24th Oct, 2021

Plans for Coventry's former IKEA store to become new national art collection centre as 'lasting legacy of UK City of Culture'

COVENTRY City Council is looking to buy and transform the former IKEA store into a new national centre to house art collections and historical artefacts.

New plans to create this multi-million landmark project will discussed by the Cabinet and Full Council next Tuesday (February 23). Costs would look to be recouped through capital grants and the rents received from the partners involved in the project over the length of their leases.

Discussions have been ongoing for some months between Coventry City Council, Arts Council England’s Arts Council Collection, Culture Coventry Trust, Coventry University and the Coventry City of Culture Trust who are looking at creating a unique partnership.

If approved, this major joint venture would become home to some of the UK’s greatest art work and allow greater public access to Coventry’s own cultural and heritage collections.

It is hoped this could include partnerships with the Herbert Art Gallery and Museum to show these important national works through curated exhibitions.

Coun David Welsh, Coventry City Council’s cabinet member for housing and communities said: “This exciting and amazing proposal really is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to create something Coventry people can be rightly proud of as well as a national and international centre of excellence that will be a lasting legacy from our year as UK City of Culture.

“A national Collections Centre would bring together the foremost national arts and cultural partners and their respective national collections alongside the city’s collections, to create a consolidated national base that would be at the heart of Coventry city centre.

“It would also free-up and create exciting opportunities for the much-loved Whitefriars Monastery that has been closed to the public for too long, while our local teams would benefit from working alongside a national collection management team.”

Plans would see Arts Council England relocating its two current collections to Coventry, once the former IKEA building was redeveloped. The site would become a busy new hub for art which will service the rest of Britain with exhibition loans.

Culture Coventry Trust, which runs the Herbert and Coventry Transport Museum, would also relocate some of the city’s collections not on display in the museum. Transferring cultural items from part of the remaining 14th Century Whitefriars Monastery would also bring the Grade 1 listed building back into public use.

Coun Jim O’Boyle, jobs and regeneration cabinet Member, said: “I know a lot of people were disappointed when IKEA took the decision to close the Coventry store back in March 2020.

“As a Council we said we wanted to look at ways of bringing this landmark building back into use as something special and I believe this is what this proposal will achieve.

“It will bring jobs and skills to Coventry and will be something we can all be proud of as a city, as it will attract interest regionally, nationally and internationally.”

Darren Henley, chief executive of Arts Council England said: “Arts Council England welcomes this announcement to move to the next stage in developing a major landmark collection centre in Coventry.

“The new facility would ensure that we not only position our current Collection securely in the heart of this country but also enable work with partners to continue supporting living artists, create increased opportunities for students to research our unique collection and, most important, ensure these works reach more people in more places around the country.”

Coventry University has been a key partner in developing the project.

Professor John Latham CBE, Coventry University Vice-Chancellor, said: “This is a huge moment for Coventry but it is hopefully just a starting point.

“We will continue to work with all the partners involved to ensure we maximise this opportunity and develop the centre into something that brings tangible educational, cultural and economic benefits to the city.”

All parties have expressed their commitment to creating a lasting legacy from City of Culture 2021.

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