I can always rely on my fellow bloggers to provide me with inspiration for a holiday or day trip. Early in November I discovered an intriguing art gallery thanks to Catherine’s Cultural Wednesdays. Catherine’s blog is full of fascinating posts about culture and the arts so I took note of her recommendation. The Sainsbury Centre for Visual Arts is in the grounds of the University of East Anglia (UEA) in Norwich. As we were heading to Suffolk a couple of weeks later, it made sense to drive via Norwich and take a look for ourselves.
Designed by renowned architect, Lord Norman Foster, the Sainsbury Centre was opened in 1978. Robert and Lisa Sainsbury donated their extensive art collection to the centre, having accumulated the items since the 1930s. It’s one of the most impressive art collections in the country,spanning 5000 years. Within this striking, modern building are examples of tribal art from across the globe and works from famous artists such as Degas, Picasso and Modigliani. There’s also a fabulous collection of 20th century ceramics collected by Lisa Sainsbury, including work by Rie and Coper.
You can easily spend a few hours here, discovering your favourite pieces – a silver llama effigy caught my eye, alongside a sculpture by Henry Moore. I guarantee you will also be enchanted by the number of miniatures on show: tiny sculptures requiring the visitor to peer intently into the glass cases. The items are beautifully lit, there is space to admire them and the lofty ceiling provides a calm, airy environment in which to just wander and stop and stare.
We took a break for lunch (delicious soup) in the Modern Life Cafe but visitors can also try the smaller, specialist coffee shop, Kofra. There are views from both, looking out onto the lawns where more sculptures can be seen, including a new installation, the Tatlin Tower, a 10m high construction based on the famous design of Russian architect, Vladimir Tatlin. The tower is part of a temporary exhibition, Russia Season, which runs until 11 February. Radical Russia features work by avant-garde artists before and after the revolution: Royal Fabergé explores the intricate creations from this acclaimed jeweller.
I adored the Fabergé collection. Such exquisite work, especially the famous enamelled eggs. I had no idea our Royal Family owned Fabergé items: the Queen has loaned many pieces to the exhibition, including a vast collection of tiny jewelled animals from Sandringham. No photography was allowed inside the exhibition so you will have to imagine the dazzling and delicate creations.
Another temporary exhibition, not open during our visit, but running until 3 April, features work by Roger Law, one half of the Fluck and Law partnership which created Spitting Image. There are examples of his memorable puppets on show and the exhibition includes many porcelain objects as he is now better known as a major ceramic artist.
The permanent exhibitions at the Sainsbury Centre are free to enter but we thought it was worth using the money we’d saved to pay for entry to the temporary exhibition, Russia Season. Car parking is free in the nearby car park (P7): just pick up a permit from the centre’s reception desk. Explore the campus if the weather’s good to see if you can spot other sculptures: there are three by Henry Moore. If you look up to the roof of the library you’ll just manage to spy an Antony Gormley figure, Another Time II.
For more information about opening hours of the Sainsbury Centre, check out their website www.scva.ac.uk If you still need some retail therapy, you can always pick up a treat from the gorgeous little gift shop. We found some beautiful coffee cups which are now a permanent reminder of our visit. Until the next time, when we can add to the set…
This article also appeared as a Trish Takes Five article I wrote for the Lincolnshire Free Press. I’ve changed it slightly and added lots more photos for you to enjoy.