Hold onto your hats, folks! If you’re in Bournemouth, there’s one destination that should be at the top of your list – the Russell-Cotes Art Gallery. A magical blend of history, culture, and art, this captivating museum offers an enriching experience for individuals, couples, and families alike.
The story of the Russell Cotes Art Gallery & Museum is as charming as the treasures it houses. It all began in 1897, when Merton Russell-Cotes commissioned architect John Frederick Fogerty to build a beautiful house as a birthday present for his wife, Annie. This house, originally called East Cliff Hall, was designed in the Art Nouveau style and was completed in its first form in 1901.
In 1907, Annie Russell-Cotes donated East Cliff Hall and its contents to the town of Bournemouth, and Merton donated his fine art collection. The couple continued to live in part of the house while an extension was being built. After their deaths, the Borough of Bournemouth took over the running of East Cliff Hall and re-opened it as the Russell-Cotes Art Gallery and Museum in 1922. This museum now stands proud as a Grade II* listed building perched atop the East Cliff, next to the Royal Bath Hotel.
Once you step inside this cultural gem, you’ll be greeted by a myriad of fascinating exhibits. The house and the new annexe display various items collected by Sir Merton during his foreign travels, especially to Japan, as well as paintings from his personal art collection. The museum also regularly hosts exhibitions of contemporary art alongside works from the main collection.
A current highlight is the exhibition “In Her Own Voice: The Art of Lucy Kemp-Welch” running from April to October 2023. Lucy Kemp-Welch, one of Britain’s foremost equestrian painters, was renowned for her portrayal of working horses. This major exhibition, in partnership with the National Horse Racing Museum, presents key works from her illustrious career, marking the first significant retrospective of her work since her death.
The museum is also a fantastic place for families, offering an engaging play area for young children and detective sheets for older children to complete, making it an exciting and educational visit. The museum even houses a restaurant where you can enjoy a meal or a snack, and the entrance to the café and café gallery is free of charge.
The museum is open from Tuesday to Sunday, and on Bank Holiday Mondays, from 10 am to 5 pm, with the café staying open until 4:30 pm. Admission prices are very reasonable, with adults and senior citizens paying £8.50, children between 5 and 17 years paying £4.50, and children under 5 entering for free. There’s also an option to purchase an annual pass, which provides unlimited access to the museum for 12 months.
If you are in Bournemouth, whether you’re a local or a visitor, the Russell-Cotes Museum is a cultural feast not to be missed!
Address: Russell-Cotes Museum – East Cliff Promenade, Bournemouth, BH1 3AA
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