There’s very little buzz or chatter about London newest art venue. After the recent mesmerising white sheen of Frieze, and the acres (literally) of space at the new White Cube Bermondsey, Two Temple Place is, well, something different.
Writing in the Guardian, Rowan Moore suggests you file this new addition alongside Leighton House and Sir John Soane's museum. (And *there’s* the collective raising of the hairs on the back of Londonists various necks.)
Two Temple Place was once called Astor House. It's a neo-Gothic mansion built for one William Waldorf Astor in 1895. In recent years, it's been a posh invite-only corporate event space, but now this unique late Victorian building, styled like a mini Tudor mansion, is being opened up to the public. For free.
Many of the trappings of the fabulously wealthy Yank, Viscount Astor, are still there to astonish us. From the marble, jasper, porphyry and onyx floor rises a mahogany and oak staircase flanked by statues of characters from the Three Musketeers. The Hall itself is overlooked by a gallery of heroes from American literature; there's a relief frieze of 82 (82!) characters from literary history including Shakespeare's Othello, Anthony and Cleopatra and Macbeth.
In the Great Hall, you can play Where's Wally with Pocahontas, Machiavelli and Bismark; spot the headless queen (Anne Boleyn, Marie Antoinette, Mary Queen of Scots); or indulge in choosing your favourite of the nine Arthurian heroines. And that's before you’ve enjoyed the view of the river, craned your neck to see the hammer-beam Spanish mahogany ceiling, or smelt the cedarwood panelling.
Alongside all these incredible architectural gems, Two Temple Place is going to be a new exhibition space: a place to showcase collections from regional museums in London. (We wonder if the Staffordshire Hoard might be making its way south anytime soon…)
The inaugural exhibition is complementary but cautious: William Morris: Story, Memory, Myth is a partnership with the William Morris Gallery in Walthamstow. (Not *that* regional, then.) Morris' use of literary and poetic stories echoes the many literary figures in Two Temple Place. And works are being displayed according to the tales they tell rather than their medium.
So look out for five rarely seen panels of the embroidered frieze "The Romaunt of the Rose" as well as editions of "The Works of Geoffrey Chaucer" illustrated by Morris and Edward Burne-Jones. This is the first time the "Rose" panels have been seen since their recent conservation by The Royal School of Needlework.
And we'll keep you updated on the other publicly-owned art that’s coming to Two Temple Place in future.
William Morris: Story, Memory, Myth is at Two Temple Place, London, WC2R 3BD from 27 October to 29 January next year. Visit twotempleplace.org to find out more.