pounds 21m gallery will offer dirty hands for little angels

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The Independent Online
A pounds 21m art gallery planned for the Midlands will contain its own "children's house" designed to do more to encourage youngsters than any other gallery in Britain.

Walsall Council was yesterday awarded pounds 15.7m in National Lottery money towards the gallery, which is to be designed in a city-centre, canalside location by the British architects Peter St John and Adam Caruso.

It will be the biggest new art gallery to be built in Britain for more than a decade, and will house a priceless collection of 367 masterpieces.

Until now, the Garman-Ryan Collection has only been on view in a room above the public library in Walsall. The collection includes Europe's largest group of works by the sculptor Jacob Epstein, as well as works by Van Gogh, Picasso, Modigliani, Turner, Lucien Freud and others.

The collection was donated by Epstein's widow, the late Kathleen Garman, and her friend, the sculptor, Sally Ryan, because Lady Epstein grew up in the Midlands. The St John/Caruso building will be a 35m tower, clad in green terracotta tiles, next to BHS and Woolworth's. The first three floors of the five-storey building will be for children, with nappy-changing facilities, puzzles and multimedia activities based on the collection - and space to paint, draw and talk to a resident artist.

Peter Jenkinson, head of Walsall Museums and Galleries, and director of the gallery project, said: "It will be a live gallery where children can get their hands dirty."