The new MK Gallery in Milton Keynes, designed by 6a architects, opened to the public on 16 March 2019.
The original MK Gallery was constructed in the late 1990s and is located at the top of Midsummer Boulevard, next to Milton Keynes Theatre. The new development retains the first structure and adds a new one, to more than double its size.
The new MK Gallery reflects the natural world in its polished stainless-steel exterior surfaces inspired by the city’s original grid and the geometries of the adjacent Campbell Park. The completed development including both old and new structures provides five exhibition galleries; a large learning and community studio; and a flexible auditorium on the upper floor with views over Campbell Park and the countryside.
Integrated within the new scheme, artists Gareth Jones and Nils Norman were commissioned, in collaboration with 6a architects and graphic designer Mark El-khatib, to create City Club, a sequence of new public spaces in and around the new MK Gallery. Inside, these include the foyer, café/bar and Sky Room. Outside, they include a playscape, a garden and a new façade for the existing gallery building.
The new MK Gallery will open with The Lie of the Land, an ambitious exhibition spread across all five galleries curated by MK Gallery Director, Anthony Spira, with Sam Jacob, Claire Louise Staunton, Fay Blanchard, Tom Emerson, Gareth Jones and Niall Hobhouse.
The exhibition is designed as a kind of cabinet of curiosities that places Milton Keynes and the new gallery in a playful context. It looks at changing attitudes towards leisure, culture and landscape over more than 250 years. 85 artists, architects and designers, including Thomas Gainsborough, J.M.W Turner, Yinka Shonibare MBE, and Bridget Riley are placed alongside a vintage picnic basket, one of the earliest lawnmowers, Gertrude Jekyll’s gardening boots and a banner from Greenham Common. There are also new commissions including a 20-channel sonic portrait of Milton Keynes by sound artist and composer, Caroline Devine, a new film commission working with the community by Ed Webb-Ingall, and an immersive installation by Project Art Works.
Image: MK Gallery interior, gallery by 6a architects. Photo: Johan Dehlin.