Record numbers visit Da Vinci exhibition at Sunderland Museum

Leonardo Da Vinci exhibition at Sunderland Museum.
Leonardo Da Vinci exhibition at Sunderland Museum.
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The recent Leonardo da Vinci has proved to be the most popular ever staged at Sunderland Museum & Winter Gardens.

A total of 33,405 people attended Leonardo: A Life in Drawing, an exhibition of 14 drawings marking the 500th anniversary of the Renaissance Master’s death.

The exhibition, part of a nationwide tour of 12 UK venues chosen by the Royal Collection Trust, began in February and closed on May 6.

Jo Cunningham, exhibitions, collections and archive manager at Sunderland Museum & Winter Gardens, said: “We’d set ourselves an ambitious target of 25,000 visitors, so we’re obviously thrilled that more than 33,400 visited the museum to see the remarkable Leonardo drawings.

“The 33,405 figure refers to anyone who visited the exhibition with a ticket or through the engagement programme, but if you look at the total number of people engaged with the exhibition, which includes activities such as school assemblies, the number rises to 35,515.

“We had an incredible 127,000 visitors to the museum as a whole during the Leonardo Exhibition, that’s even more than visited when Grayson Perry’s Vanity of Small Differences tapestries were here in 2013.”

Six years ago, the Turner-prize winning artist exhibited six tapestries inspired by characters and experiences Perry encountered while travelling through Sunderland, Tunbridge Wells and the Cotswolds for a Channel 4 TV series, an exhibition which proved popular on Wearside.

“We had a superb selection of drawings from the Royal Collection Trust, displaying the range of Leonardo’s brilliant work and the feedback we’ve had has been amazing,” added Jo.

Keith Merrin, chief executive of Sunderland Culture who deliver the programme at the museum on behalf of Sunderland City Council, added: “The success of Leonardo: A Life in Drawing is evidence – if any further proof was needed – that Sunderland is an excellent

location for high-quality exhibitions.

“Obviously we were delighted that Sunderland was given the opportunity to stage such a prestigious exhibition by such an important artist, and by any measure, it has been a huge success. A quick look through out visitor comments book reveals visitors from all over the region, across the UK and even internationally.

“I’d like to thank everyone at the Museum and from the wider Sunderland Culture team who’ve worked so hard to make the exhibition a success – and we’re now very much looking forward to hosting exhibitions from the Arts Council Collection at the same venue.”

Coun John Kelly, Sunderland City Council Portfolio holder for culture and communities, said: “This was a great exhibition and one which we were proud to host in Sunderland. I was delighted to see so many visitors attend - from all over the region and further afield. The exhibition was the latest in a long line of important national touring exhibitions we’ve had here, and we’ll certainly have more in the future.”

It was announced in March that the Museum will be one of only three galleries nationwide to present work from the Arts Council Collection as part of the National Partners Programme.

The Arts Council is investing £1.65m nationally into the programme, and the collection will be exhibited over a three-year period. The collection includes work by Francis Bacon, Lucian Freud, Damien Hirst, Grayson Perry and Gillian Wearing.

A series of drawings from respected British portrait artist Andrew Tift complemented the Leonardo drawings. Tift, famous for his paintings of leading politicians, was commissioned to produce 15 drawings of pensioners living in three Washington care homes. The commission was funded by Washington Area Committee.

Jo explained: “The Andrew Tift portraits attracted huge attention, were highly praised and proved a perfect complement to Leonardo’s work.”

Now the Leonardo: A Life in Drawing exhibitions at the 12 venues are complete, the drawings are being brought together to form part of an exhibition at The Queen’s Gallery, Buckingham Palace, the largest exhibition of Leonardo’s work in more than 65 years. A selection of 80 drawings will then travel to The Queen’s Gallery, Palace of Holyroodhouse in November, the largest group of Leonardo’s works ever shown in Scotland.