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New Modern and Contemporary Art Galleries Complete Wales's National Museum of Art
Visitors will be able to enjoy the story of Wales’s unique visual tradition and its place within a wider British and international context through works from Tudor to modern Wales, outstanding European Old Master paintings of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, masterpieces of Impressionism and Post-Impressionism drawn largely from the world-class collection of French art bequeathed by Gwendoline and Margaret Davies, and an inspiring contemporary collection.

CARDIFF.- From 9 July 2011, Wales will have its own National Museum of Art, showcasing the full rang e of the nation’s world-class art collection under one roof at National Museum Cardiff. For the first time, the National Museum ’s mix of fine and applied art, from the historic to the contemporary, will be shown in a single series of integrated galleries, giving a new visibility to art in Wales and to the art of Wales .

Visitors will be able to enjoy the story of Wales’s unique visual tradition and its place within a wider British and international context through works from Tudor to modern Wales, outstanding European Old Master paintings of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, masterpieces of Impressionism and Post-Impressionism drawn largely from the world-class collection of French art bequeathed by Gwendoline and Margaret Davies, and an inspiring contemporary collection.

The West Wing – six impressive new contemporary art galleries – will be the biggest space of its kind in Wales . Previously, the Museum had only one gallery to display its r ang e of modern and contemporary art, which is one of the UK ’s most important collections. This development will give the Museum nearly 800 square metres more space to show the strength and r ang e of art produced in Wales since the 1950s, and how this relates to the international scene.

The opening display in July 2011 – I cannot escape this place – will include works by artists associated with Wales such as Josef Herman and Shani Rhys James alongside leading British and international artists including Lucian Freud, David Hockney and Rachel Whiteread.

Michael Tooby, Amgueddfa Cymru – National Museum Wales’s Director of Learning, Programmes and Presentations, who has played a key role in the creation of the National Museum of Art, which has cost £6.5m overall, said:

“The National Museum of Art will appeal to the entire r ang e of the Museum’s visitors and is a huge step forward for Amgueddfa Cymru – National Museum Wales in the way in which we show and interpret our collection. The rebuilding and redisplay project will also be presented as an integrated display with its own identity for the first time, reflecting the way it transforms the awareness of the visual arts in Wales .”

David Anderson, Amgueddfa Cymru - National Museum Wales’s Director General, who considers the National Museum of Art as one of the Museum’s key projects added:

"The country's collection of works by Welsh artists and international names is outstanding. For the first time, the nation has galleries of an international standard that tell the unique story of Welsh art and how the country had evolved.

“Our mission is to inspire the creativity of future generations; these galleries are a vital part of that strategy."

In addition, Amgueddfa Cymru - National Museum Wales continues to hold as a long-term aspiration the creation of a National Gallery of Art. The strategy, which will also see the development of a new National Museum of Natural History, is part of the long-term master planning of the National Museum site, and is supported by the Welsh Assembly Government.

National Museum of Art – in context
An extensive consultation on the future strategy for Amgueddfa Cymru – National Museum Wales’s work in the visual arts began in 2001. From 2003 onwards, the emphasis was on the development of curatorial strategies. These gave a new emphasis on expressing a Welsh perspective in an international context, and on working collaboratively to reach new audiences. The National Museum played an active part in establishing Wales ’s first presence at the Venice Biennale, while collaborating and hosting the new Artes Mundi international initiative. It boosted its partnership working with venues in Wales and developed international touring, most prominently in the hugely successful tour in the USA of Turner to Cézanne: masterpieces from the Davies Collection.

The first step of the National Museum of Art was completed in December 2007 as National Museum Cardiff opened four new historic galleries exploring art in Tudor and Stuart Wales, alongside our outstanding European Old Master paintings of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries.

Another six historic galleries followed during 2008. The largest of these, Art in eighteenth century Britain , features the Welsh-born painter Richard Wilson and the magnificent art collections of Sir Watkin Williams-Wynn, as well as the impact of the European Grand Tour and the professionalisation of art during this period.

At the same time, displays of applied art, particularly ceramics and silver, were completely renewed. As well as demonstrating the richness and quality of the Museum’s existing collections, new commissions to figures such as Edmund de Waal, and pieces by makers as diverse as Elizabeth Woodman and Richard Deacon, have greatly enhanced the stature and understanding of one of the greatest collections of its type in the UK.

In contrast, the Welsh Landscape Gallery explores how artists have responded to the ch ang ing inspirational land of Wales for over more than 300 years. Elsewhere, visitors can learn more of the lives of four eighteenth-century artists from Wales , whose careers spanned long periods in Italy and in London – Richard Wilson, Thomas Jones, William Parry and John Downman. Another display is of small intimate oil sketches of Wales and Italy .

A new gallery of Victorian painting and sculpture, as well as a gallery devoted to images of Welsh people of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries complete the historic galleries.

In September 2010, seven new galleries of Impressionist and modern art opened to the public at National Museum Cardiff. This development marked the second stage in the Museum’s plans to create a National Museum of Art.

