Art in the city

Less than an hour’s drive from Rookery Farm Barns is the county’s capital city Norwich. 

Norwich is blessed with an extraordinary number of independent shops, art galleries and cafes. It is reputed to have 365 pubs – one for every day of the year. Pubs aside, the city is a fantastic place to visit. There is plenty happening, whatever time of the year. 

If numerous pubs and a smattering of churches and cathedrals is not enough to tempt you to ‘the Fine City’, then maybe the art and culture on offer at the Sainsbury Centre for Visual Art will be.

Calling Norman Foster

The centre is located in the grounds of the UEA. It is one of the top universities in the UK, with a strong tradition in creative arts and literature. The cavernous, modern building was first conceived in 1973 when Sir Robert and Lady Sainsbury gave their art collection to the UEA. The couple then commissioned Norman Foster – many years before he became the world renowned architect he is today – to build a centre to house the collection.

The iconic Sainsbury Centre opened five years later. The interior is as radical as the Foster-designed building itself. All items are housed in an open space, which allows 360 degree viewing. Whether it is art, culture or jewellery, visitors can get close and see every angle.

Art has international appeal

Today, the centre is thriving and a destination for culture vultures from across the world. The permanent collection in the main hall is alive with art and objects from around the world. These are all free to view. Among the pieces on display are paintings by Francis Bacon and art work from British potter and writer Edmund de Waal. There are unnerving, lifelike sculptures from John Davies. And from ancient civilisations, a huge array of impressive ancient carvings, ceramics and art work. 

Magdalene’s journey through things

The current featured exhibition, which runs from 3 August to 15 December, is Magdalene Odundo: The Journey of Things. 

Magdalene Odundo OBE is one of the world’s most esteemed artists working in the field of ceramics. This major exhibition will bring together more than 50 of Odundo’s works. They will be shown alongside a large selection of objects chosen by Odundo. They come from across the globe and span 3000 years. These objects and making traditions, says the artist, are rich and diverse and have informed the development of her own work.

Exploring art in the Sculpture Park

The Sainsbury Centre of Visual Arts building is not the only home to art on the site. Scattered around the grounds surrounding the SCVA is the Sculpture Park. This is an exhibition of iconic sculptures and other art-forms, from some prominent names within he art world. 

The collection features 22 pieces. These include three sculptures by Henry Moore – Draped Reclining Woman, Two Piece Reclining Figure and Reclining Figure. There are three Anthony Gormley-designed figures looking down on proceedings from the university roof tops. A 1968 masterpiece from John Hoskins looks across the grounds towards the river Yar. One of the buildings that comprises the university itself are part of the collection – the Ziggurats by Denys Lasdun.

In a nice tribute to its parkland and riverside surroundings and to the environment, an ancient and quite spectacular oak tree is included in the 22 pieces of art. 

Aside from the art work and the incredible inviting atmosphere of this cultural centre, there is also a good restaurant on site. This serves food with a largely local provenance. There is also a coffee shop run by independent Norwich-based coffeehouse Kofra.