LIONEL WENDT GALLERY
Located so that anyone walking on Guildford Crescent (as the road was then known), could step into the Gallery to check out what was happening, the exhibition space is regarded as one of the best in the region, largely owing to its unique lighting system.
The construction of the Art Gallery was based on a design by '43 Group artist W. J. G. Beling who was a close friend of Lionel Wendt. Technical expertise, particularly with regard to lighting was sought from Miss Jane B. Drew of the Architectural Association School, London who advocated a combination of natural and artificial light. The plans were drawn by M/s Edward, Reid & Begg, based on the drawings provided by Beling and Drew, with Geoffrey Bawa as the principal consultant architect. Glass louvers affixed upon the top of the walls exploit the natural light. A visitor to the Gallery during the morning hours would see artwork aglow in reflected sunlight, sometimes torched by a direct golden ray.
The first sod for its construction was cut on 10th February 1958 by Mr William T. Flemming of the Asia Foundation which had helped finance the building. The Gallery was also opened by him on 11th May 1959 with a preview of Lionel Wendt's Photographs. The cost of hire at that time was Rs 30/- per day + cost of electricity consumed.
It soon became the preferred venue of the '43 Group of Artists which was formed by Wendt and of the Photographic Society. Renowned painters such as George Keyt and Justin Deraniyagala, photographers Nihal Fernando/Studio Times Ltd and Lal Hegoda and sculptor Tissa Ranasinghe have exhibited at this Gallery. Many emerging artists have taken advantage of the reasonable rate structure, to have maiden exhibitions or show-case their work. It has also been a place of fun and joy to scores of children who have had their drawings hung on the walls during children's art exhibitions. While the four walls of the hall are ideal for the hanging of artwork, the large "empty" space between the walls offers not only space to view the exhibits but also for the display of sculpture and installations. On preview nights over a hundred invitees can be accommodated comfortably in the Gallery.