NEW BRIDGE ST | NE1 8AG | TUESDAY – SATURDAY 10AM – 5PM | SUNDAY 2PM – 5PM
As a known centrepiece of Newcastle and the UK’s artistic culture, the Laing Art Gallery is hardly an unknown destination meriting a blog post. There’s no harm in shining another light on what is already lit though, so this is just a wee reminder that a pretty serious art gallery is in our city centre and should be visited by the student body more often.
Founded in 1901, the Laing has a great history in beverages. Its founder, Alexander Laing, was a Newcastle businessman who made his money from wine, spirits, and beer. Wey aye the toon, eh. Unusually for a British regional gallery, the Laing was born and opened without a permanent collection behind it. Alexander Laing was confident “that by the liberality of the inhabitants [of Newcastle] it would soon be supplied with pictures and statuary for the encouragement and development of British Art.” He wasn’t wrong, as since then the gallery has established an important collection of international art and is host to a diverse schedule of exhibitions, talks, events, and activities which range from curator-led tours to teapot painting. Some very notable works held at the Laing include paintings by Gaugin, and the famous pre-Raphaelite masterpiece Isabella and the Pot of Basil by William Holman Hunt, which inspired Keats’ poem of the same name.
The gallery’s permanent collection focuses on British 18th and 19th century paintings, as well as staying true to its heritage through the Northern Spirit display which showcases artwork produced locally in the past and present. The gallery itself is also lovely; it’s a Grade II listed building that merges Baroque, Art Nouveau and contemporary architecture beautifully through muralled red brick, friezes, towering stone spires and glass frontings.
Currently, in a refreshing turn of events, the Laing is host to a nationally touring exhibition of Van Dyck’s last self-portrait before London (it will be at the National Portrait Gallery later this year). The exhibition — Modern Visionaries: Van Dyck and the Artist’s Eye — also features works by Freud, Picasso, Warhol, and Vézelay. And they’re right on our doorstep in the toon, waiting to be viewed! Coming soon are exhibitions on Quentin Blake, the Paul Nash retrospective from the Tate Modern, works on the migration crisis and identity, as well as a host of events that illuminate these displays. Events include subject expert talks from the V&A and Tate Modern, film screenings, and after hours tours and discussions lead by the National Portrait Gallery’s panelists.
Pop in for a wander around, check out the current rotating exhibition, or see the link below for info on their events and talks. Of course, there’s also a gorgeous shop for buying great presents, and a little café too. Entry is free.