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National treasures from UK's greatest collections loaned to local museums in 2021
The Lampedusa cross 2, Francesco Tuccio, 2015, wood © The Trustees of the British Museum.

LONDON.- From the glittering Galloway Hoard of treasure to an exceptional portrait of Richard III and works by leading artists Antony Gormley and Lucian Freud, world-class art and objects from national collections will be shared with smaller museums nationwide this year through the Weston Loan Programme with Art Fund. Highlights include:

• The Galloway Hoard – the richest collection of rare Viking-age objects ever found in the UK – will be exhibited near the site of its discovery at Kirkcudbright Galleries, from National Museums Scotland

• The National Portrait Gallery’s iconic portrait of Richard III will go on display at Yorkshire Museum

• Towner Eastbourne will display one of the most highly regarded paintings of the Great War, Over the Top (1918) by John Nash, loaned from the Imperial War Museum

• Field for the British Isles (1993) by Antony Gormley, which won the artist the Turner Prize, will be displayed at the National Glass Centre, Sunderland, on loan from the Arts Council Collection

• The poignant Lampedusa Cross will be loaned to Hastings Museum for an exhibition co-curated with local migrants

Created by the Garfield Weston Foundation and Art Fund, the Weston Loan Programme is the first UK-wide grant programme designed to directly fund and empower smaller museums to borrow major works from national or major lending museums and galleries. The scheme has dramatically boosted visitor numbers since it began in 2018 and widens access to objects from major collections for audiences across the country, all the more important as people stay local due to Covid-19 and museums look forward to welcoming visitors through their doors once again.

The Garfield Weston Foundation have committed over £1.5m to the Weston Loan Programme to date, and 51 museums have now received grants. Visitor numbers have increased on average by 40%, and in 2019 Nantgarw China Works Museum - a small museum in Wales dedicated to porcelain - saw a 372% rise in its year on year figures thanks to its exhibition featuring 20 original pieces of fine porcelain on loan from National Museum Wales.

18 exhibitions will open around the UK in 2021 with support through the Weston Loan Programme, representing funding of £320,000. They will bring fascinating stories to local communities, from the spectacular to the tragic.

Buried at the beginning of the 10th century in Dumfries and Galloway, the Galloway Hoard lay undisturbed for a thousand years before being unearthed by a metal detectorist in September 2014. The incredible discovery, comprised of more than 100 Viking Age objects, will be exhibited just ten miles from the original find site when it goes on loan to Kirkcudbright Galleries.

At Yorkshire Museum, the National Portrait Gallery’s world-famous 16th century portrait of Richard III will be shown in an exhibition telling the story of his reign. The portrait is being loaned as part of the National Portrait Gallery’s Coming Home project, which sees the Gallery lend portraits of iconic individuals to places across the UK with which they are most closely associated. Characterised by Shakespeare as a devious ruler, Richard III was the last king of the House of York, and his death in 1485 marked the end of the Middle Ages in England.

The Lampedusa Cross will be loaned by the British Museum to Hastings Museum and Art Gallery as one venue of a British Museum National Programmes UK tour. The cross is made from two pieces of a boat that was wrecked off the coast of Lampedusa, Italy, in 2013, causing the deaths of 311 Eritrean and Somali refugees. Moved by their plight, the island’s carpenter made a cross for the survivors from the boat’s wreckage. The cross will be displayed this autumn as part of a touring exhibition co-curated with local migrant and refugee groups.

Over the Top (1918) by John Nash, captures the artist’s experience of trench warfare, specifically a 1917 attack in France where 68 of 80 men from Nash’s battalion were killed within minutes. He was one of 12 spared by the shell-fire, and painted this picture three months later. Towner Eastbourne’s exhibition featuring the painting will be the most comprehensive exhibition of Nash’s work in over 50 years.

Antony Gormley’s Field for the British Isles (1993) comprises 40,000 unique clay figures which completely occupy the space in which they are installed. The work has not been on view in the north east of England since 1996 and will be installed at the National Glass Centre by members of the local community.

Sophia Weston, Trustee of the Garfield Weston Foundation, said: “This programme empowers smaller museums to bring fascinating art and objects to local audiences, where they can be experienced through the lens of regional history and heritage. We are delighted to support these important exhibitions this year, when we are all craving cultural experiences more than ever.”

Jenny Waldman, Director, Art Fund, said: “Many of the exhibitions featuring these spectacular loans from national collections have been delayed by the pandemic, and the museums can’t wait to open their doors and welcome visitors to see these national treasures. At a time when everyone is staying local, it’s incredibly important for people to have access to great art and objects closer to home. Our heartfelt thanks to the Garfield Weston Foundation for their continued support through the Weston Loan Programme with Art Fund, who are enabling these ambitious and innovative museums to share our incredible collections more widely for everyone to see and enjoy.”

Dr Nicholas Cullinan, Director, National Portrait Gallery, said: “I’m delighted that this famous portrait of Richard III will be displayed at the Yorkshire Museum this year as part of our Coming Home project. Access to our cherished national collections right around the UK is more important than ever as museums large and small work to overcome the catastrophic impact of Covid-19.”

The Weston Loan programme also aims to strengthen the skills of museum professionals and distribute resources across the UK. The funding covers what can be prohibitive costs associated with displaying world-class works, for security, transport, installation and insurance.

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