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28 October 2014
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Discover the New Art Gallery Walsall
Children in the discovery gallery
The Discovery Gallery
The New Art Gallery Walsall really has turned the concept of what an art gallery used to be on its head. The interactive artspace especially for young visitors allows them to express their creativity.
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The New Art Gallery Walsall website

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FACTS

- The New Art Gallery Walsall opened in February 2000

- The gallery was awarded a £15.75 million arts lottery fund

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Often debated in the media for its radical building structure - though more recently for Jonathan Callan’s outlandish exhibition. Styled on a massive shop front display of cuddly toys, all lovingly sliced, hammered, drilled then injected with silicon, for £21 million. The New Art Gallery Walsall really has turned the concept of what an art gallery used to be on its head.

Darren Lago Stilletto Stalactite 1999 steel, resin, leather and plastic - Courtesy 'Annely Juda Fine Art'

It's a bit like a visit to the big Swedish home interiors store, popular with a current wave of ‘minimalist’ Britain. It makes no apology for its unashamed modern fixtures and fittings along with its refreshing approach to hassle free browsing.

Out with ‘arty types stuffiness’, in with living room height ceilings, simplistic lighting. On fresh white coated walls hang masters of the old school such as Picasso, Van Gogh, and Monet with today’s movers and shakers like notorious art scene rebel, Damien Hurst.

The Discovery Gallery

Child at discovery gallery
The Discovery Gallery

The Jewel in it's crown has to be its Discovery Gallery, the first interactive art space of its kind in this country. Designed for young visitors but stimulating enough for adults, it mixes touch, vision and role play multimedia with fashionably commercial artworks.

During the planning process the design team took their inspiration for its content from visits to America. Learning from and evolving the ideas of the pioneers of this kind of future art.

Joe Digger, Collections Curator explains, "Some people come because they enjoy art, others for stimulation, conversation, debate - or to get in from the rain. I’m happy for people to get what they can from the gallery."

She continues, "Cutting corners wasn’t an option, it had to be about getting the very best for the people of Walsall."

The Garman Ryan Collection

Sally Ryan (1916 - 1968) - The Martinique 1934
Sally Ryan (1916 - 1968) - The Martinique 1934

Traditional art is showcased in the The Garman Ryan Collection, currently featuring a stunning new addition on loan from the Tate Modern, London. Here you step into rooms full of happy and stern faced sculptures, all family and friends of renowned artists Jacob Epstein. Donated by his lover and towards the latter part of his life his wife, they mingle with detailed African crafted workmanship retaining the international feel of the whole building.

As for the future, phase two of Walsall’s art explosion is imminent with rumours to create artist studios and a larger community exhibition space. Whether this does or doesn’t happen, since its launch just two years ago, the gallery has been visited by over half a million visitors.

It's fair to say they have every reason to strut in their Darren Lago, sleek red, stalactite high-heels, as a leading exhibitor of national and international art.

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