The moving story of Christ Church Panel Portrait

July 22, 2010

One of the greatest Nicholas Hawksmoor churches rises above Spitalfields, in the east end of London. The spire is imposing, the interior a contrast of dark paneling and light, dancing stuccowork. The materials are chosen for their colour and crafted and placed to a stark contrast that pulls every visitor inside. They lead the eye down the nave, and up to the vaulted ceiling.

Since the early eighteenth century, Christ Church Spitalfields had its share. People came, people went. People cared for their church, people altered the complete interior in 1860. People stayed away. Homeless were catered for in the crypt.

In the 1960’s the church was nearly derelict, but still loved and valued. Restoration work began and was only recently completed.
Some neighbours saved pieces of stucco and paneling, that were too fragile and couldn’t be reused in the interior. It was not forgotten, they cherished the remnants as they were there since the church was there, and they had a story to tell. One piece of oak paneling was kept in one of the neighbourhood townhouses, waiting for a new use and a new meaning.

And then it spoke. It was transformed and was showed in the same Spitalfields townhouse. The exposition was called Inhabitants – people, things or ‘somethings’ that were here before us and will be there after us.
Can you see the Christ Church Panel staring?

image: Marenka Gabeler

It had survived centuries, and was kept in Spitalfields for all that time. It was revived and celebrated. It traveled to another exposition.

image: back of Christ Church Panel Portrait

Unfortunately, accidents can happen; it will survive this too.

The Christ Church Panel Portrait (2009) is an artwork by Marenka Gabeler. It will be restored in cooperation with the artist, a remedial conservation that we will be happy to share with you here.