A total of £3.8m went into the refurbishment plan which was made possible in part by a £2.1m award from the Heritage Lottery Fund. Works enchanced the historic features of the building and improved the environmental conditions for artworks. Public access has also been improved and a dedicated learning zone added.
The gallery reopens with an exhibition that will reclaim Newcastle’s position as the birth place of pop art. Pioneers of Pop (which runs until January 20, 2018) highlights the work of Richard Hamilton and the artists, writers and ideas that influenced him when he taught at Newcastle University. Hamilton famously defined pop art as ‘popular, transient, expendable, low-cost, mass-produced, young, witty, sexy, gimmicky, glamorous and Big Business’. He is also credited with naming it.
The show includes Hamilton’s seminal Just what is it that makes today’s homes so different, so appealing in its original posters and later print remakes. There are also around 100 works by some of the leading British artists associated with both Pop and abstract art including Eduardo Paolozzi and David Hockney on loan to the gallery.
“Many people think Pop Art started in the USA with Andy Warhol – but in reality, a lot of the thinking and work behind it was happening in the UK, and not just in London but also in Newcastle,” says chief curator Julie Milne.
Earlier this year, the gallery was awarded the Hallett Independent Acquisitions Award at the London Original Print Fair. The £8000 it was awarded will be put towards a piece for a forthcoming exhibition.