When it comes to public spaces for photography London has long lagged behind Paris and New York. So a few years ago, while serving as chairman of the trustees of the National Media Museum in Bradford, Michael Wilson, the co-producer of the James Bond films who is a photography enthusiast, came up with a plan to bring the best of the extensive collections held in Yorkshire to the British capital.
After a long, hard campaign to raise the £4.5m needed for the project (the search for a London space was launched in 2009), this month Wilson’s ambition will finally be realised with the opening of the Media Space, on the second floor of the Science Museum. The National Media Museum is a northern branch of the Science Museum.
At the heart of the Media Space is a 525 sq. m gallery, which is due to open on 21 September with “Only in England: Photographs by Tony Ray-Jones and Martin Parr” (until 16 March 2014). The display of 100 works by the pioneering chronicler of English customs, the late Tony Ray-Jones, have been chosen by the Magnum photographer Martin Parr whose own, little-known, black and white series “The Non-Conformists” shot in the 1970s in Yorkshire will be shown alongside.
There will be two photography exhibitions a year in the new gallery; the inaugural display will be followed by “Revelations: Experiments in Photography” charting the influence of early scientific photography on Modern and contemporary artists.
Charlotte Cotton, the former head of department of photography at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, was the creative director of the media museum’s London project from 2009 until she resigned last September. Hannah Redler, who has led the Science Museum’s arts programming since 2004, is now in charge of the Media Space.
As well as spearheading the project to create the new gallery, Wilson is a major donor to Media Space through the Dana and Albert R. Broccoli Foundation, which he set up with his Bond co-producer and sister Barbara Broccoli.
The Media Space also includes a cafe and a studio, sponsored by Virgin Media, which will be used for art installations and events.
Meanwhile, the National Media Museum in Bradford has received a major donation from the estate of the photographer Lewis Morley, who died in Australia on 3 September, aged 88. Morley was known for chronicling the society and culture of London during the 1960s and his archive of tens of thousands of photographs and personal papers is in the process of being moved to the Yorkshire museum.