Throughout the summer National Gallery has been collaborating with regional organisations to display Jan van Huysum’s Flowers in a Terracotta Vase (1736–7) in unconventional settings capable of engaging new audiences.

The work’s arrival today in Northern Ireland signals the conclusion of this UK tour, having made weeklong pitstops in Cornwall, Norfolk, the East Midlands, South Yorkshire and Scotland prior to its final stint at the Portview Trade Centre.

The site is an area of economic deprivation that straddles both nationalist and unionist communities in the Northern Irish capital. A former linen spinning mill which fell into disuse as the textile industry declined across the region, Portview was revived and reimagined as a series of workspaces for small businesses in the 1980s.

A variety of small and medium sized enterprises, including pottery studios, mushroom growers and a small batch brewery, all operate from the venue in its current incarnation.

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Jan van Huysum (1682 – 1749), Flowers in a Terracotta Vase 1736–7, Oil on canvas, 133.5 x 91.5 cm © The National Gallery, London

“Innovative projects like this help us to reimagine the role that museums play in society and allow us to connect people in Belfast and beyond with our collections in unexpected ways,” says National Museums NI’s chief executive, Kathryn Thomson.

Every stop on the Jan van Huysum Visits tour has focused on a different theme, and Belfast’s is ‘Take Notice’. The display and accompanying events and activities programme at Portview have been curated by a group of 16-25-year-old young programmers from Reimagine, Remake, Replay (RRR).

This project engages young people in museums across Northern Ireland and employs digital technology and creative media to interpret collections. It is led by a consortium of partners including Nerve Centre, National Museums NI, Northern Ireland Museums Council and Northern Ireland Screen, and is funded by the National Lottery Heritage Fund’s Kick the Dust programme.

The exhibition will be open to the public at Portview Trade Centre, 310 Newtownards Road, until 17th August.

Prior to the 18th century painting’s journey to Northern Ireland, the work was on display at The Walled Garden Mental Health and Wellbeing Hub in Perth.

The venue, adjacent to the Murray Royal Hospital, is overseen by the Perth & Kinross Association of Voluntary Service (PKAVS) and offers a relaxing space for people recovering from mental illness and anyone seeking a restful environment.

© The Walled Garden, Perth

While the exhibition ran, between 31st July and 8th August, wellbeing-focused community workshops were held by specialist practitioners including artist Frances Law and weaver Ashleigh Slater.

“The Walled Garden is one of Perth & Kinross’s treasures – a truly inspiring place,” notes JP Reid, senior programming & interpretation officer at Culture Perth and Kinross.

Flowers in a Terracotta Vase is a dazzling work of artistic mastery. We hope that by displaying the painting amongst the flowers and plants of the walled garden, we can create an opportunity for people to be inspired and uplifted by art and nature.”

Installation view: Jan van Huysum Visits, Perth © Julie Howden images

Caitlin Sweeney, activity engagement worker for creative wellbeing at the PKAVS Mental Health and Wellbeing Hub, says the arrival of a National Gallery painting was a “real honour for our service and puts The Walled Garden on the map”.

“After working alongside strict Covid-19 guidelines, it’s been refreshing to engage in a collaborative, community-based project. Having new and varied opportunities to engage with aids peoples’ sense of motivation, skills and confidence. As a mental health and wellbeing service, we embrace any partnerships which will support our client’s recovery journey.”

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