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National Gallery masterpiece is coming to Newtown this summer

Jean-Siméon Chardin’s ‘The House of Cards’. © The National Gallery

A three-year partnership will see one different masterpiece a year from the National Gallery’s Collection displayed at Newtown’s Oriel Davies Gallery.

The first of these masterpieces is Jean-Siméon Chardin’s ‘The House of Cards’ (about 1740–1) which will be on show at the gallery from July 10 to September 25 as part of the National Gallery Masterpiece Tour 2021-’23.

The picture has been chosen for the first year of the partnership with Oriel Davies Galleryin Newtown and two other venues, Carmarthenshire Museum in Abergwili, Carmarthen and Beacon Museum in Whitehaven.

The National Gallery Masterpiece Tour 2021-‘23 offers three non-London museums, galleries or art centres the opportunity to partner with the National Gallery for three years and to display one different major work from our collection each year.

For the first time in the tour’s history, the partner venues have been selected for a three-year period. The paintings for 2022 and ‘23 will be chosen jointly by the partners and the National Gallery.

Oriel Davies Gallery will display Chardin’s ‘The House of Cards’ alongside two new commissions – a kinetic work by the artist Charlie Cook, which will examine the concept of the ‘fragility of human endeavour’ and the idea of playful persistence as shown in the loaned painting.

A recent Glasgow School of Art graduate, Cook uses cabinet making skills to create kinetic works that playfully explore balance. This will be shown alongside ‘Building a Future’, a collaboration between Oriel Davies, local communities and illustrator Alyn Smith.

A Cardiff‐based artist, Smith has been commissioned to create a set of 15,000 cards which will be completed by contributions from local communities and built in the gallery exploring the relationship between dreaming and reality through play.

Steffan Jones‐Hughes, Oriel Davies’ director, said: “We are delighted to have this opportunity to work with the National Gallery and show historical work from the collection as a starting point for a contemporary dialogue with artists and our audiences, making connections between the work and Newtown’s people and places.”

National Gallery director Dr Gabriele Finaldi said: “Caught somewhere between curiosity, determination and fragility, the boy in Chardin’s painting is engrossed in his house-of-cards construction.

“The host museums have conceived some highly original and intensely participatory approaches to how this picture will be displayed in the context of their spaces and collections and I much look forward to working closely with them to reach new audiences outside London.”

Ian Jones, Head of Leisure for Carmarthenshire County Council, said: “We are excited to be a National Gallery Masterpiece Tour partner and want to involve our communities in developing the exhibition as much as possible. The Creative Curators – open to anyone interested in taking part – will have the amazing opportunity to get up close to museum collections and curate the exhibition around the centrepiece from the National Gallery.

“The partnership with the National Gallery is enabling this opportunity to try out a new way of creating exhibitions, as part of their commitment to promoting understanding, knowledge and appreciation of Old Master paintings.”