SLIDESHOW: Steal a look at new art exhibition

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The latest exhibition at NGCA sees work of artists and crafts-people stand shoulder to shoulder. Katy Wheeler went along to the Fawcett Street gallery to find out more.

What is an artist? What is a crafts person? These questions and more are explored in The Decorator and The Thief, which opened this week to the public.

Curator, George Vasey with art installations in the new exhibition, The Decorator and the Thief at Sunderland City Library and Arts Centre.

Curator, George Vasey with art installations in the new exhibition, The Decorator and the Thief at Sunderland City Library and Arts Centre.

As well as items loaned from the Arts Council’s collection, the display features newly-commissioned works, including artist-designed wallpaper, sculpture, fabric, writing and film across the mediums of art, design and craft.

Kathryn Brame, Engagement and Communications Manager at the Northern Gallery for Contemporary Art, explains: “The idea of the title is a play on the terms artist and crafts person. The decorator is the crafts person, while the thief is the artist, in the sense that artists often appropriate and take ideas from others.”

Curator George Vasey said: “The exhibition also explores ideas around value, and what we value as beautiful. One of the works is by artist Keith Arnatt, a conceptual artist who has taken pictures of landfill sites. He manages to create beautiful images out of things that are usually ugly and over-looked. He’s one of the most significant artists in post-war Britain.

“We’re displaying works by internationally-significant artists, such as work by Keith and Barry Flanagan, alongside newly-commissioned works.

“We also examine ideas of the artist and the designer. Craft is often seen as decorative, that doesn’t have an idea behind it, but everything has an idea behind it as to how it


“As part of the exhibition I asked the daughter of one of our technical managers – Phoebe Turnbull, 12 – to draw her idea of an artist and a crafts person. Phoebe drew the artist as male and the crafts person as female. It’s interesting to look at the gender assumptions that go with those words.”

Other artists’ works on display include pieces by Fay Nicolson, Jackson Sprague, Kate Liston, Michael Fischer and CommonRoom.

As part of the broader project working with some of the UK’s largest lending collections, Sunderland Museum & Winter Gardens will be opening ‘Recollected’, showcasing work from the Arts Council and Craft Council Collections, from March 22 through to May 17.

The Northern Gallery for Contemporary Art and National Glass Centre are also presenting an off-site show at the Priestman Gallery at Sunderland University which continues the themes of the show.

•The Thief and the Decorator runs at NGCA, City Library, Fawcett Street until May 16.