Received Wisdom

Posted on 24/12/19 by Sunderland Museum and Winter Gardens

An Arts Council Collection National Partners Programme Exhibition
Sunderland Museum & Winter Gardens, 1 Feb - 10 May 2020

Sunderland Culture is pleased to present the first of its major Arts Council Collection National Partners Programme exhibitions.

Opening on 1 February 2020, Received Wisdom challenges the notion that creativity and innovation are the preserve of youth by bringing together a body of work created by older artists, drawn from the Arts Council Collection’s extensive range of modern and contemporary British art.

Wide-ranging and dynamic, the exhibition confronts our assumptions about ageing by celebrating both artists who have enjoyed long careers as well as those who discovered their creativity later in life.

Rebecca Ball, Creative Director of Sunderland Culture, explains:

“We wanted to use the opportunity of our first Arts Council Collection show to challenge some assumptions about what it is to be an artist and dispel some stereotypes about age and aging.

“From those who have been working as artists all their lives but whose art has only become celebrated in their later years, to those who have only began their arts careers in their 60s or 70s. The breadth and range of the artworks created are incredibly inspiring.”

Bringing together the works of 36 artists, Received Wisdom includes a wide range of art forms including sculpture, painting, photography and mixed media.

Taking its title from a featured artwork of the same name, by one of the UK’s foremost conceptual artists Amikam Toren, the exhibition poses the question – Who is deemed ‘creative’?

Received Wisdom features the work of artists who began their creative practice later in life and those that became most recognised in their later artistic career including Phyllida Barlow, John Sheehy and Elisabeth Vellacott, who had her first solo exhibition at the age of 63 before working long into her 90s.

When Lubaina Himid - a pioneer of the Black Arts movement in the 1980s - was awarded the Turner Prize in 2017, she became the oldest ever recipient of the prestigious award. Her series of small-scale paintings imaging conversations between African slaves and millworkers in Manchester will be shown as part of the exhibition.

Received Wisdom demonstrates that provocative art is not just reserved for younger artists by presenting works from individuals whose radical pieces were created well into their careers. Acclaimed international pioneer of social art with a purpose, John Newling, and Jacqueline Morreau, who contributed to the feminist art movement in Britain, are represented alongside others including Jo Spence, Hurvin Anderson and Amal Ghosh.

Work from artists who showed a radical change in style as they aged, such as John Stezaker and Margaret Mellis, who in her late 60s began creating abstract art on pieces of driftwood, are also presented in the exhibition.

Received Wisdom will be accompanied by an extensive learning and engagement programme, from Art Taster workshops for adults and young people to family events and an Easter Art School.
Developing existing relationships with other artists in the city such as Kerry Cook at The Art Room and forming new partnerships with organisations like the Little Onion Club in Washington, the learning and engagement programme will extend beyond the boundaries of the Museum to reach new audiences.
Sunderland Museum & Winter Gardens are working in partnership with Equal Arts to run a Creative Age programme in Sunderland, offering older people living with dementia, their families and carers, and those with long-term health conditions the opportunity to take part in lively and supportive creative sessions led by artists.

From 1-10 May 2020, Sunderland Museum & Winter Gardens will also be joining in the Age of Creativity Festival, which celebrates older people as creative audiences, participants, volunteers and artists across England.


For PR and media enquiries for Sunderland Culture please contact:
Jessica Dare, Communications Coordinator,

For all PR and media enquiries regarding the Arts Council Collection please contact:
James Smyllie, Press Officer, Visual Arts,

About Sunderland Culture
Sunderland Culture was set up in 2016 to bring together the cultural programmes of Sunderland City Council, University of Sunderland and Music, Arts and Culture (MAC) Trust into a single, independent, resilient delivery model and realise the ambition of a city brimming with creative potential. Sunderland Culture works in National Glass Centre and Northern Gallery for Contemporary Art, Sunderland Museum & Winter Gardens, Arts Centre Washington, The Fire Station and delivers programmes of cultural engagement and events across the whole city. It works across the city to ensure the power of great art, culture and creativity is harnessed for the benefit of Sunderland, its residents and visitors. Sunderland Culture’s mission is to improve life for everyone in Sunderland through culture.

In spring 2017 Sunderland Culture was successful in its bid to be one of 16 pilot areas for the Great Place scheme, jointly funded over three years by Arts Council England and National Lottery Heritage Fund with funding made possible by National Lottery players, to put arts, culture and heritage at the heart of communities. On April 1, 2018, Sunderland Culture joined Arts Council England’s National Portfolio.

About Arts Council Collection
The Arts Council Collection is the most widely circulated national loan collection of modern and contemporary British art in the world. Founded in 1946, the Collection reaches the broadest possible audience through long loans to public institutions, exhibition loans and touring exhibitions, as well as digital and print publications.

It can be seen in exhibitions in museums and galleries across the UK and includes important works by all of the UK’s most prominent artists. The Collection is managed by Southbank Centre, London on behalf of Arts Council England and is based at the Southbank Centre.

