Artists finding a place in Norwich’s thriving culture scene

While there is an endless list of incredible galleries within the capital, an art museum outside of a big city holds a kind of magic which cannot be replicated in a concrete jungle.

With space, something so special can be created that has the power to heal the most fragile of hearts. Art, architecture and nature come together to create a sanctuary of peace and inspiration. I believe it is a space where ideas are grown, relaxation is found, and life is truly nourished.

Home to world-class art and UK firsts, the Sainsbury Centre, sat within a vast sculpture park, is world-renowned architect Norman Foster’s revolutionary first public building and the likes of Henry Moore, Pablo Picasso and Alberto Giacometti found a place in our fine city in the 1970s, under Foster’s roof.

One of the first museums in the world to display art from all around the globe and from all time periods equally and collectively, Sir Robert and Lady Lisa Sainsbury created one of the most sought after yet non-conformist art collections.

The Sainsbury Centre is the first museum in the world to formally recognise the living lifeforce of art, enabling people to build relationships across an arts landscape.

It is not a museum to only learn more about artists, cultures or movements like Francis Bacon, the Tang Dynasty or Modernism, it is a place of experience, where collections are animate, and visitors are emotionally connected.

It was Norwich which the couple found to be the perfect city for their world-class collection in 1973 and now, in 2024, still more and more contemporary artists are finding a home for their work in Norwich too.

One such artist is making history as he will be the first Indigenous artist to represent the USA at this year’s Venice Biennale opening in a few weeks.

Norwich is currently home to Jeffrey Gibson’s first solo exhibition at a UK museum.

A painter and sculptor of Mississippi Choctaw and Cherokee heritage, whose work is held in many major American collections, Gibson uses materials such as Native American beadwork and trading posts in his art, which explores identity and labels.

The American artist has created a new site-specific installation for the Sainsbury Centre. Two walls of dense colour, of which no two tones are repeated, not only greet you when you enter the gallery space, but sort of smack you in the face.

Gibson’s work is electric, exploring art history, queer theory, fashion, literature and politics, which comes alive through all-consuming colour and all-absorbing music as you walk around his show.

Incorporating murals, paintings, textiles and historical objects, Gibson’s work also weaves together text drawn lyrics, poetry and his own writing, complete with references to abstraction, fashion and popular culture.

The exhibition illuminates the rich practice of abstraction in Indigenous art, going against the common narrative within UK museums that abstraction only emerged in the 20th century.

Not all eyes are looking towards our capital anymore, with heads turning towards smaller towns (Margate, I’m looking at you) and cities – and our fine city deserves the gaze.

Jeffrey Gibson: no simple word for time is on display at the Sainsbury Centre in Norwich until August 4.

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