visitors and give access to over a third more of the building.

Sir William Burrell devoted more than 75 years of his life to amassing, along with his wife, Constance, Lady Burrell, one of the world’s greatest personal art collections, renowned for its quality of Chinese art, exquisite stained glass and intricate tapestries, as well as its breadth of fine art.

The donation of the Collection to the city was described at the time as: “One of the greatest gifts ever made to any city in the world.” (Sir Hector Hetherington, Principal of Glasgow University).

The Collection is home to the Wagner garden carpet which is one of the earliest surviving Persian garden carpets in the world, and has rarely been on public display since The Burrell Collection first opened in 1983. The museum’s refurbishment and redisplay means this priceless carpet will now be on long-term display, accompanied by new and innovative methods of interpretation.

Other highlights include Chinese pottery and porcelain produced over a 5,000-year period, making it one of the most significant collections of Chinese Art in Europe; paintings by renowned French artists including Manet, Cézanne and Degas; Medieval treasures including stained glass, arms and armour, and over 200 tapestries and 150 carpets, which are among the finest in the world.

Dr Bridget McConnell CBE, Chief Executive of Glasgow Life said: “The Burrell Collection is one of Glasgow’s great cultural institutions, displaying one of the finest personal collections ever assembled. Visitors will again appreciate one of the world’s great museums and enjoy the quality and beauty of the works left to Glasgow by Sir William and Constance, Lady Burrell in its spectacular home in Pollok Country Park. It is a museum for all, that will bring local people back time and again, while attracting visitors from across Scotland, the UK and from around the world to enjoy.”

Professor Frances Fowle, Senior Trustee of Sir William Burrell's Trust said: "The redevelopment of The Burrell Collection has been an impressive undertaking that has delivered a spectacular home for this unique collection. The additional gallery space has vastly increased the areas for display, enabling visitors to see and appreciate much more of the Collection, reinterpreted through the most modern and sophisticated technology. Visitors can get to know Sir William and Constance, Lady Burrell, as well as the varied and fascinating objects that they acquired, and will make new discoveries each time they visit. The refurbishment has surpassed all our expectations, establishing The Burrell Collection as one of the country’s most internationally significant, sustainable and inspiring museums that has something for everyone.” 

Sir Angus Grossart, Burrell Renaissance said: “Sir William Burrell’s unique gift to the city of Glasgow is a permanent reminder of his world class achievement as a collector and his knowledge of the art he loved. The Collection stands strongly alongside a very few such individual collections.  It is wonderful that it will be enjoyed again by millions of visitors for its immense quality, diversity and beauty. The Burrell Renaissance will lead to people around the world developing an even greater understanding of the importance of the Collection and of the potency of human imagination and initiative.”

Nearly half of the funding for the £68.25 million project was committed by Glasgow City Council with more than a quarter coming from the National Lottery Heritage Fund, and significant donations from The Scottish Government, the UK Government, and from many generous trusts and private donors.

Eilish McGuinness, Chief Executive, The National Lottery Heritage Fund, said: “The refurbished Burrell Collection is really special. It has everything that National Lottery players can savour and enjoy. The beautiful Pollok Country Park setting, the history of this amazing collection, new displays reimagined in partnership with the local community, all housed in the sustainable design of this hugely significant listed building. The Burrell is well known in Glasgow, Scotland and the UK, but I can see that this is going to be the start of a major new chapter in the life of the museum. It is truly a beautiful landmark for the 21st Century.”

Culture Minister Neil Gray said: “The re-opening of this nationally important museum is a reminder of how important culture is to all our lives. This ambitious refurbishment will ensure the building, with its greatly expanded exhibition space, will be more accessible to the public for years to come. Alongside the incredible pieces themselves, I was really impressed to see the new tactile, child friendly elements around the museum which has greatly enhanced the interaction and accessibility of the collection. The Scottish Government has contributed £5.75 million in funding to the project which includes £750,000 to support cost increases due to the pandemic.”

