Works by Francis Bacon, Damien Hirst, Grayson Perry and Lucian Freud part of art collection set for Sunderland

Artist Grayson Perry at one of his previous exhibitions at Sunderland Museum
Artist Grayson Perry at one of his previous exhibitions at Sunderland Museum
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Artworks by renowned artists such as Francis Bacon, Damien Hirst and Lucian Freud could go on show at Sunderland Museum in the latest cultural coup for the city.

It’s been announced today that the venue is one of just three nationally to host artwork from the acclaimed Arts Council Collection as part of the National Partners Programme for 2019-2022.

The Arts Council is investing £1.65m into the programme to exhibit the collection, which includes work by Francis Bacon, Lucian Freud,

Damien Hirst, Grayson Perry, Paula Rego, and Gillian Wearing, over the three-year period.

Sunderland Council Cabinet Member for Communities and Culture, coun John Kelly, said: “This is a major coup for Sunderland and the region, building as it does on the city’s recent success in attracting the Leonardo da Vinci exhibition.

“We know that there’s a huge appetite for amazing art and culture in Sunderland and we’re delighted that the Arts Council have recognised that by including Sunderland Museum and Winter Gardens in this three-year programme.”

Keith Merrin, chief executive of Sunderland Culture who will deliver the programme at the museum on behalf of Sunderland City Council, said: “We are delighted to be working with the Arts Council Collection to bring amazing works of art to audiences in Sunderland and the North East over the next three years.

“Bringing the Arts Council Collection to Sunderland Museum and Winter Gardens is the latest instalment in the resurgence of the city as a centre for arts and culture following hot on the heels of the reopening of the Northern Gallery for Contemporary Art and the current Leonardo da Vinci exhibition.

“We know our audiences will relish the opportunity to be inspired by the very best of modern and contemporary British art from the collection.”

Jane Tarr, director, North, Arts Council England said: “Congratulations to Sunderland Culture on winning their bid to host the Arts Council National Collection. This is excellent news, not only for Sunderland, but for the whole of the North East.

“By having the Arts Council National Collection as the basis of a partnership programme at Sunderland Museum and Winter Gardens and across the city for the next three years, people who might otherwise never get a chance to see the collection will be able to enjoy and engage with it. 

“And it’s fitting the collection comes to Sunderland as it builds on unsung work spotting and developing talent over many years – Sunderland has been the first to show many artists who’ve gone on to build international reputations and its contemporary art scene goes from strength to strength. 

“I hope it will encourage more people to explore Sunderland and the North East, and to see first hand, not only the Arts Council National Collection, but the amazing culture offer we have here in the region.”

Graeme Thompson, Sunderland Culture chairman and Pro Vice-Chancellor at the University of Sunderland added: “This amazing access to the national collection is the latest accolade to be awarded to Sunderland. From a university perspective it underlines the advantages to students studying arts and creative industries in a city which has such unparalleled access to artists, designers, makers and curators. And it brings another step change to the city’s culture-led revival.”

Funded by the National Lottery, the focus of the National Partners Programme is to increase the diversity and number of people experiencing the Arts Council Collection in England, and to support organisational development in regional art galleries. 

The Arts Council Collection was founded in 1946 is the most widely circulated national loan collection of modern and contemporary British art in the world. The collection has played a valuable role in supporting galleries round the country through loans, touring exhibitions and curatorial skills.

There are now over 8,000 works in the collection, including paintings, sculptures, original, works on paper, prints and moving images.

The first National Partners Programme (2016-2019) has given galleries and museums in Liverpool, Birmingham and Eastbourne the opportunity to host the Collection.