Mammoth Task Begins as Art Starts to Oust Dinosaur Displays; National Museum Launches New Galleries to Replace Exhibits

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Byline: Katie Norman

CONTROVERSIAL changes to one of the nation's flagship museums will begin this week, with the opening of four new art galleries.

The National Museum Cardiff today revealed it will launch the new galleries on Thursday as part of its wider plans to transform the landmark building into a space solely for art.

That proposal has already provoked some criticism from visitors and politicians, keen to retain the family-friendly status of a city centre attraction synonymous with its range of exhibits including animal and dinosaur displays.

New galleries will have a particular focus on the art of Wales and landscape painting. Museum officials initially hope to create a National Museum of Art on the first floor, as part of a longer-term strategy to create a dedicated National Gallery of Art for Wales.

The newly-refurbished spaces will include:

A Welsh Landscape Gallery, exploring how artists have depicted Wales' changing environment for the last 300 years; a gallery where visitors can learn about the lives of the 18th century Welsh artists, Richard Wilson, Thomas Jones, William Parry and John Downman, whose careers spanned long periods in Italy and in London; a display of small intimate oil sketches of Wales and Italy; and a gallery containing many works from the museum's 18th century collections, aiming to display Welsh artists in the broader context of their time.

The galleries contain some works which had already been on show at the museum as well as additional pieces on loan. Artefacts displaced by the new galleries are currently still on show in other parts of the museum, but over the next 10 years there are plans to transfer the museum's archeological exhibits to the National History Museum in St Fagans. Proposals to also transfer the scientific exhibits elsewhere are still under discussion.

The realisation of plans to show solely art on the first floor of the museum began with the opening of a previous gallery in January, and will continue with Thursday's opening.

There will be further developments in December when the opening of a further two new galleries is planned. One will display Victorian painting and sculpture while another will be devoted to images of 19th and 20th century Welsh people. …