Unwilling to rest on its laurels, Oxford is a city which is far from complacent. Already offering much to see and do, it nonetheless not only preserves all that is old and dear, but also injects new life into the town. Several bold new features have recently been added to old favourites with great panache.
Exciting things have been happening at Oxford’s emblematic Ashmolean (ashmolean.org), reports the Independent. The majestic neoclassical building, home to Britain’s oldest public museum since the mid-19th century, still looks the same from the front. But a £61m investment and designer Rick Mather have converted the back of the museum into a glass structure containing 39 state-of-the-art galleries topped with Oxford’s first roof-terrace restaurant.
Completed just under a year ago, the development has managed, by varying the heights of display spaces, to double the exhibition area within the same space and dramatically increase the amount of light. Previously unseen textiles and objects are now displayed and a traditional teahouse has been recreated in the Japanese gallery, along with fabulous displays of lacquerware, ceramics and prints.
The Modern Art Oxford gallery (modernartoxford.org.uk) has also grown, albeit on a much more modest budget, by transforming a side yard and loading bay into a new display and café space. In summer, the new space functions as a bar and coffee shop, hosting jazz and blues concerts at weekends. Furnishings commissioned from contemporary artists add to the ‘cool’ atmosphere. In autumn and winter, this new space is used for smaller shows and the café is set up in the lobby.
Entry to both these magnificent galleries, with their stylish new additions, is free.