Southampton City Art Gallery and the National Gallery, London, have announced a major new exhibition which explores, for the first time, the 92-year partnership between the two galleries, and the role the National Gallery has played in the evolution of Southampton’s collection. The National Gallery will be lending nine works, including a Monet and a Gainsborough for an exhibition this spring.
Creating a National Collection is the first exhibition to explore the unique relationship and influence the National Gallery has had on the evolution of Southampton’s collection. The historical links between the two galleries are significant, but little known. This fruitful relationship was established from the start, when Cllr Robert Chipperfield (1817–1911), whose bequest in 1911 led to the creation of the collection and the Art Gallery in Southampton, ensured that future acquisitions would be of a national calibre. Chipperfield had the foresight to stipulate that all purchases using his Trust fund should be undertaken in consultation with the Director of the National Gallery. Kenneth Clark, newly installed as the National Gallery’s Director in 1934 took a particularly active interest in advising Southampton on acquisitions and wrote its first formal collecting policy in 1936, which essentially remains in place today.
The exhibition will include outstanding works from Southampton, alongside the loan of 9 paintings from the National Gallery, by artists including Monet, Gainsborough, Maggi Hambling and Paula Rego. The two institutions have worked in partnership as part of the current 2019–21 National Gallery Curatorial Traineeship programme, supported by the Art Fund with the assistance of the Vivmar Foundation, with Curatorial Trainee, Jemma Craig, leading on a project to explore this dynamic and ongoing collaboration. A major publication will accompany the exhibition which will tell the fascinating history of Southampton City Art Gallery, and its relationship with the National Gallery, using untapped archival material and new oral histories.
Carolyn Abel, Head of Culture & Tourism at Southampton City Council, a City Partner of the Southampton 2025 Trust said:
‘Bidding for UK City of Culture is for us about enriching lives, transforming communities and showcasing everything great we have to offer. This long-standing partnership with the National Gallery is a perfect example of what we are bidding for and why we believe that Southampton can win the honour of being UK City of Culture in 2025. We’re also delighted that local woman Jemma Craig beat off stiff competition to become Southampton’s Curatorial Trainee!’
COVID‐19 regulations and guidelines permitting, the exhibition is due to open to the public from 28 May to 4 September 2021.