Ealing Broadway — end of the line for both the Central and District lines. What brings people here? One draw for visitors is the excellent Pitzhanger Manor and its contemporary art exhibitions.
The manor and gallery closed for a major refurbishment and after three years, it’s about to re-open and it’s looking fantastic.
Sir John Soane was the architect behind the Bank Of England, Dulwich Picture Gallery and his central London home on Lincoln’s Inn Fields — now home to the John Soanes Museum. Pitzhanger Manor was essentially his show home — he’d invite esteemed guests over for dinner and use it as an opportunity to show prospective clients his grand designs.
Now that it’s been lovingly refurbished, what a show home it is. Distinct ceilings, marbling in the entrance hall, dramatic Chinese wallpaper in the Upper Drawing Room, a conservatory overlooking the gardens. Much better than the generic marketing suites every identikit new build tower has today.
One room’s ceiling gives the illusion of having a skylight, which is why it was an inspired choice to have Anish Kapoor’s perception-altering pieces in the adjoining gallery space for the first exhibition post-refurbishment.
Kapoor is famous for his polished mirrored works and there are are plenty on display here, playing with our sense of being in all directions. Sometimes our proportions are skewed, other times we’re flipped upside down and on a couple of occasions we disappear altogether. It’s like a contemplative and conceptual hall of mirrors.
The works interact with the light and the architecture of the building to create the types of illusions we imagine John Soane would have enjoyed.
When viewing Kapoor’s works it always makes us a pause for a literal, and figurative, moment of self-reflection on how we view ourselves. In a time when divisions both at home and abroad are getting more fractious, when time seems to be flying by, and an age where our vision of our self is usually through a phone’s camera lens — it’s worth stopping and (literally) reflecting.
Sure the work is selfie friendly on a superficial level — we took plenty ourselves — but it’s also deeper than that. Who are we, what do we stand for and where are we going? This beautiful space mere metres away from the buzz of Ealing’s high street is the perfect place to stop for a dose of introspection.
Our visit was like being re-united with an old friend from school — seeing how much they’ve grown in our time apart and rekindling the friendship with ease. Pitzhanger Manor and Gallery we’ve missed you — we’re so delighted to have you back.
Pitzhanger Manor and the Anish Kapoor exhibition open on 16 March. The Kapoor exhibition runs until 18 August. Tickets are £7.70 for adults and cover entrance to the manor and the gallery, under 18s visit for free.