Saturday, October 30, 2010

Cardiff Museum

When I was a kid I spent many happy hours wandering around the art galleries in Cardiff Museum. Some of the big old historical paintings used to scare the hell out of me, but I loved the smaller, lighter gallery of Impressionist art.

It was there, too that I first saw paintings by Graham Sutherland. His work was to become a big influence on me. In fact, recently I’ve been looking again at his sketches and paintings, though only in books.

You can visit the arts section of their website here.

In the last couple of weeks, Cardiff Museum has opened seven newly refurbished art galleries. As I walked in for the first time, there was one of my favourite Graham Sutherland paintings right in front of me. It made me happy.

The new galleries are really beautiful and very elegantly and tastefully decorated. The rooms are now more open-plan giving a much more spacious feel. They house a fantastic collection of Impressionist and Modern Art. It is simply amazing to be able to look at works by Renoir, Van Gogh, Cezanne, Rodin, Picasso and many more. There are eight Monets on show, for goodness sake!

There is also a special exhibition running on “Modern Art from 1930 – Surrealism and Neo-Romanticism”. That sounds a bit high-falutin’ but it’s really very good. Again, when I was younger, I was fascinated by Surrealist art so it’s amazing to see original works by some of my heroes such as Ernst and Magritte,

As with a lot of art exhibitions, though, it can be a bit overwhelming. I usually find that after an hour or so I have to get out of there before my head explodes.

It’s also difficult sometimes to understand the themes and links that the curator had in mind when putting the collection together. I asked about this and was told that staff are currently being trained and that in a few weeks guided tours would be available.

It’s a strange situation, though, when these new developments are taking place at a time when a number of privately-owned commercial galleries in Cardiff have had to close and of those that are still going some are struggling.

It’s also a time when the funding of 32 organisations by the Arts Council of Wales is to stop following a spending review (see this BBC News report).

I’m not really into the detail of it all but if you’re interested in the background to the development of these galleries, and of other work going on, you can look here at the “The Future Display of Visual Art in Wales” – a report for the Welsh Assembly Government on the options and costs involved in establishing a national art gallery for Wales and a national centre for contemporary art.

I just like that I get to look at great art in great surroundings. Oh, and that it's free.

I took my grandchildren to Cardiff museum recently. They're around the same age I was in the early 60's when I used to go to there on Saturdays with my friends after we'd been to the kids' dance in the Top Rank Suite on Queen street in the morning. (don't worry, this isn't a trip down memory lane!)
I hadn't been there in a long time and the visit made me aware of how much the museum has changed, especially in the way it presents its various collections - one presumes via pressure from a more demanding generation. It's all so much more hands on now, as well as being more exciting. My memory of it was lots of dead things in glass cases, the only excitement being the beehive cabinet (as well as occasionally being ejected from the museum for unruly behaviour!)
Though now I'm able to appreciate the more static exhibits, like their fabulous art collection (thanks mostly to the Davies sisters) my boisterous grandchildren and their low boredom thresholds reminded me of how I felt all those years ago, and I thought organised tours of the galleries, especially aimed at kids can't be a bad thing. After all art is frequently produced in a loud, lively, chaotic manner, so why not appreciate it that way.
Anonymous ... that's a great comment ... thanks! May I ask who you are? You don't have to say ... that's the point of being anonymous! But I'm curious.
My name's Martin, but as we've never met, I thought putting 'Martin' would only prompt you to ask -'who's Martin?'
Anyway, I picked up a business card with your name on it some time ago and it caused me to check out your blog. It's always interesting, and thank you.
Next time I'll tell you it's me - of maybe not!
Thanks Martin! Glad you enjoy the blog!
I had fun choosing this particular painting online that now hangs in my downtown office, from, who sells canvas prints of art masterpieces. While the original is treasured in some art museum in England, my print, of this painting by Edward Burne-Jones is very much appreciated by my staff and clients. The print quality is really excellent.

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