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Sainsbury Centre

Published date: April 2020

Sainsbury Centre

Situated in the beautiful parkland campus of the University of East Anglia, the Sainsbury Centre for Visual Arts is south west of the historic city of Norwich and is suitable for families, school and student groups and anyone with an interest in art. It is free to enter for everyone, with a charge for their special exhibitions. The Sainsbury Centre is accessible to disabled visitors including those with limited mobility and those accompanying them, with the exception of the Mezzanine Gallery.

The Sainsbury Centre offers a wide range of activities for families including a busy programme of daily, weekend and holiday workshops and events. Groups of nine or more are required to book in advance and receive a concessionary admission rate on the special exhibitions. Guided tours of these exhibitions can be booked at an added cost.

The Sainsbury Centre Collection represents some of the most remarkable works of art brought together in the UK alongside over 1400 items from across the globe that span some 5000 years. Discover artefacts from prehistory through to those that date to the late 20th century, including a significant collection of 20th century studio ceramics.

Sir Robert Sainsbury began collecting art around 1929 and it became a joint venture when he married his wife in 1937. The Robert and Lisa Sainsbury Collection is one of the few intact modernist collections of the 20th century and contains many seminal works of European modern art, by major artists including Pablo Picasso, Jacob Epstein, Edgar Degas, Francis Bacon, Amedeo Modigliani,  Henry Moore and Alberto Giacometti.

It was in 1973 when Sir Robert and Lady Sainsbury generously gave their art collection to the University of East Anglia that The Sainsbury Centre was first conceived. For more than 40 years, Robert and Lisa Sainsbury collected works of art from major European artists as well as art and antiquities from around the world. The Sainsburys commissioned Norman Foster in 1974 as architect for the new building to house their works and saw Foster’s innovative building as the great jewel of the Sainsbury Collection.

First opening its doors in 1978, the ‘Living Area’ displayed the Sainsbury Collection in a ground-breaking fashion, with all objects housed at eye-level in small groups, within free-standing square or rectangular cases to enable 360-degree viewing. The Sainsburys were keen to ensure the objects could be viewed closely and that visitors could appreciate them in the same way they had themselves when they were in their own home.

Sir Colin and Lady Anderson donated their collection of Art Nouveau to the University soon after the building opened and it continues to be shown in temporary exhibition spaces from time to time, as does the University’s Abstract and Constructivist Collection. Outgrowing the original building in the late 1980s, Foster and Partners designed the Crescent Wing, which opened in 1991, providing exhibition and technical areas and office space. The centre has also undergone further extensions and refurbishments over the years to both extend and improve the space.

Considered one of the most prominent university art galleries in Britain, The Sainsbury Centre is an important national centre for the study and presentation of art and is home to the extraordinary art collection of Robert and Lisa Sainsbury, the Anderson Collection of Art Nouveau and the University’s Abstract and Constructivist Collection.

As well as the aforementioned permanent collections, they also host temporary exhibitions, with their new galleries providing the largest climate-controlled exhibition space in the east of England. The Sainsbury Centre for Visual Arts also provide an award-winning learning programme of gallery talks, art workshops and lectures. The Sainsbury Centre itself houses the university’s School of Art History and World Art Studies and the Sainsbury Research Unit for the Arts of Oceania, Africa and the Americas. It also houses The Sainsbury Institute for Art, bringing together the activities and expertise of the Sainsbury Centre, the Sainsbury Institute for the Study of Japanese Arts and Cultures, and World Art Studies and South Asian Decorative Arts and Crafts Collection Trust.

This unique landmark of architectural history is the perfect setting for a special event. The Sainsbury Centre can host corporate events, weddings and civil partnerships, location filming, studio workshops and more, with a range of catering and accommodation options.

The Modern Life Café is the perfect place to meet friends, study or relax and serves food and drink throughout the day with a great view over their West End sculpture lawn. Kofra serves coffee, tea and cakes etc. in their vibrant community café, with outdoor seating also available.

The Sainsbury Centre shop stocks a wide range of products, including contemporary ceramics, handmade jewellery, gifts, greetings cards and art books.

To find out more about the Sainsbury Centre for Visual Arts, including opening times, venue hire and current exhibitions, please go to their website.

Sainsbury Centre, University of East Anglia, Norfolk Road, Norwich, Norfolk, NR4 7TJ

Tel: 01603 593199

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