Gainsborough’s House received a timely distraction as it waits on a £4.7million lottery funding application, in the shape of fashion icon Anna Wintour.
The editor-in-chief of American Vogue paid a visit to the museum recently to take a look at the new bronze bust of Thomas Gainsborough, which was created by her close friend Nicole Farhi. Mrs Wintour donated £6,500 to the museum and gallery, in Sudbury’s Gainsborough Street, to pay for the piece and was joined by French fashion designer and sculptor Mrs Farhi last Monday.
“We did know in advance that she was coming, but we were always wondering,” said Mark Bills, the director at Gainsborough’s House.
“She spent three hours looking around and liked very much the silks and number of Gainsborough pieces we have here, as well as the bust.”
Mr Bills said the visit of such a high profile figure, along with the support the museum has received from celebrities such as chef Lloyd Grossman and historian Simon Schama, demonstrated the attraction Gainsborough holds.
“Gainsborough still inspires people today, despite it being over 300 years since his death,” he said.
“In this way he continues to live on like a good piece of music. These visits keep us in the public eye and help bring people in and raise our profile. What we have here is nationally and internationally important.”
Gainsborough’s House is currently waiting to find out if its application to secure £4.7million from the Heritage Lottery Fund has been accepted.
If approved the museum will be able to go ahead with ambitious expansion plans, which include transforming the former labour exchange building next door into a three-storey exhibition centre. This could subsequently lead to the gallery attracting significant loan pieces from national galleries.
Mr Bills, who took up the role of director three years ago, said a decision was expected by the end of the month.
“We applied in December and it is a nervous wait,” he said. “We really believe that what we are trying to achieve here is going to be great. There is so much potential and richness here.”