Museum of the Year judges visit Sainsbury Centre for Visual Arts

Yesterday our panel of judges visited the SCVA in Norwich, one of the finalists for Museum of the Year 2014.

The 10 o'clock train from Liverpool Street chugged through the beautiful Norfolk countryside, taking the judges on their first visit to this year’s shortlisted museums. A short taxi ride from the centre of Norwich, we were greeted by the Sainsbury Centre for Visual Arts' striking Norman Foster-designed building, which first opened to the public in 1978 and has recently undergone a major transformation, opening up some exciting new spaces within the vast, open gallery.

“People see art as a source of pride, and the centre is a source of immense civic pride.”

  • Paul Greenhalgh
  • Director of the Sainsbury Centre for Visual Arts

A quick pit-stop for coffee was followed by an overview of the building’s 36-year history and recent transformation, given by gallery director Paul Greenhalgh. The local area is an important driving force behind the SCVA; the first exhibition after its relaunch, Masterpieces, drew on the creative spirit of Norfolk – displaying works that told the story of the the county through art.

Works by Giacometti (see above), Degas, Francis Bacon, Henry Moore and a 4,000-year-old bronze hippo are just a few of the treasures that stand proudly at the heart of the SCVA’s permanent collection, while two temporary exhibitions – Monument: Aftermath of War and Conflict, and John Virtue: The Sea – dominate the other spaces.

The sight-lines through the building are extraordinary, with no walls, shop or any other structures interrupting the open space. Student facilities are fully integrated within the gallery, and a mezzanine level acts as a temporary exhibition space and a viewing bridge to the restaurant. Education spaces were ready to greet a party of school children and the centre’s technical workshop – one of the best in the country – was preparing for future displays.

We walked back through the gallery to the shop for a press photo call, quick cup of tea, and a final Q&A with the enthusiastic and passionate SCVA team, before boarding the train back to London.

Watch our video about the SCVA, below. Next stop: Ditchling Museum of Art + Craft, East Sussex.

Visit the Museum of the Year homepage.

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