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A new exhibition opens at National Museum Cardiff exploring the landscape, people and communities of the Valleys

A NEW exhibition focussing on the people, communities and landscape of the south Wales Valleys opens on 25 May 2024 at National Museum Cardiff.

The Valleys exhibition explores the visual culture of the south Wales Valleys, displaying works of art alongside objects from Amgueddfa Cymru’s national collection, to present an inclusive history of the communities of the coalfield for the first time. It asks us to rethink our preconceptions. What do we mean when we talk about the Valleys and its communities? What are the stories from the local people and those who visit the area?

From Ammanford to Pontypool, artists from across the world have been inspired by the Valleys since the 18th century. Through this exhibition, we’ll be taking a closer look at the lives and landscape of the Valleys and the people who lived and worked there.

Dr Kath Davies, Director of Collections and Research at Amgueddfa Cymru – Museum Wales, said: “We’re delighted to share some of the stories of the south Wales Valleys in this new exhibition at National Museum Cardiff. We’re inviting visitors to respond and reflect on their experiences of the Valleys, spark conversations and challenge stereotypes.

“In the 20th century, global forces brought huge economic and social challenges to Valleys communities. Artists responded to produce a unique and internationally important representation of working-class experience. Yet this visual tradition remains largely unknown. For the first time Amgueddfa Cymru is exploring this important story through our national collection.”

Access to the exhibition is free and features over 200 artworks. It includes paintings, photography, film and applied art from over 60 artists including Penry Williams, Josef Herman, and Ernest Zobole, as well as introducing the work of collier artists and makers including Nicholas Evans and Illtyd David. The exhibition also includes a group of new photography acquisitions, including important bodies of work by Tina Carr, Annemarie Schöne and Robert Frank which have been made possible thanks to generous support from Art Fund.

Nicholas Thornton, Head of Modern and Contemporary Art at Amgueddfa Cymru, said: “We’re excited to open this major exhibition which tells new stories about the south Wales Valleys through the art collections at Amgueddfa Cymru.

“The exhibition focuses on the people of the Valleys, the communities whose work, resilience and strong sense of place has been so central to one of the most important, and all too often overlooked visual traditions of the modern world.”

Amgueddfa Cymru has worked closely with communities in the development of the exhibition through the Valleys Re-told project established in 2021. The long-term vision for the project was to bring together a collection of art that reflects the people, culture, and identity of the area.

In this way The Valleys will feature contributions from communities in Dowlais (Merthyr Tydfil County Borough Council) and Penrhiwceiber (Rhondda Cynon Taf County Borough Council) to ensure that people can tell their own stories in the exhibition. We want to reflect the unique community spirit which brings people from different backgrounds together.

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The exhibition is free of charge and takes place in galleries 19-24 at National Museum Cardiff. It will run until 3 November 2024.

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