A Walk To Sainsbury’s

We were in Norwich recently, staying at a hotel in the city but eager to visit the Sainsbury Centre just out of town. We were advised to take a taxi because buses were temporarily diverted. “It will take you about half an hour on foot but it’s not a pleasant walk. Better to cab it.” And yet, despite the advice, we walked it, and the sun came out, and the way was lined with trees and other hopeful signs.

The Sainsbury Centre for Visual Arts is on the campus of the University of East Anglia.

A poster outside promised pots by Magdalene Odundo. In fact that was why we’d come.
We were on a pilgrimage to see The Journey of Things.

Untitled 1985-1995
Eduardo Chillida (1924-2002) Spain

But this was what first caught my eye. On any ordinary day a walk around this fired brick would have been enough. A line incised into the clay and taken for a walk around its five sides. A drawing in 5D.

Like the fingers of a clenched fist.

It was part of a display in the East End gallery of works from the Lisa Sainsbury Ceramics Collection.

Concave Pot 1978
James Tower (1919-1988) England
Earthenware, white and green glazes

Jug & Two Beakers 1995
Edmund de Waal (b.1964) England

A case of Hans Coper ceramics, reminiscent of Cycladic figurines.

A Lucie Rie vase.

A case of Lucie Rie.

Barbara Hepworth: Discs in Echelon, seen previously at Hepworth | Nicholson,
Jean Arp: Dream Amphora previously seen at The Poetry of Forms.

It was at this point that we went downstairs to see the Magdalene Odundo exhibition,
but I’ll save that for the next blogpost.

(left) Mask
The Democratic Republic of Congo (formerly Zaire), Kwele people, Late 19th/20th century
Wood, pigment

(right) Mask
Gabon, Fang people in Shira-Puru style, 20th century

The Sainsbury Centre was built to house the collection of Robert and Lisa Sainsbury. The building was designed by Norman Foster and opened in 1978. I first came here in 1982 to hang an Arts Council touring exhibition called Late Sickert. I can’t really remember it, just gloomy pictures painted with various shades of mud. But what I do remember is this elegant heart-shaped mask, and many more of these treasures. I’ve been waiting years to get back here. The space is huge but the display feels intimate. You can sit and gaze forever, or you can follow a thread from one beautiful object to another.

Head of a Man c.1650-1700
School of Paolo Veronese, Italy
Chalk on paper

Baby Asleep 1902-1904
Jacob Epstein (1880-1959) England

Head of a Boy
China, Han Dynasty (206BC-AD220)
Grey earthenware, traces of pigment

Dancing Female Tomb Figures
China, Tang Dynasty (AD618-906)
Pink and red earthenware, traces of pigment

(left) Pendant: Head of an Apis Bull
Egypt, Late Period c.650BC

(centre) Amulet in the form of a Frog
Egypt, Dynasty XVIII c.1400BC

(right) Amulet: Crouching Ibis & Baboon
Egypt, Late Period c.650-342BC

Head of Kannon Bosatsu, the Boddhisattva Avalokiteshvara
Japan, Hakuho period (AD 645-710)

Large Vase
Egypt, Nagada II – Dynasty I (3600-2800BC)

Female Figure with Folded Arms
Greece, Early Cycladic II period (c.2700-2400BC)
Marble with traces of red pigment

Metamorphosis 1984 William Turnbull (1922-2012) England
Bronze with black patina
on loan from The Hepworth Wakefield

Votive Figure
Mesopotamia, Early Dynastic II c.2700BC
Marble, shell or bone, lapis lazuli

Lady in Blue c.1931
Chaim Soutine (1893-1943) France
Oil on canvas

Liberia/Ivory Coast, We people, Late 19th/20th century
Wood, metal, quills, pigment

Northern New Ireland, Late 19th century (c.1880)
Wood, shell, opercula, pigment

Florida, USA, Late Woodland Period c.500-1000AD
Wood, pigment

‘Forked-eye’ Mask
USA, Alabama, Mississippian Period c.1400-1600AD
Marine shell

Hunting Hat
Aleutian Islands, Alaska, Late 18th/19th century
Wood, pigment, walrus ivory, whiskers, glass beads, fibre

Bakuntza II 1973
Eduardo Chillida (1924-2002) Spain
Ink on paper

Reclining Figure 1946-7
Henry Moore (1898-1986) England

Alaska, Lower Yukon River, Late 19th century

Mexico, Veracruz, Remojadas style c.600-900AD
Terracotta, traces of white stucco and black pigment

Gravitation 1991
Eduardo Chillida (1924-2002) Spain
Ink on paper and string

Standing Woman 1959
Alberto Giacometti (1901-1966) France

An external view of the east end of the Sainsbury Centre, aka The Shed, with three of Lynn Chadwick’s Beasts and a reconstruction of Vladimir Tatlin’s Model of the Monument to the Third International.

At the west end there’s another shed.

My Blue Heaven 2019
John Christie (b.1945) England
Corrugated iron, LED lights, music sound loop

On any ordinary day a walk around this shed would have been enough.
But today there’s much more – My Blue Heaven.

Constable Terrace and the giant red beech.

Sainsbury Centre

John James Sainsbury, Robert’s grandfather, opened his first shop in 1869, a small establishment in Drury Lane, selling butter, eggs and milk. The son of a picture-frame maker, he had married a dairyman’s daughter, who encouraged him to go into retailingWitold Rybczynski.

Frames of reference

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