Art about Toon: a guide to Newcastle's vibrant art scene

From Baltic 39 and the Laing Art Gallery to The Biscuit Factory and Toby Paterson's 'Hatton Pavilion'

Unlike most major cities, Newcastle's city centre plays host to a thriving grassroots scene, with artist-led studios and gallery spaces occupying enviable positions in the very heart of town. On High Bridge Street you'll find Baltic 39 – Baltic's lesser-known project space. It's a complex of artist studios and a spacious top floor gallery, which shows regular, experimental exhibitions by up-and-coming artists.

Exciting things are happening for the NewBridge Project, which recently moved to Carliol House on Market Street and received £70,000 from the Arts Council for its 2017 programme. In addition to a gallery space, the NewBridge Project also comprises studios and an artist bookshop stocked with a wide selection of zines, art magazines and artists books.

If more traditional galleries are your thing, head to the Laing Art Gallery, which holds the city's art collection. There's an exhibition of local artworks in its Northern Spirit gallery, as well as internationally renowned pieces like Pre-Raphelite Holman Hunt's Isabella and the Pot of Bail and John Martin's Destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah on permanent display. The gallery also has a great temporary exhibition programme and is a regular stop for major touring shows, including Modern Visionaries Van Dyck and the Artists' Eye,which travels to Edinburgh's Portrait Gallery in June.

Art about the Toon

image: Baltic Mill
No art-lover's trip to Newcastle is complete without a trip to Ouseburn Valley, the city's 'Cultural Quarter'. The area is a proud champion of local talent and it's here you'll find The Biscuit Factory, the UK's largest independent contemporary art, craft & design gallery with works by artists predominantly from the North-East and Scotland. This is a commercial space, but worth visiting regardless of whether you're looking to buy. There are four exhibitions programmed each year, often with up to 250 artists exhibiting over two floors of its impressive, Victorian warehouse space. In recent years The Biscuit Factory has partnered with Craft Scotland and the National Glass Centre, located nearby in Sunderland, which has brought in some leading-artists working in applied arts: look out for ceramics by Christopher Viviani, textiles by Heather Shields and glass ware by the Hot Glass Studio team.

Just across the road from the Biscuit Factory, you'll find The Holy Biscuit, a community arts space located in a refurbished Methodist Church.

The Ouseburn Valley is also home to Northern Print, an impressive printmaking studio and gallery space with a diverse exhibitions programme – you'll find anything from work by Royal Academician Stephen Chambers and Bedwyr Williams to group shows championing Northern Print's own Studio makers.

If you're headed towards the Quayside, don't miss Side Gallery. This small, independent gallery space is dedicated to showing brilliant humanist documentary photography, whether that's from working with local communities or telling stories from across the world. It's tucked away down a side street in the shadow of the Tyne Bridge.

Art about the Toon

image: Hatton Pavilion 2017, Toby Paterson
Finally, what art lover can travel to Newcaste without hopping over the Tyne to catch the latest shows at Baltic in Gateshead? This imposing, converted flour mill on the banks of the Tyne regularly shows internationally acclaimed contemporary art exhibitions. If you visit between 27 April–28 May, be sure to also catch Toby Paterson's 'Hatton Pavilion', close by on Baltic Square. Newcastle University's art gallery, The Hatton Gallery, is currently undergoing a £3.8 million redevelopment with the space is due to re-open in Autumn 2017. Until then the gallery has commissioned the Glasgow-based artist to create major new art installation, inspired by the works of Richard Hamilton, Victor Pasmore and Kenneth Martin, held in its archives. The Pavilion will tour venues in Newcastle and Gateshead until the Hatton Gallery's reopening.

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