Glasgow’s new-look Burrell Collection: one of Britain’s great museums is back
The unusual building has reopened to the public following a six-year, £68m refurbishment
Glasgow’s Burrell Collection is one of Britain’s great museums, said Gabrielle Schwarz in The Daily Telegraph. It opened in 1983 to house the “enjoyably idiosyncratic” personal collection of the Scottish shipping magnate William Burrell (1861-1958), who built up a cornucopia of 9,000 works of art and antiquities.
Its particular strengths include “medieval stained glass and tapestries, Chinese ceramics, and the paintings and pastels of Edgar Degas”; but it encompasses everything from Islamic textiles to Assyrian, Roman and Greek artefacts, from a Rembrandt self-portrait to an extraordinary 17th century Persian carpet teeming with “images of animals and plant life”.
The building, an unusual “modernist pavilion”, is itself one of Scotland’s finest 20th century buildings. Yet it has been plagued with problems since its opening, with leaking roofs obliging curators to leave buckets to catch dripping water. Now, following a six-year, £68m refurbishment, that “pesky roof” has finally been fixed, and it has at long last reopened to the public.
It’s good to be back, said Susan Mansfield in The Scotsman. The refurbishment has increased the Burrell’s exhibition space by around 35%, also adding improved visitor facilities, interactive displays and enhanced lighting to better show off its treasures. Much of the display is arranged thematically: a “splendid” room of Burrell’s modern art acquisitions gives us glorious paintings by Whistler, Sisley and the so-called “Glasgow Boys”, while another focuses on “traditions around death”, offering Chinese ritual bells, an Egyptian funerary boat and artefacts from Egyptian tombs.
Yet the new-look Burrell Collection isn’t perfect: exquisite floral paintings by the likes of Manet, Henri Fantin-Latour and Samuel Peploe are mounted on a “hugely distracting” animated wall of “dancing flowers”. Worse still are the infantile captions, rewritten in a “drive for accessibility”.
It hardly matters, said Rachel Campbell-Johnston in The Times. “The objects, so ancient, so entrancing, so lovely, so eloquent, are perfectly capable of speaking for themselves.” During a single visit you might encounter Rodin’s sculpture Eve After the Fall; “Roman mosaics and Renaissance armour”; paintings by Frans Hals, Cranach, Courbet and Daumier; even the marriage bed of Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn, in which the pregnant queen supposedly “forced a lady in waiting to sleep with her husband to prevent him from straying further afield”. It’s a joy that “one of the world’s greatest private collections” has a suitable home.