Noël Coward steps out in style at Guildhall Art Gallery
The visual impact of Noël Coward’s life and work will be celebrated in a major exhibition at the City of London Corporation’s Guildhall Art Gallery later this year.
Noël Coward: Art & Style, which opens on 20 November, takes a fresh look at how ‘The Master’ and his circle influenced fashion and culture in ways that reverberate to this day, as well as Coward’s hugely successful career as a playwright, composer, director, actor, and singer.
Original pieces from his productions, his homes and personal wardrobe, original artworks by Coward and his designers, costumes, letters, photos, and video will combine to reveal new dimensions of Coward’s enduring creative legacy.
- original vintage dresses by couturiers Molyneux, Hartnell, and Stiebel in the style of costumes that were created for Coward productions
- a reconstruction of the legendary Molyneux white satin dress worn by Gertrude Lawrence in Private Lives
- the Douglas Hayward chocolate brown tuxedo worn by Coward in the 1968 film drama, Boom, and two of Coward’s iconic dressing gowns
- paintings by Coward; and original set and costume design sketches and other artwork by Oliver Messel, Cecil Beaton, Doris Zinkeisen, Oliver Smith, Gladys Calthrop, Clemence Dane, William Nicholson, and Rex Whistler
- the famous ‘Wings of Time’ and other original furnishings that adorned Coward's various homes, and
- contemporary fashions influenced by Coward’s world from leading designers, such as Georgina von Etzdorf and Anna Sui.
The free exhibition, which runs until 16 May 2021, is a unique partnership between the City of London Corporation, The Noël Coward Foundation, and The Noël Coward Archive Trust.
The show coincides with the 100th anniversary of his West End debut as a 19-year-old playwright. I’ll Leave It To You, which he wrote and appeared in, premiered at the New Theatre (now, renamed the Noël Coward Theatre) in 1920.
A range of COVID-19-related safety measures have been introduced at the gallery, including deep cleaning every day before opening; hand sanitiser stations; one-way routes with two-metre social distancing markers, and card and contactless payments only in the gift shop.
The art gallery received the ‘We’re Good to Go’ industry standard and consumer mark, led by Visit Britain / Visit England, ahead of its reopening in early August.
Wendy Hyde, Chair of the City of London Corporation’s Culture, Heritage and Libraries Committee, said:
“This free and widely anticipated exhibition will be a must-see for anyone interested in visual art, costume and stage design, and the history of British theatre, as well as admirers of Coward’s plays, songs and films.”
“My colleagues and I are looking forward to seeing how this show will throw a spotlight on one of the most popular and stylish performers of his age.”
Brad Rosenstein, curator, Noël Coward: Art & Style, said:
“Coward is especially celebrated for his verbal wit, but Art & Style will remind us that his original productions were also visual feasts for their audiences, a vital element of his theatrical world shaped by the extraordinary designers with whom he worked, and his own brilliance as a director.
“These productions had an international influence on fashion and were reflected in Coward’s personal style - from his wardrobe to home décor - and just like his plays and songs, still seem fresh, contemporary, and surprising today.”
Elizabeth Scott, the City of London Corporation’s Principal Curator, Guildhall Art Gallery, said:
“Immaculately dressed, charming, erudite, and devastatingly witty, Noël Coward was an icon of his time, and the exhibition will feature some remarkable pieces of art, costume, and memorabilia to pay tribute to his enduring style and legacy.
“This ground-breaking exhibition will enjoy a six-month run and were he alive today, we feel sure that Coward would be expecting it to generate the type of ‘unqualified praise’ that he once memorably spoke of!”
The City of London Corporation, which owns and manages Guildhall Art Gallery, is the fourth largest funder of heritage and cultural activities in the UK and invests over £100m every year.
In partnership with the Barbican, Guildhall School of Music & Drama, London Symphony Orchestra, and Museum of London, the City Corporation is leading the development of Culture Mile between Farringdon and Moorgate, a multi-million-pound initiative to create a new cultural and creative destination for London. As part of this, the City Corporation is providing a £197m investment in the new Museum of London, which will open in West Smithfield in 2024, and £6.8m to support the development of the proposed Centre for Music.
Notes for Editors:
Brad Rosenstein, curator of Noël Coward: Art & Style, and Elizabeth Scott, Principal Curator of Guildhall Art Gallery, are available for interview.
For media enquiries, exhibition images, photo opportunities and interview requests:
Andrew Buckingham, Media Officer (Arts & Culture), City of London Corporation
T: +44 (0) 20 7332 1452 / M: +44 (0) 7795 333060 /
Anthony McNeill, Press Representative, Noël Coward: Art & Style
M: +44 (0) 7967 480844 / T: +44 (0) 20 7253 6226 /
About Guildhall Art Gallery:
The historic Guildhall Art Gallery originally opened in 1886 and is home to City of London’s magnificent art collection. Particularly rich in Victorian art and ranging from Pre-Raphaelites to depictions London’s colourful past, the Gallery’s basement houses the remains of London’s Roman Amphitheatre, dating from AD70. The Gallery also owns one of the largest oil paintings in Britain, John Singleton Copley’s Defeat of the Floating Batteries at Gibraltar (1783 – 1791), which is on permanent display.
About the City of London Corporation:
Guild The City of London Corporation is the governing body of the Square Mile dedicated to a vibrant and thriving City, supporting a diverse and sustainable London within a globally-successful UK. www.cityoflondon.gov.uk
Noël Coward: Art & Style exhibition dates: 20 November 2020 – 16 May 2021
Guildhall Art Gallery
Guildhall Art Gallery opening hours:
Monday – Saturday: 10am - 5pm
Sunday: 12pm – 4pm
Sir Noël Coward (1899 – 1973) the internationally acclaimed English playwright, composer, director, actor and singer was known for his wit, flamboyance, and what Time magazine called "a sense of personal style, a combination of cheek and chic, pose and poise".
Brad Rosenstein is a renowned curator and leading authority on the life and work of Noël Coward. He curated the acclaimed 2012 exhibition Star Quality: The World of Noël Coward held at the New York Public Library for the Performing Arts.
Photo credit(s): Noël Coward and Gertrude Lawrence in Tonight at 8:30 (1936) and Private Lives (1930) Photos by Vandamm Studio. Courtesy of Vandamm Studio Collection, Billy Rose Theatre Division, The New York Public Library for the Performing Arts.