CARDIFF.- Improving art displays, creating additional space and radical changes to the way in which works are shown all form a part of Amgueddfa Cymru – National Museum Wales’ current drive to enhance the presentation of Wales’ art collection, and mark important stages in the Museum’s long-term plan to create a ‘National Gallery of Art for Wales.’
Until recently, only one room was available for the display of art since 1950 at National Museum Cardiff, and one of Britain’s best and rapidly growing collections of modern and contemporary art languished unseen. Much of the west wing of the Museum – which is based in the centre of Cardiff – will now be transformed into a suite of high quality, flexible galleries providing six times more space for art post-1950, at a cost of over £4 million.
Following consultations with visitors, the Museum is concentrating on presenting both popular and unfamiliar works in fresh ways, exploring new ideas about art and expanding its displays. With only £450K of the overall total left to source to complete the exciting initiative for art in Wales, it is hoped the full range of the Museum’s art collection will be shown as an integrated display by summer 2011.
Amongst the key pieces which will form the opening display will be a video installation by the Finnish artist Eija-Liisa Ahtila, The Hour of Prayer and Raethro Pink by the American James Turrell – an installation that uses light and space. Both have been acquired by the Museum with the support of The Art Fund, the UK’s leading independent art charity. Also a new asset to the Museum’s collections, thanks to a grant from The Art Fund is Betty Woodman’s Diptych: The Balcony which is already on display as part of the Museum’s extensive and changing displays of ceramics and other applied art. The Art Fund gave the Museum £100,000 towards the acquisition of these three works.
During the transitional period (2009 – 2011) selected galleries will remain open hosting temporary exhibitions. Amgueddfa Cymru – National Museum Wales will celebrate one of the greatest landscape painters of the 19th century - Alfred Sisley with Sisley in England and Wales (7 March - 14 June 2009). A special exhibition The Attraction of Onlookers: Aberfan - An Anatomy of a Welsh Village (6 December 2008 – 22 February 2009) by American artist Shimon Attie will mark the 40th Anniversary of the Aberfan coal waste tip disaster and No Such Thing as Society: Photography in Britain 1967-87 (4 July - 4 October 2009) will look at a period of remarkable development in British photography.
Also an important part of the redevelopment project at National Museum Cardiff, the opening of two galleries in December 2008 will complete the redisplay of the older, fine and applied art collections from the Renaissance to the 19th century in the east wing of the building. Welsh Faces will look at representations of Welsh people from many walks of life over the last 200 years and Victorian Art will explore the rich variety of the British art world between the 1830s and the 1880s.
Eight other galleries completed over the last year include a collection of European Old Master paintings, a room of fine Tudor and Stuart portraits, an outstanding group of ‘Grand Tour’ paintings, and other British art of the 18th century. This is in addition to a thematic gallery exploring the long, rich engagement of artists with the Welsh landscape.
“We’re very excited about the future of art in Wales,” said Oliver Fairclough, Keeper of Art. “Amgueddfa Cymru – National Museum Wales hosts 500 years of magnificent paintings, drawings, sculpture, silver and ceramics from Wales and across the world, including one of Europe's best collections of Impressionist works. These new developments give us the opportunity not only to share more of our treasures with visitors, but also to share them with an increased number of people.
“We are currently focusing on re-displaying what we already have within the existing, yet restored structure. The next step will be to create further space for applied art, educational facilities, temporary exhibitions and much more, ultimately establishing a ‘National Gallery of Art for Wales’.”
David Barrie, Director of The Art Fund, said: “Amgueddfa Cymru – National Museum Wales is a great institution and their plans to re-display their extensive post-1950 art collection will make it an even bigger draw. I’m delighted The Art Fund has helped Amgueddfa Cymru – National Museum Wales acquire three new works by distinguished international artists Eija-Liisa Ahtila, James Turrell and Betty Woodman to add to their already impressive British contemporary art collection. The Art Fund has been a longstanding supporter of the museum – in the last ten years alone, we have given the museum over £1.2 million to help them acquire artworks by eminent artist such as Alfred Sisley, David Hockney and Sir Joshua Reynolds.”
Amgueddfa Cymru – National Museum Wales’ aspiration to create a ‘National Gallery of Art for Wales’ is a long-term initiative, which is supported by the Welsh Assembly Government. In order to maximise its potential, the Museum will require support from its visitors, stakeholders and other funders.
The Museum is also continuing its work in promoting art in Wales and beyond. Amgueddfa Cymru – National Museum Wales is looking forward to a major tour of 58 works from Wales’ national art collection. Turner to Cezanne: Masterpieces from the Davies Collection, National Museum Wales will travel to five venues in total and will open at the Columbia Museum of Art on 6 March 2009. This exhibition is organised in partnership with the American Federation of Arts (AFA) which is a non-profit institution that organises art exhibitions for presentation in museums around the world, publishes exhibition catalogues, and develops education programmes.
National Museum Cardiff is one of Amgueddfa Cymru – National Museum Wales’s seven national museums. The others are St Fagans: National History Museum, the National Roman Legionary Museum, Big Pit: National Coal Museum, the National Wool Museum, the National Slate Museum and the National Waterfront Museum.