The Sainsbury Centre was first conceived after Sir Robert and Lady Sainsbury generously gave their art collection to the University of East Anglia in 1973.
Designed between 1974 and 1976, the Sainsbury Centre for Visual Arts was the first major public building designed by now renowned architect Norman Foster. The chosen location was a sloping east-west site by the River Yare, at the very edge of campus.
Over 40 years Robert and Lisa Sainsbury collected works of art which ranged across time and place. They sought work both from major European artists, as well as art and antiquities from different periods and cultures around the world.When the Sainsbury Centre first opened in 1978, it housed the Living Area, displaying the Robert and Lisa Sainsbury Collection and a temporary exhibition gallery at the east end.
Beyond the Living Area was space for the University’s Art History department, two mezzanines – one for a study area and the other to display collections – plus a restaurant at the west end.
The Sainsburys were equally radical in commissioning the young Norman Foster in 1974 as architect for the new building to house their works. Sir Robert saw Foster’s innovative building as the great jewel of the Sainsbury Collection. After Foster proposed a new partially underground Crescent Wing to the east, by the late 1980s, it was open in 1991, offering new office and temporary exhibition areas, a storage area, technical workshops and a state-of-the-art conservation laboratory.
So, I went on a research trip with my college to the Sainsbury Centre For the Visual Arts and visited two exhibitions, one of them was “FIJI: ART & LIFE IN THE PACIFIC”, the largest and most comprehensive exhibition about Fiji ever assembled, it tells us about the art and cultural history of Fiji since the late 18th century. Over 270 works of art, including European paintings and historic photographs. And the second one was “MASTERS OF JAPANESE PHOTOGRAPHY”. This exhibition explores the work of some of the most prominent Japanese photographers of the second half of the twentieth century, including Nobuyoshi Araki, Eikoh Hosoe and Kikuji Kawada. Unfortunately, they did not allow to take any photographs at this exhibition and I had to pay 2£ pounds for the entry, but it
was worth it, truly beautiful, dramatic and legendary photographs shows a generation that grew up in the aftermath of the Second World War, their work addresses both their personal experiences and the evolution of Japanese society. From Araki’s exuberant flowers to Hosoe’s lyrical portraits, these fascinating images encapsulate the natural beauty and social complexity of Japan.
After looking at all of the exhibits these were the ones I chose to include in my CS blog.
This is Head-dress frontlet, it came from North America, Northwest Coast from Kaigani Haida people (?). Made in 19th century it’s made from wood, abalone shell, sinew and pigment. Acquired in 1974. The reason I chose this exhibit is I really love the colours I see when I look at it, the orange/brick colour wooden body of this mystical creature, creates such interesting contrast between the colours of the abalone shell. The colour of the abalone shell reminds me of chameleon because of the diversity of colours but at the same time I see the glimpses of dark blue, green, maybe a bit of yellow that creates this rich emerald colour that reminds me of the ocean but the part that no human gets to see, very deep in the ocean where it’s dark and cold, only water around and the colour of the shell for me really symbolises the water and I like how these two
materials, “dry” (wood) and “wet” (shell) work together.
The second piece was a painting. “Two Figures in a Room”, 1959 by Francis Bacon (1909-1992), made in England, oil on canvas. I liked this painting again, because of the use and combinations of colours artist used and how modern it is, remembering the fact that it was made in 1959. I also like that I can see obvious and free brushstrokes that really help you understand the way this artist works and his style. Also, this painting is simple in the way that the focal point is in the middle (more to the right) where the artist illustrated two figures on a fairly simple background that consists of 3 colours, burgundy floor, light blue wall separated by the bold, thick green line across it. Great painting, I would love to put it in my living room.
Third piece was a Head-dress ornament in the form of a fox. From Peru, Moche style, c. AD 1-800, made from gilt copper and shell greenstone. My first thought was when I saw this exhibit, without reading the description yet, for some reason it looked very contemporary to me, I would have never thought this piece was that old, I can clearly see the poor conditions this ornament is due to it’s age, but it does look very urban. I also like the small pieces of shell, I believe, that the inside of fox’s ears are decorated with. I find it challenging to imagine this piece being a head-dress ornament, because I’m not really sure how you attach it to your head and how it is supposed to sit and look, but I definitely like the idea of it.