Wednesday 27 January

Hi everyone,

It has been an interesting week for arts news, so I will just mention a few of the things I have picked up. Tristram Hunt Director of the V&A, who is, we hope, to be a guest at a fundraising event at The Lightbox later this year, has been in the press to publicise an amazing project that they have just completed. The Raphael Cartoons are a set of seven full-scale designs for a series of tapestries created by Raphael and are considered one of the greatest treasures of the Renaissance.

In 2019, as part of the project to mark the 500th anniversary of Raphael's death, the V&A worked with Factum Foundation for Digital Technology in Conservation to carry out an ultra-high-resolution recording of the seven Cartoons in colour, 3D and infrared. The images from the project are crucial for the study and future care of the Cartoons, as well as offering us unprecedented access to these masterpieces. These huge, full-scale designs for tapestries were created by Raphael and commissioned by Pope Leo X, shortly after his election in 1513. The process of tapestry-making involves an artist-designer who draws the composition and a weaver who translates the design into a woven textile. The composition is supplied in the form of full-scale preparatory drawings, usually (but not exclusively) executed on paper.

The word 'Cartoon' is translated from the Italian 'cartone', meaning 'large paper'. When Raphael was commissioned to produce the tapestry cartoons in about 1515, he was, at this point, at the peak of his career and the most celebrated artist in Rome. The Cartoons depict key episodes of the lives of Saint Peter and Saint Paul. Of the ten original designs only seven have survived and these can be seen today in the Raphael Court in the V&A. The V&A project allows us to see the cartoons in unprecedented detail in a slideshow on their website. For each painting, you can click on points of interest to discover more about its characters, symbolism, and Raphael's masterly technique. This project is of course particularly interesting considering our current exhibition which features Raphael’s drawings for one of the cartoons and indeed a tapestry produced from one of the cartoons, now in our Main Gallery and on loan from Boughton House. We are very much hoping to be able to re-open the exhibition in the spring and retain it until mid-May, with the kind assistance of The Royal Collection.

There is also news this week that in the US arts organisations are looking to see what difference President Biden will make to the visual arts. There is no culture department in the US government and funding comes through The National Endowment for the Arts which the previous president persistently threatened to close down and the Arts and Humanities Advisory Board, made up of practising artists like Chuck Close, all resigned during Trump's presidency. It is therefore hoped that Biden will restore the role of the arts and will see that one of the ways to restore public health and wellbeing, post-Covid may be through a newly supported arts sector.

Here in the UK museums and galleries still struggle financially during this third lockdown. To put some much-needed extra funds in the pot, some of the UK’s leading artists have also joined forces with Art Fund to launch the 'Together for Museums' crowdfunding campaign which aims to raise £1 million by offering a range of artworks in return for donations.

"Museums were really important to me growing up, they were a very important part of my life and my artistic education—and they continue to be", says Jeremy Deller, whose limited-edition screen print of a giant golden pangolin on a pedestal is one of the latest series of works released for the campaign. Each one of the £400 prints is in an edition of 75 and will be personally inscribed by the artist to the individual donor. As well as Deller's pangolin, other rewards are Cornelia Parker's print of a Falling Tumbler with Ice and the limited edition A Small Thing Enlarged being offered by the estate of Howard Hodgkin. These works join those of artists already involved in the campaign such as Anish Kapoor, Michael Landy and Lubaina Himid, with rewards for donors ranging from £25 for a set of David Shrigley tea towels to £4000 for Kapoor’s print.

Your response to our own financial difficulties has been outstanding and we are so grateful. Your faith in the organisation has been extraordinary and we can only say thank you many times over; please help us again – donate whatever you can and pay for our events if you are able. Taking out a membership or renewing is absolutely the best way to help us in the long term so do consider this. The support we have received financially has been unprecedented – so much generosity from so many of our supporters, which will allow us to face reopening with confidence. In the meantime, follow us digitally – we have a lot of amazing content for you ranging from storytelling for little ones to adult workshops and more great talks.

Please come back when we can open our arms in welcome once more – I hope to see you all there!

Wednesday 20 January

Hi everyone,

It feels very strange to say this but last week was actually a really good week for The Lightbox. We have become so accustomed to gloomy news and indeed things in the country are very grave but in our Lightbox world there were some real highlights.

I hope some of you were able to join us on Friday evening for a great talk by Andrew Graham-Dixon, the renowned art historian. Andrew has a real passion for all things Italian and the Renaissance in particular so when I invited him to give a talk for us on Raphael his response was incredibly enthusiastic.

Of course, originally, we would have welcomed him in person, but the exhibition dates changed and then we realised, with the third lockdown, we would be closed so he readily agreed to move the talk online. Andrew has been a great friend of The Lightbox over many years and he has given truly inspiring talks on both Turner and Constable when we had those exhibitions in place.

I find his talks are always very personal and reflect his amazing knowledge of art history but also always contain interesting anecdotes or lesser-known facts about the artist which always fascinate me. He has a light and non-academic style which makes him easy to listen to and never dull! If you like listening to him many of his talks can be found on YouTube – a perfect break from watching television or addictive Netflix series.

