The Heong Gallery at 5

6 February 2021 is the fifth anniversary of the opening of The Heong Gallery. What started life as an unloved Edwardian stable block, was transformed by architects Caruso St John into a bright and welcoming space for modern and contemporary art. Fourteen exhibitions later, we look forward to bringing you more great art in the future.

We hope you will join us on a look back through five years of exhibitions, events, and activities.

Our alumni and us

As a bookish student who used to spend afternoons in the Fitz and the Botanical Gardens or, when weather permitted, having tea at Grantchester, I never imagined that, one day, Downing would have not only its own theatre but also an art gallery! Read more.

John Tancock (English/ History of Art, 1960)


If there is one thing the Pandemic has taught us, in this global moment of enforced self-reflection, it is that we need spaces where we can meet, we need places to be uplifted by; spaces in which people can be sustained and soothed and inspired by beauty and the endeavours of others; places where unexpected things happen, where the off curricula world can break through, where playfulness is, and art is. And in these kinetic moments are forged what sustains us and allows us to return with hope to the industry of our own lives. When these spaces come into being, at their foundation is always a highly effective individual: a deep thinker who is also imaginative and public-spirited. And their genius is to see that what makes lives more plural are magical spaces like this, and then, if we’re lucky, they give us one. Thank you, Alwyn Heong.

Penny Furniss (English, 1981)

The generosity of our alumni has been a vital to the Gallery’s success over the last three years. Here is a selection of past exhibition catalogue articles written by our alumni.

Sir Alan Bowness (Modern Languages, 1950) lent us the works for our first exhibition and inaugurated the Gallery. Here he is, writing about Generation Painting.

Dr John Tancock (English/ History of Art, 1960) curated our second exhibition, Ai Weiwei: Cubes and Trees. As an expert on modern sculpture, he also contributed articles on Dame Elisabeth Frink and Dame Barbara Hepworth.

Robert Devereux (History, 1975) is a leading patron of artists of African origin and lent us the works for our fourth exhibition. Here he is, writing about When The Heavens Meet the Earth.

Sir Quentin Blake (English, 1953) leads our 1717 Group of patrons and we have collaborated with him on two exhibitions. Here he is, writing about The Best of All Possible Worlds: Quentin Blake and the Folio Society.

Chris Bartram (Land Economy, 1968) has been an Advisor to the Gallery since the planning stages. He was the main lender for our exhibition of works by Dame Elisabeth Frink. Here he is, writing about Dame Elisabeth Frink: Larger than Life.

The Heong Gallery and Me

Thank you for hosting such wonderful exhibitions of variety and fun, and for bringing colour and creativity, stimulation and challenge to Downing.  
We look forward to you opening your doors again this year.

Maggie Cherry, PA to the Master


… The best part for me was the Hepworth Day and seeing so many families really engaging and interacting with the art - I’m off to train as a French and Spanish teacher next and the little encounters with kids in the gallery always really made my day. It was so lovely to have enough time, the right-sized space and accessible materials to help curious children enjoy the exhibitions in a way a bigger gallery wouldn’t have been able to. 

Anki Deo, former Gallery Assistant


Thank you for giving me an excuse to spend my Saturdays looking at art! You are ever a place of mindfulness and contemplation for students, staff and the public. My favourite Heong moment was my first opening, the Frink exhibition in 2017. It was amazing watching so many people from all over the country gather to appreciate the ingenuity of the space and of course, Elisabeth Frink’s stunning sculptures. As a gallery assistant of almost four years, I feel incredibly lucky to have been able to watch the gallery grow, and I will always consider it a highlight of my Cambridge experience.

Caitlin Casselman, Gallery Assistant


My most impactful experience in the Gallery was when I worked during the first weekend it opened to the public after its months-long closure due to Covid-19. There were strict guidelines in place to keep staff and visitors safe, so it was much a much quieter weekend than usual, but the few people who stopped by were so enthusiastic and grateful for the chance to visit. That first weekend back brought home to me how important having access to art is, and how much value the Gallery brings to the Cambridge community.

Molly Becker, Gallery Assistant

Join the conversation.

Tell us what the Heong Gallery means to you by tagging us in social media posts using #HeongGalleryat5 or emailing us at gallery[at] We would love to hear from you.

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