Having postponed its original May 2020 opening due to the COVID-19 pandemic, The Box will now open on Friday 25, Saturday 26 and Sunday 27 September with a special preview weekend for Plymouth residents who took part in a ballot earlier this year. It will then be open to the public from Tuesday 29 September. Opening hours will be 10am-5pm Tuesday to Sunday.
The Box is the largest multi-disciplinary arts and heritage space to open in the UK in 2020. As a key element of Plymouth’s ‘Resurgam’ programme, its launch now symbolises Plymouth’s recovery and sets the direction for positive change in the local economy and life of the city as it moves through the COVID-19 pandemic.
Originally three separate buildings, The Box’s ground-breaking design has completely transformed, extended and combined Plymouth’s former City Museum and Art Gallery, Central Library building and St Luke’s Church to create a cutting-edge, interactive cultural centre with 13 new galleries and exhibition spaces, a striking elevated archive, learning and research facilities and a brand new public square.
In preparation for opening, The Box has put a number of safety and social distancing measures in place to help visitors feel as comfortable as possible. These include:
Free admission by advance ticket only, with an easy to follow booking system at www.theboxplymouth.com (tickets can be booked from 10 September)
Reduced capacity and clearly marked one way systems in key areas of circulation
Increased invigilation by staff and volunteers
Hand sanitising facilities and enhanced cleaning
A temporary reduction in on site events alongside an enhanced digital offer
In line with government guidance, the wearing of face coverings will be encourage for all visitors over 11 years and mandatory in the retail area.
Tudor Evans OBE, Leader of Plymouth City Council, said:
“This is such an exciting moment for the city and it’s fantastic to finally be able to announce these dates. The Box is a vital part of our recovery programme and it feels like it’s been a long time coming now. Staff have worked so hard over the last few months to maintain momentum and keep the public engaged with the project. They’ve also put in a huge effort to respond to the current government guidelines to ensure that everyone who visits will have a safe and enjoyable experience. I hope everyone is as proud and excited as I am and can’t wait for the doors to open. In our post-lockdown world The Box is going to be a place where people can reconnect with each other, Plymouth’s history and its future.”
Paul Brookes, Interim CEO said:
“The main focus for our launch preparations is the safety of our visitors and staff and the quality of the access and experience we’ll provide. We’re thrilled that we’ve been able to move the dates of our exhibition programme without making any fundamental changes to our vision, and continue to fit out our permanent galleries without making too many compromises. With a reduced visitor capacity on site those who feel able to come in during our first few weeks will get the chance to enjoy an amazing, almost private-view level experience. We can’t wait to see what people think.”
The Box will open with three major exhibitions.
Mayflower 400: Legend and Legacy, the largest commemorative Mayflower exhibition in history, will include over 300 objects and has been co-curated with the Wampanoag Native American Advisory Committee.
Making It is an international contemporary art exhibition featuring newly commissioned works by Antony Gormley, Portuguese artist Leonor Antunes and Brazilian artist Alexandre da Cunha.
Kehinde Wiley: Ship of Fools has been curated in partnership with The Arts Institute at the University of Plymouth and Royal Museums Greenwich, and will present a three-channel film work by American artist Kehinde Wiley in The Levinsky Gallery.
Nine permanent galleries will also showcase The Box’s incredible collections and will include 14 monumental ships’ figureheads, thousands of natural history specimens, a full-size woolly mammoth replica, paintings, drawings, prints, sculpture and ceramics from the city’s art collections, objects, film and photography from its media collections and documents, maps and plans from its archives.
Conservative Councillor, Ian Bowyer said:
"Everything at The Box is really starting to come together and it’s looking wonderful – there’s no doubt in my mind that everyone who visits is going to be really impressed. The combination of the newly developed permanent galleries, the exciting temporary exhibitions plus the catering, retail and research facilities mean Plymouth has a top class cultural attraction we can all be extremely proud of. It’s going to an emotional day for everyone who’s been involved when The Box finally gets to open in September.”
Admission will be free to all exhibitions and galleries apart from the ‘Mayflower 400: Legend and Legacy’ exhibition. This will be free for Plymouth residents and under 18s with a small £5 charge for non-Plymouth residents who are over 18.
The Box Kitchen & Bar and The Little Box café will be serving a range of tasty meals and snacks (advance booking recommended). A new shop will also be open and will offer a ‘click and collect’ service for those who want to maximise their time in the galleries and exhibitions or browse online before or after their visit.
A bookable onsite schools service covering a wide range of curriculum topics, and bookable appointments for researchers will also be available from 29 September.
Phil Gibby, Area Director, South West, Arts Council England, said:
“The eagerly-awaited opening of The Box is fantastic news for Plymouth, giving people the chance to enjoy a remarkable range of cultural experiences whilst also helping to kick start the local economy by attracting more visitors to Britain’s Ocean City. With its ambitious contemporary art programme featuring world-class artists, The Box will strengthen Plymouth’s growing reputation as a cultural capital - both nationally and internationally - and will secure a tangible legacy to be enjoyed by generations to come. We are extremely pleased to make a significant investment in The Box through our Capital programme, National Portfolio funding and other strategic funds, with huge thanks to Government and the National Lottery.”
You can find out more about The Box at www.theboxplymouth.com