The Sainsbury Centre is one of the most prominent university art galleries in Britain, and a major national centre for the study and presentation of art.
We house the extraordinary art collection of Robert and Lisa Sainsbury, as well as the Anderson Collection of Art Nouveau and the University’s Abstract and Constructivist Collection.
Alongside these permanent collections, we host a range of temporary exhibitions, with our new galleries providing the largest climate-controlled exhibition space in Eastern England.
We also offer an award-winning learning programme of gallery talks, lectures and art workshops.
University of East Anglia and the Sainsbury Centre
The Sainsbury Centre itself houses the university’s School of Art History and World Art Studies and the Sainsbury Research Unit for the Arts of Oceania, Africa and the Americas.
The Centre also houses The Sainsbury Institute for Art, bringing together the activities and expertise of the Sainsbury Centre, the Sainsbury Institute for the Study of Japanese Arts and Cultures, and World Art Studies and South Asian Decorative Arts and Crafts Collection Trust.
The University of East Anglia was formed by Royal Charter and as such has neither a company number nor charity number, as it is not required to be registered with either Companies House or the Charity Commission. The University does, however, retain charitable status, as it is deemed an ‘Exempt Charity’.
HM Revenue & Customs Charities Reference Number: XN423
Directorate and Administration
Administrative Officer and PA to Ghislaine Wood
Finance and Administration Officer
Collections & Curatorial
Head of Collections
Senior Gallery Registrar
Assistant Gallery Registrar
Assistant Gallery Registrar
Head of Technical Services
Joyce and Michael Morris Chief Curator of Art
Natalie Baerselman le Gros
Head of Development
Hospitality & Events
Events and Hospitality Co-ordinator
Head of Learning
Nell Croose Myhill
Learning Programme Manager (Adults and Young People)
Learning Programme Manager (Schools and Outreach) (part-time)
Learning Programme Manager (Schools and Outreach) (part-time)
Learning Programme Manager (Children and Families) (part-time)
Learning Administrator (Schools and Outreach)
Marketing and Communications
Head of Marketing, Communications & Administration
Marketing & Communications Officer
Marketing & Communications Assistant
Paul Kuzemczak (part-time)
Creative Design Officer
Visitor Experience and Retail Manager
Visitor Experience and Retail Assistant Manager
Visitor Experience Assistant
The Sainsbury Centre is governed by the Sainsbury Centre Board, a sub-committee of The UEA Council – the University’s overall governing body.
The Sainsbury Centre Board meets three times a year and is responsible for setting overall policy and strategy and for ensuring resources are in place to deliver the strategic objectives.
Our funders are:
The Gatsby Charitable Foundation
The Arts and Humanities Research Council
The University of East Anglia
The Sainsbury Centre Endowment Fund
Professor Paul Greenhalgh
Professor Fiona Lettice
Professor Claire Jowitt
Lady Susan Bacon
Dame Elizabeth Esteve-Coll
Work for us
The Sainsbury Centre is widely known for the excellence of its staff. It is part of the University of East Anglia and jobs are advertised on the University’s website. Links to all current UEA vacancies can be found here:
https://www.uea.ac.uk › vacancies
Volunteer with us
The Sainsbury Centre have a dynamic team of volunteer guides whose role is to actively engage visitors with our diverse collections and temporary exhibitions. We provide extensive training and ongoing support including curator talks and walk-throughs for new volunteers, regular meetings and social events.
We are not currently recruiting new volunteers, however details will be posted here when new vacancies arise.
To be added to our volunteering mailing list, contact:
The Sainsbury Centre was first conceived after Sir Robert and Lady Sainsbury generously gave their art collection to the University of East Anglia in 1973.
A pioneering era of patronage
For over 40 years, Robert and Lisa Sainsbury collected works of art which ranged across time and place. They sought work both from major European artists, as well as art and antiquities from different periods and cultures around the world.
Commissioning Norman Foster
The Sainsburys were equally radical in commissioning the young Norman Foster in 1974 as architect for the new building to house their works. Sir Robert saw Foster’s innovative building as the great jewel of the Sainsbury Collection.
When the Sainsbury Centre first opened its doors in 1978, the ‘Living Area’ space inside that displayed the Sainsbury Collection was also ground-breaking.
It was designed as a place of visual communication. All objects were housed at comfortable eye-level in small groups within free-standing square or rectangular cases to enable 360 viewing.
The Sainsburys did not want a museum but a place where people could view objects closely and to appreciate them in the way they had themselves, in their own home. It is for this reason that the Centre still uses minimal labelling.
Growth and extension
Soon after the building opened, Sir Colin and Lady Anderson donated their collection of Art Nouveau to the University. Originally it was displayed on the East Mezzanine, and it continues to be shown in temporary exhibition spaces from time to time.
The University’s Abstract and Constructivist Collection also moved to the Sainsbury Centre and in a similar way, is shown in the temporary exhibition galleries every few years.
