It seems unlikely, but you cannot find much info about The New Art Centre online. When we first came across this sculpture park 1,5 hours drive from London, we thought it was very much “new”, while The New Art Centre was founded in 1958 and relocated to its current home Roche Court (Wiltshire) in 1994. The existing house and orangery were originally built for Admiral Nelson, while the area, surrounding Roche Court has evidence of prehistoric settlements, including Bronze Age features, but we won’t go that far.
A beautiful nineteenth-century house in some 100 acres (40 hectares) of rolling countryside parkland is a wonderful backdrop for works by Antony Gormley, Michael Craig-Martin, Allen Jones, Anthony Caro and many others. The New Art Centre is the sole representative of various artists' estates including Barbara Hepworth, Kenneth Armitage and Ian Stephenson. Major works from the 20th and 21st century artists find shade under trees, proudly thrive on open fields and emerge from behind slopes.
It is a beautiful place to walk, relax and breathe, casting aside your care and you cellphone. Photography is not allowed in the park and though at first it might seem odd to our selfie-crazy, check-in absorbed selves, but there is a point here. When you do not constantly look for the right photo angle and do not check the number of “likes” every 5 seconds, you actually get to enjoy art, scenery, walk and life.
Apart from the beautiful sculpture park, it is a delight to explore museum buildings. The New Art Centre’s gallery was designed by architect Stephen Marshall and opened in autumn 1998. The gallery joining the house to the orangery seems to be as thin as paper, the roof enables light to filter down a slot against the back wall and gives the feeling of floating mid-air. The gallery blended in so delicately and elegantly that it won six architectural awards including the RIBA Stephen Lawrence Prize for best small building. So when the New Art Centre was preparing to design a small “Artists house” to provide a space for the display of smaller works, Stephen Marshall was commissioned again. The result is remarkable.
Coming back to the impressive sculpture park, it is necessary to mention that all works are for sale. It’s not that we want you to consider buying them (we egotistically hope to appreciate the sculptures the next time we visit The New Art Centre), but it is rather a suggestion not to postpone your visit while all the amazing works are there. Although we are sure, that even when the works presented are bought, another inspiring pieces would take their place, since The New Art Centre's philosophy is to give everyone access to art and a chance to learn more about sculpture. For that purpose the museum established The Roche Court Educational Trust that works with teachers, school kids and specialist groups to develop confidence and skills by looking, thinking and speaking about art.
The New Art Centre is opened daily 11 am – 4 pm, the entrance if free, we would recommend spending all day there, but bear in mind that there is no café or picnic facility. The upside for a longer visit is free parking. And we all know – there can never be too much time for enjoying art. Having said this, we suggest getting on the road before The New Art Centre in Wiltshire gets on all must-see lists. It is especially beautiful now, when magnolia is in full bloom and two new exhibitions “Lost” by Bill Woodrow and ceramics by Rupert Spira opened this weekend.