MODERN Art Oxford director Michael Stanley was working on moving it to a new base when he died, it has emerged.

The scheme was revealed as key figures from the world of art gathered to pay tribute to the 37-year-old, right, who was found dead on September 28 in the garden of a house in Adelaide Street, Jericho. On Wednesday night, leading lights from the artworld gathered at the Pembroke Street museum to remember Mr Stanley.

Speakers included the Tate’s director Sir Nicholas Serota, a one-time boss of the gallery, who revealed Mr Stanley had been planning an ambitious scheme to relocate MAO from its Pembroke Street base.

He said: “He had ambitions for the future, and I think that these ambitions weighed heavily upon him from the conversations I had with him.

“He realised that in the past 20 years other institutions were able to offer spaces that this building doesn’t quite manage.

“He was intrigued by the idea of going further north in a joint venture, with the Ruskin (School of Drawing and Fine Art) on the Radcliffe Infirmary site.

“That may not happen now, but it was undoubtedly his vision.

“People will say it was too bold.”

MAO’s chairman David Isaac confirmed later that the move was now unlikely.

He said: “From the outset, Michael was keen to work in partnership with others in the city.

“He had a bold vision for Modern Art Oxford which involved working beyond the walls of the gallery.”

In his own tribute, Mr Isaac told guests: “We can all be proud of what he achieved in a very short time. He will be a very hard act to follow.”

Mr Isaac announced details of a new scheme, set up in Mr Stanley’s memory, to support the work of contemporary and emerging artists.

Details of the Michael Stanley Fund for New Art are now available from MAO staff.

Sir Nicholas, who ran what was then called the Museum of Modern Art from 1973 to 1976, told 300 people at the event, including Mr Stanley’s widow Carrie and his three children, that this was an occasion to celebrate as well as mourn.

“He achieved more in a decade than many would do in a whole career,” he said.

An inquest has been opened and adjourned into death. A full hearing is expected to happen in due course.