THE Leonardo da Vinci exhibition at Sunderland Museum & Winter Gardens has the potential to bring ‘huge benefits’ to the venue and the city.

That’s the hope of Sunderland City Council and Sunderland Culture, the organisation set up two years ago to co-ordinate and promote cultural initiatives across the area.

From Friday, February 1 visitors to the Museum can study 12 drawings by the Renaissance master, loaned by Royal Collection Trust. Sunderland is one of a dozen venues across the UK chosen by the Trust to stage simultaneous exhibitions of Leonardo’s work to mark the 500th anniversary of the artist’s death.

There is also a range of associated workshops, courses, guided tours and family activities taking place throughout the duration of the exhibition, which ends on 6 May.

The Museum, one of the top five most visited attractions in north east England, is also taking the opportunity to put on public display a number of artworks from its collections, some of which have not been on show for many years.

Coun John Kelly, Sunderland City Council’s Cabinet Member for Communities and Culture, said: “This is a wonderful opportunity to see some of the remarkable drawings of perhaps the world’s most famous and visionary artist. The partnership with Royal Collection Trust helps cement Sunderland firmly on the national cultural map and events such as this can provide huge benefits for our city’s reputation and also the local economy.

“Visitors come for the main attraction but while they are here, they also spend money in shops, bars, cafes and places to stay. This can give a real boost to local businesses.

“I am sure that during the exhibition there will be many people making their first visit to Sunderland Museum, Library & Winter Gardens and perhaps the city itself. Our aim is to use the event to show what we can offer and encourage them to come back in the future.”

Rebecca Ball, Creative Director for Sunderland Culture, said she hoped the exhibition would act as a way of bringing in new visitors.

“There is already a really strong link between Sunderland Museum and its local community, but A Life in Drawing provides the perfect springboard to attract those who have never been to the venue before.

“Sunderland is the only location for this exhibition in the north east and also the only one between Leeds and Glasgow. This means the potential is there for bringing visitors to the city from not just across the north east, but further afield.

“The exhibition also provides the Museum with the ideal setting in which it can showcase works from its collections, many of which have links to Leonardo.”

Recent exhibitions hosted at Sunderland Museum and Winter Gardens have included the BP Portrait Award from the National Portrait Gallery, Grayson Perry: Julie Cope’s Grand Tour, from the Arts Council Collection and the Taylor Wessing Photographic Portrait Prize.

The exhibition at the Museum & Winter Gardens will include examples of all the drawing materials employed by Leonardo da Vinci, including pen and ink, red and black chalks, watercolour and metal point. It will also present new information about Leonardo’s working practices and creative process, gathered through scientific research using a range of non-invasive techniques, including ultraviolet imaging, infrared reflectography and X-ray fluorescence.

Leonardo, who lived from 1452 to 1519, painted some of the most famous images in European art, with the Mona Lisa and The Last Supper among his best-known pieces. Leonardo da Vinci: A Life in Drawing will give the widest-ever UK audience the opportunity to see the artist’s work.

The other venues involved are Ulster Museum, Belfast; Birmingham Museum & Art Gallery; Bristol Museum & Art Gallery; National Museum Cardiff; Derby Museum & Art Gallery; Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum, Glasgow; Leeds Art Gallery; Walker Art Gallery, Liverpool; Manchester Art Gallery; Millennium Gallery, Sheffield and Southampton City Art Gallery.

Tickets for ‘A Life in Drawing’ can be purchased either from the Sunderland Museum shop or via www.sunderlandculture.org.uk

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