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Sainsbury Centre for the Visual Arts

Housed in a striking building, this highly regarded arts space hosts exhibitions of contemporary art alongside 20th-century and earlier works.

The Sainsbury Centre for the Visual Arts is an important part of the University of East Anglia and is home to the university’s School of Art History and World Art Studies. You are most likely to visit it, however, to see the exhibitions and permanent art collections housed within its gallery spaces. Make your way toward this distinctive glass building on a rainy day to fill a few hours with browsing art drawn from across the centuries. 

The foundation of the Sainsbury Centre’s permanent collection was formed in 1973 when Sir Robert and Lady Lisa Sainsbury donated their extensive private art collection to the university. In addition to work by big-name European artists, the Sainsbury family collected pieces from all over the world, some of them dating back centuries. 

Before you even step inside and see the collection, though, you are sure to be struck by the look of the building. Designed in the mid 1970s by architect Norman Foster, this glass and steel building was completely revolutionary at the time, and remains impressive today. 

Check what exhibitions are on before you visit, as they change throughout the year. Other events, such as talks and workshops, also take place here. Look for key pieces from the permanent collection as you wander the galleries. Spot masterpieces by the likes of Henry Moore, Giacometti and Picasso. 

The location of the Sainsbury Centre makes it the ideal starting point for a scenic walk along the River Wensum. Notice several medieval highlights of the city as you walk. 

The Sainsbury Centre for the Visual Arts is open every day except for Monday. View the permanent exhibitions for free but be prepared to pay an entry fee for the temporary exhibitions. Concessions and group discounts are available. 

Make sure you leave time at the end of your visit to stop by the on-site café, a lovely spot to recharge before heading out to explore more of Norwich’s attractions.


Guide to Exploring Sainsbury Centre for the Visual Arts


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