Actress Cate Blanchett wanted to build a space on the grounds of her estate in East Sussex to showcase her impressive collection of contemporary art, but she ran into a problem: The gallery may have to share room with a colony of bats. Maybe some ghosts, too.
Upon submitting plans for the new building last year, which would have seen the two-time Oscar winner knock down a decrepit cottage and shed on the land, surveyors discovered droppings from pipistrelle and brown long-eared bats roosting in the garrets. Because the animals are a protected species, Blanchett is barred from razing the structures without a special license from Natural England.
According to planning documents obtained by the , the local district council approved the new structure this week, but only on the condition that Blanchett submit a “bat mitigation strategy” to protect and house the creatures.
The construction, as a result, will likely have a special “bat loft” incorporated into its design by London’s Adam Richards Architects, which has taken on the project.
In addition to the gallery, Blanchett’s new building will feature a garden office, a meditation room, and a rehearsal space.
A collector for many years, Blanchett is believed to own artworks by Guan Wei, Paula Rego, Howard Hodgkin, Rosalie Gascoigne, Bill Hammond, Bill Robinson, Polly Borland, Zhang Huan, and Tim Maguire, according to .
Blanchett has also appeared in several works of art. In 2015, the actress starred in German artist Julian Rosefeldt’s acclaimed, 13-screen video installation Manifesto, in which she played a variety of characters reading artists’ manifestos from throughout the 20th century. In 2019, Blanchett played a thinly veiled version of Marina Abramovic in an episode of that parodied the artist’s performance (2012).
The actress and her husband, Australian playwright Andrew Upton, purchased the Victorian estate in 2016 for an estimated £3.75 million ($5.1 million). Called Highwell House, the home has boasted a number of famous inhabitants since it was erected in 1890, including Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and actor Tom Baker.
But more famous are those who might have lived there—or perhaps still do. Pentagrams were found on the building’s floors before Blanchett purchased it, leading some to consider it haunted.