She led a seven-year, £10m project to restore the buildings, rehang the galleries and conserve the collection.
When he died in 1904, leaving in trust his art, gallery, studio, chapel and house in the Surrey woods, 40 miles from London, he was so famous that the Metropolitan Museum of Art had given him its first-ever exhibition of a living artist. But during the 20th century, the Watts Gallery became a picturesque relic, appreciated mainly by connoisseurs of Victorian art. In 2004, it was added to English Heritage’s “at risk” register.
Everything changed under the 12-year directorship of Perdita Hunt, who is leaving the Watts Gallery—Artists’ Village in July. (Alistair Burtenshaw, the current director of the Charleston Trust, will take the reins on 4 September.) She led the seven-year, £10m Hope project to restore the buildings (the chapel remains to be done), rehang the galleries and undertake conservation work on nearly all the art. Visitor numbers have risen from 10,000 to 65,000, the staff have gone from two to 50, while another 124 jobs are supported in the neighbourhood. An economic impact study by the University of Surrey in 2015 concluded that the institution contributed £7.7m to the UK. read more