Coventry will soon make its mark on the art world by creating one of the largest cultural hubs in the world. The UK city, which will soon be named the 2021 UK City of Culture, is looking to convert a disused IKEA building into a cultural centre that could showcase as many as 16,000 artworks.
The seven-story building was once the home of an IKEA, but in March of 2020, the branch was closed due to “consistent losses” since 2007, when the branch was opened. Details of the price have not been released, but Coventry City Council has agreed to take over the building and turn it into a cultural centre. The project is expected to cost around £1.31 million and the city plans to have it open by August of 2023.
With nearly 54,000 square metres of floor space, the building will provide ample room for displaying works from Arts Council England’s (ACE) Arts Council Collection and the British Council Collection. An estimated 8,000 works held in the ACE’s collection would head to Coventry freeing up two collection storage facilities that are currently at maximum capacity. It is expected that the arts venue might also display artworks from local collections, including the Herbert Art Gallery and Museum as well as the Coventry Transport Museum.
The conversion is a chance to “re-imagine the city” says Jim O’Boyle, the Coventry councillor in charge of city services. “We have to find a way to understand and re-purpose our city centres,” continued O’Boyle, noting that more and more, people are turning to online options for shopping as opposed to traditional high street brick and mortar shops.
In 2017, it was announced that Coventry was selected to become the UK City of Culture for 2021. The city has since created an entire programme of works, activities, education, and more that will be part of the year-long honour that officially begins in May, due to delays related to COVID-19. The city hopes that its plans will help revitalise the city after the pandemic.
“This has been the most challenging of environments in which to create a festival programme,” Chenine Bhathena, creative director of Coventry UK City of Culture Trust, said. “We’re so excited to be setting out some of the ways in which we are bringing about a return of the live to our city. Coventry city of culture year will be at the forefront of the recovery and renewal of the city and will demonstrate the important role arts and culture offers our communities and our struggling economies.”
Plans for the massive new cultural hub fall in line with larger plans for the city. “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 center of excellence that will be a lasting legacy from our year as UK City of Culture,” said David Welsh, Coventry councilor in charge of culture and the arts.
Planning permission for the transformation of the former IKEA building is expected to be given before the end of this year with construction beginning shortly after in May of 2022.