National modern art gallery planned for Wales

The gallery

Plans are being drawn up for a new national gallery of modern Welsh art.

Little has been decided about the contents or location of the gallery, although it is expected to focus on 20th and 21st Century Welsh art.

The Welsh Government is funding a feasibility study and Plaid Cymru has also backed the idea.

Work is led by the National Museum Wales (NMW) and Arts Council of Wales (ACW), whose chairman Phil George said there was "excitement" about the plan.

They have examined some of the broader options ahead of a more detailed feasibility study later this year.

The government is funding the study as part of a commitment during negotiations over last year's Programme for Government, which was passed with Plaid's support.

"We certainly want a place which could be full of excitement in showing contemporary and modern art," Mr George said.

"Everybody who wants that wants to see how it fits in with the existing scene, with existing galleries which are offering strong things.

"And we want to be clear about exactly how existing collections relate to the showing of new work.

"So the main question, I think, is whether this gallery is about showing temporary exhibitions with new focus, new work and also an international reach. Or whether it also includes the collection of modern and contemporary art that's already built up."

Much of that collection is held by NMW at its galleries in Cardiff.

A previous feasibility study in 2008, which also considered the need for a new gallery, resulted in the renovation and expansion of the museum's galleries.

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Media captionCardiff-based artist Elfyn Lewis thinks the gallery could work alongside National Museum Wales

Elfyn Lewis, who is a previous winner of the gold medal for fine art at the National Eisteddfod, said it was a "fantastic" idea.

"It is something that has long been needed.

"I think it would definitely put a marker down for us as a country and a nation, and show that we we are serious about our art."

Asked about the existing collections housed at NMW, Mr Lewis said a new gallery would allow more works to be displayed.

"The museum's collection is vast, they can't show everything. I think, if we did have this building, it would just show us in a different light. I think we need to showcase ourselves, and also Wales."

Artist Kevin Sinnott, who has a gallery in Pontycymmer, said he would like to see people's lives in Wales represented and an "exciting" building but said this would not have to be enormous.

But Stephen Bayley, the Cardiff-born cultural critic, said Wales needed to be innovative in its approach and questioned whether a new gallery would be beneficial.

He said: "I just cant help believing that the sort of art we are talking about, and the sort of gallery we are talking about, is actually something of the past century.

Image caption Artist Kevin Sinnott wants an exciting building

"If there is to be a future for Wales - and I think there's a huge future for Wales - I'd like to see some slightly more progressive thinking, rather than aping something that has already happened in Europe, the United States and in England."

"Of course, you could make an interesting new building in Aberystwyth or somewhere, and why not? You'd have to be out of your mind to be against it. I just think it's a conventional, old fashioned way of thinking and I'd rather see a different sort of investment in a new future for Wales."

The initial work by ACW and NMW is expected to be completed in the next few weeks ahead of a detailed feasibility study later this year.

David Anderson, director general of NMW, said: "There is an appetite from our visitors to experience work by artists living and working in Wales today, and by Welsh artists who work outside Wales.

"Our recent Ivor Davies exhibition at National Museum Cardiff's contemporary art galleries - currently Wales' largest space for contemporary art - was a clear indication of that."

He said it was "extremely important" that contemporary art from Wales and from around the world - both popular and unfamiliar - was "shown in fresh ways to as many people as possible."

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