The Russell-Cotes Art Gallery and Museum reopens showcasing newly displayed rooms and an exciting programme of events for the summer season

Bournemouth’s Russell-Cotes Art Gallery and Museum is delighted to be reopening on Tuesday 18 May after remaining closed since December 2020 due to the national lockdowns.

Thanks to generous funding from Arts Council England, DCMS/Wolfson Museums and Galleries Improvement Fund and other sources, the museum have been able to invest in improvements over the closure periods in preparation for its reopening this May.

The Russell-Cotes is a unique Victorian villa situated on the East Cliff with spectacular panoramic sea views across Bournemouth and Poole Bay, the Purbecks, and the Isle of Wight. An Art Gallery, a Museum, and Historic House, the Russell-Cotes has a celebrated collection of Victorian and Pre-Raphaelite art, including 2,500 oil paintings and over 16,000 items in its world cultures collection.

Renovations, redisplays, investment in the collections, grounds and digital improvements have all been completed over the past year to improve the visitor experience and accessibility, and enhance the legacy of this unique museum, gifted to the people of Bournemouth by its founders, Merton and Annie-Russell-Cotes in 1922.

The Red and Yellow Rooms have been luxuriously reconfigured to enable visitors to see how they would have looked originally as Merton and Annie’s bedrooms, crammed with amazing art works and collections from their travels to Asia, Africa and south America. Like Annie and Merton, visitors can now relax and enjoy the breath-taking coastal views with new seating and digital interactives. The Mikado’s Room is a celebration of the Russell-Cotes’ Japanese collection (one of the finest in the UK), featuring armour, lacquer, metalwork and ceramics collected during the couple’s six-week trip in 1885. Established as a museum within a museum by Merton Russell-Cotes himself, it has been restored to a more authentic style with conserved murals, hanging lanterns and Victorian-style cases.

The detailed Victorian painted ceilings have also been conserved and new features have been fitted in keeping with the original style of the house, along with interactive video material providing additional context to the objects and the Russell-Cotes.

The funding also provided the venue the opportunity to carry out additional improvements to the grounds including restoring the original building signs and creating an outdoor café space on the garden terrace.  

Museum Manager, Sarah Newman explained:

“We are delighted to be reopening our doors and welcoming visitors back after this closure period to see what we have been up to. It has been a tough time for museums, so, we are delighted to have been able to use this period positively to make so many improvements. Our visitors will be wowed by the new rooms which have been transformed from tired and outdated spaces to exquisite rooms showcasing the best of the Russell-Cotes. Museums are for, and about, people and we hope that visitors come back soon to the Russell-Cotes for much-needed enjoyment and inspiration. We are so looking forward to seeing them again!

Councillor Mohan Iyengar, Portfolio Holder for Tourism and Culture said:
“The reopening of the Russell-Cotes with its rich cultural offering will be welcomed by residents and visitors. Now that we’re able to, I’d encourage everyone to put the Russell-Cotes on their list of go-see activities – and it’s right on our doorstep.”

Packed programme of exhibitions and events

The current exhibition; Hidden Highlights: Life in Lockdown features over 80 works from the Russell-Cotes rich and diverse fine art collection, reinterpreting some of the museum’s lesser-seen works in a light-hearted approach though a lockdown lens, while in the Print Room, on the first floor, visitors can enjoy a selection of sketches by John Thomas, the principal decorator of East Cliff Hall (now the Russell-Cotes) from his portfolio of Japanese inspired prints.

On Thursday 20 May, the Russell-Cotes hosts its first of the summer series of Museum Lates, with an Evening Sunset reopening celebration. Visitors can book afternoon tea into the evening and there will be live background piano music in the house.

Throughout the summer there will be activities and events for all ages including crafts, garden trails, competitions and games, and the Museum will be continuing its programme of online talks focusing on items from the collection and exhibitions, due to its continued success over the past year.

For the latest reopening information and details about events and exhibitions please visit the website www.russellcotes.com