A small and humble cottage, set on the southeastern English coast in Dungeness, Kent, has been the unlikely subject of an arts crowdfunding campaign that exceeded its goal of $4.28 million (£3.5 million) after receiving more than 7,300 donations from around the world. Prospect Cottage was once a place of refuge for the late Derek Jarman, an English artist, gay rights activist, stage designer, and film director behind notable works including Sebastiane (1976), Caravaggio (1986), and Glitterbug (1994), as well as music videos for the likes of the Sex Pistols, Patti Smith, and the Smiths. The artist lived in the home until his passing in 1994, after which it was maintained and opened to the public by his long-time companion Keith Collins. Following Collins’ passing in 2018, Prospect Cottage has been at risk of being sold privately and withheld from the public.
The fundraising campaign was first launched ten weeks ago by Tilda Swinton, a close friend of Jarman’s. “When we first launched this appeal,” the actress told The Guardian, “we were throwing ourselves into the void in the hope and faith that others might feel, as we do, that seeds planted with love make for a resilient and sustaining garden, even one grown amongst stones.” Artist Tacita Dean received word of Swinton’s initiative and enlisted support from The Art Fund, a London-based independent charity invested in the acquisition of artworks for the nation.
The Art Fund determined a fundraising goal of £3.5 million would be necessary “to purchase Prospect Cottage and to establish a permanently funded programme to conserve and maintain the building, its contents and its garden for the future,” according to a press statement, and developed an innovative partnership with Creative Folkestone and Tate to enable public access to the grounds. “Prospect Cottage is a living, breathing work of art, filled with the creative impulse of Derek Jarman at every turn,” said Art Fund Director Stephen Deuchar. “It’s imperative we come together to save the Cottage, its contents and its extraordinary garden as a source of creative inspiration for everyone.”
Artists including Michael Craig-Martin, Jeremy Deller, and Wolfgang Tillmans produce limited-edited artworks as rewards for public donations, and David Hockney provided a substantial personal donation that tipped the scales. Additionally, the sale of a single suit, signed by a cadre of celebrities including Scarlett Johansson, Brad Pitt, and Leonardo DiCaprio, fetched an additional $19,600.
The success of the campaign ensures that Creative Folkstone will oversee the cottage’s long-tern care and maintain its programming, while Jarman’s belongings will be made available for public access at Tate Britain. Maria Balshaw, the director of Tate, told The Guardian that “the success of the campaign to save Prospect Cottage raises our spirits in these difficult times. It is testament to the profound impact of Derek Jarman’s originality, energy and activism and his influence on generations of artists and actors who came after him.”