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National Museum of Art - a first for Wales

Wales has many fascinating stories to tell through the work of the artists and collectors from, or inspired by, Wales. A number of these stories will be told in the new £6.5m National Museum of Art, which opened to the public on Saturday 9 July 2011.



Did you know that Welsh landscape painter Thomas Jones's major historical work The Bard is based on Thomas Gray's tale of Edward I's massacre of the Welsh bards? Wales has Gwendoline and Margaret Davies to thank for eight Monet masterpieces featured in the national collection and Richard Long, one of the best-known British artists, spent two days collecting slate from Llechwedd Quarry for his brand new installation Blaenau Ffestiniog Circle (2011).


For the first time, the full range of the nation’s world-class art collection – a mix of fine and applied art, from the historic to the contemporary - will be displayed under one roof at National Museum Cardiff, giving a new visibility to art inWalesand the art ofWales.

The National Museum of Art features six impressive new contemporary art galleries, which offer 40% more space to display art from post-1950. Until now the Museum had only one gallery to display its range of modern and contemporary art, which is one of theUK’s most important collections.

The opening display in the new galleries, Ni allaf ddianc rhag hon – I cannot escape this place, includes works by artists associated with Wales, such as Josef Herman and Shani Rhys-James and Tim Davies, alongside leading British and international artists including Lucian Freud, David Hockney and Rachel Whiteread. It demonstrates the strength and range of art produced inWales since the 1950s, and how this relates to the international scene.



Work by younger, emerging artists is also featured in the new displays. Important examples include a sculptural installation called Untitled (Proposal for a Social Centre) 2009 by artists Manon Awst and Benjamin Walther. The work – comprised of a neon light hanging above a concrete pipe filled with coloured gelatine – makes poetic reference to the human body. The couple, who share their time between Caernarfon andBerlin, have developed and intriguing practice inspired by performace but encompassing painting, sculpture, drawing and installation.


Turner Prize winner Jeremy Deller’s work The Uses of Literacy (1997) is a joint effort between the artist and fans of the Welsh rock group the Manic Street Preachers. Deller has brought together an archive of drawings, paintings, poems and prose produced by fans of the group to create an installation that reveals the complex relationship between the Manics and their audience, underlining the way many artists working today produce work that actively reaches out to diverse forms of popular culture.


For Postcard Series No.2 Tim Davies, currently representingWales at the Venice Biennale, has cut out the figures from cards of women wearing Welsh ‘national’ dress – possibly a comment on the way tourist images perpetuate narrow and unhelpful constructions of national identity.


In a separate gallery visitors will be able to take a look at Unlliw (2002) by Carwyn Evans, an installation of 6,500 bird boxes made from cardboard that addresses the contemporary debate about the way planning policies can impact on the cultural balance of rural areas in Wales.


Also a part of the opening contemporary displays is John Cale's internationally acclaimed exhibition Dyddiau Du - Dark Day, which will be screened at the Museum inCardiff until the autumn thanks to the artist, Arts Council of Wales and the Welsh Government. It will then remain a part of the national collection.


The country’s collection of works by Welsh artists and international names is outstanding and it now has the home it deserves. The National Museum of Art, is one of the largest art venues outsideLondon, and a new landmark national institution for the whole ofWales,” said David Anderson, Director General of Amgueddfa Cymru.

“However the National Museum of Art is more than impressive art galleries. Using works from the past and present, which are considered of great importance, we can inspire budding artists to look ahead to the future and create work that one day might be on display here. We are looking forward to the opening of a new art learning space, fully funded by the Foyle Foundation, later this year.”


The £6.5 million project wouldn’t have been possible without the support of The Derek Williams Trust, Colwinston Charitable Trust, the Garfield Weston Foundation, the Henry Moore Foundation, the Wolfson Foundation, the Foyle Foundation who funded the art learning space, The Art Fund who have supported a number of new acquisitions and generous donations from smaller trusts, many individuals and the Welsh Government.

Minister for Housing, Regeneration and Heritage, Huw Lewis AM said:

‘’I’m delighted that we now have a suitable home for our national art collections, one which is as superb as the work it houses. The Welsh Government is pleased to have invested more than £3 million towards the National Museum of Art development over the last five years so that more of our art collections can be displayed. This new home will be accessible to everyone and will also raise Wales’ profile as a world-class venue for art.’’

Amgueddfa Cymru is also celebrating the launch of the National Museum of Art with a new companion guidebook, with a foreword written by Lord Dafydd Elis-Thomas. The Companion Guide to the Welsh National Museum of Art includes 150 key works, all shown in full colour, which reflect the depth and range ofWales’s art collection. The book also includes a fascinating history of the collection, outlining how a national art collection is formed and some of the remarkable individuals who played key roles in building the collection over its 100-year history. The 176-page book is available in both Welsh and English editions, at just £16.99.

A Companion Guide to the Welsh National Museum of Art, ISBN 978 0 7200 0613 1

Llawlyfr yr Amgueddfa Gelf Genedlaethol, ISBN 978 0 7200 0612 4