The Collection also has a centre for sculpture at Longside, Yorkshire Sculpture Park.
There are now over 8,000 works in the Collection, including paintings, sculpture, original works on paper, prints and moving image. The Collection supports artists in
the UK through the purchase and display of their work, and safeguards it for future generations, using the highest possible standards of collection care. Unique among national collections, the Arts Council Collection also lends to numerous public buildings across the UK, including schools, universities, hospitals and charitable Associations.

About the National Partners Programme
The National Partners Programme was launched in 2016 to mark the 70th anniversary of the Arts Council Collection by creating a network of regional galleries and museums to present and curate exhibitions drawn from the Arts Council Collection. The first four National Partner museums and galleries were: Towner Art Gallery, Eastbourne; the Birmingham Museums Trust; the Walker Art Gallery, National Museums Liverpool; and the Collection’s existing partner, Yorkshire Sculpture Park.

The second round of National Partners for 2019-22 are Firstsite in Essex; Sunderland Culture in Tyne and Wear and The Newlyn Art Gallery and The Exchange in Cornwall.

Funded by the National Lottery, the programme aims to build a deeper relationship with regional audiences by building a UK-wide network across regional partners, connecting local visitors to their national collection.

Firstsite NPP Exhibitions for 2019/2020:

An Arts Council Collection National Partner Exhibition
Sat 12 Oct 2019 – Sun 12 Jan 2020
Find out more:

Antony Gormley: Field for The British Isles
An Arts Council Collection National Partner Exhibition
Sat 16 Nov 2019 – Sun 8 Mar 2020
Find out more:

Newlyn Art Gallery & The Exchange exhibitions for 2019/2020:

Go On Being So
14 Feb – 30 May 2020
Newlyn Art Gallery, Newlyn
Go On Being So considers what it is to be a global citizen. Curated by 14 students from Mounts Bay Academy, Penzance, it brings together a selection of works from the Arts Council Collection which express something about the world today and their place in it.

Hippo Campus: Where We Learn
14 Feb – 6 June 2020
The Exchange, Penzance
The exhibition explores alternative schooling, peer-to-peer learning and self-education through
works from the Arts Council Collection, with a live programme of talks, workshops, social groups and alternative curricula.

About Newlyn Art Gallery & The Exchange
Newlyn Art Gallery was founded in 1895 by John Passmore Edwards the philanthropist and social reformer. He was committed to improving people’s lives and felt that art had an important role to play. This vision has inspired us to think more ambitiously about our work with communities and how we might involve them more actively in shaping and leading our work. We are particularly interested in how the gallery might embrace its civic role and become relevant and important to more people, for example challenging and supporting schools to embrace a broader curriculum that positions creativity at its heart.

About Firstsite
Firstsite is a public contemporary art gallery in Colchester, making and showing great art and culture that celebrates the people, places and priorities of Colchester, Essex and East Anglia in order to empower all communities to be happier and healthier together. Firstsite's spectacular crescent-shaped building, designed by award-winning Uruguayan architect Rafael Viñoly, provides a creative and social space like no other. Over the last eight years it has gained a strong, critical reputation, presenting ambitious work to new audiences in the East of England and beyond. Firstsite is a partner of Plus Tate, which uses Tate’s resources to contribute to a network of arts organisations across the country, and to increase public access. Firstsite’s exhibitions are free and open to anyone.

About Arts Council England
Arts Council England (ACE) is the national development body for arts and culture across England, working to enrich people’s lives. ACE support a range of activities across the arts, museums and libraries – from theatre to visual art, reading to dance, music to literature, and crafts to collections.

Great art and culture inspires us, brings us together and teaches us about ourselves and the world around us. In short, it makes life better. Between 2018 and 2022, ACE will invest £1.45 billion of public money from government and an estimated £860 million from the National Lottery to help create these experiences for as many people as possible across the country.

About Southbank Centre
Southbank Centre is the UK’s largest arts centre and one of the UK’s top five visitor attractions, occupying a 17 acre site that sits in the midst of London’s most vibrant cultural quarter on the South Bank of the Thames. We exist to present great cultural experiences that bring people together and we achieve this by providing the space for artists to create and present their best work and by creating a place where as many people as possible can come together to experience bold, unusual and eye-opening work. We want to take people out of the everyday, every day. The site has an extraordinary creative and architectural history stretching back to the 1951 Festival of Britain. Southbank Centre is made up of the Royal Festival Hall, Queen Elizabeth Hall, Purcell Room and Hayward Gallery as well as being home to the National Poetry Library and the Arts Council Collection. It is also home to four Resident Orchestras (London Philharmonic Orchestra, Philharmonia Orchestra, London Sinfonietta and Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment) and four Associate Orchestras (Aurora Orchestra, BBC Concert Orchestra, Chineke! Orchestra and National Youth Orchestra of Great Britain).

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