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Exhibitions by Huon Mallalieu - National Treasures

Blog | By Huon Mallalieu | Jun 10, 2024

Above: the Wilton Diptych (c 1395-99). On show at the Ashmolean Museum, Oxford

The National Gallery will be celebrating the 200th anniversary of its founding with various exhibitions throughout the year. They include a promising Van Gogh in Provence in October.

Also, throughout the year to May 2025, the National Gallery’s Art Road Trip will visit 18 places across the UK. It will work with local arts organisations on community-led projects intended for people with the least access to creative opportunities. The mobile art studio will host some 200 public events and work with thousands of people to bring art and ideas inspired by the National Gallery Collection to where they live.

First, though, comes not one show but a dozen – and not in Trafalgar Square. Twelve of the collection’s greatest treasures are being sent out, apostle-like; one each to the same number of major public galleries around the country.

This not only is an unusually intelligent, if only temporary, example of levelling up, but serves as a reminder that the National is indeed national. As the advertising has it, ‘More than half the population will be within half an hour’s journey of a National Gallery masterpiece.’ All open on 10th May and most run until early or mid-September.

As is currently fashionable, some of these centres have commissioned contemporary responses to their masterworks. Others have made their loan the centrepiece of a show from their permanent collections.

Among the former, the response to Artemisia, at Birmingham, by Dublin- based Jesse Jones, ‘whose practice crosses film, sound, performance, sculpture and installation’, is promising.

Among the latter, I single out the Laing’s Turner: Art, Industry & Nostalgia, which explores themes in Temeraire that connect it with Tyneside.

Inter alia, it will remind us that, in the 2012 Bond film, Skyfall, 007 met the new Q in front of this painting.

Self-Portrait at the Age of 34, Rembrandt, 1640. On show at the Brighton Museum & Art Gallery

The lucky outstations are: the National Library Wales, Aberystwyth, with Canaletto’s Stonemason’s Yard; the Ulster Museum, Belfast (Caravaggio’s Christ at Emmaus); the Ikon Gallery, Birmingham (Artemisia Gentileschi’s Self-Portrait as St Catherine); Brighton Museum & Art Gallery (Rembrandt’s Self-Portrait at the Age of 34); Bristol Museum & Art Gallery (Constable’s Hay Wain); Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge (Botticelli’s Venus and Mars); the National Gallery of Scotland, Edinburgh (Vermeer’s Young Woman at a Virginal); Leicester Museum & Art Gallery (Renoir’s Umbrellas); Walker Art Gallery, Liverpool (Velázquez’s Rokeby Venus); Laing Art Gallery, Newcastle (Turner’s Fighting Temeraire); Ashmolean Museum, Oxford (the Wilton Diptych); and York Art Gallery (Monet’s Water-Lily Pond).