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The Ferens Art Gallery, Kingston-Upon-Hull, East Yorkshire, England

By Edited Oct 3, 2016 0 0

The Location

As a schoolchild in the late 1950's I visited this local Art Gallery many times. As anm adult I still visit it from time to time since. The Gallery, and its surroundings, have undergone a fair few changes, in this time, but the frontage remains the same .

The Ferens is situated next to the Monument Buildings, in Victoria Square, Kingston-Upon-Hull. The city of Hull is on the north bank of the River Humber, in the East Riding of the county of Yorkshire.

At one time Victoria Square was a very busy square and in the heart of the bust;ling town. In the early 1900's the monument bridge here had Princes dock on one side of it and Queens dock on the other. Near the bridge stood a large statue of William Wilberforce who was a local politician. Wilberforce was instrumental in passing the UK abolition of slavery laws, of the 1800's. His old residence is now a Museum in the High Street, in Hull's old town and is also well worth a visit .

A recent change to Victoria Square has been its pedestrianisation. When I was a child it was a nightmare trying to cross these roads. At the centre of Victoria Square there is a fine statue of Queen Victoria, unfortunately standing in the middle of a seating area, over some public conveniences.The roads went completely round this centre but the only active road now is in front of the Ferens .

The City Hall
The square goes round to the Hull City Hall which is a fine old building and which housed the local art gallery before the Ferens was built. Shops, a lovely old bank which is now a cafe, The Town Docks Museum once the Dock offices but now a renowned Maritime museum, the Princes Quay shopping development built over the old Princes Dock the water still being there and back to Monument Buildings complete Victoria Square. Across form the art gallery is a monstrous giant TV screen which is hopefully due to be removed.

The Maritime Museum
As some of these old buildings are so beautiful it's easy to pass by the Ferens, but you will miss a treat. If you visit in the summer the setting is very pleasant. The Queens Gardens behind the Town Dock Museum having consistently good floral displays, fountains, grassy areas, ponds and fish. These gardens host outdoor music events in the summer, also. The gardens which were also a dock were filled in when they became obsolete. Hull's fishing past is well and truly in the past but at least the City is utilising its Heritage .

The Ferens
The Ferens Art Gallery

The Ferens was opened in 1927 . It is set over two floors and in recent years has been extended. It is named after its chief benefactor, Thomas Ferens, who arrived in Hull during 1868. He started work for Reckitt's, a local business which is now known internationally, becoming its Director and Chairman .

Ferens was a Liberal MP for Hull from 1906 to 1918, was made a freeman of the city and appointed Privy Councillor. He made many gifts to Hull which included the money and site for the Ferens Art Gallery. He was quite a philanthropist. A round, blue hertiage plaque outside the Ferens Art Gallery acknowledges Thomas R Ferens .

The Gallery is run, along with various Hull Museums, by the local City Council. As such entrance is free. A charge for entry was trialled by the council but scrapped. This gallery has won various awards and is renowned for its collections and diversity of exhibitions. It has been well funded over the years and has a consistently high standard of exhibits.

The outside of the building is pale grey marble or stone. It is a square shaped building at the front with two pillars. To enter you walk between these and up a couple of steps . There is a centre court in font of you which sometimes houses live art displays. The galleries lead of here. Each gallery has an entrance to the next.

It a light and airy building as the galleries are high, the walls plain and the doors are huge solid wood with matching highly polished floor . Part of the roof is glass, which is covered temporarily for certain functions . This is why the gallery is so bright. There are a few roman chairs in each gallery where you can sit and relax whilst you look at work Frans Hals or Canaletto, for example.

The Ferens has a permanent display of old masters and many temporary exhibitions throughout the year. It has had its fair share of scandal in the past. The gallery hit the national press with regards to a temporary exhibition, by female artists, in the 1980's. Some of the exhibits were considered bad taste and lewd by some visitors. The police were involved at one point and suffice to say the Gallery had never been so busy. People were queuing up to gain entry.

The Ferens owns many treasures and also loans to other galleries, and various municipal buildings, such as the Guildhall. They have many items in storage which hopefully, one day, will see the light of day. There are some vast works of art including a scene from the charge of the light brigade. This is huge and typical of its day.

The collection consists of sculptures, as well as paintings, such as works by Barbara Hepworth and Henry Moore. Among the artists are also Stanley Spencer, David Hockney and Thomas Wyndham Lewis to name but a few.

The gallery has a café when you are ready for a welcome break. It is quite a popular café for non gallery visitors also. You could pop in even if you did not want to view any exhibits, but that would be such a waste. La Loggia, as its called serves snacks and a pretty decent coffee in lovely surroundings. Since the extension you can sit outside at the back of the gallery, in good weather, looking over the Princes Dock towards the old town.

Like most galleries today there is a Friend of the Ferens group, which you can join quite cheaply and become actively involved in some events. The Freinds hold certain evening events at the Ferens .

There is a gift shop on the ground floor which is well stocked with cards , prints , posters and the like. Prices are reasonable .

The gallery runs many children's events and usually has workshops running in the school holidays, which attract plenty of interest. The Ferens now has a specific Childrens Gallery also .

The gallery used to run a winter exhibition where anyone can enter a work of their own art. It still runs such an exhibition but at a different time of year and under a different name. You can enter something for a small fee. Not everything is selected and there are usually many more entrants than places available. If selected you can opt to offer your piece for sale, at your chosen price. I have bought from this exhibition in the past and have not been disappointed. Some past exhibitors have gone on to bigger and better things and are well known these days.

Recommended?

Of course.

The Ferens opens 10am - 5pm Monday to Saturday and on Sundays 1.30pm-4.30pm. Check the internet for any changes.

It is open most bank holidays, except for Christmas day and Good Friday, but check for current plans.

I hope this review has whetted your appetite for a bit of culture. Museums and Galleries are rarely the stuffy places they used to be and are much more accessible, for everyone. This includes families, visually impaired or physically challenged visitors. Accompanying guide dogs are allowed into the Gallery and wheelchair access is available .

The Ferens is a much larger building than it appears from the outside. As such it will amaze you with the standard of exhibits. The diversity of the exhibits means there must be something which you will find interesting or appealing. You may even want to join a workshop and get stuck in.

For a northern city with a rather bad reputation its really rather good.

If you visit you will find the proximity of the Maritime Museum ideal to complete an instructive but enjoyable day out .

The nearby Princes Dock shopping centre has a large multi storey car park.

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