By the late 1980s the collections and staff had outgrown the original building. Foster + Partners designed the Crescent Wing, which opened in 1991, to offer new office, exhibition and technical spaces.
Education and research
The Sainsbury Centre was designed from the start to house the University’s department of art history (later adding World Art Studies to its name). Research activity grew around the collections.
In 1984, the Sainsbury Research Unit for the Arts of Africa, Oceania and the Americas (SRU) was founded. In 1999 the Sainsburys also helped to fund the Sainsbury Institute for the Study of Japanese Arts and Cultures (SISJAC).
From the early 1990s the Sainsbury Centre began to establish a regional reputation as a centre for learning both for the University and a wider public of all ages.
In the last decade the centre has undergone two further extensions. The first, which opened in May 2006, linked the 1978 and 1991 buildings internally and added a bigger shop, an education studio and Link gallery spaces.
The most recent refurbishment in 2013-14, has made better use of building’s space again. The new lower galleries give the Sainsbury Centre the largest climate-controlled exhibition spaces in Eastern England.
Lady Lisa Sainsbury’s death in February 2014 marks the end of a pioneering era of artistic patronage. However, in the context of a world class University and with the Sainsbury family’s continued support, we can ensure that the Sainsbury Centre thrives long into the future.
The Sainsbury Centre Collection represents some of the most remarkable works of art assembled in the UK alongside over 1400 items from across the globe spanning 5000 years, with artefacts from prehistory through to the late 20th century. The collection also includes a signifiant group of 20th century studio ceramics.
Take a closer look at some of the highlights in our collection as seen through the eyes of artists, writers, architects, fashion designers, curators and collectors including Edmund De Waal, Norman Foster, Margaret Howell, Dr Arapata Hakiwai, Julia Blackburn, Greta Arwas, Rose Hilton, Mizutori, Mami and David Attenborough.
The Robert and Lisa Sainsbury Collection
Sir Robert Sainsbury started collecting art around 1929. His first major purchase was a bronze head of ‘Baby Asleep’, from Jacob Epstein. Sir Robert talked about his passion for collecting being like an artistic instinct, with a ‘gut feeling’ guiding his choices.
When Robert married Lisa van den Bergh in 1937, art collecting became a joint venture. The couple enjoyed building friendships with individual artists, often collecting their early works.
The Sainsburys always remained fiercely independent in choices and would never buy something for its value or fashion.
Why the collection is of international importance
The Robert and Lisa Sainsbury Collection is one of the few intact modernist collections of the 20th century. The collection contains many seminal works of European modern art, by major artists such as Pablo Picasso, Edgar Degas, Francis Bacon, Jacob Epstein, Henry Moore, Alberto Giacometti and Amedeo Modigliani.
The Sainsburys also collected many artefacts from cultures around the world, at a time when successive art movements also began to engage with works of art from beyond Europe.
This ‘world art’, largely from Africa, Oceania and the Americas, was previously (and unfairly) labelled as ‘tribal’ or ‘primitive art’. Sir Robert increasingly saw such works as of equal status to European art, reflected in how the collection is displayed today.
From 1973 to 2006
In 1973 Sir Robert and Lisa Sainsbury donated their collection to the University of East Anglia and their son David funded the building to display it on the campus.
From that date, the collection continued to grow. After Sir Robert died in April 2000, Lady Sainsbury continued to acquire pieces, particularly Japanese antiquities, up until 2006 when she ceased to collect.
Lisa Sainsbury Ceramics Collection
Lisa Sainsbury’s collection of modern pots began in the 1950s, when she and Sir Robert first purchased work by Lucie Rie.
The Sainsbury’s friendship with Rie led them to the work by Hans Coper, with Sir Robert seeing his works as “sculptures”. The Sainsbury Centre now holds the largest public collection of Coper ceramics, many donated by his widow after his death in 1981.
The collection also includes pieces by Rie’s and Coper’s contemporaries such as Bernard Leach and Shoji Hamada. Other artists represented include; James Tower, Ewen Henderson, Claudi Casanovas, Rupert Spira, Jennifer Lee, Julian Stair, Sara Radstone, Gabrielle Koch and Ian Godfrey.
The Anderson Collection of Art Nouveau (not on show)
Sir Colin and Lady Anderson were among the first British collectors of Art Nouveau. The first pieces were bought in 1960, the last in 1971. They were particularly drawn to exquisitely coloured pieces that epitomised the style with whiplash curves, botanical lines and floral motifs.
The collection comprises of 200 works and encompasses examples of European and American Art Nouveau from about 1890 to 1905, and includes furniture, glass, ceramics, metalwork, jewellery and graphics.
The collection includes pieces by leading exponents of Art Nouveau such as Louis Comfort Tiffany, Emile Gallé and René Lalique, and significantly, other anonymous commercial pieces, giving the collection a wonderfully individual character and offers an opportunity for an exploration of Art Nouveau as both design and manufacture.
