The culturally rich North East has no shortness of astounding art galleries, spread all across the region. If you’re looking to fill your Sunday with a casual and relaxed day trip or searching for that perfect wedding venue, have a read of our top 3 local art galleries and museums in the North East.
1. The Bowes Museum
Barnard Castle’s hidden gem is the 19th-century French château, The Bowes Museum. Built by husband and wife, John and Joséphine Bowes.
This tragic story begins in 1847 with John Bowes. John spent his time between England and France, buying the Théatre des Variétés in Paris, where he met his future wife. Joséphine was an actress and talented painter, and the couple had a shared interest in the arts.
Between 1862 and 1874, 15,000 pieces were purchased and collected by the couple for their upcoming museum. Unfortunately, Joséphines untimely death in 1874 disrupted the construction of the museum, as John’s morale severely disappeared. Sadly, John died in 1885 and the couple never saw the opening of the Museum. Finally, on the 10th of June 1892, The Bowes Museum was opened to the public and boasted 63,000 visitors in the first year.
The museum is filled to the brim with the Bowes’ collections from all across Europe, including their own garments and personal belongings. Perhaps the most loved and admired piece in the museum is the 240-year old Silver Swan. The Silver Swan is a silver automaton that has been in the Bowes’ collection since 1872. The Swan is still active and operates daily at the Museum.
After perusing your way through the Museum, have a break at the Café Bowes. With locally sourced ingredients, the Café is renowned for its exceptional homemade cakes and scones. After satisfying your sweet tooth, have a stroll to the gift shop, which houses many books, homeware, jewellery, stationery, and many more – from local artists as well as many pieces being inspired from the museum’s own collections.
A current exhibition at the Museum until 31st October 2021, is The Adventures of Clara, the most famous rhinoceros in Europe in 1738. The exhibition shows how Clara inspired the world through poems, songs, paintings, books, and more. Visit the exhibition and see, smell, hear and learn how Clara inspired everyone she met.
Alternatively, until 9th January 2022, you can visit the North Country Quilts exhibition for historical and contemporary quilts or the Paul Scott New American Scenery exhibition for the contemporary work of local artist Paul Scott.
“The North’s museum of art, fashion & design.”– The Bowes Museum
2. The Biscuit Factory
Originally built in 1870 as, you guessed it – a biscuit factory, the warehouse was refurbished and reopened in 2002 as an independent art gallery.
Located in Ouseburn, the former Victorian biscuit manufacturing warehouse still has many of the original industrial aspects such as brickwork and old fireplaces.
The gallery is able to display up to over 250 artists’ work at a time, thanks to the vast space the warehouse offers. The Biscuit Factory exhibits and sells a wide range of artwork, from handmade prints, textiles, photography, furniture, jewellery, original paintings, glasswork, and more. With over 50,000 visitors a year, the focal point of the Factory is to make art attainable and to create a welcoming environment for all.
Featuring the work of newly emerging and mid-career artists, the Biscuit Factory also collaborates with agencies and art organisations such as National Glass Centre and Forum Books.
“To provide a platform for local and national artists, to support emergent makers, to showcase established artists and to add to the cultural landscape of the region.”– The Biscuit Factory company ethos
The Biscuit Factory also houses a stunning cafe for your morning coffee fix, or if coffee isn’t your taste then why not pop along for a bespoke afternoon tea! The factory also offers the sublime Biscuit Room for hire for your special event/function and the breathtaking rooftop terrace for your dream industrial wedding!
3. Laing Art Gallery
Photo: @instawanderwoman on Instagram
The Laing Art Gallery began its journey in the heart of Newcastle in 1901, thanks to local businessman Alexander Laing, who used his wine and spirit fortunes to fund the would-be Laing Art Gallery.
Alexander Laing was confident in the local people to donate art for the gallery, therefore did not donate any himself. Turns out he was quite right, as now the gallery houses an international collection of art with a focus on watercolours, oil paintings, ceramics and silver and glassware. With regularly changing exhibitions, there’s something new to see every time you visit.
“The gallery was designed in the Baroque style with Art Nouveau elements by architects Cackett & Burns Dick.”– The Laing Art Gallery
The Northern Spirit gallery is located on the ground floor of the old warehouse, showcasing the work of local people including Thomas Bewick and Ralph Hedley.
Also occupying the ground floor is the Café Laing if you’re feeling peckish and fancy a cold beverage and a sandwich, and the Laing shop, selling a wide range of special goods, from prints, jewellery, stationery and more. After your visit to the café and shop, drift up the stairs to the 18th and 19th-century display, including the masterpiece Isabella and the Pot of Basil by William Holman-Hunt.
The Laing Art Gallery can be hired for your own events, such as meetings, training, parties, weddings, and even for photography and filming crews. Some exciting projects that the Laing Art Gallery has been featured in include National Geographic’s Explorer, and ITV’s Vera.
Intrigued? Below are the website links to our 3 picks, we hope you have a great visit!
The Bowes Museum – https://www.thebowesmuseum.org.uk/
The Biscuit Factory – https://www.thebiscuitfactory.com/
The Laing Art Gallery – https://laingartgallery.org.uk/