Our Museums

Art Unwrapped is back for its fifth consecutive year

The annual ‘gift to the city’ will be on display at Ulster University’s new Belfast Campus.

a man and two women beside a christmas tree
Ulster Museum
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Belfast City Council, Ulster University and National Museums NI have collaborated once again on Art Unwrapped which offers members of the public the opportunity to view rarely seen paintings during the festive period.

This year, for the first time, Art Unwrapped will display more than one painting – a total of four paintings by Northern Irish artists, Margaret Clarke and Catherine McWilliams. This year’s feature painting is ‘Strindbergian’ by Margaret Clarke from Ulster Museum’s collection, and it will be supported by three other paintings on loan from Newry and Mourne Museum, The Irish News and a private collection.  

The Lord Mayor of Belfast, Councillor Christina Black said:

“Art Unwrapped is a very special Christmas gift to the city. This is the fifth year that Belfast City Council has had the opportunity to work in partnership with the National Museums NI and Ulster University on this creative collaboration which raises both the profile and appreciation of visual arts.

“I’m particularly pleased that we’re showcasing rarely seen works from not one, but two important female artists from the north of Ireland –  the late Margaret Clarke from Newry and Belfast’s Catherine McWilliams, born almost half a century apart. It’s so fitting that this exhibition, which continues to grow in both stature and reach, is here for everyone to view in the heart of the newly enhanced Ulster University campus, which plays such a pivotal role in Belfast.

“And so many young people are being encouraged to explore and learn about the visual arts through the school outreach element of Art Unwrapped – that’s a key ambition in our cultural strategy for Belfast.”

Ulster University’s Belfast School of Art students will be providing guided tours introducing the pieces to members of the public and exploring the paintings and their themes. There will be several different student-led tours allowing visitors to experience different explorations of this magnificent art piece.

Professor Raffaella Folli, Ulster University commented about the upcoming Art Unwrapped project:

“Ulster University is again proud to be working at the heart of Belfast’s Art Unwrapped project for the fifth year. It is particularity exciting this year to be able to welcome this event to the bespoke gallery space in our new Belfast campus.

“With our Fine Art students leading interpretive tours of the painting, in addition to offering schools’ outreach sessions, Art Unwrapped builds on the rich history of Ulster University’s School of Art as we strive to inspire the next generation of artists.

“This is a fitting Christmas gift to the City of Belfast which this year, brings together a special additional curated collection of artworks from The Irish News, Newry & Mourne Council and a private collection to accompany the main painting, once again ensuring Art Unwrapped remains a highlight for the city’s festive calendar.”

Kathryn Thomson, Chief Executive of National Museums NI, said:

“I am delighted National Museums NI is collaborating once again with Ulster University and Belfast City Council to ‘gift’ the City of Belfast with ‘Strindbergian’ by Margaret Clarke in the fifth consecutive year of Art Unwrapped.

“Every year Art Unwrapped allows us to surprise the public with a unique opportunity to see an artwork from the Ulster Museum’s collection where they would least expect it. This year is particularly special as the painting will be on display at Ulster University’s new Belfast Campus which ensures the national collection is accessible to wide and varying audiences.”

For further information and booking details please visit www.ulster.ac.uk/artunwrapped.


The Paintings

Featured Artwork - Margaret Clarke

  • ‘Strindbergian’, 1927 (on loan from the Ulster Museum).
Featured Artwork - Margaret Clarke  ‘Strindbergian’, 1927 (on loan from the Ulster Museum).