Re-Opened Doors and Hidden Masterpieces

By Huw David Jones

It’s been a while since I last visited Swansea’s Glynn Vivian Art Gallery. The building has been closed for refurbishment for what seems like an eternity. The £8.4 million redevelopment began in 2011, but was delayed by two years after the original contractors went into administration in 2013. The gallery finally reopened its doors in October 2016. Having been open again for a year, now is a good opportunity to offer a perspective on its revamped home and developments in its facilities, exhibition programme and the narratives it offers on Welsh visual culture.

Glynn Vivian Gallery © Hywel Edwards

Glynn Vivian Gallery © Hywel Edwards

On the face of it, not much has changed. There is a new ground-floor entrance, which makes it easier for wheelchair users and parents with pushchairs to access the building, and a spacious café and seating area, where folk can simply pop in for a coffee and chat. Meanwhile, the old reception area has been turned into an informal reading and meeting room that leads through to a tranquil urban garden, while the two ground-floor galleries have become a ‘learning studio’ and ‘theatre’ for lectures and film screenings. This will enable the gallery to do more of the community and educational activities that became such a key part of the Glynn Vivian’s off-site work in the Swansea area during the years the building was out of bounds. However, aside from a lick of paint, the upper level galleries look pretty much the same.

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