Above the line

The House of Illustration – said to be the world’s only museum dedicated to illustration – is set to move from King’s Cross to one of Clerkenwell’s most interesting and historic sites: the New River Head.

This group of four historic buildings, which previously had no public access, was earmarked by the HoI’s founder, illustrator Sir Quentin Blake. The site is set to have four times the amount of public space as the HoI’s current home in Granary Square, King’s Cross, where it has been since 2014 and it will be called the Quentin Blake Centre for Illustration.

At its New River Head HQ , the Centre will have four exhibition galleries, an education centre, offices, café, shop and half an acre of outdoor space, making it the world’s biggest space dedicated to illustration. Along with nearby Sadler’s Wells Theatre, it will create a considerable cultural cluster in the north – ern part of Clerkenwell and as well as exhibitions, will house Sir Quentin Blake’s archive of more than 40,000 works, some on permanent display.

The buildings are themselves of huge historic importance. The New River Head remains much as it has been for almost four centuries and began life as a vital hub bringing clean water into London from Hertfordshire. Within is London’s only surviving windmill and an engine house, dating from 1768. The Centre is designed by architect Tim Ronalds, who also oversaw the refurbishment of Ironmonger Row Baths. Said Ronalds: “The ingredients are there to make a new cultural space of great significance.”

The Centre aims to encourage illustration, so its presence will have educational benefits for local schools and the £ 8 million plan begins next year with an opening date set of autumn 2022. Sir Quentin said: “I am enormously proud to have my name associated w i t h this international home for an art which I know and love, and for artists who speak in a myriad of visual languages, but are under – stood by all. It is going to be amazing.”

Visit houseofillustration.org.uk

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