South East Wales

£6.5m National Museum of Art, Cardiff, opening

The head of Wales' national museum says that it now has a world-class display for its world-class collection of art.

A £6.5m new museum showcasing Welsh and Welsh-owned art is to open to the public in Cardiff on Saturday.

The National Museum of Art has been created with private and Welsh Government funding at National Museum Cardiff in Cathays Park.

Six new galleries - the West Wing - will highlight the museum's collection of modern and contemporary art.

"We have a world class collection and this will be a world class display for it," said David Anderson, director general of National Museums and Galleries of Wales (NMGW).

The project was first mooted a decade ago in a consultation with visitors, who said they wanted to see more contemporary art on display in an international context.

Passionate collectors

Work on transforming the buildings galleries began in 2007.

From this weekend visitors will be able to view works from the museum's collection dating from Tudor times to modern day Wales.

As well as contemporary art, the collection includes European Old Master paintings from the 16th and 17th Centuries, and French Impressionist and Post-Impressionist paintings.

Many of the latter was bequeathed by Gwendoline and Margaret Davies - two sisters from mid Wales who were passionate collectors of art from around 1908 onwards.

The first display in the West Wing, titled "I cannot escape this place," will include works by 44 artists including Josef Herman, Bedwyr Williams, Francis Bacon and Richard Long.

Mr Anderson said he hoped the art museum would help boost the profile of Cardiff as a European capital and Wales as a cultural destination.

"There's a real sense of cultural growth here in Cardiff," said Mr Anderson, who joined NMGW from London's Victoria and Albert Museum last year.

"Any European capital will see culture as a vital part of the message it sends out to the rest of the world."

'Cultural mile'

He said from the Wales Millennium Centre in Cardiff Bay to Cardiff Castle in the city centre, and now the museum in Cathays Park , there was "a cultural mile" that the city should be promoting.

"In terms of economic value for Cardiff and Wales we should be exploiting it more than we do," he said.

Mr Anderson said he hoped the museum would inspire Welsh artists and that a balance could be struck between Welsh and international art.

"Twenty years ago there was more emphasis on international artists in this institution and not enough on the work of Welsh-born artists," he said. "These galleries will I hope will get the balance right."

Image caption The museum will showcase its collection of Welsh contemporary art

The programme for the next two years will highlight work from the museum's collection of more than 40,000 works, Mr Anderson explained.

But he added: "I'm sure in the long term we will see more touring exhibitions here in Cardiff.

The museum also hopes to repeat soon the recent tour of some of its collection to the United States, he revealed.

"Welsh culture should be seen overseas in places like the US, Europe, China and India," said Mr Anderson.

The National Museum of Art is the first of three new institutions for Wales.

In the next decade these it hopes also to create a National Museum of History at St Fagans, near Cardiff, and a National Museum of Science and Natural History, also at Cathays Park.

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