Charity registration number: 1197448

News release

For release 27 February 2024

Second major donation ensures future of new galleries at Worcester City Art Gallery & Museum

  • Donor Martin Cook to donate a six-figure sum to fund gallery celebrating Worcester’s role in the international gloving trade
  • Follows major donation by Professor Rolf Olsen in 2022
  • Donation will also fund internship programme to support young people wishing to have a career in museums
Second major donation from Martin Cook

A significant financial donation is being made to Worcestershire Heritage, Art and Museums charity by a Worcester philanthropist, to enable the development of a new gallery specifically to display the city’s collections of fine and decorative art, including its nationally significant gloving collection, one of the largest collections of its type in the world.

The donation will also nurture creative talent in the city by funding an internship programme for young people entering the museum profession and establishing a national art prize competition.

Martin Cook’s very generous gift follows on the heels of a large donation in 2022 by Professor Rolf Olsen. Together, these donations enable the exciting development of the first-floor galleries at Worcester City Art Gallery & Museum.

The new galleries will highlight Worcestershire as a place of inspiration for artists and will display the many significant artists who came to this part of England to work, such as John Singer Sargent, Paul Nash and Laura Knight. They will also celebrate Worcester’s strength as a centre for design education in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries when it supported the city’s international porcelain and glove industries. At its core will be the new Shirley and Rolf Olsen Gallery, with a permanent display of Worcester’s outstanding collection of works by British Impressionist artists.

Mr. Cook’s donation will shine a light on Worcester’s role in the international gloving trade, displaying items from the manufacturing process alongside beautiful and elegant gloves by famous fashion designers such as Manolo Blahnik. Mr. Cook’s kind donation follows the tradition of earlier local philanthropists like Charles Wheeley-Lea whose donation helped to fund the building of the art gallery in the 19th century. Mr. Cook is also keen to support emerging artists with an annual art competition.

Martin Cook lives in the United States but wishes to support the cultural heart of the city where he grew up and spent his formative years. He was inspired to make a donation to the Art Gallery & Museum when he read about Professor Olsen’s gift and shares the same enthusiasm and vision to enhance the cultural life of Worcester and hopes that others will follow suit.

Mr. Cook says: “I’m keen to play a part in Worcester’s cultural development and Professor Olsen’s ambitions struck a chord with me. My wish is to support the development of the Art Gallery & Museum, celebrate the rich heritage of the city I grew up in and build on Professor Olsen’s legacy. I encourage others to come forward to help to put Worcester on the map.”

Caroline Naisbitt, Chair of the Worcestershire Heritage, Art & Museums charity initially set up by Professor Olsen to support developments at the City Art Gallery & Museum, says: “We are extremely grateful to Martin for his very generous donation. This is precisely what Rolf had hoped for, that his donation would encourage others to come forward to support the Art Gallery and its collections, and in doing so reflect the aims of the charity of promoting opportunities for education and inclusion.”

Anyone who wishes to follow in Martin Cook’s and Professor Olsen’s footsteps and give a donation should contact Philippa Tinsley, Head of Museums Worcestershire on 01905 25371, email:


Notes to Editors

Photo attached shows donor Martin Cook with Head of Museums Worcestershire Philippa Tinsley.

Interviews are available with Caroline Naisbitt, Chair of the Worcestershire Heritage, Art & Museums charity. For further information or to arrange an interview please contact

About Martin Cook

A former pupil of Nunnery Wood Secondary School, Martin left school in 1977 and started work at 16, moved to London to work at 18 and moved to New York 10 years later.

About Worcestershire Heritage, Art and Museums Charity

Worcestershire Heritage, Art and Museums Charity is an independent entity set up to promote the appreciation and enjoyment of art, culture, heritage and science for the public benefit, by encouraging participation and engagement with museums and related services operated by Museums Worcestershire. The charity was set up by Professor Olsen who has since passed away but whose ambitions are shared and promoted by current charity trustees.

About Museums Worcestershire

Museums Worcestershire is the joint museum service of Worcester City and Worcestershire County Councils. It comprises three fantastic venues – Worcester City Art Gallery & Museum, The Commandery in Worcester and The County Museum at Hartlebury Castle.

The collections and exhibitions at the museums are many and varied, covering centuries of the county’s history right up to the present day. Thousands of objects, including the historic buildings themselves, are brought to life through innovative exhibitions and events throughout the year.

Worcestershire Heritage, Art & Museums charity logo

Worcestershire Heritage, Art & Museums is a registered charitable incorporated organisation with charity number 1197448.

Established 2022.

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