The impressionist and modern galleries have been completely refurbished and were re-displayed in September 2010 for the first time since their completion in 1993. These contain entirely new displays of French art, r ang ing from mid-19th century salon paintings and the art of the Realists to masterpieces of Impressionism and Post-Impressionism, drawn largely from the world-class collection of French art bequeathed by Gwendoline and Margaret Davies. The lives of the Davies sisters and their impact on Wales are also explored.

Other rooms trace the impact of Impressionism on British art and the development of Modernism from Cézanne to the Surrealists of the 1930s. These galleries also celebrate significant artists from Wales , especially Augustus John, Gwen John, William Goscombe John, Cedric Morris and Ceri Richards, and less familiar figures such as the sculptor and suffragette Edith Downing.

Highlights include the recently acquired Still Life with Poron by Pablo Picasso and the outstanding group of Impressionist and Post-Impressionist works by Monet, Renoir, Van Gogh and Cézanne from the Davies collection.

One room is devoted to ch ang ing displays from the collection of work by individual artists from Wales including Augustus John, Graham Sutherland and David Jones.

Now the wonderful and spacious new galleries of the West Wing at National Museum Cardiff complete the process of major gallery refurbishment. Displays from the collection will be a key priority but the galleries will also create an important opportunity for major temporary exhibitions, notably Artes Mundi* in 2012. Smaller scale exhibitions such as displays from emerging artists living and working in Wales could be featured and they will also provide a focus for the Museum’s various partnerships locally and nationally.

The achievements of established Welsh artists, among them James Rielly, Peter Finnemore and Ivor Davies, will be celebrated. For example Davies, a pioneer of international performance art in the 1960s, will be represented by a film of his performance Adam on Agnes’ Eve 1968.

Work by Tim Davies, who will represent Wales at this year’s Venice Biennale of Art 2011, will be shown in the form of a series of postcards which provokes the concept of Welsh identity. In addition, John Cale's internationally acclaimed exhibition Dyddiau Du/Dark Days, which he produced for the Venice Biennale of Art 2009, will be displayed in a nearby gallery. The five-screen installation explores Cale's at times ambivalent memories and recollections of his childhood in Wales , including footage filmed in his childhood house at Garnant, Ammanford.

John Cale is not the only link to music in the opening display. Followers of the Manic Street Preachers will be interested in Jeremy Deller’s Uses of Literacy which consists of paintings, collages, drawings, books and poetry donated by fans themselves. The installation, on loan from the Arts Council Collection, examines the relationship between the fan and the performer, and encourages visitors to question the boundaries between fine art and popular culture.

Artes Mundi
Artes Mundi is an international arts organisation based in Wales . Established in 2002, Artes Mundi is committed to supporting groundbreaking contemporary visual artists from around the world whose work engages with social reality, lived experience and the human condition.

Every two years, working with artists, galleries, art institutions, curators and the British Council, Artes Mundi seeks nominations of artists known in their own country or region but who are still gaining wider international recognition. Two independent selectors review the nominations and select six artists for the biennial Exhibition and Prize.

The 12 week Exhibition features a body of work from each of the shortlisted artists and takes place at the National Museum of Art in Cardiff . A separate panel of five judges awards the Artes Mundi Prize, which at 40,000, is one of the world’s largest cash prizes in the visual arts.

The first four Artes Mundi Exhibitions have been a popular success with diverse audiences and, particularly, with young people. Public and curatorial events and education programmes are offered in Wales during each biennial and further touring and commissioning strands are being developed.

In 2010 the Artes Mundi 4 Prize was awarded to Yael Bartana who will represent Poland at the 2011 Venice Biennale. The first Artes Mundi Prize was awarded in 2004 to Xu Bing, a Chinese born artist living in New York . In 2006 the Artes Mundi 2 Prize was awarded to the Finnish artist Eija-Liisa Ahtila, and in 2008 to the Indian artist NS Harsha.

Artes Mundi is publicly funded by the Arts Council of Wales and by Cardiff City Council.

The Museum also has outstanding collections of British and European ceramics and silver from the Renaissance to the present. Highlights are shown in the context of paintings and sculpture throughout the art galleries, on the front hall balconies and in the Welsh Ceramics Gallery, a unique study collection of the wares of the Welsh potteries between the 1760s and the 1920s.

Key Facts
Wales’s National Museum of Art cost £6.5 million, most of it raised from private sources and the Welsh Assembly Government.

The National Museum of Art covers 4,000 square metres of space at National Museum Cardiff.

The National Museum of Art will be one of the largest art venues outside London .

The contemporary art galleries – the West Wing – are nearly 800 square metres, making the largest space for contemporary art in Wales .

The redeveloped galleries offer 40% more space for the national contemporary collection.

The first display in the West Wing – I cannot escape this place – will include works by 44 artists including Josef Herman, Bedwyr Williams, Francis Bacon and Richard Long.

Amgueddfa Cymru – National Museum Wales hosts one of the best collections of 19th-century sculpture in the UK .

The nation’s collection has over 1,000 works by Gwen John and Augustus John.

Wales has one of the world’s great collections of 18th-century European porcelain.

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