FE McWilliam Gallery & Studio reopens with brand new exhibition

Sculptors at Work: Photographs by Anne-Katrin Purkiss kicks off a new summer season of artistic might at FE McWilliam Gallery & Studio

Banbridge’s famed FE McWilliam Gallery & Studio and Sculpture Garden reopened its doors to the public this week with an exciting new photography exhibition.

Named one of the UK and Ireland’s artistic ‘hidden gems’ by the Irish Times and ‘remarkable’ by the Irish Independent’s top travel writer, the gallery, studio, sculpture garden and accompanying café, is dedicated to the memory of Banbridge-born sculptor Frederick Edward McWilliam, one of Ireland’s most influential and successful artists.

Located just outside Banbridge off the A1 near The Boulevard, the leading art and cultural destination, which has been closed since December, features a permanent exhibition of McWilliam’s iconic works, temporary exhibitions of Irish and international artists, as well as a craft shop and tourist information centre.

A new exhibition – Sculptors at Work: Photographs by Anne-Katrin Purkiss – now takes centre stage as part of its reopening plans, providing yet another great reason to visit.

Born in Germany, Anne-Katrin Purkiss studied Journalism and Photography at Leipzig University from 1979-1983. After working as a photographer for the Leipzig advertising agency Dewag, she moved to Britain and worked for the London Bureau of Associated Press until 1988.

Since then, she has been a freelance journalist and photographer working for the Foreign Office’s London Press Service, the Cabinet Office and the Countryside Agency.

Jill McEneaney, Arts Culture and Heritage Manager at Armagh City, Banbridge and Craigavon Borough Council, said:

“After such a long absence, I am delighted to confirm that we will officially reopen our doors to welcome back visitors – old and new – to experience a new, thought-provoking exhibition which we’ve been busily planning for summer and autumn 2021.

“When Anne-Katrin Purkiss photographed FE McWilliam in London in 1989, neither could have envisaged that, more than 30 years later, the image would hang in a museum dedicated to the sculptor in his birthplace, Banbridge, County Down.

In the years since that serendipitous meeting, Anne-Katrin Purkiss has photographed dozens of sculptors, often in their studios, and I’m delighted to unveil this special exhibition of her work to mark our official return.”

Photographs from her collection have been published in national and international newspapers such as The Guardian, The New York Times, Die Zeit and Nature. Purkiss’ work has also been exhibited in England, Germany, Italy and Switzerland.

One of the island’s most influential and successful artists, Frederick Edward McWilliam was born in Banbridge in April 1909 and died in London in 1992, when the executors of his estate donated the sculptor’s studio and its contents to the town of his birth.

The Sculpture Garden was designed to capture the spirit of FE McWilliam’s garden in which his studio was situated at his home in London’s Holland Park. Divided by yew hedging and herbaceous borders, the garden provides a series of tranquil ‘rooms’ in which to survey the sculptures on their granite plinths.

Officially opened in 2008, the FE McWilliam Gallery is home to Quails at the Gallery. This award-winning cafe overlooks the sculpture garden and offers high quality meals using local produce from Quails family-run farm.

A craft shop beautifully showcases handcrafted products made by talented designers and craftspeople including a wide range of jewellery, ceramics, local linen and other gifts.

Included as part of its safety protocols, there are one-way art routes, two-metre social distancing rules, additional cleaning, hand sanitiser stations at regular intervals, and visitors are encouraged to wear face coverings.

Visitors are also encouraged to book in advance, even to see the main collection, which remains free, to control numbers and help reduce contact.

“With full safety measures firmly in place across this expansive site and garden, the FE McWilliam Gallery and Studio is the perfect place to free your mind, contemplate and relax and everyone is guaranteed a really warm welcome when they arrive,” Jill McEneaney said.

For more information, jump into www.visitarmagh.com.

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