His talk on Friday did not disappoint as he gave us a very convincing talk on why Prince Albert was so inspired and fascinated by Raphael throughout his life. Andrew showed us some amazing images and the talk raised significant and much-needed funds for us, so we are extremely grateful to those of you who attended and added a donation to your payment.

Earlier in the week, we had been delighted to read Apollo Magazine and The Burlington Magazine, extremely influential art magazines in which a good review is highly coveted. Each magazine featured a review of the Raphael exhibition which were fulsome in their praise.

"The Lightbox in Woking has earned a reputation for innovative exhibitions and this show about Prince Albert’s passion for Raphael does not disappoint" is how the Apollo review begins and goes on to describe the exhibition in glowing detail. It does not get much better than that!

However, The Burlington says, "given the frequent anxiety about the sustainability of local museums and art galleries in the UK, the success of The Lightbox, founded on local fundraising and opened in 2007 on a site donated by the Borough Council is something to be celebrated […]. Particularly admirable is the way that it has sustained a programme of exhibitions that, although relatively small in scale, are both ambitious and original".

We were all so delighted and encouraged at such a difficult time to have our efforts recognised and of course, the efforts of all of you to keep us going and many of you who had been involved in the early founding referred to in the Burlington.

Here at The Lightbox, we are looking forward and hoping that we will be able to bring you more great exhibitions and events, as we miss all of that so much. We know now that the situation we are in is long term and so our planning must be looking towards spring and summer when we hope that we will be able to re-open for you.

Your response to our financial problems has been outstanding and we are so grateful. This new lockdown brings us even more challenges as we never expected to have to still be closed at this point in time, so our financial situation does worsen every week. Your faith in the organisation has been extraordinary and we can only say thank you many times over, please help us again – donate whatever you can and pay for our events if you are able. Taking out a membership or renewing is absolutely the best way to help us in the long term so please do consider this.

In the meantime, please follow us on social media – we have a lot of amazing content for you ranging from craft tutorials for the entire family to highlights from our collection and more great talks.

Please come back when we can open our arms in welcome once more – I hope to see you all soon!

Best,
Marilyn

Wednesday 13 January

Hi everyone,

I wanted to wish you all a rather belated, but nonetheless, sincere Happy New Year!

I think we have all been rather reluctant to send this usual greeting to friends and family this year because it is hard to see any light at the end of a very long tunnel but we have to try to look forward with some degree of hope and trust that before the year is out we will be able to do all those things we enjoy again.

Here at The Lightbox we are looking forward and hoping so much that we will be able to bring you more great exhibitions and events, as we miss all of that so much. The end of last year was really upsetting for all of us as we opened again in December, hoping that we would be able to have a lovely festive few weeks with last-minute shopping and mulled wine and mince pies in the Café, but of course, the festive feel was short-lived as we entered a closure period again. We know now that the situation we are in is long term and so our planning must be looking towards spring and summer when we hope that we will be able to re-open for you.

I am delighted and hugely impressed by how our team has created online content so quickly to keep everyone engaged. My thanks to our Learning and Marketing teams for everything they are doing to still bring our programme to you at home. This Friday there is a real highlight for me as we welcome Andrew Graham-Dixon to the virtual Lightbox to talk about the Raphael exhibition. Some of you will have attended Andrew’s two previous talks with us – one during the Turner exhibition and one during Constable. Both talks were absolutely fantastic, and this time he will speak on a subject very special to him. As you know from his TV programmes, all things Italian are very dear to Andrew and Raphael is one of his specialist areas. If you have not booked a ticket yet, please do go and sign up – there is still time!

Your response to our financial situation has been absolutely outstanding and we are so grateful. This new lockdown brings us even more challenges as we never expected to have to still be closed at this point in time. Your faith in the organisation has been extraordinary and we can only say thank you many times over, but also now I have to ask if you will help us again – please donate whatever you can and book for our events if you are able. Taking out a membership or renewing is absolutely the best way to help us in the long term so please do consider this. The support we have received financially has been unprecedented – so much generosity from so many of our supporters which will allow us to face reopening with confidence.

I want to wish a special Happy New Year to all our volunteers – you will be back because, without you, The Lightbox could not function and would not be the wonderful friendly place it is.

It is incredibly sad that we must begin 2021 with a closed building, I have missed seeing many of you in person for the whole of last year, but I know we will be welcoming you back – we hope so much that might be at Easter and we are currently hoping that we might be able to retain Raphael for a little longer, as so many people were unable to see the exhibition in the very brief weeks we were able to open last year.

I keep myself going by picturing The Lightbox in the spring sunshine, opening our doors to greet you all again. We are so proud to be able to offer a national museum experience here in Woking – we know how much you value that opportunity, and we hope that when we reopen you will encourage friends, colleagues, family to visit because without your support we would probably not still be here, and Surrey would, I think, be a sadder place. The trend to get to know your local area better and to value what you have on the doorstep makes so much sense environmentally and for health and wellbeing.

So, the message is – please keep supporting us financially as we face another period with no income, if you are able – it is easy to donate through our website or take out a membership. Please come back when we can open our arms in welcome once more and don’t forget that great talk on Friday evening – I hope to see you all there!

Best,
Marilyn