Scottish Secretary Alister Jack said: “I was lucky enough to get a sneak preview of the new Burrell Collection last week and it’s truly magnificent – a stunning space to house one of the most important personal art collections in the world. The people of Glasgow and visitors from further afield are in for a treat when it re-opens today. The UK Government is delighted to have played a part in breathing new life into this iconic museum so that it may be enjoyed for generations to come.”

On reopening, the museum’s gallery space has increased by 35%, allowing important and unique objects from the Collection, which have not been seen for decades, or have never been on permanent display, to go on show.

New displays will give visitors a better understanding of the international significance of The Burrell Collection’s artworks and the people who made them and some of the people who have owned them. In total 225 displays will spread across 24 galleries. The displays include innovative digital elements such as video walls, interactives and hybrid systems created to help people engage with the stories behind the Collection.

The Burrell Collection’s refurbishment will also bring new visitors to Glasgow’s south side and to Pollok Country Park to enjoy a full day out. Pollok Country Park is Glasgow’s largest green space and is home to Pollok House, Pollok Stables and Sawmill which will be redeveloped, spectacular gardens, woodside walks and play areas.  Paths and roads have been improved; benches, new signage and vehicle barriers restricting access along the main through-route in the centre of the park have been installed, and electric vehicle chargers, electric shuttle bus stops, and NextBike bikes and e-bikes will prioritise active travel.

For the first weekend The Burrell Collection is open (2 and 3 April), outdoor events and activities are also being delivered with support from EventScotland’s Year of Stories.

A new central stairway will allow visitors access to the lower floor of The Burrell Collection for the first time, where they can watch items not on display being cared for. A new temporary exhibition space has also been created. Similarly, new galleries have been created on upper floors which will take visitors to spaces in the building they have never seen before.

The museum’s environmental performance has been enhanced by greatly improving the building’s exterior through a new roof, glazing and cladding, and by replacing power, heating and lighting systems with more efficient and sustainable technologies.

The changes made to the fabric of the building to make it more air tight and water tight, and new glazing make it far less susceptible to changes in heat, and the upgrades of plant and systems means the building is far more efficient, and able to take advantage of new technologies in the future to lessen its impact further. The building has achieved industry standard BREEAM rating of “Excellent” – a major achievement for a refurbishment.

Architects John McAslan + Partners, appointed in 2016, are the refurbishment project’s architect and landscape designers.

Paul East, John McAslan + Partners’ Project Lead for The Burrell Collection summarises: “When Gasson, Andresen and Meunier’s design for The Burrell Collection was commissioned in 1972, it was the start of Glasgow’s first modern cultural grand project, setting the boldest of precedents for the city’s £1.4bn spend on cultural and sporting projects since 1980. Through The Burrell Project, we have delivered a building whose original design  – nearly half a century old – remains largely unchanged and in keeping with its original design intent yet is now completely revitalised, significantly more accessible, and is once again a museum fit for its exemplary collection.”

Event was appointed in 2014 to develop the masterplan for the project and subsequently in 2016 to develop the visitor experience and to design and deliver the exhibition displays on all three floors of the building.

Esther Dugdale, Creative Director of Event, says: “Our focus for the displays has been on opening the collection up, presenting it in all its beauty, and making it sing within the building. We want to invite visitors to step closer, to appreciate and engage with its meaning, its making and the mind of the man who collected it.” 

Since The Burrell Collection closed to the public in October 2016, a comprehensive consulation programme has engaged with more than 15,000 local people who have given their ideas, insights and opinions. This input has shaped every aspect of the redesign of the building, access to it and the development of the new displays, galleries and spaces within and around the museum.

The Scottish Parliament passed a bill in 2014 which would allow international loans of objects from and to The Burrell Collection. While it was closed, objects from the Collection were seen by more than a million people on loan to museums in New York, Paris, Japan and London.

As the world recovers from Covid-19, The Burrell is a reminder of culture’s contribution to the vibrancy and international appeal of Glasgow.

The opening of The Burrell Collection in 1983 was one of the first demonstrations of Glasgow’s commitment to cultural-led regeneration. By harnessing the power of its incredible cultural draw, Glasgow has positioned itself as one of the world’s great cultural and creative cities, making it a must-visit destination.

More information here