Following the successful auction at Bearnes, Hampton & Littlewood, the Foundation is delighted to announce that we are in discussions with the Plymouth Barbican Association about occupying the former Robert Lenkiewicz studio at 25 The Parade, adjacent to the artist's well-known mural on the Barbican.
Chairman Francis Mallett says ‘It has been a long term goal of the Foundation to establish a permanent presence for the artist’s work in Plymouth. A previous arrangement regarding 25 The Parade fell through in 2011, when the premises were occupied by the South West Image Bank (SWiB), who have now left to join The Box development.’
This building will always be associated with Robert Lenkiewicz, who occupied the ground floor in the late sixties and established The Portrait Painter studio there. Plymothians soon became accustomed to the sight of the painter making pencil sketches outside the building, followed in 1972 by the unveiling of the magnificent Barbican mural. As his business grew in the mid-seventies, Lenkiewicz took over the upper stories and established his ‘Exhibition Rooms: Relationship Themes’ to showcase his Project work.
Francis Mallett said, ‘Unable to announce anything until we knew it was possible, the Foundation now has the funds to move forwards with this project and hopes to occupy the building later in the year. Upstairs will house part of the library; downstairs Lenkiewicz’s work will be on permanent display.’ Strengthening work was carried out in 2011 to ensure the upper floor could support at least 8,000 books. Together with the art library in the Robert Lenkiewicz Room at Plymouth College of Art, the majority of the artist’s books will at last be accessible in two convivial Reading Rooms in the city. The premises also have a space with temperature and humidity control, essential for the storage of parts of the Foundation’s unique archive.
The gallery will show work from the full range of the artist’s career and the Foundation has already been promised some important works to exhibit. ‘The Foundation's ambitious exhibition program over the past ten years has only been possible through the goodwill of owners and collectors who lend their paintings,’ said Francis Mallett, ‘so we would like to ask that anyone who has purchased works from the Bearnes sale contacts us through a private Facebook message or through our website in order that we can keep details on file for the future.’
Next year is the 40th anniversary of the Old Age Project, which the Foundation will be marking with events and displays of its archival material on the theme. In 1979, Lenkiewicz set out to paint all persons in the City of Plymouth over the age of 100, and presented 52 paintings and illustrations at his Barbican showrooms conjointly with his 10th Project, Self-Portrait. Of course, Lenkiewicz also thoroughly researched the available literature on old age, ranging very broadly through biographical sources and art history, making a compendium of observations by artists, writers, philosophers and scientists on the nature of ageing. This he presented in a large illustrated folio, the original being in TLF’s archive. The Foundation hopes to create bound facsimiles of this work that people can browse in its Reading Room, after viewing work from the Project.
The painting 'Study of the Artist’s Dead Mother' (1977) will be form part of the exhibition. It was withdrawn from the sale at Bearnes and will be kept as part of the Foundation's extensive archive. The Foundation was swayed by representations made by the Lenkiewicz family, who emphasized the sentimental significance of the painting. With a permanent gallery for their father’s work finally opening in Plymouth, the Foundation has invited the late artist's children to a meeting with trustees to discuss future plans for the Lenkiewicz legacy.
Working in collaboration with The Plymouth Barbican Association, Plymouth Waterfront Partnership, and others, the Foundation hopes that 25 The Parade will once more be an unmissable attraction on the Barbican for the expected influx of visitors to the city for the Mayflower400 celebrations. Francis Mallett concludes, ‘This is an exciting new opportunity for the Foundation as it restores Lenkiewicz’s work back in the heart of Plymouth’s Barbican.’