"That sculpture plays music!" Two Year 11 boys take a step back as a mighty, multi-mirrored flower sways, tinkles, and shapes a tune. Behind them, a Cosmic Egg towers up to the ceiling, brilliantly refracting the light in hundreds of glass shards, improbably tall, improbably silver.
Every wall, shelf and cabinet in this small museum is filled with glittering, jewelled, textured objects, many alive with sound, water, lights and hidden tricks. It's art, but not as we know it.
"Take some nice pictures," says the teacher quietly, handing a camera to the small, absorbed Year 10 and 11 group. "And when you've finished taking your pictures, do some drawings."
A few paces away, the gallery's glass wall looks out on a deserted lane. We're miles from anywhere.
The Andrew Logan Museum of Sculpture in Monmouthsire comes as a surprise. A few miles out of Welshpool in the tiny settlement of Berriew, surrounded by open country, it consists of two modest galleries and a coffee shop. But they're crowded and extraordinary, a cornucopia of sights, sounds and textures to delight the senses and beguile the eye. There are sculptures, mirrored portraits and jewellery from the mid-sixties to present day, with references to fashion and metropolitan life as well as mythology and pop culture.
Surprisingly, this is one of the few museums in Europe dedicated to a living artist. And Logan established it not in the heart of the capital, but in a favourite country retreat.
"Andrew's always loved this place," says museum curator Anne Collins. "So when some old squash courts came up for sale here in 1988, he bought them to create the museum."
Which is good for the children of the Borders, because Logan's work is unusually interesting. Born in 1945 and educated at Oxford in the 1960s, he quickly rose to fame in the early 70s among London's fashionable set, especially for his staging of the "Alternative Miss World". Thirty years on he's one of Britain's principal sculptural artists, of international stature, an artist of popular poetry and metropolitan glamour. He's accessible to students in a unique way, using playful ideas and irreverent materials to create an art that startles and inspires. He sidles by pre-conceived notions to present something brilliant and beautiful in a new light.
The students today are impressed. To the side of the first gallery stands the Flame Throne, twisted and sleek, red and orange, part of the furniture for Alternative Miss World in 1995. The costumes and regalia for past competitions are everywhere in the museum.
"I like this throne. I'm specialising in working with glass for my GCSE in 3D Design," explains Laura Mason, examining the Flame Throne carefully. She looks around. "It's different, this. I'd never think of using mirrors," she adds thoughtfully.
"There's something here for nearly everyone," says their teacher, Philippa Hughes. The group from Llanfyllin high school are here as part of their art and design GCSE. They have already visited a silversmithing factory down the road, looking at industrial art. This could not be more different. "For the 3-D design element of our course, the students have to work with things like stained glass and ceramics and surface decoration," says Ms Hughes. "They have to create three pieces of coursework, developing and producing their own work to their own design. So we're here to draw, photograph and get ideas. There are lots of ideas here for using found materials, unlikely things, and for using and reflecting space. If you come away from a visit like this with one thing in your mind, it's worth it."
The students are busy observing, taking photos, making sketches and notes. Daniel, a sixth-former preparing for a 3,000-word essay on surrealism, is carefully examining the Goddess of the Void. This sculpture uses holograms to show a figure of Shiva rising from the World of Happiness, upon which sits the Tree of Life. "It's great to go to the Tate," he says, "but most of the artists there are dead. Andrew Logan isn't. He's still working, creating new things. He's interesting."
"This year we're seeking funding for further building," explains Anne Collins, "including an education room, a studio for Andrew and a flexible exhibition space. We've established two kinds of education activities. One is education packs for key stages 1, 2 and 3, with key stage 4 in preparation. The other is hands-on workshops, where students can come and look at the museum and then create their own work using things they bring with them: CDs, glass, stones, glitter, and plenty of Araldite." She smiles. "Everyone enjoys it. Andrew does too, when he's here."
The museum has achieved full phase 2 museum registration status this year, which puts its collection management on a par with the British Museum. It has also received a commendation for its education access programme - something Anne is particularly pleased about. "We're a resource, a part of the community," she says. "Children at every level can gain from coming here."
It's a view Daniel would endorse. "I'm really interested in this Singing Tree," he says. "It's got bearded faces in it everywhere. Something human in something that isn't. That's a good concept. I'll think about that."
ContactThe Andrew Logan Museum of Sculpture, Berriew, Montgomeryshire, Wales SY21 8PJ. Tel: 01686 640689. Cost: pound;2.00 adults, pound;1.00 children, students and concessions. Workshops in May, June and September, ring for details. Open by appointment for school and college visits.Similar attractionsVictoria and Albert Museum in London. Tel: 020 7942 2184. Web: www.vam.ac.ukHenry Moore Institute in Leeds. Tel: 0113 246 7467. Web: www.henry-moore-fdn.co.uk