The Abstract and Constructivist Collection (not on show)
This collection focuses on the non-objective, constructive and concrete art movements of the 20th century and related fields of design and architecture.
The collection comprises over 400 works. These includes furniture, architectural models as well as paintings, sculpture, reliefs, multiples, and works on paper.
Due to its unique focus, the collection is now of national importance.
In 1968, the University decided to form a collection of 20th century art on a theme that reflected the utopian spirit of the new University, with its modernist campus and multi-disciplinary ethos.
General concerns of artists, designers and architects whose works are represented include some or all of the following: a refined form of abstraction with a restrained vocabulary of colours and geometric forms offering an alternative vision of art. The importance of structure, systems and mathematical processes as components of a work of art. In the age of the machine, there was a rejection of the literal, narrative and descriptive elements in art.
Art movements represented
The collection covers major art movements of the 20th century, including:
- The English Vorticists
- The Russian Suprematists and Constructivists
- The Dutch De Stijl Group
- Members of the German Bauhaus School
- The French Purists
- British artists represented in the avant-garde publication, Circle
- Concrete movement in Brazil
Important artists represented:
Duncan Grant, David Bomberg, Natalia Goncharova, Wassily Kandinsky, Bart Van der Leck, Cesar Domela, László Moholy-Nagy, Joseph Albers, Johannes Itten, Sophie Taeuber-Arp, Hans Arp, Amedee Ozenfant, Auguste Herbin, Robert Delaunay, Sonia Delaunay, Lygia Clark, Francois Morellet, Max Bill, Ben Nicholson, John Cecil Stephenson, Kenneth Martin, Victor Pasmore.
Sir Robert Sainsbury
The archive of Sir Robert relates specifically to his activities in formulating the art collection and his relationship with artists and dealers such as Henry Moore, Francis Bacon and John Hewitt. Notably it contains his original ledger of acquisitions and correspondence with Bacon, Giacometti and Moore revealing the relationship between artists and patron. Most notably a series of 12 letters between Bacon and Sir Robert that reveal the extent to which Bacon was supported by his patron at a critical moment in his career. The archive was donated to the university by Sir Robert to sit alongside the collection for research purposes. The archive resides in the Robert Sainsbury Library, part of the Sainsbury Research Unit which is housed within the Sainsbury Centre.
The Lucie Rie Archive was donated by Cyril Frankel, prominent collector and writer of studio pottery, in 2004 and contains letters, photographs, books, ephemera and documents relating to the life of Lucie Rie. There is a full inventory which can be accessed upon request.
Sir Colin Anderson
The family of Sir Colin Anderson donated the archive to the Sainsbury Centre is 2014. Colin Anderson was of course a benefactor to SCVA in donating the Anderson Collection of Art Nouveau but also he was a significant figure in the post-war art world as a Trustee of Tate (alongside Sir Robert Sainsbury) and an active member of the Contemporary Art Society. The contents of the archive are currently being catalogued and the exact nature of its holdings yet to be revealed. However, perhaps the most significant known element is a series of correspondence between Anderson and Francis Bacon from the 1940’s, which will complement the existing letters between Bacon and Sir Robert Sainsbury.
Our team combines unique objects with exceptional curatorial expertise to produce high-quality exhibitions available to tour.
Our exhibitions tell fascinating stories based on the original research and knowledge of curators and experts across the Sainsbury Centre and the University of East Anglia. The objects are drawn from the Centre’s renowned collection and from its access to private and institutional lenders worldwide.
Our staff work flexibly with touring partners to create bespoke exhibitions and to accommodate the needs of individual venues and diverse audiences. We offer hands-on support on delivery, installation, marketing and technical issues to ensure that exhibitions are installed successfully and within budget.
The Sainsbury Centre is committed to addressing racism in all areas of our activity. The Centre was founded in 1978 to house, in equality, collections from around the world and to develop research into diverse cultures. We are committed to extending this founding mission.
We aim to become a more inclusive organisation whose collections, programming, learning activities, digital engagement and research is relevant to contemporary ethnic minority audiences both in the region and beyond. We aim to promote scholarship that explores the significance of race, gender and class, and to actively ensure that diversity and equality are key principles of the institution.
We aim to be a more inclusive organisation through our governance, staffing, artist community, visitors, members, patrons and online followers.
Develop and support an anti-racism working group to make recommendations to the Executive and Board.
Ensure all areas of activity from our exhibitions, displays, research, fellowships, residencies, learning and digital engagement are diverse and inclusive.
Continue to work on publishing provenance information for all objects in the collection.
Work with groups in the community to develop projects for diverse audiences.
Develop a policy on Restitution.
Work with colleagues across the University towards decolonising the institution, its collection and programmes.
Continue to diversify the collection through acquisition.
Diversify our Board and work force.
Support ethnic minority career progression through internships and other opportunities.
Introduce Anti-Racism training.