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World leaders passing through No 10 Downing Street—the UK’s seat of political power—will get a glimpse of life in Newcastle and north-east England via nine works displayed in the corridor leading from the prime minister’s famous black door through to the Cabinet Room.
The items are on display at No 10 as part of an annual initiative whereby the Government Art Collection (GAC) selects a venue outside the capital to be its “museum in residence” with an invitation to exhibit works for a year. The pieces, all drawn from the Laing Art Gallery in Newcastle, include Louis Grimshaw’s St Nicholas Street (1902); Victor Pasmore’s Girl with Mirror (around 1942-45) and Flora Glover’s The Flood (around 1941).
A statement from the UK department of culture, media and sport says that five of the paintings represent Newcastle’s cityscape, while the others point to the diverse art scene of the north-east. “All of the works are by influential artists from the area, who taught at its art schools, or who have been inspired by its landmarks and landscapes,” adds the DCMS.
The Conservative arts minister Lord Parkinson (Stephen Parkinson) says that the scheme is an opportunity to shows works from galleries across the UK. “All sorts of people get to see the works, from presidents to key workers [such as employees of the country’s National Health Service (NHS)],” he adds.
Parkinson, who is from North Shields in the country’s north-east, says that the choice of Laing Art Gallery, a local institution, is a “happy coincidence”. He adds: “The first thing they’ll see after walking through that famous front door is a huge portrait of the Tyne Bridge [Edward Dickey, The Building of the Tyne Bridge, 1928).” The Grade II-listed bridge is the region’s best-known architectural landmarks.
Julie Milne, chief curator of art galleries at Tyne & Wear Archives and Museums (Laing Art Gallery) tells The Art Newspaper: “One of the most enjoyable things was working with the GAC which looked at our own collection from a different perspective. It is also interesting to see these works in this context [in the domestic setting of No 10].” An official event inaugurating the display will take place later this month.
The Art Newspaper understands that next year’s “museum in residence” is Cartwright Hall Art Gallery in Bradford, coinciding with the Bradford City of Culture festival 2025. Previous participants include Glynn Vivian Art Gallery in Swansea.
The GAC, which has museum status, has its core work funded by central government. The official line is that the collection “promotes British art and plays a key role in British cultural diplomacy, delivering an expression of Britain’s soft power, its culture and its values”.